There’s nothing better than a nap in the woods, except maybe waking up from said nap with a giant Missouri whitetail standing broadside. That’s what happened to 10-year-old Sophia Hutcheson in Belmont, Missouri during her first whitetail deer hunt in late November. She roused from dozing with her Dad in a treestand near the Mississippi River when an 11-point buck walked onto a levy 120 yards away. 

“It was raining very hard. I looked over and there was this really big deer,” Hutcheson told Field & Stream during a phone interview after school. “I tapped my dad and he looked. He was about to pass out because he’s never seen a deer that big in the place we hunt.”

Hutcheson loaded her Dad’s black powder rifle as the trophy buck lingered around some does. By the time it bent down to eat, she was ready. She dropped the deer with one shot.

Whitetail Hunting photo

“I wanted an 11-pointer,” she recalls. “I’ve always wanted a really big buck. I’ve seen on videos when people get really big bucks, and I wanted one just like that. I was very excited.” 

Hutcheson says she’d only learned how to load her dad’s gun a few days prior. As a new hunter, she offers some cautionary advice: “Always have parent supervision,” she says. “And please know what you’re doing.” 

More impressive still, the muzzleloader fired in a heavy rainstorm. Moisture often douses that style of firearm into dysfunction. That’s why Hutcheson’s Dad carries dark green balloons that match the camo pattern on his stock. 

“The treestand was leaking bad so keeping her dry was a priority, but I also put a balloon over the barrel,” says Cory Hutcheson. “As long as your primer stays dry, it’s okay. I assume you can shoot through the balloon, but I take it off.”  

Whitetail Hunting photo

Hutcheson has hunted with her dad since she was three, but this is the first deer she’s ever harvested. They sat in a ground blind when she was too small to climb into a treestand. She wore princess dresses back then, but now the 10-year-old hunter climbs the tree covered in camo. 

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“The next day she twirled in the Christmas parade,” her dad says. “She’s a girly girl and a tomboy rolled into one—and that deer she shot, oh I would have absolutely loved to get that one.” Hutcheson’s deer is already jerky, and its rack and cape have been delivered to a local taxidermist. “I’m making it to where it still has the fur on it,” the 4th grader said. “I love hunting deer. I really like the jerky, and I like having a rack to hang on my wall.”