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Hitting the Jackpot for Friendship & a Giant Buck

March 2020
Story by Jerry Rychtera
State: Nevada
Species: Deer - Mule

At 65, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Originally, I was going to be put on the heart transplant list. However, after medicine, diet, exercise, and a pacemaker, I was allowed by my cardiologist to continue hunting. I had been putting in for preference points for numerous states for deer and elk for at least the past 9-10 years. Huntin' Fool has been a great resource for me. I refer to their hunt reports to determine which hunt areas I want to apply for. At 65, I drew a limited mule deer tag in Wyoming. Using a Huntin; Fool recommended outfitter, I killed a 185" mule deer that was the largest deer I had ever killed. At 67, I drew a limited mule deer tag in Arizona. Again, using a Huntin' Fool recommended outfitter, I killed a 191" mule deer.

This year, my wife and I both draw limited mule deer tags for the Eastern Plains of Colorado for December. We signed up to hunt with a Huntin' Fool recommended outfitter, Travis Reed of Western Sky Outfitters. While waiting for this hunt, I learned that I had also been drawn for a mule deer tag for unit 231 in Nevada. I was amazed. With the points that I had accumulated, the odds were less than 3 % that I would be drawn. I immediately called Huntin' Fool for an outfitter recommendation. After talking to a few of their recommendations, I talked to Greg Krogh of Mogollon Rim Outfitters. I immediately knew that I would get along with Greg and signed up for a hunt with him. I told him that I was 69 and had congestive heart failure but could still hike almost anywhere if I could hike slowly. Greg told me that this would not be a problem.

My guide for my hunt was Clay Campbell.  It turned out that Clay and I both loved big bucks and could talk for hours about numerous subjects.  After a couple of days, we became close friends. The hunt began on October 5th and was for seven days. Both Greg and Clay warned me that the archery and muzzleloader seasons had produced very few of the big bucks that unit 231 is famous for. They felt that there was almost a missing age class of the older bucks. The first few days, Clay and I located many bucks but none of any size. The weather in eastern Nevada was very hot with daytime temperatures reaching 75 degrees, and the moon was also almost full. Due to these facts, the deer were not moving much and were staying bedded down in the cedars during the day. After about four days, Clay became very frustrated at the lack of big bucks. I told him not to worry and that I would shoot a small buck for meat if necessary. Our entire family loves venison, and it is our main source of red meat. My doctors have told me that venison is a very good meat to eat because it is low fat and has no additives. I believe this is part of the reason I can keep going at the age of 69 with heart problems. We also love its taste and use it in numerous types of recipes.

That night, Clay contacted Greg Krogh and told him how frustrated he was with our inability to find any big bucks. Rather than just telling Clay where else to look, Greg said that he would come help us and he knew a couple of new places to look. Greg took time off from his other camp and came and helped Clay look for a big buck for me. I then had two extremely knowledgeable guides helping me search for a big buck. Both Clay and Greg have some of the best game spotting eyes I have ever seen. For the next two days, we spotted numerous 150-160" bucks. I told Greg on the sixth day that I would be happy to shoot one of the 160" bucks. He immediately gave me a pep talk and told me that I would shoot a big buck and that both he and Clay would stay a day after my hunt was over to help me hunt if necessary.

The evening of the sixth day, Clay stayed and spotted in an area where we had seen the 150-160" bucks. Greg took me over to a new area. We walked on a ridgetop where we could look down both sides. I spotted a doe, and then Greg exclaimed excitedly, “Jerry, look down the other side and put your rifle turret on 300 yards! There’s a monster buck!”

I lay on my stomach and squeezed the trigger. The buck hesitated and then ran off. Greg said, "Congratulations! You just killed a giant.!" The buck had run off, so I asked Greg if he was sure. He said he saw a major blood spot on its side.

We walked down the adjoining ridge to where the buck had run. At the bottom, we couldn’t see the buck. My heart immediately sank. Greg told me not to worry as he was sure I had made a good shot. We walked up to where the buck had been standing and immediately found blood that indicated a lung hit. We followed the blood trail 200 yards to find the buck laying 10 yards below where we had walked down on the adjoining ridge. The buck had expired in a cedar tree patch that had blocked our view.

The size of the buck was astonishing! I did not study the horns prior to squeezing the trigger. Our shouts of joy rang out throughout the canyon. Greg was as excited as I was. The buck was larger than the 191" buck I had taken in Arizona and was in the mid-190s.

I have never had someone go the extra mile that Clay and Greg did on this hunt. They were always upbeat and willing to help me in any way they could.  I have two new friends for life. If I ever get drawn for an elk tag in Nevada, I certainly know who I will be calling to guide me. Even better yet, if I draw another miracle deer tag in the limited areas of Nevada, I know who to call.

At 69 with congestive heart failure, I got the biggest buck of my life so far with a little (a lot) of help from my friends. A new adventure and new friends awaited us in December in Colorado. I was looking forward to it!

I thank God that I live in America where there is public land such as in Nevada that anyone can hunt.