Ronnie "Cuz" Strickland | May 04, 2010
I’ve been hosting hunting camps for Mossy Oak for over 20 years; after all, there is no better setting in which to get to know someone than hunting camp. This spring, turkey camp was certainly different than those of the past. Along with two Mossy Oak Productions’ field producers, I would spend a quick 36 hours with Fred Diaz, CEO of Ram trucks and a new hero of mine. Hero is a strong term, so let me elaborate.
I have had four Ram trucks over the years and have always been a fan of the Ram brand. No, they have never asked me to endorse the trucks or paid me anything, even though I keep mine in front of thousands of TV viewers each week on one or more of our Mossy Oak television productions. I love the trucks and I suspect that I have depended on mine more than the average truck buyer. My current 2007 Ram Mega Cab has 158,000 miles behind it, much of that hauling ATV’s on unpaved roads and such.
As far as Fred Diaz—I was lucky enough to meet him on a visit to Ram in Detroit, Michigan, and during our visit he talked to us about Ram trucks, what they are doing to address the true sportsman in the country and how Ram will meet the needs and budgets of sportsmen going forward. But more than any of that, Fred talked about the people who are behind Ram. I could see the passion in his eyes when he talked about the people that build Ram trucks, sell them, market them, work on them… it was clear there is a vision. The TEAM at Ram was on a mission. People like Fred Diaz, leaders who pass along the praise and give props to the people who make it happen really fire me up. And so this turkey camp was indeed different.
As impressed as I was with Fred and his team, I wanted him to be equally impressed with the Mossy Oak crew. Problem was we didn’t have much time, about a day and a half. Turkey hunting is sometimes an exercise in patience. It’s all up to the turkeys in most situations and you just play by their rules. In nature, it’s supposed to go like this: the male turkey (gobbler) sounds off, gobbling from high in a tree at sunrise. The hens most often hear him gobble, fly down and go to him, so, in turkey hunting, when you try to call a gobbler to you by mimicking a hen, you’re trying to reverse the nature of things. Sometimes it works, most times it doesn’t. Fred and Joel Schlader of Ram arrived mid-afternoon and after some hellos and such I strongly suggested they put on their Mossy Oak camo so we could hit the field. I took Fred and Mossy Oak field producer Steven Bush with me to hopefully capture Fred’s first turkey hunt in full HD video, perhaps for an upcoming episode of Turkey Thugs on the Pursuit Channel.
Hunting turkeys in the afternoon can be tough, because most gobbling activity takes place just after sunrise. But by afternoon, some gobblers either have been run off the flocks by bigger gobblers or their hens are no longer interested in them. In either case, the chance of getting a gobbler to respond in the afternoon is fair, so that was the plan. The wind was blowing about 15 miles per hour but it died down at times and that’s when I would call. One call during a lull in the gusting wind got a response, a gobble from about 300 yards away. We sat down under a large old live oak tree, hidden only by the shade and our Mossy Oak. When the wind died down, I’d call: sometimes the gobbler would respond, sometimes he wouldn’t.
The whole time Fred was asking questions about the event: why call that way, when do you call, why sit here and so on. It was clear he operated best with what turkey hunters call MRI (Most Recent Information). He didn't want to just shoot a turkey, he wanted to know every detail of the why and how. I was happy to find out later that Fred had already begun to make plans to do more turkey hunting, in either Texas or back up near his home in Michigan.
Forty-five minutes into Fred’s first turkey hunt, the glorious red-with-white crowned head of a gobbler, together with the half circle of a full-strut tail fan, materialized before us in the brush. It was at that moment when I realized Fred Diaz was a real hunter, maybe not a veteran spring turkey hunter but well versed in what to do at crunch time.
Turkeys have some of the best eyes in nature and can spot any movement at great distances. Fred, with no coaching from me, went into stealth mode like a veteran turkey hunter. His gun was up slowly as soon as the turkey appeared, and then there was no movement at all except slight gun adjustments to keep his sights on the gobbler. As cool as could be, Fred whispered, “Let me know when you’re ready.”
From over Fred’s shoulder, Steven Bush studied the scene in his viewfinder and quietly replied, “Anytime.”
Boom! And the beautiful Rio Grande gobbler was done in with a perfect shot.
The next few minutes, again, were very revealing about the type of person Fred Diaz is. The first firm handshake was to Steven, who had had the tough job of both operating and carrying the heavy camera equipment. Then a firm handshake for me, which escalated into the type of excitement that only hunters understand. It had all come together, all of it fair chase in broad daylight with three people to hide… and it had worked. Fred had seen thousands of Rio Grande turkeys growing up near San Antonio, Texas, but this was his first real spring hunt done the right way.
He was impressed, emotional, grateful and respectful. His first spring turkey sported three beards, which was extremely rare and even more reason for smiles and photos. Fred Diaz is never far away from his Blackberry—me either—so, when he asked to me to take a quick photo of him and his turkey, I knew all the buttons to push. He viewed the photo and instantly sent it to his wife and sons back home, along with a play-by-play that lasted several minutes. His first thought was to share this with his family. Not an odd reaction at all, to want to share that with your loved ones, but, again, a quality I admire in a CEO.
The Mossy Oak crew had two nights in camp with Fred and Joel from Ram, and it turned out to be no different than other camps. Everyone helped with cooking, cleaning and camp chores, including the CEO. I snapped pictures of Fred washing dishes, taking out the trash, cleaning the wild turkey that I would later cook for our group. I’ll hold onto those photos, as well as the great memories from the short 36 hours that the Mossy Oak crew spent with our favorite CEO.
In the Photos: Fred Diaz, CEO of Ram trucks (top). Cuz, Fred and Steven with Fred’s 2010 Texas gobbler (second). The 2010 Ram Mega Cab, brother of Motor Trend magazine’s 2010 Truck of the Year, the Ram Heavy Duty (third). Bottom, the Ram truck crew posed for a group photo with Mossy Oak Productions team at Camp Gobbler 2010.