U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- As many of you know, once you’ve found a monster buck, that deer becomes an obsession until you finally take him. “I dreamed about Phantom at night, and a day never passed that I didn’t think about him,” Eddie Harrell of Lena, Mississippi, who had named his buck, reminisces. “I’d had three chances to take this biggest buck I’d ever seen but missed him.”
In 2011, Phantom was a huge 9-point, 3-year-old buck. This story perhaps should have ended in 2011 when Phantom was only 40 yards from Harrell’s tree stand. Harrell could see Phantom in his Redfield Illuminator 3x12x56mm scope on his Mossberg 7mm.
“I really shouldn’t have shot at the deer that was walking straight away from me, since the time was late in the afternoon, and I couldn’t see the crosshairs in my scope,” Harrell remembers. “But I told myself, ‘You can’t take that deer if you don’t pull the trigger.’ I aimed for the back of the buck’s head, 3-4 inches below his antlers. Later, I learned my bullet had cut a hole in his ear. I searched for Phantom for several days but never saw him.”
Now that Harrell knew he had a monster buck on the property, before the 2012 deer season, he bought and placed five trail cameras, and put feeders out too. That year, Harrell spotted the 11-point Phantom coming down a hedgerow, hooking bushes and making scrapes, about 200 yards away, late one day. Once again Harrell thought, “I can’t take the Phantom if I don’t take the shot.” Harrell squeezed off a round and missed Phantom. Having had two encounters with a trophy buck and missing that deer twice almost could drive a man to insanity. In the off-season, Harrell planted crops for deer, built a shooting house and put up a tripod stand on another part of the land.
“Phantom appeared at about 360 yards, late in the afternoon, in the 2013-2014 deer season,” Harrell explains. “The wind was blowing hard. Although this time I hit Phantom in his front leg, the bullet evidently just grazed the skin. Phantom had to be the luckiest deer that ever lived.”
Harrell kept checking his trail cameras. Harrell saw in the pictures that Phantom’s antlers would score in the 170s or 180s. Although the buck was limping slightly, Harrell could tell that the bullet hadn’t broken Phantom’s leg bone. “Rarely will anyone ever see a buck like this, have three chances to take him and miss him all three times,” Harrell reports. “This scenario was just about more than I could handle mentally.”
In October, 2015, Harrell put out trail cameras to try and find Phantom for the fourth year. On December 1, 2015, the rain was pouring down, and Harrell knew he couldn’t do any work on his farm. While having lunch at a nearby restaurant with his buddies, Harrell announced, “I’m going to stay in my shooting house all day and see if I can get another shot at Phantom.”
The rain slacked up at about 4:00 pm. At 4:20 pm, two does walked out in the pasture in front of Harrell, about 250 yards away. “About 2 minutes later, while looking through my riflescope, I spotted Phantom with his chocolate-covered horns walking out of the woods and shaking himself, with the raindrops flying off his body in every direction,” Harrell says. “I took a steady rest and put my crosshairs right on his front shoulder. Just as I squeezed the trigger, Phantom took a step forward, causing me to miss his vitals. The bullet landed in his gut area. Phantom ran out of the field with his tail tucked under his hindquarters, low to the ground. I felt fairly confident I’d made a good hit on him.” When Phantom reached the edge of the field, he stopped and stood dead still, as Harrell waited for 3-4 seconds for the buck to fall over. Since that didn’t happen, Harrell took a second shot. “However, just as I squeezed the trigger, Phantom took a step forward,” Harrell says. “This bullet also hit a little farther back in the gut.”
Harrell came out of his shooting house, but night had enveloped the woods and the field. Harrell searched the two locations where he’d shot Phantom, couldn’t find any cut hair or blood but continued to look for Phantom. Then he went into the woods where he’d watched the buck exit the field. “I went across a little branch and heard two does blow,” Harrell remembers. Harrell thought that perhaps the does were blowing at Phantom. Because the weather was cool enough that Harrell knew the meat wouldn’t spoil, he decided to back out, head home and look for the deer the following morning. Harrell told his wife, “I've messed up. I’ve shot Phantom, but I still don’t have him.”
Phantom now was in Harrell’s brain again, and he couldn’t sleep until 12:00 midnight. Thoughts of Phantom then woke him up at 4:00 am. “So, I got up, put on my clothes and left my house at 6:00 am in the dark,” Harrell explains. Harrell then sat in his stand, waiting on daylight, but soon climbed out with his flashlight, lured by the hope of finding Phantom. He crossed the field into the thicket and the little creek, walking in the direction where he’d heard the does blow, while working through briars and brambles. He came to a small clearing, saw something leaning up against a tree, brought his rifle to his shoulder, looked through his scope and spotted Phantom.
“At first, I thought the buck wasn’t dead,” Harrell explains. “I kept my riflescope up for 10-15 minutes to see if Phantom moved. I inched closer, getting ready to take the shot if Phantom jumped up. But still he didn’t move. I couldn’t believe how big Phantom’s 12-point rack and his body were.”
Finally, Harrell’s 4-year obsession with Phantom had ended. As he drug the buck out, the emotions Harrell felt were like the freeing of his soul from purgatory. Now he could sleep at night. If Harrell had any dreams of Phantom, he would see Phantom on the ground with his hands on Phantom’s rack.
- BTR Score – Buckmasters’ Composite Score – Number of Inches: 201-7/8
- Official Buckmasters’ Score: 183-7/8 (doesn’t include inside spread of main beams)
This is an excerpt from John E. Phillips newest book “Whitetail Deer and the Hunters Who Take Big Bucks”. Click here http://johninthewild.com/books/#deer to get more info about this deer hunting book and other deer hunting books by John E. Phillips.