(AUTHOR'S NOTE: The following is the first of a three-part series having to do with a western swing to hunt deer, duck and pheasant; and to fly fish for brown and rainbow trout.)

KIRBYVLLE, Texas – A few miles from here you will find Rock Creek Ranch where trophy deer abound which attracts hunters from all over the country with a mission to take home both a nice rack for their man cave along with enough venison to throw a party for everyone on the block and then some.

A friendship with a long-time Georgia fan, Billy Sage, led to an introduction to a salt-of-the-earth family with the consummate love of the outdoors and an abiding affinity for the study, research and cultivation of white-tailed deer. “White-tailed deer are my passion,” Richard Burch said recently as he drove his Ranger Polaris deep into the woods in East Texas which has been the family home for generations.

Richard and his twin brother A. J. operate the ranch in association with their parents, Jerry and Daphnne. Jerry is a seasoned hunter and an astute businessman who learned about the woods and wildlife from his late father Tommy, a member of the Texas Forestry Hall of Fame.

When Richard and A. J. decided they wanted to offer prized white-tailed trophy hunting to passionate hunters, they went to their grandfather with their plan. The patriarch of the family, an avid deer hunter all his life, was excited but didn’t want to show it.

Wanting to make sure that his grandsons were good businessmen, he told them they would have to invest their own money into the grand scheme and that they would underscore wildlife conservation practices and that it was necessary that they be good neighbors. “He believed in us, he liked our concepts. He just wanted to make sure we were committed,” Richard said.

Tommy Burch was a logger and a very successful one. Timber Harvesting Magazine named his company, “B & W Logging Contractors, Inc.,” the 2002 logging business of the year. His memory is recalled by the story of that citation which proudly hangs on the wall by the fireplace in the lodge at Rock Creek.

One trip here and you quickly realize that the grandsons would have made the grandfather proud. In addition to being successful businessmen, they have made it a family affair which was very important to the grandfather. Their mother Daphnne is exceptional in the kitchen, occasionally getting an assist from A. J.’s girlfriend, Sayde which causes hunters to often say a meal with Daphnne’s touch “makes” the Rock Creek experience.

Deer hunting takes place in early morning and late afternoon which offers plenty of time for conversation in the blinds. Blinds at Rock Creek Ranch are all of stand-alone construction which are ground level. The Burches refuse to build blinds the most traditional way—attach platforms to trees. Beyond the legal implications, Richard and A. J., compassionate young men, could not emotionally cope with an accident to a hunter. If any family ever lived by the golden rule, it would be the Burch family.

Richard and A. J. enjoy deer talk with an accent on familial traditions and excursions. They are avid Houston Astros fans and often make the three-hour trip to Houston to take in games. Getting to the World Series this year put the entire family on a high, especially paternal grandmother Velma who never misses an Astros game on TV—unless she happens to be in attendance at Minute Maid Park.

They are now college football fans with an Astros-like affection for the Georgia Bulldogs. That, of course, came about when Richard married Kalee, Billy and Mitzi Sage’s daughter. It didn’t take long for the Burch family to make plans to travel to Athens to see a game between the hedges.

“We believe in hard work,” Richard said early one morning, “but we also believe in enjoying life. We love the outdoors, and it has been such a wonderful experience to meet so many people, many who come from far-away places, who enjoy white-tailed deer hunting like we do.”

Native to North America, there are more white-tailed deer in Texas than any state or province in Canada—an estimated four million. That is why deer hunters flock to Texas every year. You may recall that Braves Hall of Fame third baseman, Chipper Jones, developed his 10,000-acre white-tailed ranch on the other side of the state at Carrizo Springs.

If you are interested in an unparalleled outdoor experience and you are keen on white-tailed deer hunting, you would do well to come this way. The hunting is superb (even a novice like the author of this piece has a 26 point buck ready for mounting); as already noted, the hospitality is unequaled. I made friends with Daphnne right away. I’ll soon be shopping for a bigger belt.

Loran Smith is a UGA announcer and a columnist for Mainstreet Newspapers.

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