At that time, De Hoogh, an Iowa native, was young and looking for an exciting career. A hunter since age 9, De Hoogh wanted to turn one of his greatest passions into an occupation. He attended guide school and was hired to be an elk hunting guide in Montana. Wright was one of his clients that season.
De Hoogh describes Wright as a genuinely nice guy who would do anything for a friend. Their personalities instantly meshed, and when the two men learned they shared a common home state, the bond strengthened. The trip ended in an invite for De Hoogh to join his new friend for a whitetail hunt in southeastern Iowa.
De Hoogh contacted Wright later that fall to accept the offer. And, although he gave up elk-guiding after just one season because he hated being away from his family, he has been deer hunting on Wright’s land ever since.
De Hoogh has seen some impressive bucks at Wright’s place. He has enjoyed success, too, killing four deer. But none of the previous hunts were quite like the one he experienced on opening day of Iowa’s 2007 second shotgun season.
The day before the season started, De Hoogh and his father, Gary, made the long cross-state trip to scout Wright’s place near Eddyville, Iowa.
Wright’s property consists of corn and soybean fields, thick ravines, ditches, brushy areas and big timber along the Des Moines River bottoms. De Hoogh planned to sit in a permanent tree stand along a ravine, while his father would sit in a stand along the river.
Opening morning dawned and the De Hooghs headed for their stands toting scoped, inline muzzleloaders.
At first light, Gered watched a forkhorn buck and a doe leave the river bottoms and work their way up a draw. About 20 minutes later, he saw four or five more deer where the doe and buck had disappeared. Even as it trotted through the brush, Gered could tell the largest deer sported antlers.
“When I put up the scope, all I could see was long tines,” De Hoogh said.
The deer was about 80 yards away and heading for a narrow shooting lane. De Hoogh knew he’d be lucky to get the buck to stop where he could get a clear shot.
“I let out a loud grunt, and he stopped in his tracks and looked right at me,” De Hoogh said.
De Hoogh steadied the frontstuffer, lined up the cross-hairs and fired. The bullet hit both front shoulders and the spine, dropping the buck instantly. De Hoogh took no chances and immediately reloaded. But when he saw the buck was still, he took out his primer, climbed out of the stand and eagerly walked to the deer.
He was shocked when he finally saw the buck up close.
“I’d never seen a rack that size,” he said. “I called my dad on my cell phone and told him that I’d just shot the buck of a lifetime.”
Although the duo had seen some large bucks on the property, this buck was in a class by itself. Yet, even amid all the excitement, the hunters had the presence of mind to spend nearly 45 minutes taking more than 70 photos of the deer, the area and the stands so they would always vividly remember the hunt.
Wright, who was hunting with his son in a different part of the property got to see the buck a while later. Neither Wright nor the De Hooghs had known the deer existed. Later, they learned a neighbor had captured a few photos of the buck on a scouting camera.
The buck carried a 15-point rack. It gross-scored 2003/8 inches and netted 1855/8 inches. It was eight years old.
Obviously, killing the buck was a thrill Gered will never forget, but the people that joined him on the hunt were just as important.
“This was the hunt of a lifetime for me,” he said. “I’m glad my dad was there with me.”