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.
I started bowhunting when I was 12-years old. By the time I was full grown, I had taken a ton of whitetails with my bow, but I’d never had the opportunity to go elk hunting which was one of my dreams. I know many hunters dream of going to Africa and taking a Cape buffalo, an elephant or a lion with their bows. But for me, taking a bull elk that would weigh from 600 to 800 pounds or more was just about as high as you could climb as a bowhunter.
I remember the first elk I got to shoot at with my bow. He was down in a draw. We were up above him, and the wind was in our favor. We had what I considered to be the perfect set-up. We had been walking a switchback trail, which was a trail that went back and forth across the side of the mountain and allowed you to get to the top of the mountain without having to go up a steep grade from the bottom to the top of the mountain. Will Primos and I spotted the elk walking up the switchback trail down below us. Will was behind me cow calling to the elk. As the elk stared coming up the trail, I knew I was only minutes or seconds away from fulfilling my dream of a lifetime - shooting a bull elk with my bow.
Back in those days, I had a calf’s hair tab that I put on the string of my bow. I was shooting with just my fingers (no mechanical release). Then I also had the biggest broadhead you could buy– a Jerry Simmons Interceptor broadhead. The whole time the elk was coming up that switchback trail, I was saying, “This bow is heavy enough, the broadhead is big enough, and I can shoot accurately enough,” that taking this bull elk would be easy. But as I watched, the elk got as excited about meeting the cow that he heard calling to him, as I was about shooting the elk. So, instead of coming up the switchback trail like he was supposed to, he stared galloping straight up the mountain. He kind of had to jump to get up to a spot where he could see the cow he’d been talking to, and just before he started running up the hill, I could see steam coming off him. Finally, the bull took two or three steps and made a giant leap. When that big old critter jumped right up on the bank where we were, I was at full draw. When I saw how big that elk was, I let the arrow fly. I didn’t look at the sight pin, and I didn’t look at the place I wanted to hit. I completely lost my mind. I didn’t know where the arrow went, but I did know quickly where it didn’t go. The arrow didn’t go in the elk. I choked. Finally, I heard the arrow rattle downhill. I assumed I’d shot well over the elk. I would’ve bet you $100 that I would be the last hunter on earth to get buck fever and choke when I had a shot on a big bull elk. However, when that elk landed about 25 or 30 yards from me, he looked huge. I shot about 5 feet over his back.
This was probably the most-humbling experience I’d ever been through as long as I had been hunting. I had arrowed some really nice white-tailed bucks. Even as a kid, I never got buck fever, but this big old elk really shook me up. I guess the moral of the story is if you miss a big elk this year with your bow or your rifle, you're in the same fraternity with me. I’ve missed them too.