Crockett Creek Confessions, Quest For The Phantom Part 3

GON's 2016 Fall Fiction Series

Terry Phillips | October 1, 2016

October – The Chess Match

Like a villain in the night, the stalker drew closer. “IT” was hungry, and the heavy cloud cover provided perfect concealment, blocking the full moon from shining through to the dark creek bottom. With the exception of the sound of the creek’s steady flow, the bottom was deafly quiet.

The Phantom approached the waist-sized bay tree with his ears pinned back.

After the close encounter within the last week, the buck had moved to the east end of the property, along Crockett Creek, where he marked his territory each year with the sign-post rubs.

With a rush of testosterone, the buck began gouging the bark repeatedly. The friction of his antlers, moving back and forth, projected loudly through the creek bottom, sounding like someone rubbing a large steel rake against it in a constant and deliberate motion. The Phantom’s efforts left shavings all over the ground and a 2-foot section of the tree was now completely bare.

Suddenly, The Phantom had a feeling of danger sweep over him. Like a sixth sense, something seemed very strange and out of sorts. The Phantom paused, his body locked up. The gentle breeze, from the northwest, blew across his bulging neck. Like a high-tech filter, he raised his nose to test the oncoming air.

The Phantom weighed nearly 300 pounds. With the exception of an encounter during his juvenile years that left the scar on its hindquarter, he wasn’t accustomed to predators, other than humans, until now. Like a silent guided missile, IT moved in for the kill. The Phantom lunged forward and with every ounce of strength and energy possible, darted toward the safety of the thick privet and swamp bottom next to the creek.

• • • • • •

It was 9 p.m. on Tuesday evening when Tyler’s phone rang.

“Hello?” he said.

It was Jay.

“Tyler, you aren’t gonna believe this, but I went down below the test fields Sunday afternoon like you suggested and…”

Excited, Tyler interrupted, “And you saw The Phantom didn’t you? Or you saw his signs? That’s why you haven’t called me yet. You were tryin’ to figure out what kind of fib to tell!”

Nervously, Jay responded,

“Tyler, I’ve been in the hospital in Montezuma.”


“What? Come on,” replied Tyler. “Stop kiddin’ around.”

Jay began to give Tyler the whole story. He told Tyler about driving his 4-wheeler over the leaves that covered up the old spring well near the old home site, about how close he’d come to drowning, and how he’d suffered a concussion.

“I’ve also got two cracked ribs,” said Jay.

“Dang dude, at least you’re alright. I’m glad you’re okay. How did you get out?”

“Here’s where I need you to have an open mind,” Jay said, his voice hesitating.

“What’s up?” asked Tyler.

“I was about to pass out from the shock of being in that cold water and the hit I took on my head from the stand when I saw someone walking toward me. I looked up, and somebody gave me a hand and pulled me to safety.

“One more thing, I thought I saw something odd about the hand. I can’t quite describe the abnormality. However, whoever it was saved my life.”

Tyler was confused, “So what you’re telling me is, someone was in the woods on our property, saw you in trouble, and came to your rescue?”

“That’s what I’m telling ya,” replied Jay.

Chuckling, Tyler responded, “So where’s this somebody now?”

“Don’t know,” said Jay. “I must have passed out. When I regained my senses, I was alone. About three hours had passed.”

“Jay, it sounds to me like the ghost of that ol’ Indian saved your life,” said Tyler. “Either that, or that girlfriend of yours got fed up with you not spending any time with her and came down to give you the roast… and instead had to rescue you!”

Frustrated, Jay replied, “Come on Tyler, it isn’t funny. I know it seems crazy, but it really happened. You’ve gotta believe me. To tell you the truth, I think suspect No. 1 is Raymus; that old hermit that used to hunt our property. He probably sits around and waits for us to leave on Sunday before trespassing all over our place.”

“Jay, you had a concussion from the stand hitting you in the head, that’s it. Sometimes a concussion can cause people to see things that aren’t really there. Did you see the person’s face?”

“No,” replied Jay, his tone more frustrated. “Like I said, I just saw an image walkin’ toward me, and then an outreached hand. That’s all I remember, but it was real.”

Tyler said, “Look Jay, I know this is hard to figure out right now, but you imagined it. Besides, Raymus has too big of a gut to be that far back on our place. I tell you what, next time we see Raymus, we’ll make a point to stop and talk with him. Don’t worry. It’ll be alright. Have a safe ride home. I’ll see you opening weekend.”

