Editor’s Note: Ronnie Strickland of Mossy Oak probably has spent as many or more days in the woods hunting and videoing hunts as anyone in the outdoor industry today. Through his long career, he has had hundreds and possibly thousands of memorable hunts. So, we’ve asked him to tell us about four of those hunts, for the next 4 days.
The most-memorable turkey hunt that comes to mind first is a hunt I went on with the “Catch a Dream Foundation,” and a young man named Ryan Welch. “Catch a Dream” is an organization that takes seriously-ill children on whatever type of event the child wants to attend in the outdoors. Ryan’s dream was to go on a turkey hunt with either me or Will Primos. Ryan had a brain tumor and had quite a few medical issues. So, I took Ryan, his dad and his little brother on a turkey hunt to Texas, because generally, hunting Rio Grande turkeys in Texas is much easier than hunting Eastern turkeys in Mississippi. I wanted to make sure this young man got his turkey. When we got to Texas, rain came down every day of our hunt. The weather was the worst I ever had seen. Texas was not supposed to have repeated days of rain. One thing I never had done was pray that I would take an animal. But on the last day of this hunt, I silently went to that secret place inside my soul and prayed, “God, I can use a little help on this hunt. This hunt is not about me; it is about Ryan.” I have never put more pressure on myself to produce a game animal than I felt the last day of this hunt. Finally, the clouds rolled away, and the sunshine peeped its smiling face through the thunder heads.
As the sun began to illuminate the day, we spotted two turkeys out in the field a good ways off. I pulled off the road and took out my binoculars. I saw that both turkeys were mature gobblers. I kept going down the road and made a loop to get in close to the turkeys, so they couldn’t see us. We got set-up to call to the turkeys. Ryan was only 8-years old. I had him sit between my legs and lean back against my chest, so I could help him control his gun and coach him through the taking of the shot, if we were so lucky. Because of the surgery Ryan had had, he had to shoot right-handed and aim with his left eye. I had put a red dot scope on the shotgun to help him aim better and faster. The first time I yelped on my tube turkey call, the turkeys gobbled and started moving toward us. The weather had turned off really hot, and we could see steam coming up from the ground, after the rain.
As the turkeys came in, Ryan whispered, “I can feel your heart beating.” I was much-more nervous and excited than Ryan was. As we waited for the turkeys to come in, Ryan never moved. He was like a granite rock. We had started calling him Rock, because of his ability to sit so still, when we set-up on turkeys. Due to his surgery, his equilibrium was messed-up, and I would have to help him over rocks and crossing ditches. But when he sat down to wait on a turkey, he was rock-solid. We all realized an 8-year old would have a tough time sitting that still. So, I think that’s why that nickname stuck with him. As the two gobblers came in, Ryan picked out the one he wanted to take. He aimed carefully and waffled him. The bird went down instantly. That hunt was probably the most-difficult and emotionally-challenging hunt I ever had been on in my life, and one of the most-memorable hunts in my hunting and videoing career.