Editor’s Note: Strickland 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 three more of those hunts, for the next 3 days.
Over my entire lifetime, the TV show I have had the most comments about was a show I did with Toxey Haas, the founder of Mossy Oak, that we titled “The Water Buck.” This was back during the time when we didn’t have sophisticated camera equipment like we have today and probably was one of the first hunts I filmed with Toxey. We were hunting near Columbus, Mississippi. We had not seen a deer in 3 days. On the fourth morning, when we got up to get ready to go hunting, the weather was so cold we hardly could breathe. We had discovered a funnel area that necked-down a woodlot and led to a creek crossing where we had seen a lot of deer tracks. Before we got in our stand, we noticed that ice had formed along the edge of the creek. Toxey said, “Cuz, I believe we are going to get us a buck this morning. But what if I shoot a buck, and it goes out in the water?” I looked Toxey square in the eye and announced, “Toxey, I don’t believe we are going to see a deer as cold as it is, but if you shoot a buck, and he goes out in that water, I will go get him.” I felt sure we wouldn’t see a deer, because we had not seen a deer in 3 days. Then on that day, we had the worst possible weather we could have. So, I wasn’t concerned at all about getting wet.
We were sitting in our treestands whispering this quiet conversation. Before my last words, “I’ll go get him,” fell silent, we both spotted a nice 7-point mature, actually older buck, coming our way. As the buck got closer, Toxey came to full draw. When the deer was within range, Toxey released the arrow. The arrow flew true and hit the buck right behind the front shoulder. When the buck took the arrow, he jumped, tried to run and got tangled-up in some vines. Breaking through the vines, the buck ran full speed right out to the middle of that water. We were both excited. We got fantastic video, and we had a great TV show.
But, I remembered my promise to Toxey. As soon as I stopped rolling video, I let my camera down from the tree, set it on the ground, took off my clothes down to my long johns (union suit) and removed my shoes and socks. I entered the water barefoot and started wading out into that icy water to recover Toxey’s deer. I never will forget how cold that water was. I got the deer and was dragging him back to the bank when I looked up and saw Toxey with a video camera. I didn’t know Toxey even knew how to turn on a video camera, and I was pretty sure he didn’t know how to shoot video with it. But as luck would have it, he captured my entire underwear deer-recovery adventure. Even today, when I meet people for the first time, they often will say, “I know you. You’re the fellow who went wading out in the water in the freezing cold in your underwear to bring Toxey’s deer back to the bank.” As long as I have lived, that video has been the most-embarrassing thing I ever have done. When we put the video together, Toxey reminded me, “We want to tell the whole story.” I knew he was right. I can honestly say that was the coolest hunt ever for me.