For as long as he could ever remember, Jay Rhyne wanted to be a United States Marine Corps Scout Sniper. So as soon as he could, this determined kid from a small town in Southeast Missouri enlisted. Just out of Perryville High School, he was off to Basic Training in San Diego. Followin completion, he entered infantry school where his talent as a marksman was quickly discovered. With the single minded focus that only the most talented soldiers possess, Rhyne completed the arduous process of becoming a Marine Corps Scout Sniper. Little did he know that his skill set would place him in a critical position.
While completing training on the West coast in 2001, his responsibilities took an unexpected twist with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Immediately, Rhyne was jettisoned to an airport as part of the West Coast React Force to provide over watch. Following Rhyne deployed with the 31st MEU (SOC)-Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable, to the Southeast Asia corridor for Operation Enduring Freedom.
After eight accomplished years of service (four active, four reserve), Rhyne made a difficult decision to leave the Marine Corps. In his years of training, Rhyne had discovered an interest in pursuing some facet of medicine. He registered with the St. Louis County Fire Academy and waited patiently for a coveted spot to open. Always one to actively prepare for the future, Rhyne enrolled at the University of Missouri to further his career in the medical field. Soon after, he was accepted into the Florissant Valley Fire Department and they assisted with his pursuit of the St. Louis County Fire Academy. While serving as a firefighter and paramedic, Rhyne linked up with the Kniestedt Foundation.
Creator of the foundation, Jim Kniestedt, had asked his Project Manager, Joe Rhodes, to find a veteran from the Midwest who might want to attend a trophy deer hunt at Gravick Ranch in South Texas. This hunt would be filmed by The Break and aired on the Pursuit Channel. Rhodes had located veterans in the Midwest before for other foundation events and one name kept popping up. There was a general consensus among veteran hunters that Jay Rhyne was the perfect fit. After a call to explain the details, Rhodes knew that Rhyne was the right match and was 100% in for this event.
They set the hunt for Wednesday, December 6th, 2017. Rhyne and Zac Hoenes of The Break arrived to a cold and rainy McAllen, Texas. They were greeted and escorted to Gravick Ranch by Ranch Manager Eric Hinojosa. Hinojosa provided background information about the ranch and the schedule for the hunt as they relaxed in the trophy room among exotic mounts.
The following morning, they discovered that the cold and soppy weather had settled in for the duration of their hunt. They decided to brave the conditions and put a few rounds through the CZ 550 Sonoran 6.5×284 that Rhyne would be using. With the rifle dialed in, they broke for a warm breakfast and a briefing by Hinojosa. He recommended they cull a buck on the ranch before heading out to hunt a trophy. After breakfast they geared up, headed into the field and very quickly located the cull they were after. The problem was getting a clear shot at him without getting busted. With Rhyne on the gun and Hoenes on the camera, Hinojosa led a spot and stalk that led to a clear 240 yard shot. Rhyne’s sniper days served him well as he executed with precision and experienced his first taste of success in South Texas brush country.
Mid Thursday was spent caping the deer for taxidermy and prepping for the trophy bucks they would be chasing that afternoon and evening. Right before the hunting party headed to the blind, ranch founder Jim Kniestedt arrived and finally had the pleasure to meet Jay. Although they saw a wealth of deer the remainder of Thursday, none were the mature Gravick Ranch trophy they were after. Still, the day was a success and the guys headed into the trophy room to meet up with Jim for dinner and make a plan of attack for the following day.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Mother Nature delivered 1.5 inches of snow to San Isidro, Texas! Since 2006, when Kniestedt purchased the ranch, he had never seen snow at Gravick. Weather always provides an additional challenge to hunters and this team was very interested in finding out what the snow would do to deer movement. Rhyne, Hoenes and guide Hinojosa headed out to a box blind for a morning hunt. Once again their time in the blind was filled with watching a great deal of deer but just not that rare reward they were after. Around 9 AM, just as Hinojosa was about to call the hunt, the elusive buck arrived. Out of the brush slipped a gorgeous trophy at 300 yards, well within range for a Marine Corps trained sniper. When the shot presented itself, Rhyne executed perfectly. Filled with the thrill of the hunt, Jay was absolutely beside himself over the animal he had the opportunity to take. As they approached to retrieve the animal, the excitement only grew. Rhyne took in the view of this imposing buck that would go on to score an impressive 186 7/8. The team took some time to enjoy the moment by taking photographs with the uniquely frosted backdrop of South Texas snow.
Within a day and a half, Rhynes, Hinojosa and Mother Nature had all worked together to drop two beautiful South Texas bucks while Hoenes captured it all on camera. During the remaining days at Gravick Ranch, Rhyne enjoyed accompanying taxidermist Sterling Boykin on a hunt. They had a fun and productive venture as Boykin took down a beautiful 9 point and hunted for hogs all while reveling in the genuine camaraderie of the hunting team.
The entirety of this event will be available on a 2018 episode of The Break. Please check give the Kniestedt Foundation a like on Facebook or Instagram to receive specific updates on date and time of the episode and future Kniestedt Foundation events.