Coming Of Age Part 1: Crockett Creek Confessions And The Quest For Creekzilla
Part 1 of 5: August – Sparks Of Interest
Prologue: This story was first told years ago. Since that fall, the tale has lingered on the lips and in the minds of Georgia deer hunters, especially those who still hunt the wild bottomlands, woods and food plots that spawned a once-in-a-lifetime buck—and a mysterious creature. “Dream Season: Crockett Creek Confessions and the Quest for The Phantom,” told the story of a group of hunters in middle Georgia, of a legendary buck named The Phantom, and a strange creature simply called IT.
Jay, the hunter who killed The Phantom, graced a cover of GON with the buck. A feature story on the club’s success followed and included a group photo of everyone with their bucks. The title of the article was called “Crockett Creek Confessions.” Jay was later featured in North American Whitetail, and the TV show conducted an interview that appeared during an episode on the Outdoor Channel. He was also invited to hunt with co-host Stan Potts in Illinois the following year. He took a nice 10-pointer scoring in the 160s, but it was nothing like the home-grown buck from Georgia.
Zane became a tremendous friend and strong ally with the club throughout the years. His children and Tyler and Jay’s children also became big hunting buddies.
Many locals renamed the stretch of Jawbone Creek that flowed through the property Crockett Creek. And the state DNR floated up and down the creek for a solid month after Jordan’s encounter with IT. Once every couple of years, a report will come in… a black shape is seen crossing the road in the middle of the night, just out of clear sight of the headlights.
Although the Phantom had long since ruled Crockett Creek, generations of his offspring created many more exciting hunting seasons. But those stories, and “The Legends” hunted, are best saved for another time and place.
That time is now…
“Coming Of Age” Character List
Members and Family of Crockett Trophy Club LLC:
Tyler James – 49 years old, Tyler was the lead character from Dream Season.
Ty James – 18 years old, Tyler’s son. Senior in High School.
Hadley James – 10 years old, Tyler’s son.
Jordan Sanders – “Ghost,” the wise expert and teacher from Dream Season.
Floyd Abrams – 69 years old, otherwise known as The Magician. Fought Cletus in Dream Season.
Gus Morganson – Respected former club member.
Jay Kingsley – 47 Years old. Phantom slayer from Dream Season.
Savannah Kingsley – 16 years old. Jay’s daughter.
‘Craig Carboni – 33 years old, lives in Florida, originally from New York. Craig is completely obsessed with trophy bucks.
Zane Westerfield – 49 years old, “Local” with lots of land. He runs a chicken farm operation on his family estate of 10,000 acres. Supporting character from Dream Season.
Bo Westerfield – 19 years old son Zane. Very accomplished trophy hunter already.
Jethro Jones – 21-year-old nephew of the “Old School Outlaw” Cletus Jones, who was an infamous trespasser in the area and the poacher from Dream Season.
Part 1 of 5: August – Sparks Of Interest
The Saturday afternoon skies of late August darkened. The winds picked up, whistling through the leaves of the big oaks that guarded the cabin like giant wind chimes. Tyler James could smell the scent of fresh-cut grass in the air as he stood on the front porch. He peeled away from his sweat-drenched UGA National Championship shirt, now firmly stuck to his noticeably muscular back. Thunder continually grumbled nearby. Minutes later, the rain sounded like beating drums as it pounded the front porch railing and steps.
Fifteen minutes passed by, and Tyler opened the front door. He scratched his salt-and-pepper five o’clock shadow beard as he looked at the kids gathered in the kitchen. He glanced at his watch, it was now 7:45 p.m.
“Okay gang, the temp just dropped about 20 degrees and we’re approaching power hour. They ought to be movin’ here real soon.”
He sang a little jingle… “Goin’ Loopin, Goin’ Loopin’. Got the kids all here with me this evenin’ and we’re Goin’ Loopin’.”
Savannah Kingsley stared intently at her cell phone as though in a trance. She briefly looked up, adjusted her high school cross country t-shirt, looked back down at the screen, and continued typing. She then looked up again and raised her eyebrow while brushing away her light brown hair from her slender face. She gave Ty and Hadley James a puzzled look.
“So, what is ‘power hour’ and what does your dad mean by we’re about to go loopin’?”
“Power hour is the last hour of daylight. During late summer, it means it’s that time of day when the biguns come out to hit the peanuts,” explained Ty.
Hadley jumped in, “Yeah and goin’ loopin’ comes from a song we heard while on a wagon ride in Custer Park, South Dakota. They go loopin’ through the park in the evenings lookin’ for animals.”
“And we have our own loop here to check out!” exulted Ty.
“Guys, grab the nocs from the gun safe, and everybody head to the truck,” exclaimed Tyler. “It’s go time! If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll see some on this year’s hit list.”
