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Winners of the Bucks for the Brave Veteran’s Hunt 2022 Presented by Record Rack

In honor of veterans everywhere, Cowboy Lifestyle Network has been partnering with Record Rack Feed (a brand of Cargill) for the last couple of years to promote their annual Bucks for the Brave Hunt in Batesville, Texas. Today, we want to take some time to recognize the winners of the 2022 Bucks for the Brave Heroes Hunt. 

For those of you who are just hearing about the Bucks for the Brave program, here’s a little backstory. Seven years ago, Record Rack learned what the importance and impact of being in the outdoors had on those who have put their lives on the line for their community and their country. They wanted to be able to provide these heroes with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they may not have received otherwise. So, the Bucks for the Brave Program was born.

Over the last few months, families and friends had the chance to nominate their own heroes to win this all-inclusive, weekend hunting trip at the Thumbtack Ranch in Batesville, Texas. Each year, five veterans (one in each branch of the military) as well as one retired law enforcement, one retired firefighter, and one retired EMT have the chance to win. This year is no different, we are excited to introduce to you the eight winners of this year’s Bucks for the Brave Heroes Hunt

Ismael Villegas – Air Force Winner

Our first winner served a total of 10 combat deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, South America, and Africa. He joined the Air Force at the age of 18 and went straight into the Air Force Special Warefare as a Combat Controller. During his deployments, as a result of direct combat, this Senior Master Sergeant incurred multiple injuries and has had to have more than 10 surgeries to repair the damage throughout his body.  He received multiple medals in recognition of his heroism, including the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star with Valor, and a Purple Heart. He continues to serve the Veteran community as a strength and conditioning coach and mentor to future Special Warfare Airman. He always puts his fellow Veterans first before himself. Congratulations Ismael Villegas! You are the 2022 Air Force Bucks for the Brave winner!

Nick Moore – Army Winner

Our next winner will represent the Army Veterans. The first thing that comes to mind about this hero is John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” On one of his deployments, he willingly jumped on top of a junior soldier, bringing him to the ground, and took rounds to protect that soldier. This Ranger was part of an elite special operations unit that engaged in brutal street combat in pursuit of Iraq’s Most Wanted. He has lived a life in service often secretly covering the front page of our newspapers as a nameless ghost, winning the fight and bringing our own home. He was part of the team involved in the rescue of Private First Class Jessica Lynch. He lead a platoon of Rangers against a heavily fortified enemy to save US Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell and make sure no man was left behind. He is a humble leader, never wanting recognition for himself, and always puts his soldiers first. This man was awarded multiple medals for his actions including Purple Heart, 2 Bronze Stars, and Army Commendation Medal with valor. Due to his injuries, he has not been able to hunt for years. Nick Moore, we got your 6. Congratulations on being the 2022 Bucks for the Brave winner representing the Army. 

Lyn Dupree – Coast Guard Winner

Our next winner was nominated by his daughter, who sees her Dad as a hero and a friend. He was a leader throughout his 27 years in the Coast Guard, who looked out for the growth and success of his crew mates. When he retired from the service, he started dedicating his life to the JROTC program at the local high school. He has transformed the program into a machine for the community, learning, fun, and the development of young leaders. He dedicated his life to serving others and sharing wisdom when he can, while also learning from those around him. His loyalty, integrity, and extremely sharp humor are written into his DNA, and show up in everything he does. He received multiple commendations and medals during his service, and we would now like to reward him as the 2022 Bucks for the Brave Coast Guard Winner. Congratulations Lyn Dupree!

James Harper – Marine Corps Winner

Our next winner received two Purple Hearts and Navy Commendation during the thankless war in Vietnam. During his two tours there, he was shot near his elbow, leaving it nearly immobile, has had to have both knees replaced and to this day, still carries shrapnel in his lungs. However, you will never hear him complain. He is a positive influence on those around him and has always worked hard and done whatever it takes to keep his family happy, healthy, and successful. He has four grandchildren under six years old, with another on the way. He has become their built-in full-time babysitter and he wouldn’t change that for the world. In the last few years, he has lost his two best friends and hunting buddies. His own health has made his opportunities to hunt become less and less. Well, James Harper, I can’t think of a better way to thank you for your service than to announce you as this year’s Marine Corp Winner. Welcome, Home Sir and welcome to the Bucks for the Brave family!

