Editor’s Note: The sport of turkey hunting will continue if each of us dedicates ourselves to teaching the next generation (including our children and our grandchildren). Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, vice president of Mossy Oak Television and Video Production, says, “Turkey hunting trips with my grandchildren are some of my best turkey hunts ever.” To understand why, we asked Cuz to tell us all how he’s training his grandchildren to turkey hunt. Cuz always has been a turkey hunter and has hunted the birds for 45 years. He also has filmed turkey hunts for Will Primos and the “Truth Series of Turkey Hunting” videos. When Cuz came to work for Mossy Oak, he filmed television and video shows for Mossy Oak, he did much of the calling, scouting and setting-up for the people in the videos, and he guided customers and the press to turkeys. Cuz may have hunted and called in more turkeys than anyone else ever.
The first stage that a hunter goes through, especially a turkey hunter, is to bag that first bird. The second stage is he wants to harvest so-many birds he can’t load them all in the back of his or her pickup truck. The third stage is he wants to harvest the biggest gobbler that’s ever been taken or perhaps take a Grand Slam or a World Slam. And, the fourth stage in turkey hunting is who you really are. Until you reach that fourth stage of hunting turkeys, you may not be willing to give up 4-5 of your Saturdays to go turkey hunting to take your children or grandchildren. You have to be willing to give up your form of turkey hunting and make that youngster more important than bagging a gobbler.
After the hunt, going to Joe’s Cafe for breakfast and talking about how much fun you’ve had and what all you both saw and heard may become as much fun as squeezing the trigger and taking the turkey. I like to spend the whole day with my grandchildren when we go turkey hunting. I want to make them feel they’re important to their granddad, and I want them to have a good time whether we take a turkey or not. I don’t keep my grandchildren in the woods all day long; I don’t want to wear them out. I want to leave the woods with them wanting to come hunting again, and more importantly, wanting to be with me. After we eat breakfast, I may take them to Walmart and buy them a toy.
When my grandchildren go home, I want them to go in and tell their mothers and daddies, “I want to go hunting with Pop again; when can I go?” I want to accomplish two things when I take a youngster turkey hunting. I want him or her to have a great time and want to go back turkey hunting tomorrow; and more importantly, I want him to have a great time with me and want to spend time with me the next time I’m there.
I really believe that you and the youngster have the most fun turkey hunting by the time you already have come through the first three stages of turkey hunting: you know you can take a wild turkey gobbler; you know you can take a pickup truck full of gobblers; and you’ve either taken the biggest tom you’ve ever taken, completed a Grand Slam or somehow achieved most or all of the goals you’ve set out for yourself when you’ve first started turkey hunting. Usually at that point, you’re ready to share a hunt with a young person. Making sure they have a good time turkey hunting becomes more important.