July 11, 2023
Working and hunting his farmland on the Virginia/North Carolina border offers John Banks the chance to see plenty of deer. During a 2019 hunt there, a buck with a huge palmated rack showed up.
“I was so surprised I shot too fast,” John says. “And when I walked over to look for blood, I realized he was way too far away.” That hunt ended with a clean miss. And that was his last encounter with the heavy-racked monster for a very long time.
That patch of ground borders the Blue Ridge Parkway, where no hunting is allowed. Bucks have the sanctuary, and the tilled ground provides great food sources for the deer. In July of 2021, John spotted the one that got away again. The buck’s rack was bigger than anything he had ever seen.
“He was there every day taunting me when I was in the field,” John says. “Then, in September, the giant vanished again. By then I had decided it was going to be him or nothing. And I am not really a trophy hunter!"
But try as he might, the big deer never made another appearance during all of November. “He must have had a pile of does over by the Parkway,” John says. “Or he was just smart enough to stay away from where I had shot at him before!”
By December, John was ready to throw in the towel. He had passed a bunch of deer, including a 150-inch 10-point that he let go twice. He was convinced that the big buck would never return, and the season was almost over. His dad said that it would be nice to have some meat. So, after getting off work a little early on Dec. 28, John went out to the fencerow again.
He was sitting near a gap between a cattle pasture and an old picked sweet corn field that had been mowed weeks before, a favorite spot with a good view of the surroundings. And just before dark, he spotted the huge buck just 80 yards away.
“I couldn’t believe it was him, but I needed to make a good shot,” John explains. “I really didn’t want to tell folks I had missed him again!”
The muzzleloader smoke covered up the buck’s exit, so John sat there for nearly an hour just in case. “I didn’t want to go over there and jump him up,” he recalls. “And when I got to the spot, I saw the white belly at the edge of my light. He was deader than 4 o’clock!”
After word got out, John heard from others who had known about the deer. Some had sheds, others had photos. All of them had been after the Virginia giant.
The 4 1/2-year-old buck green scores 180, with heavy palmation beginning at the bases. The buck also features two small drops at the end of each beam and a bonus drop on the right beam.
“We don’t get many like that around here,” John says!