Most stories about the harvest of trophy bucks take many hundreds, if not thousands of words, to describe the mechanics of how the hunter made the shot that killed it, from locating the deer to patterning its movements and choosing the right stand.
Then there’s the story of Eric Pell and his 11-year-old sidekick, Owen Grissen, who on Dec. 11, overslept, arrived late, discovered they had chosen a stand built for one instead of two hunters, made the best of the situation, and 10 minutes later were standing over a 164 2/8-inch, 255-pound Warren County monster.
“Didn’t take long; wasn’t much to it,” said Pell, who made the 50-yard shot that put the buck down with his late father’s gun, a Remington Model 700 DBL .270 that is named “Lucille.”
In memory of his father
But there’s another story, a deeper and emotional one, that deserves being told and that makes this buck so special for Pell, 37, who killed the deer on the birthday of his father, his hunting mentor, who died in March 2017.
It’s why Pell and Grissen had gotten the late start.
“It was a tough night for me; I didn’t sleep good,” Pell said. “I was very emotional about it being the eve of Dad’s birthday. I wanted to hunt with his gun, so I took Lucille down and I broke it down to its parts, cleaned it thoroughly and then put it back together. I took a bullet and marked it with dad’s nickname, Alpo.
“I actually overslept, and it was my wife Holly who woke me up about 5:30 a.m. Owen had called me the night before and asked if he could hunt with me the next day, and I told him to come on over and spend the night and we’d get up and go. We still had an hour-and-a-half drive to deep camp. We didn’t get there until nearly 8 a.m.”
Making it work
The late arrival gave Pell an opportunity to pick a stand, and he chose one that was not being used. It was in a hardwood bottom between two big blocks of woods, with a trail that crosses a beaver dam on a slough that is the preferred deer path from one block to the other.
“It’s a stand that isn’t very popular, probably because it is such a long walk in there,” he said. “Owen and I walked back in there, but when we got there, we discovered it had a one-man ladder and there were the two of us. I had forgotten that. I looked around and found a dead tree about 20 yards away, and I told Owen to sit there behind it, which he had never done before. We always sit together. He got down behind it and I climbed the stand.
“A few minutes after I got situated, I told Owen to flip the Primos Big Can one time. It makes what is called a long doe bleat. Owen flipped it one time. A couple of minutes later, I had heard a deer walking but couldn’t pinpoint it. Then I turned my head to the right, and there was a buck 50 yards away walking toward a beaver dam. I didn’t have a lot of time to react, but one look at it, and I knew it was a big buck. It looked like it was carrying a chair on his head. I had to move the gun because it was pointing the opposite way, and when I did, it spooked the buck and he started trotting.”
Realizing that the buck was rapidly moving toward a thicket so dense it would disappear, Pell got the gun in position and pointed at the only opening the deer would pass through.
“I was hoping Owen wouldn’t see the buck and do something that would change the deer’s path, but it happened too fast for that,” he said. “The buck was to my right 50 yards, and Owen was to my left 20 yards. When the deer got to the opening I whistled, and he stopped broadside, right in the opening, I put the crosshairs on him and squeezed the trigger. The buck fell straight down.
“I looked down, and Owen had heard me whistle and had turned and saw the buck fall. He looked up at me and said, ‘Mr. Eric, you done shot a stud.’”
Pell climbed down, joined the youngster and walked over to the buck and then broke down.
“I was so emotional about it, my Dad and Lucille, Owen and all,” Pell said. “I was bawling.”
He called his wife Holly, sent her a picture, and she immediately left the house, making the long drive to deer camp. Her help would be needed, not only for pictures but also to help load the big-bodied deer on the 4-wheeler. While waiting for her to arrive, Grissen was busy on his cell phone reaching out to his friends.
“He was Facetiming everybody he knew to show them what we had killed,” Pell said. “It was fun having him there.”
A special moment
Grissen is important in Pell’s life, filling the void of not having a child of his own. Albert Pell, aka Alpo, was Eric Pell’s father and mentor, who taught him hunting and fishing before bone cancer had ended his life.
“When Dad was dying, right after deer season, we sat on his bed one day, and he asked me that if he was to give me the pick of his guns, which would I want,” Pell said. “I told him Lucille, and he said that if I promised to take that rifle and use it to kill a big, trophy buck, I could have it. I had killed my previously biggest deer, a 126-inch 8-point, the first season after Dad died. Dad had killed a lot of good bucks with it, but neither of us had ever killed one like this.
“After Dad died, we moved down to his house, and that’s when I met Owen. His parents lived about a mile down the road and were Dad’s friends, and they had Owen. We got to know them, and I sort of took Owen under my wing because he loves to hunt and fish. He just loves the outdoors, and he really helps me out. I have some medical issues, and he helps me a lot when we hunt and fish.
“He’s a great kid and a good little outdoorsman. He has killed some deer, including a nice 8-point with this (grandfather) last year. He’s killed a 6-point with me and a bunch of does. He loves running trot lines, squirrel hunting, building forts, all that. He isn’t as much into video games like most kids; he’d rather be outside doing something.”
Trophy buck is cherry on top
That the two were able to take this big buck together tightens their bond, and adds another chapter to this story.
“Having him there was special to me, and that he helped by calling that buck with the Primos can,” Pell said. “That had to be what got the buck up. The way I figure it, the buck had been laying up in one of the many oak tree tops that had fallen down in that bottom, probably near the stand, and the strong winds that had been blowing kept him from hearing us coming in. Plus, the wind was blowing from him to us, so he couldn’t wind us. Then, when Owen hit the can, I think he got up and came looking for that doe. He was tiptoeing and had his head up looking as he approached that beaver dam.”
The buck is a very tall, symmetrical main-frame 8-pointer with a sticker off one main beam and another off a point. Its best characteristics are giant tines, measuring 13, 12 6/8, 10 and 9 6/8 inches. The main beams were 25 inches.
“I took the hull with Alpo on it out of Lucille and will add it to the others I carry on a chair,” Pell said. “It’s a good luck thing, I reckon. It’s got the hull from the last bullet Dad used to kill his last buck, and it’s got two that I used, including the big 8-point.
“This will make No. 4.”
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