“But…” Jay tried to continue.

Tyler cut him off.

“Wait till the guys hear this. You about killed yourself, ruined your 4-wheeler, had an encounter with that ol’ Indian that got hold of Jordan’s hog, hacked off your girlfriend, and you still don’t have a place picked out for opening morning. We have some things to talk about around the next campfire, that’s for sure!”

Friday, Oct. 14

Carboni could hardly stand it as he packed up and headed north from his Florida home to Dooly County. The September hurricanes had not only kept him from helping out during the workday weekend, but it kept him out of the woods the entire month. He had missed out on Tyler’s Pope and Young buck and the fun of razzing Gus. Not to mention, he loved to bowhunt, and he lost out on the opportunity to hunt the grove and turned peanut fields.

Carboni had his own thoughts as to where The Phantom and the Chocolate Buck might be hanging out. In his mind, the place to be opening morning of gun season was at the “Wagon Wheel Food Plot.”

Carboni looked down at his speedometer stuck on 80 miles per hour. He turned the radio up and rolled the windows down. He was pumped. He couldn’t get there fast enough.

Saturday, Oct. 15

It was finally here, opening morning of gun season. Tyler climbed up in the tower stand overlooking the grown-up field and isolated food plot. In total it was about 75 acres, and it was secluded, surrounded by woods.

The tower was the same stand from where he had seen The Phantom, after dark, several years ago. Tyler scanned his binoculars across the frost-covered ground.

“What a morning,” he thought.

He watched his breath rise out of the window as he took in a deep breath and exhaled. The sun was bright and had just cleared the tree tops. Tyler adjusted his hat in an effort to combat the blinding sun.

The unusually heavy frost for opening day triggered his thoughts back to opening day of gun season years ago, when he first started deer hunting. He looked at the heavy frost and cussed his high school football coach. He reminisced about the foot prints in the grass as his coach made the team run lines on the football field opening morning of gun season. He’d never got over his coach causing him to miss opening day that year, especially since they’d won by a score of 45 to 13. All the nonsense was over two team members committing unnecessary roughness penalties—retaliation.

Tyler’s mind flashed back to the present at the sound of the approaching 4-wheeler. The only problem with hunting the grown-up food plot was that it was close to the property’s eastern border. Tyler looked at the hunter riding his 4-wheeler down the fence line. It was 7:15 a.m., and Tyler had been in the stand since 6 a.m. He couldn’t understand why anyone would be headed to their stand 45 minutes after daylight.

Tyler shook his head as he watched the hunter pass by. Disgusted, he glanced back over the field. To his shock and dismay, he saw a buck steadily making its way through the tall grass, approximately 200 yards away. Not in a hurry or trot, almost like he was sneaking away from perceived danger. The bobbing movement of the buck’s head looked more like it was playing a child’s game of hide-and-seek, trying to sneak back to base, as it tipped its nose forward toward the shadowy edge of the field. Tyler quickly grabbed his Swarovski binoculars and analyzed the situation…

Tyler’s heart began to race. Thoughts raced through his mind. It couldn’t be. Like a programmed motion, Tyler instantly grabbed his rifle, “Magi.” As he peered through his scope, he could hear his heartbeat pound with each and every breath. Despite his best breathing efforts, Tyler’s scope began to fog up. He’d been surprised. He couldn’t be sure, but it looked like The Phantom.

Tyler pulled the gun back and massaged the lens with his gloves, desperately trying to clear the glass so he could get a shot. Regaining his composure, he hurriedly searched for the buck again through the wall of grown-up sage and Johnson grass. The glare of the sun reflected off the buck’s antlers as Tyler steadied the crosshairs on the buck’s back. Finger on the trigger, analyzing the situation, something didn’t quiet look right.

“I know you were in velvet back in August, but I know you are close to 200.”

Tyler focused hard and began scoring the buck.

“Maybe 165, 170 before deductions, at best,” thought Tyler.

The dilemma continued to unfold as the buck kept walking away. His mind raced.

“Can I be wrong about your score?” questioned Tyler to himself.

The morning sun further complicated the situation as it produced quite a sight. It revealed the morning frost dripping off the buck’s nose, 12-inch G2s, and long, swooping main beams. Walking away, the buck’s rack towered over its head, while the antler tips of the main beams extended out past its nose and almost touched.

It was just too much to pass up. He only had one buck tag left, and he wanted to use it on The Phantom. However, he knew that if he went back to camp and told the group that he passed on a potential Booner, no one would believe him.

