Seeing deer cross a road at a particular spot on more than one occasion on Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge was all John Michael Benoit needed to know when choosing where he wanted to set-up and hunt.
It was a hunch that paid off in spades when the Dry Prong hunter arrowed a symmetrical 10-point buck on the Avoyelles Parish NWR on Dec. 28 that green-scored 172 6/8 inches Pope & Young.
“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,” Benoit said. “I told my hunting buddies the next time we hunted the refuge, just let me out right there.”
Benoit works in the oil and gas industry, and because of the downturn, has been off for several weeks. While a steady paycheck has been missed, he was given a golden opportunity to do some serious deer hunting during time away from work.
He hunts exclusively with a Hoyt Carbon Element bow and VAP arrows tipped with Rage Extreme 2.3 broadheads.
“My partners and I hunted that Monday, Dec. 28, 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,” Benoit said.
That afternoon, he got on his stand around 3 and an hour later, a small 8-point buck appeared.
“I planned to try for the 8-point but could never get a good enough chance at him,” Benoit said. “Less than an hour later, though, 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.”
In an attempt to attract the big buck’s attention, Benoit blew on his grunt call and then heard something behind him. Looking around, he saw a doe.
“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.”
Benoit drew his bow as the deer made a turn quartering away.
“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,” he said.
The deer ran 50 yards or so into the tall grass, and Benoit watched it stumble and fall.
“It was just like you see them do on the TV hunting shows. 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 said.
Indeed, the buck lying at his feet was impressive. Weighing 200 pounds, the buck sported 10 points with a spread of 18 ¾ inches. Main beams were more than 21 inches each, with impressive mass over the entire rack, which Benoit’s taxidermist measured at 172 6/8 inches.
Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways and the random drawing for Nikon optics at the end of the contest.
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.