Reili Brewer not only shot the biggest buck her father has ever seen on the U.S. Army base where he’s been hunting for more than 20 years, but she did it while wearing his foul-weather gear as he shivered in a cold Texas rain.
The 14-year-old from Avery, Texas, was hunting on October 29 at the Red River Army Depot, a 15,000-acre military tract near Texarkana where her father, Rickey Brewer works. Rickey’s father and grandfather also worked at the depot, and he started hunting there when he was 12. Both Rickey and Reili—who has been hunting since she was 7—have killed some nice bucks there over the years.
This season they had their eye on a big nontypical buck that Rickey first became aware of in 2020 when the depot’s land managers photographed the deer during their annual camera survey. Rickey couldn’t locate the buck until 2021, when it showed up on a couple of the dozen or so trail cameras he had deployed near oak stands and other food sources. But by then it was December, and a mere handful of hunting days remained at Red River, which allows hunting only on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. In 2022 he finally got his first look at the deer in person. By then he had a pretty good idea where the buck was bedding and was getting pictures fairly frequently, mostly after shooting light had ended.
“Around the third weekend in October last year, I actually had him come within bow range one morning at about 35 yards,” Brewer tells Field & Stream. “I drew, but I could never get him to stop for a good shot. And that was the only time I ever saw that deer in the daylight from a stand.”
Heading into this season, Rickey felt like he had a good read on the buck’s core area, and he figured their best shot at killing the deer would come during the first two weeks of bow season. Trouble was, Reili was too busy playing travel softball to hunt.
“We had a couple of different bucks in the area that were mature deer, and I told her from the get-go, you can shoot whichever one you want,” Rickey says. “But if you don’t harvest the big deer this weekend, the chances of us killing him is going to be slim to none. By then word was starting to get around, and there were some guys hunting around us. We knew it was just a matter of time before he started chasing a doe.”
On the 29th, Reili and Rickey didn’t see much on the morning sit. They broke for lunch around 11:00. It started raining, and they waited for a break in the downpour before heading back to their stands at 2 pm. “I had forgot my rain clothes at the house, so I had to use my dad’s,” Reili tells Field & Stream. “It was raining really bad, and he was soaking wet. He decided to go to the truck because he was wet and cold, and when he got there, I texted him that I wanted to leave right at 6:40, when it got dark.”
Around 6 pm she spotted a deer, but she couldn’t tell at first if it was a buck or a doe. “It took two steps from behind this huge oak tree where it was eating acorns and shook itself like a dog does, and I could see the water falling off his horns. That’s when I knew it was him. I started getting really nervous, and my heart was racing really bad.”
She remembered what her dad has always told her: “Take a deep breath, and barely pulled the rifle’s trigger.” The buck went only about 15 yards before going down.
“When I heard her shoot, my first thought was she’d shot this other buck we call Moose, a wide 6 ½-year-old 8-pointer,” Rickey recalls. “I took off just casually walking toward her, and I noticed I had several missed calls. Then she FaceTimes me, and she was bawling and squalling and screaming, saying that she shot the deer. I didn’t give her a chance to say another word: I hung up and took off running to her.”
Rickey was soon hollering himself, as the Facebook video he posted shows.
“She’s been lucky enough to harvest big deer out there before,” he says with pride. “She killed a 13-pointer in 2021 and a 17-inch wide 11-pointer last year, 5-1/2 and 6-1/2-year-old deer. So I knew if she shot one, it was not going to be a little deer. But I just didn’t know it was going to be this one.”
With 29 measurable points and a ton of mass, the buck seems a slam dunk to top the Texas youth record, which stands at 209 inches. After posting photos of the hunt on Facebook, Rickey woke up the next day to find 152 missed calls on his phone. Two were from the county game warden: The first to inquire where the deer came from, and the second, made after the warden saw photos of the buck, to let the Brewers know they had a potential state record on their hands. They’ll know for sure after the 60-day drying period, but two preliminary green scores came in around 238 and 244.
Reili says the hunt was the answer to her prayers. Rickey seems pleased that the lessons he drilled into her stuck when she needed them most.
“I know last year when I drew on him how my emotions were, and I’ve been lucky enough to harvest several good deer before,” Rickey says. “I can just imagine what was going through her head at 14 years old. She was able to compose herself—before she lost it after she shot him—and make a perfect shot, both lungs and the tip of the heart. I mean, there ain’t very many grown men that can do that.”