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Larry Benoit: America’s Greatest Deer Hunter?

By Brodie SwisherJune 19, 2024
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Who in the world is Larry Benoit?

Chances are you’ve never heard the name. Until searching for the best books on deer hunting, I wasn’t familiar with him either. That is, until I came across a Sports Afield article from 1970 titled, “Larry Benoit – Is He the Best Deer Hunter in America?” 

I was intrigued. I wanted to know more on the who, what, when and where of Larry Benoit. I wanted to know why I had never heard of him before. But I really wanted to know why some people thought he could have been the  greatest deer hunter in America. 

Larry Benoit: America's Greatest Deer Hunter?

Who Was Larry Benoit?

Larry Benoit was born September 24, 1924 in East Berkshire, Vermont. He grew up in a poor family that made their home near the Canadian border. Learning to hunt was a means of survival. His family needed food, so Larry began to hunt. 
 
He came on the scene in the days when the trophy was determine by the size of the animal, not merely the antlers atop its head. Some have said that even after Benoit grew in fame as a serious deer killer, he continued to judge the trophy by the size of the animal. The heavier the buck, the more meat he’d haul. 
 
Benoit hunted whitetail deer across the snowy woods of northern New England and southern Canada for over seven decades. A true tracker, following bucks in the snow was his niche. Hundreds of trophy bucks fell to his tactics over years making him one of the most revered deer hunters of his day. 

In a time long before trail cameras and other electronic gadgetry, Benoit was known to decipher big buck tracks from the rest of the herd and follow them in the snow until he met up with his prize, regardless of how long the hunt took or how many miles were crossed.  

“He was kind of like Babe Ruth for hunters,” said Ron Boucher, outdoor writer for North American Whitetail magazine. “He was probably known by more hunters than any other person for his time.”

Larry Benoit: America's Greatest Deer Hunter?

As a carpenter in the off-season, Benoit was afforded ample time to pursue his true calling during the deer season. In the mid-70’s, he published “How to Bag the Biggest Buck of Your Life,” a book, written with Peter Miller. It was the must-read textbook on deer of that day. 

The book covered hot topics that today’s hunters would likely find controversial, if not downright offensive. But keep in mind, Benoit was a different breed of hunter. He was a tough man, far removed from many of the soft, fair-weather hunters we find roaming the woods today. 

His book focused on topics like:

  • Finding deer by tracking hoof prints, not sitting in the comfort of a treestand.
  • Are you really a hunter, or just a shooter?
  • Do not fire at the first buck you see.
Larry Benoit: America's Greatest Deer Hunter?

To Benoit, success meant matching wits with tough whitetail deer.  “To outwit the whitetail, you must know how to locate him, how to track him, and how to down him,” says Benoit. “It takes stamina, woods lore, deer lore and experience to win this fight.”

A New York Times tribute article shared other words of wisdom and insight from Benoit when it  comes to staying in shape to chase big bucks in the backcountry. 

Ease up on those summer beers. Drink skim milk. Tend to your calluses, wear wool socks, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do isometrics “on the can” if that is the only time you have. Build up your thighs and your lung capacity with long hikes. Do not smoke. (A little Red Man chewing tobacco should not hurt.) Practice walking silently in the woods.

Remember, whether he is a swamp deer or a ridge runner, that buck is bigger, faster and more familiar with his territory than you are.

Surely Benoit would find today’s hunters amusing as they boast of “walking 2 miles deep to find untouched bucks.” Our lightweight gear and gadgets have made the way we hunt these days an expedited version of what old school hunters did in days gone by. 

“Mister,” he wrote, “if you aren’t in shape to dog a mountain buck and follow him for 15 miles, then walk out of the woods and be ready to do it the next day, and maybe the day after, and maybe for a week, then just be an armchair buck hunter. Don’t go out in the woods and kill yourself.”

“You have to keep at it day after day,” said Benoit. “No matter what. Just because you are tired from the day before, you can’t give up. If it’s storming or cold outside you have to go anyway. If you are a boxer, just because you get knocked down in the first round, are you going to quit? Not if you want to win. Get up and come back, use your knowledge, use the mistakes to learn, make them stepping stones.”

You’ll find a lot of today’s hunters throwing catch phrases and titles around as if they have discovered hunting the hard way. Keep grinding, work harder, mobile hunter, public land owner, etc.  

Larry Benoit was hunting deer the hard way long before it was ever cool to boast about. He was a public land hunter out of necessity, not because he wanted to make a statement, or needed an excuse. He simply went about his business of tracking down old bucks in the backwoods. It’s what he knew. It’s what he did. He found success because he kept going, long after other hunters were headed back to the house. 

“If you make the same mistakes every time you go deer hunting, you aren’t going to accomplish a thing. You need to learn, to grow, to progress as a hunter. If you couple that with a drive to keep going no matter what, you can become a trophy buck hunter.”

Toward the end of his journey,  while recording one of his final hunts on film, Benoit made the comment, “I don’t care how old a man is, I say get out there and do your thing.”

Benoit died at his Duxbury, Vermont home on October 8, 2013 at the age of 89. He will forever be remembered as a legendary hunter that truly hunted down game to notch his tag and fill his freezer.  

Question – What would these old school hunters from the past think about today’s hunters with all the tools, gadgets and shortcuts we use to hunt deer? Would they be impressed and use them, or roll their eyes in disgust? 

Comment below, and let us know what you think.

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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