“Girl, you’d better stop Snappin’ on that phone and come on!” teased Hadley.
Savannah’s face burned beet red. “Shut up, Hads!”
Never missing an opportunity, Ty chimed in. “Yeah, that boy can wait till later. Besides, the REAL boys are about to reveal themselves.”
Sensing a delay, Savannah’s father, Jay Kingsley, interrupted his conversation with Tyler and walked back into the room. “You can argue with these rascals later. We’re burnin’ daylight.”
Consisting of 1,000 acres, Crockett Creek Trophy Club LLC was unique in that it consisted of a variety of habitats. The land featured 250 acres of crop land mostly hidden from the main roads. Additionally, it contained multiple food plots for feeding and harvesting. Plus, fruit orchards, feeder stations, and mineral sites were strategically placed throughout the property. It had more than 2 miles of creek frontage on its west boundary, a 500-acre swamp on the south end that bordered a large chunk of private land, and also touched a small portion of the Flint River.
All but one jumped in the cab. Tyler turned the defrost on high in his black King Ranch to clear the condensation from the fogged windows and off they went. As a custom, the truck bed was reserved for young Hadley during such an occasion. Stockily built and a tight end on his 5th grade football team, he wore a red Corner Butcher Shop hat that covered his wavy, brown hair with blonde highlights resulting from summertime at the pool. As the truck sped off down the secluded two-lane country road, he grabbed the bill to keep it from flying off his head.
“There are peanut fields everywhere this year,” noted Jay.
“Just wait,” responded Tyler as the truck slowed coming around the bend.
Hadley knocked on the window as he yelled, “Dad, there’s deer everywhere!”
“Shhh,” scolded Tyler, as he leaned out the window. “You’ll scare’em all away.”
The truck stopped and the group scanned both sides of the road, overseeing several fields.
“Same story here, too. Lots and lots of does and fawns and a few little bucks, but I don’t see any shooters,” said Ty.
“Don’t worry, buddy. Time to head to our money spot. Like I’ve always told ya, the big bucks are gonna hang out in the most secluded area around,” said Tyler.
Minutes later, the truck came to the dead-end of a slippery dirt road. Tyler parked the truck behind a small cluster of chinaberry trees and said, “Now, everyone sit quiet and be still.”
Instead, Hadley excitedly moved from one position to another within the confines of the truck bed. Finally, he leaned across the top of the truck with a flashlight in one hand and binoculars in the other. Hands full, he inadvertently dropped his binoculars onto the rooftop as his elbows came to a resting position.
“Boy, do you have ears?” grumbled Tyler as he turned and directed his attention toward Hadley through the sliding rear window. “Pull that hair of yours back so you can hear.”
“What is it?” protested Hadley.
“Don’t move and turn that flashlight off. Those bucks will see us.”
Daylight began to fade as precious seconds ticked by. Jay methodically scanned the back end of the dark green peanut field with his Swarovski binoculars, carefully assessing and judging the bachelor group through the rolling, steamy haze mixed with lightning bug flashes. “That one in the back of the field that’s closest to the wood line and farthest away is BAD-BIG!”
“Oh, there ain’t no doubt,” agreed Tyler.
“Dad, could it be Creekzilla?” asked Savannah.
“Don’t know for sure, hun. He needs to raise that crown of his.”
Moments later, as if on cue, the monarch stopped eating and stared at the object near the road.
“That’s him, alright,” gleamed Ty. “I recognize ‘em from our camera pics.”
“Agreed,” said Tyler.
“How are you so certain?” asked Savannah.
Tyler answered in a low monotone voice. “For starters, look at that sway belly and swoopin’ frame. Then he has G3s so long that they curve in at the tips and a triple prong cluster on the end of his right beam.”
“Oh yeah, I see all that now,” acknowledged Savannah as she glassed the buck.
“Those characteristics are dead giveaways,” stressed Tyler.
Meanwhile, a cloud of mosquitos began buzzing around Hadley. He swatted wildly as he repeatedly tapped on the truck roof. “I gotta get in now. I’m gettin’ bit like crazy!”
Moments later, the red dots in the field abruptly ran for the woods. “HADLEY!” groaned his brother in disgust.
• • •
The stolen camera’s sensor picked up movement. Jethro Jones’s truck, hidden in the brush, lit up as the image notification came across. The 21-year-old checked his burner phone and smiled before spitting into his dip cup. Good ol’ Uncle Cletus was right. This place is loaded with huge bucks.
• • •
That evening after dinner, as custom, they all gathered around the campfire.
“Tyler, you sure did put a good scald on that bird,” remarked Jay, as he rubbed his belly.
