Skip to main content

The Benoit Brotherhood

The Benoit Brotherhood

Amid the modern whitetail world's antler obsession, the Benoit hunting philosophy, based on family values and concern for others, offers a welcome reprieve and a valuable lesson.

Lanny Benoit admires a buck he killed in 2009.

Back in February 1970 Smokin' Joe Frazier knocked out Jimmy Ellis to become the world heavyweight boxing champion. And in September of that year, another heavyweight was announced to the hunting world when Sports Afield asked readers, "Larry Benoit -- Is He the Best Deer Hunter in America?" Benoit didn't knock anyone out to become a legend, but that question did set the stage for an enduring family legacy.

Larry Benoit wasn't the first famous deer hunter. Other names had long been legendary in the whitetail world -- T.S. Van Dyke, Henry Shoemaker and Archibald Rutledge to name a few. Today, the deer-hunting world has countless "celebrities." But the name "Benoit" is arguably the first modern deer-hunting icon. And the fact that Larry's sons followed so closely in his footsteps cemented the Benoit legacy.


UNCOMFORTABLE CELEBRITIES
The Benoits have never been comfortable with celebrity status. That was clear when I sat down with Larry's son, Lanny, to reflect on the Benoit place in the hunting world. (Shane, another of Larry's sons, was recovering from a kidney transplant at the time of the interview, and I spoke with him by phone later.)


Lanny had signed a book for me, and I asked him, "How do you feel when you are asked to sign autographs?"

"I feel embarrassed," Lanny replied without hesitating. "I don't feel right about it all the time. I don't feel so good about that when my elders come up and ask me for an autograph, because I grew up to respect my elders. So I feel like I'm below them. Little kids, that's just fine." That humility set the tone for an honest and wide-ranging discussion on the Benoit philosophy of deer hunting.




Today's deer hunting world has celebrities who approach hunting with varied styles based on geography, terrain and climate. Even though the Benoits are uncomfortable being thought of as celebrities, they've made their own mark, and they don't comment on anyone else. But one thing is sure -- no one loves deer hunting more than they do. They care about it deeply, and it troubles them that certain images give young people and non-hunters what they consider to be the wrong ideas about the pursuit of whitetails.


One of those images is the common televised depiction of tree stand hunting, a contrast to the Benoit method. Lanny recalled the era "when people used to put their coat on and throw some shells in their belt and a sandwich in their back, and they'd go hunting. They didn't dress for sittin' all day. They dressed for hunting. Now, people aren't hunting any more."

To understand this view, consider where the Benoits hunt. Tree stands are generally useless in frigid conditions where deer are few and desperate to conserve energy. And food plots are foreign to the vast forested northland

IMAGES OF HUNTING
The Benoits are simple men who don't consider themselves sophisticated, but they're smart enough to know that the images flooding through our TV and computer screens affect us. They're also savvy enough to understand that pictures carry a message. In other words, edited digital footage of tree stand hunts can mislead people about deer hunting.

One hunter from a state where he routinely saw over a dozen deer a day asked Shane, "How can you guys hunt up here? I hunted for a week and didn't see a deer." Shane answered with a question, "Are you a hunter or a shooter?" He believes most hunting videos show more deer shooting than deer hunting.

Lanny knows that no single video is representative of all, but he comically described the impression a few convey. "They're hiding in a treehouse somewhere, and if the guy had a suit and tie on it wouldn't make any difference. And they're whispering. Why are they whispering? The deer comes out and he's at the deer feeder, which goes off every day at the same time. It's all prearranged. The deer's getting killed on Wednesday."

He continued more seriously, "And the deer's going to turn broadside and one shot is going to be perfect. And the deer's going to fall over and die. Is that hunting? Is that what people really want to watch?"

To the Benoits, that image caters to the decline of patience and the rise of instant gratification. It broadcasts to the uninformed that hunting is easy, almost unfair, and completely overlooks the challenging, boots-on-the-ground style of Northwoods hunters -- a method that's long on patience and short on instant gratification.

"And then here's the other part I don't like," Lanny continued. "I'm talking about myself, not everybody. Here's a guy that shoots a deer, and now he's rolling around on the ground. He's beating his fist on the ground. He killed something -- for its antlers? What about when we used to go hunting because we were hungry? What are we doing with the deer?"

