Kyle Bennett never won anything - until Sunday afternoon.
“No way. You're kidding me. Stop joking,” he said, as Darren Boudreaux told him his name was drawn as the winner of the Yamaha ATV at the 2017 Louisiana Sportsman Big Buck Contest.
Boudreaux, with the Quality Deer Management Association, had to repeat himself a handful of times before Bennett realized he had in fact just won the Yamaha 700 ATV.
Bennett was actually attending the Sportsman Show as a volunteer at the QDMA booth, helping to organize submitted bucks.
He was handing back one of the 90 deer that had been entered into the contest — which was hosted by the state chapter of QDMA — when Boudreaux dropped the news on him.
“I never win anything. This is crazy,” he said. “It feels pretty awesome to win. I brought my buck in that I shot out of state that I wanted to get scored, and I ended up winning.”
Bennett used his bow to kill the 140-inch-plus deer in Davis County, Iowa. He, like all the category winners, also received a $250 gift card from Bowie Outfitters.
Dave Moreland, retired Louisiana Deer Program leader and master scorer, said that this year was one of the best ever, antler-wise.
“We've had a few more in years past, but there has never been this many record-book bucks,” he said.
Highlighting the Louisiana kills was Charlie Lusco's bruiser dropped in Madison Parish. The buck flirted with the all-time Louisiana record for a typical deer and grossed 187 ⅜, but deductions for lack of symmetry resulted in a final net score of 173 ⅜ and qualified it for the all-time Boone and Crockett record book.
The best Louisiana bow kill was Travis Links' 166 3/8 non-typical from West Feliciana.
As far as deer killed in Louisiana, there were 31 entries and 11 that scored 130 and higher, all of which qualify for the Louisiana Recognition Program, two that qualify for the Boone & Crockett All-Time Record Book and two for the Boone & Crockett Recognition Record Book.
“A look at the high scoring bucks and the location of kill points out the difference between habitat types in the state, and just how important nutrition is in growing trophy class deer,” Moreland said.
In the Ladies Division, Cheri Hillebrandt downed a Giles Island monster with a net of 177 and gross of 186 3/8 inches to take the top spot.
“It feels amazing to win,” she said. “I wasn't sure if I would because there were a lot of big deer, but I was she hoping so, and I did.”
Brad Naquin of Thibodaux killed a 163 3/8 in Kansas with his bow this past season, making him the winner of the Out-Of-State Bow Division.
“My taxidermist suggested that I enter the deer in the Big Buck Contest, so I did, and I was surprised I won because there are so many good deer here,” he said.
Tim Matthews of Hammond took first and second place in the Crossbow/Muzzleloader Division with his 159 3/8 and 133 1/8 kills from Missouri. He killed the deer from the same tree four days apart, and has punched a tag from that tree for the past three years.
“The first one was pure luck,” he said “I sat on the ground in the dark, then at 7:30 two coyotes came running by and I thought my hunt was spoiled. I stood up to walk back, then a big 13-pointer decided to start hooking trees behind me.”
But the biggest deer of the show wasn't killed by a hunter.
Bobby Hebert discovered the monster dead last summer in Wilkinson County, Miss. Its non-typical rack scored 187 2/8 and qualified for B&C recognition as a pickup trophy.
The complete list of category winners, their scores and kill locations are:
Louisiana - Gun Division
1) Charlie Lusco — 173 3/8 inches, typical (Madison Parish)
2) Hayden Cassels —171 4/8 inches, typical (Concordia Parish)
3) Chris Louviere — 162 6/8 inches, typical (Natchitoches Parish)
Louisiana - Bow Division
1) Travis Links — 166 3/8 inches, non-typical (West Feliciana Parish)
2) Chip Vosburg — 136 4/8 inches, typical (Pointe Coupee Parish)
3) Chris Gentry — 135 5/8 inches, typical (Avoyelles Parish)
Mississippi - Gun Division
1) Russell Delaughter — 151 7/8 inches, typical (Franklin County)
2) Kyle Ray —142 2/8 inches, typical (Claiborne County)
3) John Lefebvre — 141 6/8 inches, typical (Adams County)
Mississippi - Bow Division
1) Jared Trosclair —187 1/8 inches, non-typical
2) Neil Roper — 109 7/8 inches, typical
Out-of-State — Gun Division
1) Anthony Alford — 173 4/8 inches, typical (Kansas)
2) Jeff Housley —157 4/8 inches, typical (Kentucky)
3) Jimmy Grayson Jr. —146 inches, typical (Missouri)
Out-of-State — Bow Division
1) Brad Naquin —163 3/8 inches, typical (Kansas)
2) Rob Werner —151 6/8 inches, typical (South Dakota)
3) Kyle Bennett — 140 6/8 inches, typical (Iowa)
1) Cheri A. Hillebrandt — 177 inches, typical (Mississippi)
2) Glenda Alford — 162 5/8 inches, typical (Kansas)
3) Dayna Yeldell — 185 6/8 inches, typical (Kansas)
1) Cammie D'Amico — 141 7/8 inches, typical (East Feliciana Parish)
2) Eli Fuselier — 135 5/8 inches, typical (Alabama)
3) Bennett Eichorn — 133 6/8 inches, typical (Mississippi)
1) Tim Matthews — 159 5/8 inches, typical (Missouri)
2) Tim Matthews — 133 1/8 inches, typical (Missouri)
3) Nick Louque — 128 1/8 inches, typical (Kansas)