“Don’t get greedy,” they would say.

Tyler was just about to squeeze the trigger.

“If I shoot, and it’s not you, the season’s over,” whispered Tyler.

Seconds ticked by. His finger began to squeeze the trigger.

Suddenly, all Tyler saw was black and spots. The reflection of the sunlight advancing over the trees created a big flash of light through Tyler’s scope, just at the moment of truth. Tyler blinked rapidly to attempt to restore his eyesight. Although he recovered quickly, the chess match was over.

It was too late. The buck melted out of view. He was gone. Tyler knew the gauntlet that he’d face at camp and with his own psyche. It would prove challenging to overcome the missed opportunity.

• • • • • •

Meanwhile, Carboni was busy surveying the eight lanes carved out in the middle of a 100-acre block of 15-year-old clearcut. Tyler had brought the idea back from a hunt in Webb County in south Texas. The guys brought a bulldozer in during the previous winter and carved out the design. The guys kept it mowed for optimal sight advantage and came back in late September to plant the food-plot strips.

Having the straight lanes carved out made it feel like one was in the brush country of Texas. The box stand was placed right in the middle of where all the lanes came together. It had earned the nickname, “Wagon Wheel Food Plot,” for its likeness to a wheel with spokes. Carboni had dreamed about this hunt for months. He figured the bucks that he and his buddies saw in the soybean field during August bedded in the thick grown-up clearcut.

“Hunt the twilights, hunt the twilights,” remembered Carboni. Jordan had preached this message a hundred times while playing cards at night.

“It can happen up to an hour after daylight, especially where I am,” thought Carboni.

He’d just finished watching a small spike make its way down one of the lanes when movement caught his eye to his left. It was the lane that Carboni had sprayed vanilla extract on, from a plastic bottle, on his way to the stand. Spraying vanilla extract was a curiosity technique, used during the pre-rut, designed to stop a deer as it makes its way across an opening. Floyd had taught the group this trick, and it way about to pay off.

Carboni was hyped up, replaying Jordan’s words of wisdom in his mind and admiring the group’s hard work. The food plot seemed to illuminate when the sun’s rays hit the frost-covered plants. Looking back over his shoulder where he walked in, he saw the buck standing in the lane, nose stretched outward examining the strange sweet fragrance. It was truly an awesome site. The buck had steam rising off his nose.

“Oh man, it’s got split G2s,” thought Carboni as he analyzed the buck. Although 200 yards away, the Roman nose, along with the protruding gut, gave clear signs of the buck’s age. Carboni marveled at the way the buck observed its surroundings.

“This buck should be in bed. I shouldn’t be seeing this in the daylight,” thought Carboni.

Although he was positioned with his back to the buck looking over his shoulder, he didn’t want to waste valuable time turning around. He twisted his body back around to the open window behind him and placed the rifle in it. He put the crosshairs on the buck, looking at the rack…

“Chocolate antlers, it’s the Chocolate buck!”

Carboni began to shake as he clicked the safety of his .308 caliber rifle. In an instant, Carboni squeezed the trigger and reeled at the concussion of the magnum’s recoil. Blood instantly blurred his vision. He struggled to regain his focal point as he looked down the lane. The Chocolate Buck was gone

• • • • • •

When Tyler pulled into camp, it was 10:30 a.m. and time for brunch and College Game Day on ESPN.

Looking at Jay, “What time’s the Georgia game?” asked Tyler.

“I think 12:30,” replied Jay.

Jordan was in the camp house cooking eggs and Spam when Tyler walked in.

“Where’s he at?” asked Jordan.

“You aren’t gonna believe what happened,” said Tyler. “I’ve really messed up.”

Tyler gave the account to Jordan, Jay and Gus about his hesitation and missed opportunity.

“Heartbreak,” said Jordan.

“I know The Phantom beds in that grown-up field,” said Tyler. “I just can’t believe it wasn’t him.”

“If it wasn’t The Phantom, where’d he go?” questioned Jay.

“That’s what I wanna know,” said Jordan.

“If another dominant buck moved in his territory, you think something happened to The Phantom?” asked Tyler.

“Not unless something happened in the last two weeks,” replied Jay.

“What do you mean… in the last two weeks?” asked Tyler.

Looking like the cat that swallowed the canary, Jay leaned in grinning as he pulled out the CVS photos.

“I put my camera out in the persimmon grove back in mid-September. I checked it after this morning’s hunt, and look at what I’ve got!”

