Hunting Mentor Program Helps Pre-Teen Girl Take Down Potential Record Mule Deer

by Taylor Cunningham
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A 12-year-old girl from Utah may have broken a world record this year when she took down a massive mule deer with a bow from 56 yards.

Jaydee Houston became a legend among hunters last month when she shot a muley that gross-scored 217 inches and had an unofficial green net score of roughly 205. The pre-teen is still waiting for the numbers to be confirmed. But if they are, the buck will rank as the Pope and Young Club’s 3rd largest to be taken down by a bowhunter.

Interestingly, Jaydee’s father, Jeremy, had been eyeing the giant since last fall. He is a professional photographer who specializes in mule deer. But he never imagined anyone could hunt the buck with anything more than a lens.

“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 told Field and 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.” 

Jeremy shared that he followed the buck with a camera for a few days. But “being able to hunt this buck for real was just a pipe dream” because it lived in hard-to-reach terrain.

Jaydee was able to make that dream a reality when her mom, Holly, drew an archery tag for the premium unit. Utah allows minors to participate in a hunting-mentor program. And Holly had promised her daughter that she’d let her use her tag if she won one before Jaydee turned 18.

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

Jaydee Houston Took Down the Mule Deer Through a Hunting-Mentor Program

As he shared with the publication, his daughter has been using “a bow since she was 3 or 4.” As a child, she proved to be a good shot by taking “dozens” of jackrabbits. Then when her older brother passed down a high-caliber bow, she “really hit a growth spurt.”

“Terry Beck at TNT Archery in St. George, Utah, set her up with a new bow and accessories,” he continued. “And soon, she was smoking ping-pong balls at his range. Throughout the summer, we practiced shooting and hunted small game. She became pretty deadly, and we were extremely excited for the upcoming hunt.”

In July, Jeremy found that the prize mule deer had migrated north and was living on the property of some family friends, who gave the Houston’s permission to hunt. So the father-daughter duo headed out on a trip and spotted the buck on their first night.

Jadee made the shot with only a few minutes of light left in the evening sky.

“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,” he continued. “…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.”