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Cuz and Lauran Strickland Celebrate High School Graduation on a South Dakota Turkey Hunt


Editor’s Note: For those of us who have a passion for hunting, we almost have an obsession to pass our love of the sport on to the next generation to help them find the joy, the excitement and the soul-soothing salve that comes from a life spent in the wild. Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland passes on his obsession with the outdoors to his children.

I took my youngest daughter, Lauran, to South Dakota, to try and take a Merriam’s turkey, for her senior trip after graduation from high school. One of the things I like about South Dakota is the ground is flat. Where we were hunting had very-little vegetation, and we could see the turkeys at great distances. Lauran and I spotted two turkeys in the area where we were hunting. We went around the hill behind the birds and found a ditch that would allow us to move unseen in close enough to the gobblers to call to them. When we reached the end of the ditch, there was a big pasture off to our right and a huge cottonwood tree off to our left. I whispered to Lauran, “That cottonwood tree is a good place for us to take a stand and try and call those turkeys.” I didn’t even call to those turkeys to see if they would gobble back to me. I just felt that if we could be hidden by that cottonwood tree, I could call in those birds. 

CuzAdventures5_llI put Lauran on the front side of the tree, and I got behind her, took out my tube turkey call and started yelping. As we watched, we could see both turkeys gobble at about 180-yards away. I thought those two gobblers would come running in to us in the hopes that one of the gobblers would get to the hen (me actually calling like a hen turkey) before the other one did. But instead, both gobblers went into full strut, hoping by showing off how big and proud they were, the hen would pick one of them to go on a date. Those two birds put on a show that I never will forget and neither will Lauran. When the two turkeys came within gun range, they were so close, I knew if Lauran shot she would kill both of them. But she held her shot like a veteran turkey hunter and waited for the turkeys to separate. When one of the birds stuck his head straight-up to look for the hen, Lauran took him. I remember how proud I was that she had waited like an old pro for the turkey to do what he needed to do for her to get the shot. 

Then after the hunt, we went to Mount Rushmore and visited many historical sites in the Black Hills. We named the show about the destination. The show was as much about the destination as it was about Lauran taking her first turkey. It was a show about family hunting, television, Mossy Oak and the outdoors. This show created one of those lifelong memories that I will be able to take to my grave. 

Day 4: Ronnie Strickland Tells About Tom Kelly and “An Afternoon on the Handles”

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