Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland: the Greatest Dove Hunt Ever
Editor’s Note: Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland of West Point, Mississippi, is a legend in the outdoors. Cuz started his outdoor career as an outdoor editor for the Natchez, Miss. newspaper. Then when the world discovered video, Cuz was a cameraman and vidiot for Primos Game Calls. Today, Cuz is vice president of Mossy Oak television and video productions. Cuz has been a bowhunter for as long as he can remember and once shot tournament archery.
The first weekend in September is always a historic event for my family, the Mossy Oak Company and every hunter in the State of Mississippi, because this is the opening weekend of dove season. Doves in my part of the world (Mississippi) are a hit-or-miss proposition. You can have thousands of doves on the field the day before opening weekend. Then when all the hunters show up, you only may see a few. But that’s okay with me, because a dove hunt is more of a social event than it is a hunting event. As bad as I want to have doves for the people who hunt with me, and as hard as I work planting crops and preparing the fields, sometimes we have doves on opening weekend, and sometimes we don’t. I've planted everything from sunflowers, corn, milo, wheat and anything I can think of or that someone has suggested for doves.
One thing that has helped me to have more consistency in my dove hunts I learned from Toxey Haas, the founder of Mossy Oak’s Dad - Mr. Fox. He taught me that most people don’t start planting agriculture for doves very long before dove season arrives. Most people who prepare a dove field will just go out and disc the ground, throw out some wheat and then cover it up. But Mr. Fox begins planting and preparing his dove fields in the late spring or early summer. He believes that by starting early to prepare a dove field that he can get resident doves to start utilizing the field long before the season arrives. Many doves will nest around the field and raise one or possibly two families of doves that also will feed in the field.
One year I worked all summer long planting millet, corn and wheat. I had a pond on both ends of the field. The doves could water in the ponds, especially in the heat of the summer, which in Mississippi often lasts until Thanksgiving. I saw a lot of doves coming into the field before the first weekend of the hunt. On opening weekend, we had numbers of doves for the hunters who came to shoot, but I didn’t fire a shot.
For some reason, every year when I have my dove hunt, 99 percent of the people who come – both friends and family - wear Mossy Oak’s original Bottomland pattern and have on short- sleeved t-shirts and 6-pocket pants. I've been wearing Mossy Oak since 1988. At my house, Bottomland seems to be everybody’s favorite pattern.
The best dove hunt I’ve ever been on in my life was a dove hunt with my grandchildren. I had three grandchildren in my Polaris riding around the field with me, checking on hunters and handing out ice water. I had shady spots for my wife and daughters where I thought they might be able to shoot a lot. Both grandsons and my granddaughter all three had BB guns. Before the hunt, I bought a big package of balloons. I went up in the woods and put those balloons on different trees. After we passed out water, I’d pull up to my 3D balloon course and let the children shoot at and bust the balloons. After they popped all the balloons, we’d go back to the dove field, check on the dove hunters and offer them more water, if they wanted it. This dove hunt was the best I’d ever been on in my life, and I didn’t fire a shot. To me, dove season is about friends and family and sometimes shooting doves.