If you think he's judgmental, look beyond that to the legitimate questions Lanny is asking. Where is the patience? Where is the woodsmanship? Where are the skills? Are we showing respect for the animal? Do viewers find satisfaction in that? And, is deer hunting only about big antlers?

THE PLACE OF ANTLERS
Big antlers -- yes, that's what everyone wants to see and talk about. I was surprised to hear that Lanny doesn't display any trophies in his home -- neither from deer hunting nor from his hundreds of first place wins in oval track snowmobile racing, including 12 world championships. (Deer hunters might be surprised to learn that Lanny is as well known for racing as he is for hunting.)

"You'll see a few trophies in my garage," Lanny said. "That's it. I didn't race for the trophies. I raced for the challenge of racing. Why do you track a big buck? The challenge of tracking a big deer and shooting the thing."

Lanny raced for the fun of racing, and hunts for the fun of hunting. He doesn't object to displaying trophy antlers. He added, "We all like to see big antlers, so that's just me."

When I asked Shane about today's antler obsession, his view was similar. While he sees value in antler scoring, Shane believes it has commercialized deer hunting too much. "Deer hunting ought to be fun," he said. "A trophy doesn't have to have big antlers."

Although all the Benoits have killed bucks with giant headgear, most people are surprised to learn that it's never about antlers. Only a couple (and only due to someone's curiosity) have ever been put to the

tape. It just isn't important.

Yes, the Benoits like big racks, but antlers have always been secondary. It's the weight of the buck that holds primary importance. Said Lanny, "Years ago in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, when you killed a big buck, do you know that people asked you? 'What'd it weigh?' Do you know why they asked you that? They were asking, 'How much food did you get?'"

For the Benoits, the terminology of antler scoring -- points, spread, mass, inches -- stands a distant second to the term 'pounds,' a word that focuses on the deer and not just his antlers. A 200-pound buck is a trophy, regardless of his antlers. "If that 200-pound buck is a four-pointer or a six-pointer," Shane said, "it's still a trophy because it had the wits that it takes to live long enough to get that big."

Lanny knows that no single video is representative of all, but he comically described the impression a few convey. "They're hiding in a treehouse somewhere, and if the guy had a suit and tie on it wouldn't make any difference. And they're whispering. Why are they whispering? The deer comes out and he's at the deer feeder, which goes off every day at the same time. It's all prearranged. The deer's getting killed on Wednesday."

He continued more seriously, "And the deer's going to turn broadside and one shot is going to be perfect. And the deer's going to fall over and die. Is that hunting? Is that what people really want to watch?"

To the Benoits, that image caters to the decline of patience and the rise of instant gratification. It broadcasts to the uninformed that hunting is easy, almost unfair, and completely overlooks the challenging, boots-on-the-ground style of Northwoods hunters -- a method that's long on patience and short on instant gratification.

"And then here's the other part I don't like," Lanny continued. "I'm talking about myself, not everybody. Here's a guy that shoots a deer, and now he's rolling around on the ground. He's beating his fist on the ground. He killed something -- for its antlers? What about when we used to go hunting because we were hungry? What are we doing with the deer?"

If you think he's judgmental, look beyond that to the legitimate questions Lanny is asking. Where is the patience? Where is the woodsmanship? Where are the skills? Are we showing respect for the animal? Do viewers find satisfaction in that? And, is deer hunting only about big antlers?

THE PLACE OF ANTLERS
Big antlers -- yes, that's what everyone wants to see and talk about. I was surprised to hear that Lanny doesn't display any trophies in his home -- neither from deer hunting nor from his hundreds of first place wins in oval track snowmobile racing, including 12 world championships. (Deer hunters might be surprised to learn that Lanny is as well known for racing as he is for hunting.)

"You'll see a few trophies in my garage," Lanny said. "That's it. I didn't race for the trophies. I raced for the challenge of racing. Why do you track a big buck? The challenge of tracking a big deer and shooting the thing."

Lanny raced for the fun of racing, and hunts for the fun of hunting. He doesn't object to displaying trophy antlers. He added, "We all like to see big antlers, so that's just me."

When I asked Shane about today's antler obsession, his view was similar. While he sees value in antler scoring, Shane believes it has commercialized deer hunting too much. "Deer hunting ought to be fun," he said. "A trophy doesn't have to have big antlers."

