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BY JAY MICHAEL STRANGIS
I opened my 2013-2014 OWAA Directory recently and checked my listing. I noticed something missing. It was the name of my compatriot and friend, Mike Strandlund. Reading down: Strandlund, Strangis … the alphabetical listing so often paired us over the 20 years that Mike was a member of OWAA.
Mike’s not there because he died unexpectedly on a vacation last spring at just 56 years old. He drowned, a long way from home. That’s somewhat ironic considering Mike was a true outdoor guy — excellent hunter, avid fisherman, loved the water and a good swimmer. Just a freak accident was about all that could be learned.
Mike served as the long-time editor of Bowhunting World magazine. We had a serendipitous 23-year friendship, formed in the strangest manner.
In 1990, I had just left an editor’s position at Bowhunting World magazine to take a managing editor’s position with the North American Hunting Club. At that time, I had a sweet 20-acre plot of private bowhunting-only land with some really good deer on the edge of the Twin Cities. Of course, I posted my hunting area with “No Hunting” signs to keep it undisturbed. I decided to scout the area from the outside-in one evening just before bow opener. As I glassed from a nearby church parking lot, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A guy was walking through the area, accompanied by a dog that was obviously hunting up and flushing pheasants. Since he was coming my way, I hustled out to meet him and to ask if he could read and why he was trespassing. He played dumb: “Uh, oh,” he said. “I was just working my dog. New here. Just moved from Virginia.” Then, after apologizing, he began asking me about my deer hunting. He seemed more than casually interested in the bowhunting aspect and said he had just taken a job as an editor of a bowhunting magazine with Ehlert Publishing. I about fell over. Here was the guy who had taken the job I had just left! What are the odds?
And that was the start of our friendship. A couple of years later, I ended up as an editor at Petersen’s Bowhunting and would stay with that publication for the next 15 years. Mike and I were competitors, but only on paper. We lived worlds away, but stayed in touch, shared hunting stories, compared industry tales, talked about our dreams, our relationships and most anything else friends talk about. Since I had moved to California to take the job with Petersen’s, Mike inherited some of my good deer and pheasant hunting spots in the west metro area of the Twin Cities, as well as the copiously hard-earned details about how and when to access and hunt them. Mike always made a point of sharing tales of adventure about those memorable spots when we got together.
Mike and I seemed bound together by so many odd events. One year we were both asked to have our heads publicly shaved bald as a fundraiser to benefit cancer research. I well remember sitting on stage at the Archery Trade Association Trade Show with Mike next to me, enjoying the crowd’s laughs and catcalls as our hair dropped to the floor. Whoever cut Mike’s hair left a crest at the top that made him look like some strange breed of chicken, a view that had everyone around him in stitches. Two weeks later we rendezvoused to compare heads at the SHOT Show.
I last enjoyed quality time with Mike at a recent SHOT Show media day. We spent most of the day together knocking around the event, lingering over lunch, comparing notes on our jobs and industry politics, and sharing very personal stories about our relationships and our families. I’m not even sure how much we really saw of the event, because we were so embroiled in really deep conversations. That’s what was possible with Mike. He offered a real level of trust and honesty that I’ve found in few others. I think a lot of people valued that in him.
Mike was a savvy hunter, excellent writer and editor, and exemplary representative of American outdoor writers. He also was a longtime OWAA member, whose place in the annual directory and friendship I will sorely miss.♦
Jay Michael Strangis, a member since 1990, currently serves as editor of American Waterfowler Magazine. He is also a book author and published writer. Contact him at email@example.com.