“Yeah, those fried turkey fingers tasted just like Zaxby’s!” shouted Hadley.
Ty and Savannah enthusiastically agreed.
“Thanks, everyone. It sure is good to be together tonight.”
“I wish Floyd were here with us but he’ll be along soon enough,” sighed Jay. “Huntin’ season is right around the corner.”
“On another note, it’s not every day that you get to sit around the campfire with the legend that holds the state-record typical,” said Tyler.
“What do you mean?” asked Hadley.
“Kids, y’all don’t let your old man and godfather fool ya. The Phantom coulda just as easily been his,” admitted Jay as he nodded at Tyler. “Besides, over 198 net inches of bone will make anyone look like a good hunter. Truth is, it was a team effort.”
“Featurin’ a head full of long tines and 32-inch main beams!” added Tyler.
“One of a kind for sure, but there have been some other good ones around here, too,” insisted Jay.
“Absolutely,” said Tyler. “We’ve been really blessed with success.”
“As far as The Phantom goes, some of our old members such as Gus and Jordan, all played a role, too,” said Jay.
“Yep, and Floyd and Zane kept that ole’ outlaw, Cletus Jones, from stealin’ em!” said Tyler.
“Stealin’em? What do you mean?” said Ty.
Tyler smirked. “Let’s just say a little tussle ensued after he fell for one of Floyd’s tricks, and before it was all said and done, Mr. Zane got into the wrestlin’ match too.”
“They don’t call Floyd ‘The Magician’ for nothin!” said Jay.
Jay rubbed his hands through his thinning hair. “Switching gears, I’ve been so busy at work that I haven’t been able to keep up with our current bucks and hardly got to hunt last year. Catch me up to speed, fellas. Which ones are showin’ up regular on camera at the feeders?”
Hadley perked up. “Well, we have a bunch of big bucks this year that Dad says we can shoot. Two of ’em are big 8s. We call one Brutus and the other Twin Peaks.”
“Ahh, Brutus is self-explanatory. But how did y’all come up with the name of the other one that you’re callin’ Twin Peaks?”
Ty chimed in, “Cause both his brows are about 8 inches long!”
“Well, that explains it.”
“Mr. Kinsley, Mr. Kinsley, we also have a buck that we call John Candy,” added Hadley in an excited voice.
The group chuckled as Jay clarified. “John Candy? Like the actor?”
“Yep, cause he’s huge! He’s a 10-pointer, and get this, Mr. Kinsley, he has brown eyes like our goat at home!”
Jay smiled. “Well, I should be able to recognize him when you bring ‘em into camp. Any others?”
Hadley continued. “Dad’s favorite is a buck called Funky Cold Medina.”
“Now I’ve heard it all. What in the world?”
Tyler intervened. “He got his name because he’s a big non-typical, mainframe 7-pointer with several long kickers. Crazy mass. I’d say ’bout 9.5 years old.”
“Wow. But what’s that got to do with his name?”
“He’s so funky that for some dang reason, he reminds me of that high-school song by Tone Loc that we played in the locker room after a Friday night victory.”
Savannah burst into laughter. “Tone, who?”
“And of course, everyone around here is after the Booner 10 with the prong that we saw this evening, Creekzilla!” said Ty.
“There’s just one problem with goin’ after a buck like Creekzilla,” said Jay.
“What’s that, sir?”
“He likes to hang out in the thickets along Jawbone,” whispered Jay.
“So what?” fired back Hadley.
Jays’ facial expression turned serious as he sat up straight in his Adirondack chair and leaned in. “So, there are times when the skeeters will carry you off little man, like this evening. It’s also full of gigantic banana spiders the size of a cat’s head. They’re capable of spinning webs strong enough to catch a bird. And, well.. let’s just say there are some spooky things in those woods.”
Savannah’s concerned dark brown eyes grew big. “What kind of spooky things?”
“Darlin’, they don’t call it Jawbone for nothing.”
Savannah was obviously now anxious.
“Folks have been burying their dead near those banks for generations. I betcha there’s e’nuff bodies to cast a whole season of The Walkin’ Dead.”
“What are you talkin’ about?” asked Savannah.
“Well, let’s see, there’s that Creek injun’ burial ground to the south of his stompin’ grounds, a confederate graveyard on the west bank, and an old plantation home with grave markers on the north side,” said Jay.
Tyler interjected, “Not to mention the fact that I’ve been spreading some of Jordan’s ashes in that same stretch for years, and to top it all off, it’s the same area where IT once roamed.”
“Who is IT?” pleaded Hadley in a nervous voice.
“IT is too much for you to handle tonight my boy,” Tyler said.
The red embers glowed and then sparked before rising above the fire pit into the humid air.