Ryan Smith – Navy Winner

Our next winner recently retired after 21+ years in the Navy, due to health injuries he suffered from his tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He was a respected leader serving side by side with his brothers. He was boots on the ground in Iraq, leading a team of untrained sailors on a mission. He also helped run the world’s largest detainment facility and was instrumental in changing how we conduct detainee operations in a wartime zone. He received multiple commendations and medals throughout his service for his actions. He and his wife continue to give back through the Foster Care system. Despite having three children of their own, they are in the process of adopting twin boys and their older brother so they can have a better life.  If that wasn’t enough, his family runs an animal shelter that helps save dogs from being euthanized and rescues cows, ducks, and whatever else you can think of. This man has a servant’s heart for sure. I think it’s time for us to give back to you Ryan Smith.  Congratulations on being this year’s Bucks for the Brave winner representing the Navy.

Michael Johnson – Retired Law Enforcement Winner

The weight of the badge. Not many can carry it, much less have the strength to do it for 31+ years. He received life-saving awards throughout his career, including one for rescuing a teenager that had rolled her car down an embankment into icy water during 9-degree weather. He fearlessly jumped in and held her head above water until additional help arrived to get her out.  He successfully negotiated the release of a 13-year-old kidnapped girl being held hostage in a trunk. After multiple years as a police officer, he transferred to the MI Dept of Natural Resources as a conversation officer where he received numerous commendations. Unfortunately, this man’s career almost came to a halt when he was struck head-on while on snowmobile patrol. He was determined to persevere and he did. After recovery, he was promoted to detective in the Special Investigations Unit working undercover to take down national criminal poachers. He also assisted in taking down illegal guns and drug trafficking. No matter where he was working, he strived to show the public a welcoming and positive image of Law Enforcement Officers. Thank you Michael Johnson for your life-long career protecting others. 

Congratulations on being this year’s Bucks for the Brave winner representing your brothers and sisters in blue.

Gregory Taft – Retired Firefighter Winner

Our next winner is a 2nd generation Firefighter who served 38+ years in his community. He started out as Police Officer and Paramedic, before entering the fire service. After 30 years, he retired as the Assistant Chief of the Denver Fire Department. He was also a member of IAFF Local 858 and helped create the department’s burn fund charity to help residents affected by the devastation of fire. His sons tell us he is a caring, grateful, and deserving Dad. His years of service are catching up to him and is now suffering the health effects the job can bring.  Even though he is currently battling severe arthritis and cancer, he still misses his job every day. We want to fulfill this bucket list item for you, Gregory Taft. You are this year’s Bucks for the Brave Firefighter winner.

Craig Spieker – Retired EMT Winner

Our next winner has dedicated his life to serving.  After leaving the Army, he joined the Police Force and retired in 2012. Rather than focusing on himself, he wanted to continue to serve his community. He became a firefighter and EMT and just last year, retired as Chief of EMS. He received 21 life-saving service medals, and the Presidential lifetime achievement award, amongst many others during his 30+ years of dedicated service to our country and the communities he lived in. This Hero continues to give back through the Guitars for Vets. He was a recipient and graduate of the program, and now is an instructor for this awesome program. He is also helping mentor and lead the next generation of first responders as the Associate Director of the Fire EMS Explorers program for his county. Craig Spieker, it’s our turn to thank you for your lifetime service. Congratulations on being the 2022 Bucks for the Brave EMT winner.

CLN on Scene

Wow! What an amazing group of heroes. I speak for the whole team when I say that we are truly honored to be in the presence of this many American heroes in one place. I can’t wait to join these men on a trip of a lifetime, hear their personal stories, and watch this amazing group of people come together to celebrate them. A special thanks to Record Rack and their dedication to honoring America’s heroes and to the partners below that make the Bucks for the Brave Heroes Hunt possible each year. You can learn more and read all of the submissions for this year’s hunt at

CLN Community & Event Sponsor

Hi everyone! I'm Krysta Paffrath, I am a proud Arizona native who has a passion for everything business and rodeo. I am beyond thrilled to be the Editor in Chief for Cowboy Lifestyle Network. With my background in digital marketing and rodeo, this was a natural fit for me to join the team. My adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit has guided me to work in many places like the WYO Quarter Horse Ranch in Thermopolis, Wyoming, a working cattle ranch in Seligman, Arizona, and many places in between. I am passionate about preserving the western way of life and working with different brands and rodeos to make that happen. If you're looking for a write-up, please shoot me an email at Learn more about me at Looking forward to hearing from you!

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