After a great Thanksgiving lunch at her grandmother’s house, Aaliyah Meshell got an unexpected invitation to go deer hunting with her mom and dad on their family land near Zwolle in Sabine Parish.

Since there were three stands available, Meshell told her dad Keith that she’d take the one nobody else wanted.

“I told him whatever stand they didn’t take, I’d take it,” said Meshell, a 15-year-old sophomore at Negreet High School. “And I just took the plot.”

Turns out that was a great decision.

The spot where she ended up was a 4- to 5-acre food plot surrounded by creeks behind her grandfather’s house. Her dad and mom, Cherryl, have tended to it for more than 20 years, making sure it’s planted and cared for even during years when the family doesn’t hunt it much.

Meshell climbed into the stand about 4 p.m. with pretty low expectations.

“I was full, but I kept my eyes open,” she said with a laugh. “I really didn’t think I was going to see anything.”

That all changed when she heard movement about 5:20.

“I turned around because I thought it was directly behind me, but it was actually to my left. Whenever I looked over, he had jumped over the creek. He never really stopped until he walked up to a tree and put his antlers in it,” Meshell said. “I couldn’t get a good shot on him so I just let him walk some more because the food plot is really big. 

“I knew he wasn’t going to go anywhere unless something scared him.”

Meshell was ready with her Remington .25-06 when the heavy-antlered buck turned broadside at about 60 yards.

“I was nervous, but I told myself to just ignore the horns,” she said. “I actually didn’t shake at all — until I missed him the first time.”

Incredibly, unfazed by its brush with death, the big buck continued browsing in the food plot after the first bullet whizzed by. 

Meshell, on the other hand, was now a nervous wreck.

“Oh my gosh, I was freaking out. I couldn’t get it to get the bullet back in. Finally, whenever I got it, I was moving so much I couldn’t put him back in my scope and I couldn’t find him,” she said. “So I was moving around everywhere, but that deer never once looked at me.”

Now fighting a full-on case of buck fever, Meshell composed herself for the second shot.

“I shot him again and he walked to the right a little bit, and it didn’t look like I had hit him, but apparently I did,” she said. “He started coughing up blood and I sat there and waited until he was down before I called anybody.

“After I saw him fall, I was shaking so bad. I started crying and I called daddy because I knew he was closest to me on his stand. I called him freaking out, telling him he had to hurry up. Then I called my mom because she was on another stand, and I told her to hurry. Then I called my little brother who was at home, and told him.”

After what seemed like a long wait for her dad, who helped her across the hip-deep creek, they walked up together on the big 11-point.

“I knew he was big, but I didn’t know he was as big as he was whenever I got up to him,” Meshell said. “So really, I just started hugging daddy, I was so excited.”

The buck’s rack featured an 18-inch inside spread, with 5 ½-inch bases. The big deer, estimated to be 6 years old, weighed about 180 pounds and green-scored 159 6/8 at Simmons’ Sporting Goods in Bastrop — currently good enough for second place in the youth division.

Apparently, the wily old buck covered some miles before encountering Meshell on Thanksgiving afternoon.

“After I killed the deer, the picture got around that night and somebody knew a guy who had gotten a picture of that deer on his camera, and he lives 8 miles away from us,” she said. “So the deer actually traveled 8 miles to get to my stand, and we’ve never actually had a picture of him on any of our deer cameras.”

For her dad Keith, the big buck is an awesome trophy, but having his daughter shoot it on Thanksgivng Day in a family food plot he and his wife have cared for makes it even more special. 

In 1996, he shot a nice 8-point in the same plot that fell 10 feet from where his daughter’s buck piled up.

“That’s the reason this deer meant a lot more to me — because of where she killed it. It’s where I grew up, the area I had planted,” Keith said. “It’s like passing on my old spot to my daughter. It felt good.

“Deer of that caliber aren’t killed around here very much.”

Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways and the random drawing for Nikon optics at the end of the contest.

Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here