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

Not many pre-teen girls have killed a trophy mule deer, and even fewer have done so with archery gear. But when that muley might be the largest velvet stag ever marked by a huntress, you’re entering some seriously rarefied air. Still, that’s exactly what Jaydee Houston did last month, when she hit a 56-yarder over a male she and her dad knew well.

The huge typical muley earned a gross score of 217 inches, with an unofficial green net score of about 205. If that score holds up, the Houston male could become the Pope and Young Club’s new No. 3 velvet typical muley. taken by any bowhunter, behind the current world record of the 218-5/8-inch giant taken by Bowdy Gardner in Utah in 2012 and No. 2 at 209 1/8. Your buck will almost certainly be the largest velvet or hardhorn mule deer ever caught by a bowhunter, by a long shot. Since there is no specific category for bow hunters, it will not be an official record. But anyone who wants to use the words “world record” to describe Houston cattle will get no argument from us, whether they’re talking about unofficial world record for female bowhunters or junior bowhunters or both.

The story of this incredible muley began on November 21, 2021. Jeremy Houston, Jadee’s father, is a passionate photographer of large mule deer, and he encountered the buck on the night of that day. “I was wandering around looking for some rutting bucks to take pictures and saw some hinds and a larger-bodied deer with them,” he told F&S. “I got out my binoculars and saw one of the prettiest specimens I had ever seen and by far the largest male I had seen that year. As a photographer specializing in mule deer, I was ready.” Over the next few days Jeremy “hunted” the male with his camera and came out with some great photos and even a video of an epic fight scene with the big guy and another male. “But I thought that being able to hunt this deer for real was just a pipe dream,” he said, because the deer lived in one of the hardest-to-attract units in Utah.

photo of a large mule deer
Jeremy Houston took this photo of his daughter’s male in the fall of 2021. Jeremy Houston

But then in May 2022, to the complete shock of the family, Jaydee’s mom, Holly, put out 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 wear it. The state of Utah has a hunting mentor program that allows permit holders to share their permit with a young hunter to give them the opportunity to hunt while in the field with the mentor. “To say Jaydee was excited would be an understatement,” said her father, who shares the full story of Jaydee’s hunt, in his own words, below.

The Story of Jaydee Houston’s 225-Inch Velvet Mule Deer

photo of large mule deer buck
Last summer, Jeremy took photos of the big muley 25 miles north of where he had seen it in the fall of 2021. Jeremy Houston

Jaydee has been shooting bows since she was 3 or 4 years old and has always been in the hills with me. He has taken dozens of hares over the years with his bow and he really does have a knack for making some great shots. He had recently had a little growth spurt and was shooting a bow inherited from his older brother. So, it was time to go shopping. Terry Beck at TNT Archery in St. George, Utah, set her up with a new bow and accessories, and soon he was smoking ping-pong balls in her field. Throughout the summer we practice shooting and small game hunting. She became quite lethal and we were very excited for the next hunt.

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

In July, we started looking at a lot of potential money for Jadee to hunt in the first match. My nephew told us that he had seen a typical good looking male that could be the male I had seen last November. I was shocked 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 in various farm fields each night, and we were fortunate to be good friends with several of the nearby owners, who gladly gave us permission to hunt. Throughout the summer we kept a check on the male and saw him often enough to take photos and video. My good friend Brian worked in the area and was able to see the males coming and going on a regular basis, and helped us find a good spot to set up a hideout in the ground about 35 yards from a well traveled trail, where Jaydee, Holly and I could all sit together.

photo of blind girl on the floor
Jaydee sits blindly on the floor waiting for her money. Jeremy Houston

On our first night in the blind, we had several females and males, but not the big guy. Our luck would change the following night, when, with only an hour of daylight, I spotted it. “Holy cow, there it is!” I whispered to Holly and Jaydee. I lined up the deer 573 yards away. But with filming time winding down, anticipation was killing us as we watched him, along with a few other males and females, slowly zigzag toward us. We would have gone through all the scenarios if he got to us before nightfall. Basically we had two shooting lanes and both would provide a 30 to 60 yard shot. The plan was for Jaydee to back off as soon as he cleared a fence and got close to the first line of fire. He would then try to stop it with a soft mouth call and locate it. Then she would shoot an arrow through his vital signs. But the money was taking what seemed like forever, and there was a little three-way panic attack in the blind.

photo of a girl with a large mule deer
Jaydee practically fits inside the massive frame of the male. Jeremy Houston

With 15 minutes of daylight remaining, the deer finally made a move onto the field, covering 200 yards in just a matter of minutes. A doe was in the lead, then a smaller male, then the big boy. As he jumped the fence, Jaydee drew her bow on him and stopped him just as he walked into the first lane. “Fifty-six yards,” I whispered to Jaydee. The male was perfectly on his side and staring at the blind. A few seconds passed, which seemed like an eternity, and I thought to myself: Why hasn’t he shot?

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

He hadn’t taken into account the darkness inside the floor shutter. I figured our chances were up when the stallion turned and walked into the field. I was looking at my feet when Jaydee suddenly fired! I heard the unmistakable hit of an arrow as he hit the target, and I was practically in shock when Holly said, “She sure hit him!”

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

Jaydee explained that she had finally been able to see her sight, placed the 60-yard pin on the male, and fired. We basically had the whole family waiting and watching from a nearby road. Brian said they were able to see the deer when he ran off and lay down on a tall sagebrush, no more than 200 yards from the shutter. We are not sure of the location of the hit, we turned around an hour before going out with the lights to search.

photo of a girl with a mule deer mount
Jaydee’s incredible muley buck collected 217 typical, with a green net of around 205, and is probably the largest typical ever caught by a female archer. Jeremy Houston

After a short run on the track, he was standing on the buck, howling and screaming like only a parent can when one of their children accomplishes something incredible. He made a great shot that dropped the ball quickly. As Jaydee and the others approached, I pulled out my phone and videotaped everyone’s reactions. Jaydee was so excited and she kept yelling, “Come on!” it was so impressive. I will never get tired of seeing all the excitement of everyone approaching perhaps one of the biggest dollars ever garnered by a woman, let alone a 12 year old girl with a bow and arrow.