‘You can’t take anything for granted’

TORRINGTON – A lifelong hunter, Joey Fraedrich, began hunting at a young age. He first learned the skills of the huntsman when his dad’s friend, Ames, took him hunting. Ames was an employee who worked for his dad.

“An employee that worked for my dad, years ago, asked if he could take me, because my dad doesn’t hunt,” Fraedrich said. “I currently still hunt with the guy, actually. He’s an awesome guy. He works for the City of Mitchell, and he is just an outstanding guy; he’s really neat. He pretty much taught me everything I know… He took me out when I was seven years old for the first time, then every weekend I was bugging my dad, ‘just let me go hunting, let me go hunting.’”

Fraedrich’s first hunt was for pheasants. 

“I don’t think I even shot close enough to scare the feathers off of them,” Fraedrich’s said with a laugh as he recalled his first hunt. “It was fun.”

He quickly learned hunting is not all about killing an animal. There is much more. 

“Being outside, the outdoors, just seeing the wildlife,” he said. “There’s a lot of days where we go goose hunting; we don’t shoot geese, we could, we just get so into watching them.” 

Despite Fraedrich’s love of the hunt and desire to answer to the call of the wild, his life took a sudden turn and he feared he wouldn’t be able to take part in this year’s hunting season as doctors told him his life wouldn’t take him into November.

“Two weeks ago, I was told I wasn’t going to live long enough to be able to hunt opening day this year, which was Oct. 1,” Fraedrich recalled. “So, to be going from working every day, hard, to laying in a hospital...”

Determined to hunt a deer on opening day, Fraedrich told his nurse he needed to be out for deer season’s opening day, no matter what it took. 

“I told my nurse when they transported me to Colorado, I said, ‘I don’t care what you do, I have to be out by the first for opening day of deer season,’” he said. “She goes, ‘babe, I don’t think you’re going to be alive; your heart’s done. That was kind of an eye-opener…”

Fraedrich recounted the things he had missed in the past year due to having to work and not being able to be with his family. He recalled missed birthdays, missed funerals and a missed surgery. 

Reflecting on what he had missed due to working, he began to consider the importance of things in life and what he viewed as “really important.”

“I can’t get that birthday back for my kid,” he said. “I really, really let him down and all over setting water, or over corn that’s still going to be there tomorrow? It taught me, ‘I’m not promised tomorrow.’”

Telling his doctor about the deer he had shot and his hunt, the doctor listened in disbelief as he recalled the hunt and taking the largest deer he had ever shot. 

“It was the biggest deer in my life; it’s a once in a lifetime deer,” he explained. “I don’t know why I got it or why I was able to get it. I still can’t push it because my heart is only at 16%, now.”

Fraedrich expressed his surprise that he didn’t fall to a weak heart at the time he took the deer, but he is grateful to have lived the experience and learned a lesson at the same time. 

“You can’t take anything for granted, because you’re not promised tomorrow,” Fraedrich said.

Fraedrich consulted doctors after suspecting something was wrong. The doctors said he was very healthy, but his heart was crippling his ability to function properly with it only working at 16%. 

Unable to determine exactly what had caused his heart to fail, doctors speculated it was likely from stress encountered throughout his life. 

“He thought it was from stress,” Fraedrich explained. “There’s no test that you go in there and it says for certain. He said, ‘your cholesterol is perfect; everything else is perfect… but, my stress level, we had a house fire, I was in four different wrecks, we had a tornado hit part of our house and messed up a bunch of stuff, then we had another house fire, and this is all in the same year. There was four months last year that I was homeless, I lived south of the Rock Shop under a bridge.”

Despite encountering dire straits, Fraedrich prevailed. He went on the hunt with a low-functioning heart and lived to tell the tale of how he took the biggest deer in his life in Goshen County. 

“We hunted a different farm in the morning and ended up passing on a couple decent bucks and a bunch of does” he explained. “We kind of got more sidetracked with watching the ducks fly than we did hunting… I really didn’t hunt hard in the morning.”

At lunch time, Fraedrich reloaded some ammo as he had some different bullets he wanted to try. He loaded the cartridges, checked the sighting of his rifle and went back to the field.

“I sat there and watched them deer for a half-hour before I shot one.”

Fraedrich pointed out one of the critical considerations in hunting: patience. 

“The other four bucks were shooters, and they were being stupid,” Fraedrich explained. “They were jumping over something, and I couldn’t tell what they were jumping over, and then walking around in a big circle. Then, I was trying to figure out what it was and then I figured out what they were stepping over was the big deer.”

The large buck raised its head into the air with its antlers showing clearly above the surrounding vegetation. 

“He lifted his head up and it was like, ‘oh, man!’” Fraedrich recalled. “This is going to be the big one that gets me right here! But, watching them (the other deer) was probably more fun than actually shooting this deer, because they were just acting weird. I think being outside in nature is the best part of it all.”

The large deer presented itself to Fraedrich. He knew this was his opportunity to take the deer of a lifetime. 

“It’s amazing how a deer that big can hide in hardly anything,” he said. 

Fraedrich shouldered his DPMS .223 and leveled the rifle on the deer. He squeezed the trigger, and the 60-grain bullet flew around 224 yards before claiming Fraedrich’s once in a lifetime buck. 

“I honestly got tears,” he said. “I was so excited. I haven’t had a deer get me excited for years. I haven’t gotten excited over a deer since I was 25 years old.”

Fraedrich was ecstatic with his deer. Not only had he taken a

“It gave me some hope that maybe next year I’ll buy another deer tag,” Fraedrich said with a smile. 

Adding to the excitement of taking the deer, Fraedrich spoke with people in Nebraska and Wyoming about the deer’s size. Though it has yet to be officially scored, the deer is expected to score somewhere around 200 points in the Boone and Crocket scoring system. Wyoming’s current record typical Mule deer was scored at 217.

Currently, Castlerock Taxidermy in Mitchell, Nebraska is preparing a mount for the deer. The official scoring will likely come sometime later. 

In addition to hunting, Fraedrich and his business, Banded Drake Outfitters, do a great deal of environmental work and conservation to help sustain the local wildlife populations and provide ground for them to thrive. 

For those interested in Banded Drake Outfitters, Fraedrich and his team offer guided hunts and outfitting to hunters of all ages. In addition, military and first responders hunt at a discounted rate. To learn more about Banded Drake Outfitters, visit their Facebook page, “Banded DRAKE Outfitters.”


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