Thanks to Randy Barks for writing the following article for Deer Tracking Magazine

Living Life Again


I I think I knew the laugh before I knew the guy, but both have been a treat to be around.  I first heard him referred to as the “young fella who’s buying up all the best does out there,” and I was intrigued far more by the strategic beginning than by the bidding.  He was smiling when I first met him and I honestly have never had a conversation, serious or not, that wasn’t laden with laughter.  He’s a young deer farmer extraordinaire, with plenty of proof to smile about, but he’s obviously a guy loving life, like a guy living life again.  Meet the man behind Dominant Genetics, the remarkable “Rusty” Karr.


The truth is, Dale “Rusty” Karr is literally living life again.  It was February 2000 and Illinois had been hit by an ice storm.  An hour out of Bloomington, Rusty (nickname for Russell, not the condition of his car), was in some heavy traffic.  In the construction business, at the time, he was driving a 3-ton truck with unrelenting vehicles on one side and a semi on the other, merging from an up-ramp.  The collision was horrific. The fiberglass cab of the 3-ton was destroyed and its steering wheel forced to the back of the seat.  The motor had been driven up through the bottom of the cab and Rusty lay unconscious across the hood…both legs crushed by the dash.  As firemen fought to extricate the critically wounded 23 year old, Rusty “coded” (medical term for “died”) in their arms.  The “Jaws of Life” finally freed him from the wreckage, but no heartbeat was found.  Some carrying his body, some carrying his barely attached legs, the firemen rushed him to an ambulance. Injuries were extreme! Two crushed legs, a broken arm, broken scapula (shoulder blade), torn liver and arteries ripped from his leg by the truck’s door post…90 units of blood saved his life, but not one leg.  Coding 5 times through the ordeal, a 15% chance of survival, and induced coma for 6 weeks and 6 months in the hospital, the previously 220 lb robust young man was now a shocking 87 lbs.  Therapy at the RIC (Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago), the best available in the country, was not the best in this unique case.  Rusty knew his best chance at recovery rested in a return home to friends and family, a time to strengthen in the company of those who cared most.  They are a family-focused lot, with 19 children on Rusty’s dad’s side alone.  A family gathering may have a hundred people present, and many of these pitched in to help where ever possible after the accident.


While the truth of that day and months following may be too graphic and detailed for some, it serves as a powerful reminder of the brevity of life.  “Seeing death made an impression on me,” says a slightly more serious Rusty.  “No one can love life more than me,” he smiles. “Snowmobiling, jet skiing, hunting bears, wolves, cougars…if someone tells me I can’t do something, I’ll bet I can!”  Clearly, the guy loves a challenge, and having overcome what he has, he’s only ready for more!  Determination and a fun-loving attitude before and after the accident led to his thriving and not just surviving.  What kind of effect can this have in the deer business?


Having “always talked about raising monster bucks,” when Rusty saw an ad inviting the public to the Top 30 Sale in Bloomington, Kevin Grace received a call.  On the road with Kevin, Rusty toured deer farms, met producers, and got the education he was after.  Far more than a survivor, he was set to be a serious player (in a fun way of course!) Let the games begin!


With industry proof of the importance of does, Rusty began to stack the deck with “dominant genetics” and with the acquisition of Maxbo’s sister, Rocky Roller’s sister, Silverking’s sister, a daughter of Huston’s “Mary”, a Maxbo/Stretch doe and the mother of Amos (“Angela”)…the name of his farm was obvious- “Dominant Genetics.”


That power-doe base, however, was just the beginning.  Asked what he’s after in antler production, Rusty just laughed. “Frame, width, beams…I want what everyone else wants, but I want it bigger and better!”  He’s open and honest and has a laugh that lets him get away with it.  But it’s not just good-natured talk, this herd was programmed for incredible antler production.  The group of mother and sister greats were crossed with industry supersires like Maxbo, Reno, Silverking, Sundance, Free Agent and such…with immediate results.  Remax, (Reno.Maxbo) was 240” at 2 and appears well on his way to 300” at 3.  Power Surge (PA Geronimo/Maxbo Sister) despite damaging his rack, had a couple 200” yearling sons last year with major gains in 2010.  Rusty may have begun with known giants, but “Dominant Genetics” carries its own title now.  Discussing strategies of producing huge, relatively clean frames, Rusty grins again, “but it’s always fun to try to grow 500” deer!”


Body size is “really important, ” explains Rusty.  “I need to include all factors in breeding.  It takes a big heart to supply all that blood and oxygen needed…” and then he laughs that Rusty laugh and adds,”…for that 600” rack!”  The 600” may need another year or two, but with the 2010 AI plans in place, we should be seeing wider & taller on a regular basis with bodies capable of carrying …those 600”!


Grateful for his mom’s bottlefeeding and fawn care, his dad’s and cousin’s conscientious labour around the farm, and for the fun he’s having working with family and animals he loves, Rusty welcomes all to tour and talk.  He considers someone a friend a lot quicker than most people…but when it comes to making the most of life and these things and people around him…most people haven’t had the reminders that the remarkable Rusty Karr has.  Look him up, check out his powerdoe genetics and do what his slogan says… “Get Some!”


-Randy Barks