• Sat. Nov 26th, 2022

Is this 12-year-old girl’s mule deer a world record?

ByMary M. Ward

Oct 9, 2022

Few preteen girls have killed a trophy mule deer, and even fewer have done so with archery equipment. But when this muley might be the biggest velvet male ever tagged by a female hunter, you’re entering some seriously rarefied air. Yet that’s exactly what Jaydee Houston did last month, when she landed a 56-yard shot on a buck she and her father knew well.

The huge typical muley has a gross score of 217 inches, with an unofficial green net score of around 205. If that score holds, the Houston male could become the Pope and Young’s new No. 3 typical velvet muley. Club taken by any bowhunter, behind the current world record giant of 218-5/8 inches taken by Bowdy Gardner in Utah in 2012 and the No. 2 at 209 1/8. Her buck will almost certainly be the largest typical mule deer, velvet or hard horn, ever caught by a female bowhunter, by far. As there is no specific category for female bowhunters, this will not be an official record. But anyone who wants to use the words “world record” to describe Houston’s money will get no argument from us, whether it’s an unofficial world record for female archery hunters or young bow hunters or both.

The story of this incredible muley began on November 21, 2021. Jeremy Houston, Jadee’s father, is an avid photographer of large mule deer, and he encountered the deer on the evening of that day. “I was walking around looking for rutting bucks to take pictures and saw does and a larger stag with them,” he told F&S. “I got out my binoculars and spotted one of the nicest typicals I’ve ever seen, and by far the biggest male I’ve seen that year. As a mule deer photographer, this was a breeze. Over the next few days Jeremy “chased” the male with his camera and came away with some great photos and even a video of an epic fight scene with the typical fat guy and another male. “But I thought being able to hunt that buck for real was just a pipe dream,” he said, because the deer lived in one of Utah’s most difficult-to-draw units.

Jeremy Houston snapped this photo of his daughter’s male in the fall of 2021. Jeremy Houston

But then, in May 2022, much to the shock of the family, Jaydee’s mother, Holly, drew an archery tag for the premium unit. The family had planned from the start that if Holly drew a tag before Jaydee turned 18, she would let Jaydee use it. The State of Utah has a hunter mentorship program that allows license holders to share their license with a young hunter to give them the opportunity to hunt in the field with the mentor. “To say Jaydee was pumped would be an understatement,” her dad, who shares the full story of Jaydee’s chase, in his own words, shared below.

The Story of Jaydee Houston’s 225″ Velvet Mule Deer

Photo of a big mule deer
Last summer, the Jeremy took photos of the big muley 25 miles north of where he saw it in the fall of 2021. Jeremy Houston

Jaydee has been shooting archery since she was 3 or 4 and has always been in the hills with me. She’s taken dozens of hares over the years with her bow and really has a knack for taking great pictures. She had recently gone through a little growth spurt and was shooting a second-hand bow from her older brother. So it was time to go shopping. Terry Beck of TNT Archery in St. George, Utah, outfitted her with a new bow and accessories, and soon she was smoking ping pong balls at her shooting range. Throughout the summer we practiced shooting and hunting small game. She became quite deadly and we were extremely excited for the hunt ahead.

photo of a girl with a hare
Jaydee Houston has been hunting small game since she was a little girl. Jeremy Houston

In July, we started looking for potential dollars for Jadee to hunt in the open. My nephew told us that he had seen a typical handsome that could be the male I had seen last November. I was amazed when I realized it was him. The male had migrated 25 miles north of where he was in November and was hanging out with a bunch of other males. This group of bachelors foraged each night in several farm fields and we were fortunate to be good friends with several of the neighboring landowners, who gladly gave us permission to hunt. Throughout the summer we kept an eye out for the male and saw him often enough to get photos and video. My good friend Brian has worked in the area and could see the buck coming and going regularly, and he helped us find a good location to set up a ground blind about 35 yards from a heavily used trail, where Jaydee, Holly and I could all sit together.

photo of a blind girl on the ground
Jaydee sits in the ground blind to wait for her money. Jeremy Houston

On our first blind party, we had several deer and bucks, but not the big guy. Our luck was about to change the following evening, when, with only an hour of light remaining, I spotted it. “Damn it, there it is!” I whispered to Holly and Jaydee. I moved the male 573 meters away. But with filming time decreasing, the anticipation was killing us as we watched him, along with a few other males and females, slowly zigzag towards us. We had been through every scenario if he got to us before dark. We basically had two shooting lanes and both offered a 30-60 yard shot. The plan was for Jaydee to back off as soon as he jumped a fence and approached the first shooting lane. I then tried to stop him with a soft mouth call and outrun him. She then slipped an arrow into her vital signs. But the blame was taking what felt like forever, and there was a little three-in-the-blind panic attack.

photo of a girl with a big mule deer
Jaydee practically fits inside the male’s huge frame. Jeremy Houston

With 15 minutes of light remaining, the deer finally made a move towards the field, covering 200 yards in just minutes. A doe was in the lead, then a smaller buck, then the big boy. As he jumped the fence, Jaydee drew his bow and I stopped him as he entered the first lane. “Fifty-six yards” I whispered to Jaydee. The male was perfectly edged and staring intently into the blind. A few seconds, which felt like an eternity, passed, and I said to myself, Why didn’t she shoot?

“I can’t see my pins,” Jadee whispered.

I hadn’t taken into account the darkness inside the floor blind. I thought our chances were over when the buck turned and headed for the field. I was looking down at my feet when Jaydee suddenly fired! I heard an unmistakable smack of an arrow hitting the house, and I was practically in shock when Holly said “She sure hit it!”

family photo with huge mule deer
Family photo, left to right: Jeremy, Jaydee and Holly pose with the giant muley. Jeremy Houston

Jaydee explained that she finally got to see her sight, set the 60 yard pin on the buck and fired. Basically the whole family was waiting and watching from a nearby road. Brian said they were able to see the male as he fled and lay down in a tall sagebrush less than 200 yards from the blind. Not sure of the location of the shot, we gave the ball an hour before leaving with lights to search.

photo of a girl with a rack of mule deer
Jaydee’s incredible muley buck netted 217 typical, around 205 at green net, and is probably the largest typical ever taken by an archer. Jeremy Houston

After some short track work, I was on my feet, screaming and screaming like only a dad can when one of his kids does something amazing. She made a great shot that put the blame quickly. As Jaydee and the others arrived, I pulled out my phone and filmed everyone’s reactions. Jaydee was so excited and kept screaming, “Let’s go!” It was so awesome. I will never get tired of watching everyone’s excitement come to possibly one of the biggest dollars ever by a woman, let alone a 12-year-old girl with a bow and arrow.