They all began slapping Jay on the shoulder as they gave each other high fives.

“It’s him. I can’t believe you got a picture of The Phantom,” said Tyler. “Holy smokes, a typical 14-pointer. He’ll definitely score way over 190! GON will publish that photo in the Spy-Cam section.

“I just don’t understand why he would allow another dominant buck to move into his territory,” said Tyler.

The men continued looking at the photo, guessing the score of The Phantom when Carboni flew into camp at what seemed like 50 miles an hour. Engine still running, he jumped out and ran to greet the others.

“I got a big one, I got a big one!”

For the second time in the last 10 minutes, Jordan asked, “Where’s he at?”

Jay looked at Carboni. “Forget where he’s at, what happened to you? You’ve got blood all over your face.”

In a feverish voice, Carboni explained how he’d used Floyd’s vanilla extract trick and how he shot at The Chocolate Buck in the awkward shooting position without realizing that he wasn’t holding the gun very steady.

“The scope popped me in the nose,” explained Carboni.

Jordan said, “We’ll I’m glad you’re alright. Did you get him?”

“That’s the thing,” answered Carboni. I got down and found blood, but I can’t find him. I’m afraid I got rattled.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll get him,” said Jordan.

Minutes later the four men were at the scene, looking for clues like a group of detectives. Jordan was the best tracker, so he followed the trail into the brush alone so the others wouldn’t disturb any potential evidence. Jordan went several feet in and immediately saw dark, rich blood stained against a small sweetgum. Jordan chuckled to himself. He now knew the buck was hit hard. Jordan peered a few feet in and saw a white belly. Reemerging from the thicket, Jordan looked at the guys.

“Come here Carboni, I think I got something,” Jordan said.

“I told you I was rattled! I told you I was rattled!” shouted Carboni, as he ran to the buck.

The men marveled at the buck as Carboni struggled to pick the buck’s head off the ground. Using the forks in the G2s as leverage to hold up the buck’s rack, Carboni looked at the group and smiled.

“Look at the mass on this deer. Have you ever seen such thick dark antlers?”Carboni said.

“It’s definitely The Chocolate Buck,” said Tyler. “Gus is going to die when he hears about this.”

The men spent the next few minutes just taking it all in. Tyler pulled out his measuring tape and came up with a gross green score of 148 3/8.

“What a 10- point buck,” said Jordan. “Best off all, you took a mature buck. That deer is probably 5 1/2 years old. What a trophy! Congratulations Carboni, so much for the October lull. What a morning. What an awesome opening day buck!”

• • • • • •

The next weekend, the group members stayed around the house doing last minute honey-do’s before November. Everyone that is, except Jay. He wasn’t married, and his girlfriend had broke things off due to him being so obsessed with deer hunting. His ribs were still hurting, so he chose to spend Saturday morning hunting the edge of the cut corn field instead of going near the falling white oaks in the spring bottom. The thought of being in camp alone was just too much for Jay as he contemplated going deep into the woods where he had almost drowned three weeks ago and been pulled to safety… by someone, or something. Not to mention, that spring bottom wasn’t far from Jordan’s encounter with IT, which is what the group had named the mysterious creature, and it was near the old Indian burial ground.

After passing up a 16-inch 8-pointer and seeing several does on the edge of the cut corn field at daylight, Jay waited an hour and decided to go see if The Phantom had freshened up the sign-post rubs this year. Jay slowly made his way down the trail that led to Crockett Creek. He knew the area well because he and Tyler spent a lot of time in the area when he first joined the group.

Jay stalked his way toward the transition area of the wood line and stopped and examined the area. After scanning the woods with his binoculars for several minutes through the dense thicket of wax myrtle and privet, the freshly scarred bay trees grabbed his attention. He’d forgotten just how big those trees were that The Phantom had rubbed. Jay made his way to the rubs and stood next to them. Careful not to touch the trees, he observed and admired the sight.

“These two trees are as big as my waist,” he said to himself.

Jay took one last look and turned to walk away. He took a few steps and saw something strange. It was a disturbance in the leaves, and something lying on top. After dismissing it, he walked a few more feet and stopped and knelt down for a closer look. He picked up the fine strands of white hair. It was deer hair. He looked around and saw a big patch of it. There was no doubt, it was white and gray deer hair. He turned around and looked back at the sign post rubs, not 20 feet away.

“What the…” he thought.

