The astounding ability of a whitetail deer to take a bullet or an arrow is well-known, and most hunters are familiar with stories of animals who run for seemingly impossible distances, some never to be seen again — even with well-placed ‘kill’ shots.
But every once in a while, one animal vividly demonstrates a deer’s uncanny ability to survive and even thrive against incredible odds, as well as its amazing ability to heal.
That’s where Mandy Benoit’s tough-as-nails 8-pointer comes in.
And while you’ll certainly come across bucks with wider bodies and more impressive racks, you might have to search long and hard to find one with a bigger will to live than ‘Tripod.’
Benoit hunts with her husband, Paul, on a private lease near Georgetown in Grant Parish, and word spread in the area after a popular buck seen on cameras for a couple of years got hit in its back right leg earlier this season during an October youth hunt.
“They saw him kick, and they put a dog on him, and they never saw the dog or the deer again,” she said.
Then, during the first week of November, Benoit forwarded some of the pictures from her trail cam to Paul, who works offshore. Although the buck’s rear legs weren’t visible, he thought he recognized the 8-point’s rack.
“He said, ‘Mandy, I’m telling you that’s that big deer,’” Benoit said. “And sure enough it was.”
The buck’s entire rear right leg was gone, but he had survived the October bullet and seemed to be feeding and getting along okay.
Fast-forward to Saturday morning, Nov. 22, with Benoit in her box stand hunting over three separate lanes surrounded by dense hardwoods.
At about 7 a.m. almost 200 yards from her stand, the very first deer of the day was Tripod - but Benoit didn’t know it yet because the deer was moving right to left across her lane.
“I had just clicked off the safety and he took off in the woods, so I couldn’t tell he was missing a leg,” she said.
A doe and yearling followed behind Tripod minutes later, and made their way through the woods and eventually into the second shooting lane straight down from Benoit’s stand.
She was temporarily distracted by four coyotes cavorting in the lane to her left, but eventually saw the doe and yearling cross the front lane again and head back the way they came.
“Two minutes later that buck crossed the same lane. He wasn’t running but he was walking fast,” she said. “This time, I could see him. I said, ‘That’s the big buck with no leg.’”
Assuming the three deer would follow their earlier trail to her right, Benoit got ready — only to find a lone coyote in the lane where she was sure the deer were heading.
“I thought about it and I had him in my crosshairs, so I said, ‘You know, what the heck? I’m going to shoot it.
“So I shot the coyote and he fell right there, right where the feed was.”
Thinking she might have just ruined her chance at seeing Tripod again, she called Paul to talk it over.
“He said, ‘Patience, Mandy, patience. If he’s chasing that doe, he’s not worried about the coyote. Just stay in your stand, be patient and watch that right side.’”
Sure enough, about 15 minutes later, all three deer appeared — and ran across the lane without stopping.
Benoit had now seen the buck three separate times without getting off a single shot.
But drilling the coyote had given her a boost of confidence, and Tripod decided to come out one more time - more than three hours after she saw him the first time that morning.
The yearling and doe stepped back in the lane about 10:30, and Benoit was ready with her Ruger .308 when the buck appeared at about 125 yards.
“I put my gun up, because I said, ‘He’s chasing her.’ As soon as I did, he walked out and he was walking toward the coyote away from me,” she said. “I made a noise, and he stopped and turned, and when he turned, I got him.
“He fell right there.”
The cat-and-mouse game with Tripod was finally over, and so was the nearly two-year pursuit of a buck Benoit had spent lots of time hunting.
“I tell you, I hunted him hard. We have lots of pictures of him and he was always by my stand,” she said. “I bowhunted a lot, too — mornings and afternoons. I was after him.”
Her first wallhanger is special in many ways, but will always be a reminder of a tough buck with an amazing drive to survive.
“That just amazes me. Where his leg fell off, it was healing up. It was still oozing a little bit, but it was starting to heal over,” Benoit said. “To this day, it’s just crazy.
“Seeing a wounded deer chasing a doe just weeks after being shot, it just amazed me. I’m still excited about it.”
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.