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Outdoors Online with Matt Crawford
Vermont deer hunters lead the whitetail pack

January, 27  2002

By Matt Crawford

Lanny Benoit knows deer hunting, better than almost anybody.

Benoit's father -- Larry -- rose to national prominence in 1970 when Sports Afield's October issue featured a cover shot of him with the headline "Larry Benoit -- Is he the best deer hunter in America?"

Lanny and his brothers are following in the father's footsteps. This weekend they are among the featured speakers at the 10th annual Yankee Sportsman's Classic outdoors show being held at the Champlain Valley fairgrounds.

The Benoits aren't just deer hunters; they are Vermont deer hunters. That, says Lanny, makes a difference.

"Your best whitetail hunters come from Vermont," Lanny said Saturday as he took a break from the crowds at the show. "That's not just because I live in this state. If you go to New Hampshire and there's a lot of Vermont hunters kicking around there, or if you go to Maine and you look at the deer that are reported in, you'll find a majority of the big bucks shot are by Vermonters."

Vermont's deer hunting culture, said Benoit, matches up well head-to-head with deer hunting culture from anywhere.

"Don't get me wrong," Benoit said. "New York state has great deer hunters; Massachusetts has great deer hunters; Maine does; New Hampshire does; but if you take your top 50 deer hunters out of Vermont and took them anywhere hunting, big bucks wouldn't be very safe in that area they were hunting."

Ironically, Vermont is not known as a particular hot bed of big bucks. Outfitters at the Yankee Sportsman's Classic hail from exotic whitetail hot spots that routinely surrender bucks rarely seen in the Green Mountain State. Big bucks come from places like Saskatchewan, Kansas, Ohio and Maine, but the people who hunt the wall-hangers best hail from Vermont.

Perhaps that's one reason the Yankee Sportsman's Classic is so well attended. Vermonters who want to hunt for big buck have to find other places to go. The show gives outfitters and hunters a place to meet, a place for Vermonters to find an area to show off their big buck skills.

"Vermonters grow up wanting to be better hunters," Benoit said. "They read, talk, breathe deer hunting."

Turn a good Vermont hunter loose in Saskatchewan, said Benoit, and just watch what could be done.

"The problem is a lot of hunters get stifled a little bit because they have to hunt in a little, small spot," Benoit said. "A lot of times they get stuck in tree stands and they can't move around. You'd find that if you let your Vermont hunter move around a little bit they'd shoot a big buck."

Vermonters who hunt out of state and display their superior hunting skills have raised a few hackles, said Benoit.

"In some parts of Maine there's some resentment," Benoit said. "I've had a lot of Maine people tell me that many, many, many of their big bucks went back to Vermont because they got shot by Vermonters."

Matt Crawford is the Free Press Outdoors editor. His columns appear Sundays
in the Burlington Free Press.