Mossy Oak’s Ronnie Strickland Says Not to Lose Your Mind in a Tree Stand
Editor’s Note: Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland videoed for Mossy Oak and Primos Hunting for some years. Today, Ronnie, “Cuz” Strickland is Mossy Oak’s vice president in charge of television and video production. Strickland probably has filmed more TV shows and videos about hunting and the outdoors than anyone in the industry. Currently he’s responsible for producing 5 TV shows, including “Hunting the Country”, “Deer Thugs”, “Turkey Thugs”, “Inside the Obsession”, and “Game Keepers,” as well as all the videos that Mossy Oak produces. Strickland has hunted all over the nation and all over the world with celebrities and everyday hunters and has seen about everything that can happen in the woods. We’ve asked Strickland to tell us about some of the funniest and strangest hunts he’s been on while hunting across the country.
I grew up hunting in the Homochitto National Forest near my home in Natchez, Mississippi, at the Sandy Creek Wildlife Management area. The first food plot I ever had seen was at that WMA. Back then, I didn’t know what a food plot was. The main reason they had planted this food plot was because the conservation department needed a place to trap turkeys to relocate them to other areas of the state.
One morning, I went to that food plot and found a deer trail leading into the food plot. I had bought one of the first tree stands ever made – a Baker tree stand. I climbed-up a tree with my Baker tree stand, before daylight. As daylight brightened up the green field, I spotted another hunter walking across the end of the green field who apparently had come in the night before and set-up his tree stand. As I watched, he climbed-up into his tree stand. I thought to myself. “Well, that guy isn’t bothering me, so I’m not going to bother him.” This hunter was hunting with a recurve bow. As I watched through my binoculars, he spotted an 8-point buck that had about a15-inch inside spread of the main beams. I watched as the hunter drew that recurve and shot the buck. The buck came toward me, before suddenly falling over dead. I couldn’t believe I just had watched a fellow shoot a buck on this green field. I used my binoculars to look back up at the bowhunter in the tree. But instead of climbing down his ladder, he walked out of the tree stand and fell to the ground. I quickly climbed down from my stand, went to where the hunter was on the ground and realized he had a broken leg. Luckily we weren’t far from the shed where the game warden stayed, and he and I loaded the hunter in the back of the game warden’s truck and took him to get medical assistance. I couldn’t believe that hunter had gotten so excited about taking that buck with his bow that he forgot where he was and that he had to climb down a ladder. He just walked right off the end of the tree stand to go recover his deer. This was one of the strangest things I ever had seen in my life.
There have been plenty of times where people get so excited about critters coming in or animals they’ve taken that they do crazy things. You have to remember. This time was long before the days of tree stand harnesses, and climbing tree stands just had been invented.
I always tell the hunters I hunt with that as soon as they take their shots to sit tight. Don’t jump, and run to anything. Many times, you may be sitting or standing in a place, and your legs have gone to sleep. If you get excited, because you’ve taken a big buck or a gobbler that has been coming to you for a long time, then if you get up to run to the gobbler or to go look at the deer you’ve just shot, your legs may not work.
Anytime we’re hunting from a tree stand, I always advise and insist that the hunters I’m with wear a safety harness. If we’re hunting from the ground, I insist that they take a minute to get over the excitement of harvesting the animal or missing the animal, and make sure all their body parts work, before they try and recover the animal. Even today, I can close my eyes and in my mind see that bowhunter walk off the end of his tree stand, without ever thinking there may be a hard lick to take at the bottom of that tree.