A couple instances of observing deer at a certain location was all it took for this hunter to choose his spot, and boy, did his intuition pay off big time!
No one would argue that extensive scouting and thorough planning is a recipe for deer hunting success. But it’s also true that success sometimes comes with the barest of pre-planning and scouting.
Bowhunter John Michael Benoit relied on a minimum of observation, along with his experience and intuition, to set up a stand that paid off handsomely for him this season. His quick though solid analysis of a likely deer hotspot enabled him to arrow a huge 170-class buck.
The hunter from Dry Prong – a Louisiana village of only around 430 residents – observed deer crossing a particular location in the 17,500 acre Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge of east central Louisiana.
Benoit recounted, “I had seen a good buck cross in the area a week earlier. And then a couple of days later, I watched several does cross at the same spot. I told my hunting buddies the next time we hunted the refuge, just let me out right there.”
His hunting buddies did just that, and Benoit quickly set up his stand at what he presumed would be a promising location.
“My partners and I hunted that Monday, Dec. 28,” he recalled, “and they let me off and I entered the woods where I’d seen the deer crossing. After not seeing anything that morning, I got down from my lock-on stand and did some scouting, finding a good bit of buck sign on the back side of the CRP that is on the refuge.”
After his midday respite and brief scouting trek, Benoit returned to his stand at 3:00 in the afternoon. At around 4:00, it looked like his decision was going to pay off for him as an 8-point buck stepped into view. Benoit wanted to take the buck, but admitted that a clean shot never presented itself. That ethical decision to not take a less than perfect shot would prove fortuitous for the archer.
“Less than an hour later though,” he continued, “things started to get interesting when a really big buck came out of the CRP at about 80 yards, went behind some big trees and I couldn’t see him any more.”
Benoit used a grunt call to get the buck’s attention, but the call also got the attention of a doe that, unknown to him, had been behind and to the side of him. The buck also saw the doe and focused on her. “Apparently the big buck spotted the doe because he began moving toward her but stopped again,” he said. “I used my bleat can a time or two and the buck turned and headed toward me, stopping at about 45 yards.”
The monarch then took a step or two quartering away from Benoit’s stand, giving the hunter the opportunity to draw his Hoyt Carbon Element and set the pins. “I have confidence in my bow at that distance, and I put the 40-yard pin at the top of his back and the 50-yard pin at the bottom of his brisket and let it fly.”
Admittedly excited, Benoit kept his composure and kept his eyes on the big-antlered buck. He had made a perfect killing shot, as he watched the deer run only about 50 yards before dropping.
“It was just like you see them do on the TV hunting shows,” he said. “He just staggered and then toppled over. I was too excited to move for several minutes but when I climbed down, I ran to a nearby stand where my buddy was hunting, and told him to get down right now because I’d shot a monster buck.”
He wasn’t exaggerating. The Louisiana Sportsman confirmed that Benoit’s buck scored an unofficial 172 6/8 inches. The 200-pound, 10-pointer had 21-inch main beams and an 18¾-inch spread.
If Benoit’s taxidermist’s score is confirmed as official, the buck will become Louisiana’s second largest archery whitetail ever taken.
Benoit is no doubt justifiably proud of his accomplishment. His good decisions, solid observations and quick analysis rewarded him with a giant, record buck, on public land no less.