Phantom This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   One October evening last fall, the deer movementwas limited. Half an hour before sundown three doe came into view about100 yards from my stand in my grandpa's clover field. Seeing doe is notunusual, so I didn't get too excited. After watching for a few minutes,I noticed where they were heading. Glancing over my shoulder, I caughtsight of a big, eight-point buck. My adrenaline turned up a notch. Igrabbed my binoculars and watched as he chased the doe, sparred withsmaller bucks and ate fallen persimmons. The evening faded as the bucksdisappeared from view at the far end of the field. So ended my firstrun-in with Phantom.

My second sighting of this buck, only a fewdays later, was just a glance. I had to leave my stand early oneeve-ning. Trying to stay out of sight, I snuck through a small grove oftrees. Phantom and his doe friends were running out the otherend.

I did not see him for another month, until the openingmorning of gun season. I was sitting in a tree stand on the other sideof Grandpa's property. The day was cold and cloudy, ideal huntingweather. With my bow in one hand and my grunt call in the other, Iclimbed into my stand before first light. Shortly before I had to leavefor a basketball game, I looked behind me to see Phantom standing alonein the trail about 80 yards away. I gave a few short grunts with mygrunt call. He looked in my direction, turned his head the other way,hopped the fence and disappeared into the thicket.

That evening,I returned to the stand. Not seeing anything and getting disgusted withthe cold, I took the arrow off my bow rest and stuck it in my quiver.Turning for one last look at the trail, I saw Phantom coming toward mystand. I notched another arrow as he approached. He stopped broad-sideof me at 22 yards, the perfect distance for a shot. Because the sun wasalready down, I couldn't see very well. I barely made out his form, andI took a hopeful shot. It went over his back and found the ground. Thedeer bolted, stopped, looked back at my direction, turned and walkedaway.

That was my final sighting of Phantom last year. I heard afew stories from others about how they had just missed him. A neighborlady said she had almost hit Phantom with her car one night, and myuncle said he had just barely shot under him. Another uncle said Phantomhad smelled his scent before he could get a shot off.

One daythis July, my grandpa told me he had seen a huge buck the eveningbefore. I was so excited to hear Phantom was still around that I went tothe clover field to try to spot him. As fate would have it, he appeared,and I watched him for a good 15 minutes. I saw him once more this summerin the same field. Our paths did not cross again untilOctober.

It was a very cool and windy day. I had not hunted thisstand for almost two weeks, and my expectations were high. I didn't seeanything for the first two hours of my evening hunt, and I was gettingdisgusted. Then, 20 minutes before dark, I saw a form in the cloverfield. Using my binoculars, I squinted to see a large doe. When shebolted, I looked behind her, and yes, Phantom was chasing her. They werestill at least 150 yards away. I thought about my options. I could stayput or sneak behind some hay bales not too far from me, or circle wayaround and climb into a different stand. I finally decided to sneak tothe hay bales and get close enough for a shot. As I lowered my bow, thedoe came running and stopped about 90 yards from me. I knew Phantom wasbehind her, but I couldn't see him because of trees. The buck soonchased the doe back the other way, so I began lowering my bow again. Iheard a noise in the leaves behind me and quickly brought my bow backup. It was a coyote. I watched him pass under my stand. Suddenly hefroze. I looked up to see why, and there was Phantom and the doe 80yards from me. The coyote was trying to stalk them. Not wanting him toruin my hunt, I eventually scared him. He ran in the opposite direction,but the deer had seen him and ran to the other end. The doe headed forthe timber on the right and Phantom headed to the left. Assuming Phantomwas gone and the hunt was over, I climbed out and slowly crossed thefield to the fence to get to my truck. At the fence, I looked back at mystand. Phantom was standing directly under it. I had left toosoon!

This buck has eluded me and several other hunters on manyoccasions. Evading a hunter is not unusual for a deer, but this buck hasthe presence of a ghost. I believe I have seen him more than anyoneelse, and I have never seen him come out of the woods. He just appearslike a ghost. And as quickly as he comes, he goes.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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