Hunting trip celebrates life

Gerald Rogers, center, and his sons Mike, right, and James recently enjoyed a very successful hunt that celebrated life. Photo courtesy of Mike Rogers

DEADWOOD — Deadwood resident Gerald Rogers recently bagged a 6x6 bull elk on what was arguably his most meaningful hunting trip.

“It was a triumph, a victory, a celebration of life. That’s truly what it was for my dad,” son Mike said in describing the trip.

Hunting trip participants always cherish the experience. However, an illness diagnosis followed by a severe accident added to the trip’s special nature for the Rogers family.

Mike was notified about Gerald possibly having a heart attack. A physician at the Deadwood Hospital discovered a blood clot in his femoral artery, with the clot traveling to a lung.

Gerald was rushed to the Rapid City hospital, where physicians used surgery to break that blood clot. A screen was inserted into the vein to prevent the particles from going to the lung.

X-rays revealed a concern on Gerald’s opposite lung. Further testing showed lung cancer in the form of mesothelioma, with the diagnosis coming on Dec. 9, 2020.

“He had a doctor tell him he had 10 months to live,” Mike said.

Asbestos at the Black Hills Power plant outside of Lead (at Kirk) allegedly caused the cancer, according to Mike. Gerald worked as a plant manager there for many years.

Mike said plans called for hunting on a brother’s property, which included a large pond.

The initial hope was to set up on water in early October so the 74-year-old Gerald could get a shot at a bull elk. “Elk frequent my brother’s place almost on a daily basis,” Mike said.

A serious accident then entered the picture.

Gerald noticed about six head of cattle and attempted to move them while he was on horseback. The horse came over backwards onto Gerald on a steep hill area; injuries included four compression fractures and one to his neck along with a shattered femur, broken sternum, and bruised ribs.

Gerald’s wife Cheryl was able to locate him via radio and binoculars. An ambulance and helicopter were dispatched.

“My dad’s been hunting since his early teens, whenever it was legal to hunt,” Mike said. Gerald’s brother also hunted.

Hunting is the number 1 passion of the Rogers family. Mike said the aspect Gerald enjoyed the most changed over time.

“When he got older, he kind of quit caring about pulling the trigger so much,” Mike said. “It was more about camaraderie, and being with his sons, and then his grandkids.”

Mike said Gerald’s main hunting goal was to get a mature bull elk. Gerald has shot elk in past years, but they were smaller, according to Mike.

Gerald is unable to walk very far before having to use a walker. He required the use of a set-up shooting table for the shots. Then, he needed to remove his neck brace.

“He was just trying to get adjusted to the rifle scope,” Mike said. “In about 15 to 20 minutes, the elk started appearing.”

The elk came onto a field that contained water. Many did, but the bull was the last to enter the field.

Elk and hunters could see each one another, with the elk being nervous. Mike said the shot was longer than desired. The shooting party and bull were about 580 yards apart.

Four shots had the 6x6 bull elk as Gerald’s target; two connected.

An early shot hit the elk behind the shoulder.

The elk turned 180 degrees, and a second shot hit behind the opposite shoulder. That bull went down about 40 yards from the first shot.

“He just couldn’t believe it. I don’t think any of us could believe it,” Mike said. He added Gerald was encouraged to keep shooting until the bull went down.

“I could tell on his face; he was like, ‘holy cow; he did it,’” Mike recalled. “’I never thought I was even going to get this opportunity.’”

Relief and excitement also took center stage. “None of us had seen him smile like he did that day in all their years,” Mike said.

The bull went to a Spearfish butcher, who would process the meat. Gerald Rogers, Mike Rogers, and James Rogers were on the hunt.

Gerald drew a Black Hills rifle elk tag about 20 years ago. He has also carried an archery tag pass and enjoyed success on both hunts.

Mike, James, John, and Travis are Gerald’s sons.

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