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 videoed 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, once shot tournament archery and is a PSE Pro Staffer.
I framed-up the camera after Matt said he was ready to shoot the crossbow then focused on Matt and his task. I had taken his little deer drawing and taped it to the inside wall of the blind. He could look at the deer and then the drawing with the X drawn right behind the shoulder. He did that a couple of times and whispered, “Pop, I can shoot him right there.” I leaned over, so I could see he was indeed on the doe and told him, “Whenever you’re ready, squeeze the trigger on the crossbow.” I pushed the safety off the crossbow and watched almost in disbelief as the arrow disappeared right behind the doe’s shoulder, pretty much exactly where the X on the drawing was. “Pop, I got him! I did it!” Matt yelled.
I was sure I heard the doe crash just inside the wood line but made Matt sit there, while I explained why we waited after the shot, and what we looked and listened for, doing my best to hide my own excitement. Deep down I knew he had made a perfect shot and taken his first deer on his very-first hunt.
What happened next was truly the most-priceless part of that day. I had turned the camera off after filming his reaction and his thoughts. After a few minutes of silence, Matt said, “Pop, I think we should say a prayer, so we can find my deer.” We took off our hats, and I’ll never forget this simple prayer from my 6-year-old new deer hunter, “God, please let me find this deer. Have a good week. Amen.” I almost cried.
We left the blind and went to where the deer had been standing, and Matt spotted blood and took to the trail like he had recovered hundreds of arrow-hit whitetails. “Here’s some blood; here’s some, Pop. She went this way,” he said. I’m sure my grin looked like a crescent moon. I was so happy and proud. Then Matt lost the blood on the edge of the plot and told me, “Pop, I think the deer is lost.” I suggested he retrace his steps, while I walked just a few yards into the woods and saw the doe no more than 20-yards away. By then Matt’s dad was there. We put Matt back on the blood trail, and he found his deer.
Then our family enjoyed a time of sheer joy for a long while after that. Matt’s mom, his grandmother, his little brother and his pet Lab Lucky all celebrated what was supposed to be a dry-run practice hunt. He stood next to his dad and me while we skinned and butchered the doe and asked questions about the process. I’m convinced that Matt will be a hunter for life, but more importantly he understands why we hunt.