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A Four-Year Whitetail Quest Concludes Due To Surging Fire

Jessica Burks had been hunting a buck she'd named Rocky for four years. When a fire broke out on his home range, she used it to her advantage to target the big non-typical.

A Four-Year Whitetail Quest Concludes Due To Surging Fire

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It had been four long years since Jessica Burks first spotted a buck with a very unusual frame while hunting in Amherst County, VA. During the first encounter, the deer passed behind her blind quickly, offering no shot opportunity. However, Jessica knew what she had seen and determined that she would get him sooner or later. As it turned out, the hunt took a lot longer than expected.

Jessica says she hunts whitetails to keep herself grounded. “I calm down when I am out there,” she says. “It is something I really need!”

When able, she frequently takes kids with her, introducing them to the outdoors. The property she hunts is only a mile away from a huge block of national forest, where she figured the buck lived. He seemed to show up briefly each year around Thanksgiving, offering only a quick glimpse as he crossed through her land. Due to his home range being on a different property, that once-a-year sighting was all she had to work with. Her plan was to hunt as much as she could and hoped their paths would cross again.

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Jessica told the story of the buck, which she had named “Rocky,” reliving each encounter to friends and family as the seasons passed. With each sighting, she gained a little more confidence. But not everyone was so sure about her story.

“Since none of them had seen him, there were some serious doubters,” she laughs. “But I knew he was out there, and I was determined to stay after him; I figured if anyone else got him I would hear about it.”

In mid-November of 2023, a massive fire broke out in the national forest. Dense smoke filled the valleys as over 11,000 acres burned. Even with the large fire only a few miles away, Jessica decided to hunt anyway.

“You couldn’t see well, and it was hard to breathe,” Jessica says. “But I didn’t want to miss my chance if he had moved into the area.”

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On the afternoon of the 19th, Jessica headed to the field, accompanied by her son, Cole. The smoke was so bad she had to leave the windows partially closed on her blind, only opening them enough so she could watch for the deer.

At 4:30 p.m., she spotted Rocky easing out of the cover on her right. He was nose down and a little over 100 yards away, but in no hurry for once. Jessica reached for her 7mm-08 and readied herself for the shot.

“I watched him for about two minutes, just looking at his rack,” Jessica says. “When he started to look around, I knew it was time to close the deal!”

Rocky dropped at the shot, but Jessica made a quick follow-up shot just in case; it was done! Now, there was no more denying what she had seen. And she had a witness to the whole event with Cole sitting beside her.

Recommended


The big deer’s chocolate rack has main beams that turn down in front, resembling handlebars on a racing bike. Not just down, but way down! There is also a drop tine coming from the middle of the right beam, and each G-2 has a big sticker! A unique trophy buck, for sure!

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