Although all the Benoits have killed bucks with giant headgear, most people are surprised to learn that it's never about antlers. Only a couple (and only due to someone's curiosity) have ever been put to the tape. It just isn't important.

Yes, the Benoits like big racks, but antlers have always been secondary. It's the weight of the buck that holds primary importance. Said Lanny, "Years ago in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, when you killed a big buck, do you know that people asked you? 'What'd it weigh?' Do you know why they asked you that? They were asking, 'How much food did you get?'"

For the Benoits, the terminology of antler scoring -- points, spread, mass, inches -- stands a distant second to the term 'pounds,' a word that focuses on the deer and not just his antlers. A 200-pound buck is a trophy, regardless of his antlers. "If that 200-pound buck is a four-pointer or a six-pointer," Shane said, "it's still a trophy because it had the wits that it takes to live long enough to get that big."

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

How to Plant Food Plots on a Budget with Small Equipment

How to Plant Food Plots on a Budget with Small Equipment

Haynes Shelton debunks the common belief that you must have big, fancy equipment to plant food plots. That's simply not the case; he's how to plan and plant food plots on a budget with small equipment.

Food Plots and Dogs

Food Plots and Dogs

On this edition of "Deer Dog," Jeremy Moore discusses how to connect food plots to deer and your deer dog.

Why Plant Warm-Season Food Plots for Deer

Why Plant Warm-Season Food Plots for Deer

Learn how and why planting warm-season food plots can benefit you and your deer herd.

On Target: Tips for Handgun Hunting Accuracy

On Target: Tips for Handgun Hunting Accuracy

Dr. James Kroll provides tips for hunting whitetails with a handgun.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Knowing your bullet drop at various ranges, having a good rangefinder and spending the time to practice with your rifle can the difference between success and eating deer-tag sandwiches. Here's why.Know Your Bullet Drop and Range When Hunting Whitetails How-To

Know Your Bullet Drop and Range When Hunting Whitetails

Travis Faulkner

Knowing your bullet drop at various ranges, having a good rangefinder and spending the time to...

Be prepared to take care of the carcass and cape after downing your trophy buck.Gear Planning for After the Kill Shot Gear

Gear Planning for After the Kill Shot

Mark Kayser

Be prepared to take care of the carcass and cape after downing your trophy buck.

With a sweet and tangy bourbon BBQ sauce drizzled over venison backstrap, this recipe is perfect to fulfill that Cajun craving.Bourbon BBQ Venison Backstrap Recipe Venison Recipes

Bourbon BBQ Venison Backstrap Recipe

Chef Derek St. Romain

With a sweet and tangy bourbon BBQ sauce drizzled over venison backstrap, this recipe is...

The X-6000 series is the latest top-notch wireless trail camera option from Moultrie.Wireless Whitetail Work: Moultrie Mobile Does it All Accessories

Wireless Whitetail Work: Moultrie Mobile Does it All

Haynes Shelton - November 02, 2020

The X-6000 series is the latest top-notch wireless trail camera option from Moultrie.

See More Trending Articles

More Trophy Bucks

Young hunter takes down a giant 17-point buck with a green gross score of 201 6/8 inches during the 2020 Missouri youth firearm season.Shared Success: Missouri's Cole Huwar Buck Non-Typical

Shared Success: Missouri's Cole Huwar Buck

Kody Lucas - November 24, 2020

Young hunter takes down a giant 17-point buck with a green gross score of 201 6/8 inches...

An outside spread that nearly equals a yardstick? This Ohio buck is crazy wide. Ultra-Wide Whitetail Arrowed in Ohio Amish Country Trophy Bucks

Ultra-Wide Whitetail Arrowed in Ohio Amish Country

Joe Martino

An outside spread that nearly equals a yardstick? This Ohio buck is crazy wide.

I was up against the buck of a lifetime and a season that was quickly ticking away.Down to the Wire for Giant Saskatchewan Buck Trophy Bucks

Down to the Wire for Giant Saskatchewan Buck

Brennan Huard

I was up against the buck of a lifetime and a season that was quickly ticking away.

After years of frustration, Mike finally got a 33-yard shot at “The Freak.”Bowhunting an Ohio Freak Trophy Bucks

Bowhunting an Ohio Freak

Mike Wise

After years of frustration, Mike finally got a 33-yard shot at “The Freak.”

See More Trophy Bucks

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the North American Whitetail App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All North American Whitetail subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now