Who Is the Best Deer Hunter in America?

Posted on January 7, 2020



Oh, such an enviable title.



In case you were wondering, it’s not you! Okay, who might it be then? Lamar Underwood, former editor of Sports Afield, was no fool when he came up with this cover theme and question that appeared 50 years ago in the September 1970 issue: “Is Larry Benoit the Best Deer Hunter in America?” Beyond angering, humoring, intriguing and/or agitating a good part of the audience, it touched on a nerve that would cause those interested to pay to find out. Lamar didn’t know Benoit; he only knew magazine sales. Peter Miller, the author who pitched and wrote the article knew Benoit, but he was essentially out to make a buck and a name for himself. And whether or not Larry was the best didn’t really matter at all, as it was impossible to prove or refute. And hence, a larger-than-life figure was hatched.

Ego is huge. It plagues many in so many areas of life. It is the detestable prideful nature that got Satan tossed from heaven. “How you are fallen from heaven…You said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God, I will set my throne on high…I will make myself like the Most High,” writes Isaiah the prophet. This quest for meteoric rise to renown has become quite prevalent within the deer hunting rank and file. For some, the hubris is palpable! Deer hunting is a wholesome activity that too often devolves into middle-school antics, bragging rights, machismo, and a whole host of other unpleasant exchanges. Some who believe or are led to believe that they have reached a deer hunting pinnacle of success feel the need for recognition. They love, absorb and crave the new-found attention; all beginning stages of the disease. Nobody was kind enough to clue them in that someone has already done it and probably better, or at least will. Their narcissistic navel gazing has blurred an otherwise rational vision of themselves.



It’s been said, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Unfortunately, in far too many instances the legend gets printed short of the facts. You see, just because something is written or spoken doesn’t necessarily make it true. Editors, at least some have been notorious for being what they themselves have coined ‘king makers’, using writers to accomplish their goals. And while sensationalism may sell copies, it doesn’t make anyone great, public perception be what it may. After all, hunting accomplishments should be measured by real achievement, not hyperbole.

We also need to be careful in an era when everyone seems to be a publisher without anybody being an editor. When this becomes the norm, driven primarily by social media, truth and fact are easily overshadow and compromised with embellishments and self-propaganda.

Have we lost our perspective with deer hunting as it now becomes a swank activity to bolster one’s self-esteem and catapult an otherwise shallow life into celebrity status?

Why the need for fame in the name of deer hunting? Why would someone aspire to be in the pages of a magazine in order to say, “I’m listed among the top deer hunters”? Are they truly the best deer hunters or just the most prolific? Why should that list matter?



Everyone has an ego, in some form or fashion. And it’s perfectly acceptable to have one’s vanity feathered now and again. It’s just natural to feel a sense of accomplishment when what you’ve worked hard for comes to fruition. It gets scary when that pride is left un-checked allowing an ego to spin out of control. Once this begins all principles go out the window, one after another.

With just over 11 million deer hunters in this country, the jealousy, envy, infighting and tribalism that permeates the red coat community strikes me as ridiculous. When considering the world’s best authors, literary geniuses, medical discoverers, economic intellectuals and so many other highly successful professionals – people stretching our wildest imaginations – how on this man’s planet can deer hunting achievements even begin to compare with these accomplishments? Not that we should be making comparisons, I only mention this to reveal how small we are to garner feelings of superiority.



We often like to compare ourselves to other people because it makes us look and feel better about ourselves. And the more attention that is received, the smarter that person believes they are. A good comparative would be LeBron James with his feeble attempt to weigh in on a GM’s tweet regarding the ongoing riots in Hong Kong. Because James has such a high opinion of himself and has real basketball talent, he apparently thinks he can, with intellect, weigh in on such affairs with authority. Perhaps he should stick with what he does best, play a game and leave heavier matters to those who specialize in such affairs.

All of a sudden, like LeBron, self-inflated deer hunters become experts on all matters, insisting on the final word on any deer related conversation. So, the real question is, why? Why do we do what we do when it comes to this recreational sport known to us as deer hunting? What is our ultimate motivation? Is it because it becomes a natural outlet, a diversion, a fun enjoyable time, or is it to build a pillar of honor to our self? Is it now our identity?

