Mississippi Middle Schooler’s First Buck Pushes 180 Inches

"I told her she didn't realize what she'd done"
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Hailey Hayward shows off her first buck. Courtesy Jeremy Hayward

On Nov. 5, Jeremy Hayward convinced his 13-year-old daughter Hailey to tag along hunting with him. He’d been scouting for deer in the scattered timberlands and lush ag fields on their family farm in Grenada County, and he wanted to help Hailey get her first buck.

“Every morning for a week I had a pair of nice 8-point bucks on my trail camera that were working a food plot near a box blind of mine,” Jeremy tells Outdoor Life. “She’d passed shooting a 7-pointer last year because it wasn’t big enough. So, I wanted her to take one of those 8-pointers.”

The father-daughter duo arrived at their elevated box blind well before daylight on Nov. 8. The blind overlooked a large food plot on their 400-acre piece near Holcomb.

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A trail cam pic of the buck from earlier this season; the score sheet Jeremy used to green score the buck. Courtesy Jeremy Hayward

“It slowly started getting daylight and a couple of does walked out near the food plot. I figured the 8-pointers would be following the does. But at 6:42 a.m., a giant buck stepped into the open 125 yards away,” Jeremy says. “It was a huge buck I’d seen trail cam photos of for years. I even hunted it during bow season but could never get a shot.”

After Jeremy gave Hailey the nod, she looked through her scope and settled on the deer’s shoulder. Then she pulled the trigger, and the gun went click.

“In my rush to get to the blind early that morning I’d forgotten to put cartridges in her rifle,” Jeremy recalls. “I left them back in my truck, and there’s a massive buck looking at us after hearing the ‘click’ of her rifle firing pin NOT striking a cartridge.”

Jeremy told Hailey not to move until the buck lowered its head to feed again. When it did, she slowly lowered her gun and swapped it for Jeremy’s bolt-action rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmor. This time, the gun fired when she squeezed the trigger, and the big buck dropped in its tracks.

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Jeremy drove his truck near where Hailey’s buck fell, and they took the giant deer to a processor, where it weighed 223 pounds. The buck will be scored as a nontypical after the 60-day drying period, but Jeremy gave it a green score of 182 inches.

“I think I showed more excitement than she did, at least initially,” he says. “I told her she didn’t realize what she’d done—that so many dedicated deer hunters never see a buck like that, let alone shoot one.”