• • • • • •

The next Friday evening, the night before the third Saturday of gun season, the group sat around playing cards. Tyler and Jay both took turns making bold predictions about the outcome of the Georgia-Florida game. Everyone was there except Floyd.

Jay looked at the others and said, “I need to fill you guys in on what I saw last weekend. I went to scout the sign-post rubs area, down there where IT attacked that hog. Well, the sign-post rubs had been hit again this year, but something strange was lying not far from it.”

“Go on,” said Gus.

“As I was walkin’ back up the hill, not 20 feet from the rubs, I found a big pile of deer hair, like somethin’ took a pair of sheers to a deer.”

“That’s not good,” said Jordan. “Our IT might be on the loose again.”

The light bulb went off for Gus.

“That explains what those dudes were discussing in town today at the Kountry Farm hunter’s lounge. I heard someone talkin’ about something strange and out of the ordinary running around at night. They said they were listening to the sheriff’s scanner and heard reports about a dark figure crossing Highway 58 just the other night. They didn’t know what it was. However, several people’s animals in the area have recently come up missing.”

Jay continued. “I was doing some thinking about that hair this week. I know Tyler’s been worried about The Phantom. What if IT got The Phantom?”

“Now don’t get carried away,” said Jordan. “The Phantom’s a big deer. It would take a big animal, something really big, to jump on The Phantom. Don’t worry. I’ve got my suspicions about The Phantom’s whereabouts. I’ll show y’all where he’s at tomorrow morning. As for IT, you guys need to be careful walkin’ in the woods before and after dark!”

• • • • • •

The next morning, Jordan opened the cabin door and stared up at the bright stars.

“Perfect,” he thought.

Not a cloud in the sky, he surveyed the moonlit skyline. Maybe The Phantom will stay out a little late this morning before making his way back to bed. It was 3:30 a.m., and Jordan had begun preparations for the morning hunt. He dressed, gathered his things and was on his way. He pulled up to the crest of the hill above the edge of the giant swamp and quickly dimmed his lights.

Jordan grabbed his rifle and began his walk down the edge of the old peanut field. It was the same field where he, Tyler and Jay had seen The Phantom back during August.

“I know you’re down here big boy. Tyler is worried that you may not still be around. I’ll be waitin’ to tuck you in this morning,” whispered Jordan.

Jordan didn’t use his flashlight as he entered the woods edge. The decision was partially because he didn’t want to take a chance bumping deer and partially because he didn’t need a light. The moon was his light, and he knew the route extremely well through years of hunting the cypress swamp. Three hundred steps in, he reached the beaver dam. Jordan turned west and quietly made his way to his stand on the edge of the swamp and the river bottom that bordered it.

The stand was situated along a thick transition area. The thick gallberry bushes and green wax myrtles that lined and guarded the swamp’s edge looked like an impenetrable wall of canopy, all the same height. It was no more than 200 yards wide but wrapped around the swamp edge for almost a half mile.

Connected to the southwest side of the swamp was a large section of river bottom that Jordan and Tyler often referred to as, “The Green Stuff.” It was sandwiched between the hillside full of oaks and the swamp, created by years of settlement run off.

It was unique because even in the dead of winter, when everything else in the woods was brown, it glowed with its bright color. Privet hedge thrived inside the core area, and it also contained scattered sweetgum, bay and poplar, along with numerous pockets and areas of marred mud. The poplar trees were far and away the most prominent and looked like telephone poles towering 75 to 100 feet above. It also possessed one additional amazing feature; many of the trees had exposed root systems. In fact, the roots winded throughout the entire maze. The roots were everywhere and made it extremely difficult to travel through, especially when in a hurry.

There were two stands situated along this edge, and Tyler talked the night before about possibly hunting the stand that was south of Jordan on the hardwoods hillside. Tyler had his own route through a secret old land bridge that crossed the giant swamp.

As if walking through quick sand, Jordan’s feet sank with every step as he approached the stand location. After what felt like an eternity, Jordan reached his destination and climbed 35 feet above to his perch. He took a deep breath and glanced at his watch. It was 4:45 a.m. Daylight wouldn’t come for another two hours.

Within minutes, Jordan could hear animals running around. Almost like a circus, the woods seemed full of deer. Jordan grinned. He had explained this to the group many times.

“Hours before daylight, deer stomp around in the woods. The closer it gets to daylight, the quieter things get. Careless trots turn into cautiously planned steps, as darkness transitions to daybreak.”

As magic light neared, Jordan sat perfectly still, listening ever so intently for even the slightest sound of movement coming in his direction.

