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Rick's arrows live beyond his death

We worked at the same place for six years, but in different areas, so hadn’t met. Plus, I lived in Cloquet and he lived in Superior. Then I decided to take up archery hunting and a co-worker said to me, “You should talk to Rick Brill, he is a big bow hunter.”

That moment forever changed my life.

It was 2006, and I sent Rick an email, not really expecting a whole lot. Before I knew it, he was at my office door wanting to help me get prepared to take up bow hunting. That was the beginning of the most treasured friendship I have ever had.

Rick began to share “good deals on hunting gear” with me. He was quick to provide me guidance and strategies on whitetail hunting. We ate lunch together regularly and our conversations involved work, family, and football, but the topic we always came back to was hunting. It was our shared passion.

Rick had an extensive friend group and a social life that would run most ragged. He was always doing something, balancing his friends with his family. Rick would include me and introduce me to those in his circle. I am sure that anyone who knew Rick would tell you that they met new friends through him.

We became very close. We attended work events, lunched often, shot at the bow shop and 3D archery shoots, did our own taxidermy, or just hung out. In 2008, Rick suggested we go archery turkey hunting in Kansas. I was reluctant as I had never turkey hunted before, let alone in a state that was a 13-hour drive away. But he had already researched tags, harvest limits, land access, nearest lodging, estimated costs and downloaded satellite imagery of the area. How could I say no?

Our first hunt was a big experiment. I made many mistakes. Rick was patient and a consummate teacher. It was hard to believe that he was nearly four years younger than me. I would miss my mark on a strutting tom and become frustrated. He would calmly say: “Don’t worry, there will be more. I think you may have dropped your bow hand.” He taught me how to bow hunt, and on these trips, how to turkey hunt. I have since bagged turkeys in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska and Florida, achieving the archery grand slam of turkeys. All thanks to Rick.

Those were the best of times with Rick. We were in our element and shared way too many hours in the cab of a truck and in a hunting blind. Rick was quick-witted and had an unmatched sense of humor. We would not hesitate to give each other grief for a wayward arrow, an accidental slip into a muddy drainage ditch. So many laughs and memories.

In 2015 Rick began focusing on his health. He had always lifted weights, but decided to take up bike riding. He would ride many miles each week and was in the best shape since I met him. He was looking at his life in depth and was very insightful in things that he would say to me and that he would post on social media. When you look back now, it was as if he could foresee the future.

On the evening of Sept. 27, 2015, I received a phone call from a friend I met through Rick. I was happy to hear from him and it was reflected in my voice. I will never forget his next words: “Sean, you must not have heard. Rick is dead. He was hit by a car while riding his bike and was killed instantly.” Those words changed my life again, just as quickly as when I first met Rick.

Rick was riding his bike that afternoon. He was obeying all of the traffic laws when an elderly driver swerved across the oncoming lane and onto the shoulder, striking Rick.

It was the largest funeral attendance I had ever seen. He left a hole in so many lives that will likely never be filled. There is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t think about him.

One of our mutual friends mentioned he had a dozen of Rick’s arrows, and asked if I would like them. I gladly accepted them. I was going to keep them as a memento of my dear friend, but instead I thought about what Rick would want done with them. He would want them used.

Over the next few hunting seasons, my existing arrow supply was depleted and I began hunting with Rick’s arrows in the spring of 2022. I have been fortunate to get four turkeys with them, completing my archery grand slam in the process, something Rick had strived to do. This past September, I got an elk with one, also something Rick had always wanted to do. I will continue to use his arrows until they are gone. They were in my quiver in Alberta this fall while spotting and stalking mule deer, and will hopefully be with me on many more hunts to come.

Every time I nock one of Rick’s arrows, I look up to the sky and thank him, as I know he is looking down on me and enjoying every hunt.

At some point, Rick’s arrows will be gone, but he will always be on my mind. I hope everyone has a chance to have a friend like Rick in their life.

Life is short. You can lose someone close to you in an instant. Cherish the moments you have with them. I am now cherishing the memories.

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