In a recent article by Jeff Johnston in Petersen’s Hunting titled, Self-Help for Trophy Hunters, Don’t Let Deer Take Over Your Life, deer hunter Bob was interviewed regarding his relentless pursuit of whitetails. Jeff tells us that after passing up deer others would be happy to shoot, “ Bob sits solitary in cold metal stands each day, waiting for a buck that will meet his definition of a “shooter,” though there may not be such a deer in the country. Overall, it’s still fun for Bob – or else he wouldn’t do it – but he also admits this behavior could be perceived as more addiction than passion. He contends it’s less about killing a big deer than it is accomplishing a goal.”
And if you believe that last sentence, I’ve got some prime real estate to sell you. Of course, it’s about killing the big deer! It’s about the ego. How long do you think it will take Bob to get the hero shot with the big deer onto some social media site?

Johnston continues writing, “Bob’s home life becomes strained if he doesn’t kill the deer he’s after. Not hunting isn’t an option; it’s part of his DNA and his happiness. But he can’t shoot smaller bucks that don’t excite him, either. No one is feeling sorry for Bob, but it’s a real issue for some of us, which begs the question; Do we get so obsessed with big deer that we’re missing the point of deer hunting?”

When the fun leaves and your pursuit of glory intercedes; that is when deer hunting gets tipped on its head. I want to excel. Why? Because of personal satisfaction or for the glorious recognition of others? “I need to shoot a buck.” “I need to shoot one bigger than…” “I need to shoot a big buck every year in order to continue building my tower of glory.” The longer this line of thought continues, the more deception is ushered in. Once the line of compromised integrity is crossed, it becomes easier and easier with each instance. I have to do it bigger and better; I’ve got to outdo myself in order to satisfy those who may be following me. No matter how the story line is engineered, anything goes to make it actually happen.



Abraham Lincoln astutely wrote, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” It will undoubtedly catch up to you.

Consider all of my followers who I think I’m all that and a bag of chips. I’ve exceeded X amount of Facebook friends, and each time I communicate, the likes just keep adding up. Do I need this? Do I crave this? Does this define my self-worth? Guess what, it will never be enough, regardless of what heights you may get to, however you get to them, truthfully or otherwise.

“As a kid, I piled up the stats and carved notches in my belt with the best,” writes Roger Page in a recent article, What My Grandfather Must Have Known. “I’m guessing my grandfather would have recognized and gently pointed out my shortsightedness, but by the time I began, he was already gone. It took me longer than it should to fully appreciate and respect that animals exist as more than targets. They live, breathe, function purposefully, socialize and sure as sin understand the ramifications of predation.” Roger goes on to write, “Perspective is easy to lose control of, but easy to regain if you are willing.” Sadly, many today are not willing.



Thus, in the end it must be asked, who are we really kidding? A few followers that probably don’t know any better? Ourselves? And for what, something that will never outlive us? Be satisfied with the piece of pie you’ve been allotted. Don’t plot, scheme, besmirch others and scratch your way to places you have no business being. It is one thing to aspire to perform with as much perfection as possible, as King Solomon wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” However, when envy, strife and jealousy begin oozing out, the picture tends to get ugly. When the principals that were once easy to live up to are now blurred, the problem has gotten out of control. In the end, what does it matter? Does anyone believe they can match Meshach Browning’s deer kill statistics of over 2,000 deer in a lifetime?

Underwood’s pretensive question of, “Is Larry Benoit the best deer hunter in America?” cannot be answered because there is no measuring stick. The inquiry could also go, “Would Milo Hanson be the best deer hunter in North America due to him shooting the current reining Boone & Crocket typical whitetail?” Of course not. In the end, it is all subjective, and at best adds to nothing more than personal bragging rights.



Who is the best deer hunter in America? Not you, not me, nor anyone else for that matter. There is no best deer hunter in America, nor has there ever been or will there ever be, period. To suggest differently is only to propagandize and feed someone’s fragile ego. Here is the end of the matter: get over yourself and be the best ‘you’ you can possibly be.


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Posted in: Whitetail Deer