Ricky Sechrist is one lucky hunter.
He'll be the first one to tell you that.
The 59-year-old Sechrist, from Springettsbury Township in York County, recently bagged his first-ever bull elk.
Shooting the elk, however, wasn't the hard part. After all, 20 of the 21 folks who got a Pennsylvania bull elk license successfully killed an elk. That's a pretty high success rate – more than 95 percent.
No, the hard part was winning the lottery in August to get the tag.
More than 27,000 people applied, but just 21 got bull elk tags. He beat odds of 1,350-to-1 in his 13th year of playing the lottery.
“It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Pennsylvania to win the lottery,” he said.
He then made the most of his opportunity, harvesting one of the largest bull elk killed in the state this fall – a monster with an estimated live weight of 761 pounds and a rack spread of more than 50 inches. In rack size, it was the third largest taken in Pennsylvania this year, while it was also the fourth heaviest.
He didn't have to wait long to do it, either.
On opening day, Monday, Nov. 6, Sechrist went searching for elk in Clearfield County, with the help of an area guide. Sechrist said he used a guide because it got him access to private land that offered better elk hunting.
Within an hour, he was celebrating a successful hunt using a Savage .300 Win Mag gun.
“It was pretty exciting,” Sechrist said. “It gets the heart racing. I had to get in good shooting position. The first shot, I hit it. It ran about 20 yards and stopped, and I shot it again and it rolled over.”
Then came the arduous task of getting the huge animal transported out of the field, using a tractor, a trailer and plenty of manpower.
In the end, however, it was worth it.
Sechrist packed his freezer with hundreds of pounds of meat and soon he'll have a shoulder mount trophy proudly displayed in his house.
“It's very good meat,” he said. “It's very healthy, like deer. Most game animals have lean meat. It's natural, organic.”
The life-long hunter estimates he's harvested around 100 deer in his lifetime, but he said the elk is by far the largest animal he's ever killed. He's also gone bear hunting, but has yet to kill one.
Chances are good that Sechrist will never get the opportunity to hunt elk in Pennsylvania again. He has to wait of minimum of five years before he can get back in the lottery, and then the odds will again be stacked severely against him.
“I know a lot of hunter friends, but I don't know anyone else who won the lottery,” he said.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.