12-Year-Old Hunter Lands Potential Record-Breaking Mule Deer

by Alex Falls
John Sirlin / EyeEm / Getty

Deer hunting is not something most pre-teen girls are interested in. Even fewer take an interest in bowhunting specifically. But Jaydee Houston is not like most girls. At the young age of 12, she’s bagged what could be the biggest velvet buck ever tagged by a female hunter.

Last month, Jaydee hit the trophy deer from a distance of 56 yards. The deer on the other end of her shot was actually one she and her father knew well. Jeremy Houston, Jaydee’s father, is a passionate photographer of big mule deer, and he encountered the buck on the evening of that day.

 “I was roaming around in search of some rutting bucks to take pictures of and saw some does and a bigger-bodied deer with them,” he said to Field & Stream. “I pulled up my binoculars and spotted one of the prettiest typicals I’d ever seen, and by far the biggest buck I’d seen that year. As a photographer specializing in mule deer, it was game on.”

A Dream Come True

For several days, Jeremey tracked the massive deer with his camera and came away with some great photos. “But I thought that being able to hunt this buck for real was just a pipe dream,” he said. The deer lived in one of Utah’s hardest-to-draw units so hunting it was off-limits.

But to his surprise, his wife and Jaydee’s mother, Holly, drew an archery tag for the premium unit. The family had planned all along that if Holly ever drew a tag before Jaydee turned 18, she would let Jaydee use it. The state of Utah has a hunting-mentor program that allows permit holders to share their permit with a youth hunter to give them an opportunity to hunt while in the field with the mentor.

“To say that Jaydee was pumped would be an understatement,” Jeremy said.

The Deer Hunting Story of a Lifetime

The proud father said Jaydee has been shooting a bow since she was three. She’s always loved going out to the hills ti hunt with her dad. He said she’s successfully shot “dozens of jackrabbits” over the years and has proven to be a great shot. He recounted the day when his daughter got the biggest kill of her short life.

“On our first evening in the blind, we had several does and bucks come by. But not the big guy,” Jeremy said. “Our luck would change the next evening, when, with only an hour of light left, I spotted him. ‘Holy cow, there he is!’ I whispered to Holly and Jaydee.”

“After a short track job, I was standing over the buck. Hooting and hollering like only a dad can when one of his kids accomplishes something incredible. She made a great shot that put the buck down quickly. As Jaydee and the others came over, I pulled out my phone and to video everyone’s reactions. Jaydee was so pumped and kept yelling, “Let’s go!” It was so awesome. I will never tire of watching all the excitement of everyone coming over to perhaps one of the biggest bucks ever harvested by a woman. Let alone a 12-year-old girl with a bow and arrow.”