“Check mate,” thought Jordan, as the subtle distant sound approached the swamp edge where Jordan was situated. His eyes strained as he looked through his binoculars. It was still too dark. He heard the sound of a deer come by at less than 50 yards, but it was just too dark.

Soon thereafter, silence. Then, out of nowhere, he heard the unmistakable sound of a low, deep grunt. If he wasn’t listening so intently, it might have passed him by without notice. Then he heard it again, but this time it was close. Jordan picked up his rifle and got ready.

Silence fell again over the bottom. Just like that, the buck was gone. Jordan sat, miffed by what happened. Ten minutes later it was light enough to see. He scanned his surroundings looking for the bedded buck. But it was nowhere in sight.

The hours went by like a snail’s pace. Finally, it was 10 a.m., time to pull out his favorite rule, Rule No. 3, “Make it happen.”

Jordan climbed down and stealthily walked in the direction he heard the buck come from. After looking for a few minutes, he located his tracks. The tracks in the dark mud left little doubt that they were made by a mature buck. Jordan felt confident the tracks were those of The Phantom.

He clinched his Browning BAR semi-automatic 7mm and started into the thick wax myrtle.

• • • • • •

In the middle of The Green Stuff, the buck crouched against a fallen poplar, lying on top of a series of root systems exposed along the top of the ground. The slightly elevated position served as a good observation point and kept him dry from the damp ground and muck surrounding him. It was the same dark muck that the buck had used to wallow in almost a month ago to recover from his wound.

The buck lay motionless, staring in the direction of the oncoming noise approaching. While other deer would have had their nose against the wind, the buck preferred to have the wind come over his back so he could stare downwind from his bedding area. The buck raised his nose, but couldn’t detect anything. Still, he was fully alert, ears twitching back and forth, like a radar tower.

The buck’s choice of a bedroom was almost impossible to approach undetected. However, the recent heavy rains had washed away a lot of fallen limbs and washed out many of the obstacles that the buck relied on that served as motion detectors.

Most immature bucks might have immediately fled the scene, but years of experience taught the buck otherwise. The buck had several near-death experiences over the years where hunters had literally walked right by him. Jordan came to the landmark bay tree that grew parallel to the ground and then made a 90-degree turn straight up.

Jordan climbed along the elevated trunk and leaned against the 90-degree turn. It was almost like a chair. Jordan sat there thinking—he knew he had to be close. He looked as hard as possible, but the woods grew thicker once inside the transition area. The tracks had vanished.

Like a chess match, 15 minutes went by. There was no movement, so Jordan climbed down and walked 20 yards forward. Uncharacteristically, The Phantom rose up. An impartial observer would have struggled to determine who was more caught off guard.

Jordan’s eyes pierced through the canopy. He could see the main beams of the buck jetting outward in front of the buck’s nose. Its back tines towered above the branches of wax myrtle. His suspicions were now confirmed. There was no mistake. He was staring at The Phantom!

Jordan’s heart pounded against his chest. It continued to race wildly as the buck took off through The Green Stuff.

“Check and mate.”

• • • • • •

The buck’s weight made it difficult to navigate quickly through the mud. The exposed roots, banded together in a spider-web-like sequence, made it hard to step between the roots and muck. The mud was like a suction cup as the buck sank, squished and slid with every stride as it scrambled away.

With no other choice, Jordan took off running. He was sinking with each stride up to his knees as he tried to stay in a small open area in the sea of privet. Jordan could see bits and pieces of antlers and the hedges shaking as the buck advanced, like a scene out of Jurassic Park.

The buck stayed in cover as it ran toward the open hardwoods on the hill and away from danger.

Jordan quickly realized he was losing ground. However, as luck would have it, just ahead Jordan saw the familiar sight of boards extending like a straight train track through The Green Stuff. He’d stumbled upon the trail the guys had worked on during August.

Jordan stopped, gasping to catch his breath. The Phantom stopped, too. Jordan’s arm muscles strained from the weight of the mag. His leg muscles felt like Jell-O from navigating through the area, but he now had a clear path that would also serve as a shortcut.

The buck started moving again, deliberate but not at a full run. Sweat poured off Jordan’s face as he began running across the boards. The blood vessels in his neck bulged as he saw the open hardwoods, just a mere 50 yards away. The race was on to cut The Phantom off. It would be a sprint to the finish; as fast as he could travel the trail. Get to the open woods first… who would win the race?


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