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Where the deer and the Simmental play

West Coast transplants Rick and Beverly Mehrlich come out of retirement to manage McEwen’s Heavenly Hollows Farm
Story and photos by Cara Moore 7/29/2021

 

Miles of trails, knowledgeable guides, and strategic placement of nearly fifty stands such as the enclosed tower stand above ensures that hunters will have the opportunity to set their sights on a prize buck and/or gobbler at Heavenly Hollows Farm.
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Tucked away deep in the rolling hills of McEwen lies a hunter’s haven called Heavenly Hollows Farm. For the past decade, deer and turkey hunters from across the U.S. have flocked to the farm for a chance at a trophy buck or gobbler. With a 95 percent success rate, hunters are rarely disappointed. 


Owner Rick Mehrlich and his wife, Beverly, moved to McEwen from San Francisco in 2010 after looking for a change of scenery in their retirement. 


“While we were in California, we played golf and volunteered at the hospital, but that was it,” says Rick. “I knew there had to be something more out there. I grew up on a farm and it was fun to get back to it.” 


Prior to the Mehrlich’s ownership, Heavenly Hollows Farm had been used solely as a private hunting facility. When the Mehrlichs bought the property, farm manager Gary Jenkins recommended trying commercial hunting and took the responsibilities upon himself to lay out the plans and start a website for the new venture. 


“Gary oversees the farm on a day-to-day basis and is a huge factor in the success of this operation,” says Rick. “Whether it’s buying chemicals from the Co-op or scheduling fertilizer or fuel to be delivered, we rely on him 100 percent.”


Today, Heavenly Hollows Farm encompasses 2,500 high-fenced acres, as well as an additional 2,800 that are unfenced. The facility is open for both deer and turkey hunting during their respective seasons and includes an on-site hunting lodge for extended stays.


Hunting is conducted within the boundaries of a 10-foot-high retaining fence, which is designed to keep deer in and keep predators out. The fencing allows Rick and Gary to extend a much greater degree of control on the number and quality of the deer that live within the boundaries of the farm. 


“Most deer killed outside the fence are only two or three years old, whereas we wait until they are closer to six or seven,” says Gary. “When a hunter comes to our farm, he knows he’s got a good chance of killing a very large buck.”


The property is home to an estimated 400 or more deer which are allowed to mature under strict land-management guidelines. Although the ethics of high-fence hunting is sometimes questioned, Gary points out that there is no “cheating” allowed at Heavenly Hollows and no stocking of deer has ever occurred. 


“Our deer are the same animals that were in here when the fence was first installed; we just manage what we have,” says Gary. “These deer are 100 percent wild, just like you’d find outside the fence.”


Miles of trails wind through the property, allowing easy access to the top hunting locations, and close to 50 ladder, climb-on, lock-on, and enclosed tower stands are placed strategically throughout. 


Rick says that semi-guided hunts allow visitors to proceed on their own while also receiving guidance and advice from the experienced staff of the farm.


“For example, we have cameras out in the field, so we bring in the photos for our clients to see, recommend where they could go, and let them head out with one of our ATV’s,” he explains. “Or we’ll drive them out to where they want to go and pick them up later. It really comes down to what the hunter wants.”


Many of the farm’s hunters return every year, and Rick and Gary are thankful for the relationships that they have been able to build. 


“A lot of folks are here for every deer and turkey season, and I love seeing all the excitement and reunions on opening day,” says Gary. “On one, they even fed me and Rick a ribeye steak!”


Aside from managing Heavenly Hollows’ flourishing deer operation, the Mehrlichs have also become experienced beef producers. In 2011, Rick took an interest in cattle and decided to get his feet wet by acquiring 10 calves and a cow/calf pair. Today, that herd has grown to 500 head, with multiple breeds including registered Simmental and SimAngus bulls. 


“We’ve decided to keep our calves to a point where we can sell them at 700 to 750 pounds, and in many cases, they go to a stockyard to get fattened up there,” says Rick. “Because we grow our calves much more than a lot of other farmers do, we need corn and alfalfa and such.”


The Mehrlichs farm the 2,800 acres outside of the high fence in support of their cattle operation. Their primary crops are corn, soybean, and alfalfa, as well as dry hay and silage. Soybean meal is purchased from the Co-op and then put in a grinder with the farm’s own corn and alfalfa hay, resulting in feed of about 15 percent protein, and fed to the calves that are grown to sell. The high-fenced area also contains more than 100 acres of food plots including corn, soybeans, clover, alfalfa, chicory, wheat, oats, peas, hay, and turnips, all used to attract deer and supplement their diet.


“We work hard to parallel all of the things that we are doing,” says Rick. “For example, we grow an alfalfa field to cut for hay to feed our cattle, but the deer also have a gay old time browsing in there, which gives them lots of protein. The deer and turkey also help themselves to the corn, so all of the animals benefit.”


Rick and Gary rely heavily on United Farm and Home Co-op’s Dickson store and Humphrey Farmers Co-op in Waverly to supply them with materials for the farm. Many of their wildlife cameras are bought from the stores, as well as bulk deer feed that is distributed in troughs around the farm every week. 


“When we’re looking for fertilizers to top the corn, and we give the guys at the

Co-op a few days' notice, they’re always here when they’re supposed to be and get the job done,” says Rick. “They also help us decide on which corn varieties to grow and how to plant them. We couldn’t do what we do without Co-op.” 


The success of the farm is also largely due to the closely knit group of employees who make sure that visitors get the experience they came for. Gary and Rick take pride in working alongside John Needham, Stanley Collins, Wayne Manly, and Coley Wood and are confident that the operation will continue to grow under the attention of such hard-working employees. 


“There’s never a day that I dread going to work,” says Gary. When you enjoy what you do — and you’re getting paid for it — you should count your blessings. I certainly do.”


For more information on Heavenly Hollows Farm hunting rates and trips, call 615-405-6079 or visit heavenlyhollowstn.com. 


 
 
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