Tyler said, “Mr. Jay and I have seen and heard lots of interesting things over the years alright… but we need to wrap up the stories for tonight.”
“Seen and heard?” shrieked Hadley.
Ty shook his head. “Hadley, you’re afraid of your own shadow.”
Hadley almost exploded in anger. “Keep it up, Ty, and I’m gonna pop you in the nostrils!”
“Bring it on, bro! I’ll jack-knife you over my knee caps and give you a spankin’. I’m not scared of you, or the dead. Just wait. This fall, Creekzilla is mine!”
Tyler stoked the fire. “Boys, boys, calm down. The time to prove yourselves will come soon enough.”
Jay said, “Gettin’ back to the point, the other bucks are bound to be seen all over, Ty. But not in Creekzilla’s house. He owns those hallow, haunted grounds.”
Tyler took one last sip from his cup as he looked at his bewildered younger son.
“Ahh, Hadley, don’t stay up worrying. This isn’t the first time we’ve had these kinda campfire discussions around here. As the late Mr. Jordan would always say in conversations such as these, ‘Remember rules No. 2 and No. 1 when it comes to scary campfire stories.’”
“What’s that mean?” Hadley asked.
“Rule No. 2 is Keep It Real and Rule NO. 1 is Timing Is Everything. Speaking of rule No. 1, it’s time for you kids to get some sleep.”
• • •
The next day was spent working on food plots and deer stands. That morning around 10 a.m., from the perch of the Kubota tractor, Tyler saw his namesakes driving toward him. He idled down as the two eagerly jumped out of Ty’s truck and approached.
“Bout time y’all got out of bed!”
“Yeah, yeah,” quickly came back Ty. “You know we’ve been working.”
Tyler knelt down and coursed his hands through the freshly turned dirt before scooping some up into his palm. He looked at the pair and asked, “Boys, what do ya see?”
Hadley shrugged his shoulders and responded back in a somewhat confused and sarcastic tone. “Looks like dirt to me dad.”
Tyler shook his head and turned to Ty. “What do you see young Tychicus?”
Rich, dark soil,” answered Ty.
“Okay, getting warmer. Look closer. Now what do ya see?”
“A bug?” said Hadley.
The three laughed in unison.
“I don’t get it, dad. What are you trying to tell us?” asked Hadley.
“Here’s the deal, fellas. Know how we routinely see at least 25 to 30 deer in our food plots on a regular basis?”
The two boys nodded.
“That’s not by accident or happenstance. It’s from decades of hard work. This dirt has four hidden elements in it. I promise y’all this, you might not be able to see it, but it’s definitely working for us.”
“What are they?” asked Hadley.
“Well, it starts with adding the correct amount of lime to get the right PH levels. But the most important ingredient has been the sweat equity we’ve poured into it over the years, which contains lots of blood, sweat and tears. That’s why our plots are so special.”
Hadley said, “So, lime, blood, sweat and tears make the dirt better Dad?”
“Exactly,” said Tyler. “Another thing. Always be mindful that we must give more than we take, and that we’re gamekeepers and stewards of this property that we are so blessed and fortunate to manage.”
Tyler extended his knuckles to each boy. “Got it?”
“Got it,” said his boys.
After lunch, as they packed up, Tyler hurriedly approached Ty. “Son, it looks like we are running behind again.”
“Just like always,” said Ty. “Too much to get done.”
“I need to go now before your mom starts fussing, and I also need to get the meeting ready for work tomorrow.”
“Okay. Need me to do something before we get out of here?”
“Well, I checked the app just now and those darn coons pushed deer feed over the sidewalls of the Field of Dreams trough last night.”
“I noticed that, too. Looks like there’s a bunch of feed laying in puddled water from yesterday evening’s storm.”
“Exactly. Since we drove separately, can you run over there before you leave and get rid of it? Otherwise, we’ll have a stinkin’ mess to deal with next time we’re down,” said Tyler.
“No problem at all. I’ll take care of it.”
• • •
A master of camouflage, it lay motionless in the shadows and fallen dead leaves beneath the large water oak. Ty began his chore. The flathead shovel moved back and forth creating a steady vibration as the detection of body heat intensified.
Ty bent over at a 45-degree angle as sweat trickled and then rolled down the bridge of his nose before falling onto the ground. The chiseled, broad-chested teen hurriedly began shoveling and scraping up the wet mush.
Suddenly, the symphony of the katydids chirping in the late afternoon was overtaken by a startling and profound rattling cadence. He instantly felt dizzy and lightheaded.
The strong metallic taste in his mouth was overwhelming. Adrenaline burst through his veins. His heart immediately jumped in his throat as his peripheral vision diagnosed the large brown, circular mass just under his extended right arm. In a flash, he thrust backward as the front half of the object propelled toward the target…
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