MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Larry Benoit, a deer hunter who helped spawn a revival of the art of tracking and created an empire of books, videos and seminars, has died. He was 89.
Benoit, whose given name was Lanyard, died Tuesday at his home in Duxbury at 89. The cause of death was not released, but his son Shane said his father's health had been declining.
In the past 40 years, the name Benoit has become synonymous with deer hunting and the bagging of huge bucks, many weighing more than 200 pounds. During a lifetime of hunting, his family estimated, Benoit shot at least 200 bucks.
"He has been my hero since I was 12 or 13," said Scott Smolen, 56, a farmer from Mondovi, Wis., who invited Benoit to hunt his farm last November, when Benoit shot his last buck. Smolen first came to know Benoit by buying hunting supplies from him.
"In my opinion," Smolen said, "he was the greatest deer hunter that ever walked the face of the Earth."
The Benoit name moved beyond just the local hunters of central Vermont after a local photographer and author noticed that during every autumn's hunting season, several large deer would be hanging outside the Benoit home along Route 100 just outside Waterbury.
"People just couldn't believe that we could successfully keep shooting huge bucks every year," Shane Benoit said Friday.
Peter Miller, the photographer and author, worked with the hunter to produce the first Benoit hunting book, "How to Bag the Biggest Buck of Your Life," published in 1975. A hardcover version of the book is still in print.
Since then, most of the publishing has been done by Benoit's children, also accomplished deer hunters. A website, benoitsbigbucks.com, offers videos, books and hunting gear, and even deer rifles autographed by Larry Benoit and three of his sons.
Over a quarter-century, Benoit and some of his sons gave hunting seminars across the country.
Shane Benoit said his is a long line of successful deer hunters, a trait he attributes to his Native American ancestry and his family's ability to read the tracks deer leave in the woods.
"Tracking was unheard of as a lost art, except in our family," Benoit said. "Now you've got thousands of hunters who track deer."
The key to tracking is to be able to read the signs.
"When he's walking, he's telling you everything that he's doing," Benoit said. "It's all in the feet."
Larry Benoit was born in East Berkshire in 1924, not far from the Canadian border. When not hunting, he worked in construction, which frequently ensured Novembers were free to hunt.
Benoit's wife of 66 years, Iris, died in 2008. Survivors include eight children. Services will be private.