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Lauran Ellis of Mossy Oak

Lauran Ellis, Mossy Oak Productions

Lauran Ellis, Mossy Oak Productions

Walking through the woods, listening to the world, hearing the best stories retold and spinning her own tales all came naturally to Lauran Ellis. It's how she grew up, how she met the world, and it's what drives her to do the job she does today.

As an editor for Mossy Oak Productions, she crafts raw footage into finished products — guiding the stories gathered by field producers into content ready for broadcast.

As the younger daughter of Mossy Oak VP Ronnie "Cuz" Strickland and Pam Strickland, Mossy Oak's Director of Licensing Operations, Ellis grew up with elements of the outdoors everywhere she turned. "I went on my very first real turkey hunt when I was 9 as an observer, having gone to all of these calling contests with my dad through the years," Ellis said. "I had actually won first place in the Junior Open Division at the Bossier City (La.) Game Fair that same year. I still have the trophy."

Turkey hunting, and the outdoors in general, were always an important part of life for the Strickland family.
"I killed my first turkey when I was 14, hunting with my dad and Bob Walker at Bent Creek Lodge near Jachin, Ala.," Ellis said. "That's still one of my favorite stories."

"Bent Creek is one of my favorite places for a lot of reasons, and it has a lot of great things going for it, but its turkey hunting operation is legendary. Some of the best hunters in the country serve as guides there, and they each hunt the same territory from the first sunrise to the last sunset of the season. But still, it's the Deep South, and Easterns. Turkeys are evil anyway."

Cuz Strickland coached Ellis on how tough the hunting was going to be, how the birds had already been hunted hard all season, how she shouldn't get her hopes up.

"Basically [he said] everything but, 'We're going to hang out and have a good time, but don't expect anything from the woods but a long, quiet walk."

The morning of the hunt, Bob Walker chimed in with the same song, because on top of everything else, it was windy and raining.

Lauran Ellis and Cuz Strickland of Mossy Oak

Ellis and her dad, Cuz Strickland

"We drove out to where we were going to start the hunt and it quit raining for a minute, so we got out of the truck just in time for a gust of wind to snatch my dad's hat off," she said. "After he retrieved his cap and jerked it down low on his head, we eased into the woods. Needless to say, 10 minutes, a cutt, two yelps and a gun shot later, I had my first turkey and what may be the easiest one I ever take, obstacles not withstanding. All the way back to West Point, Dad told me what a gift that one was, and it's one I've always appreciated. I was interested before, but I've been hooked ever since. I guess sometimes God grants a rookie an easy turkey for that very reason."

Today, Ellis helps Mossy Oak Productions share stories from hunters around the nation. She joined the team in spring 2004 as an offline assistant. Ellis worked her way up to finish editor. She did the online work for "Eyes Front 3," a Mossy Oak retail video title, and then was assigned to the Mossy Oak Classics project, a full time series that required 26 episodes per year.

The move to "Mossy Oak's Hunting the Country," the company's flagship show, was a natural. From fall 2005 through fall 2009, she built stories, passing up a number of chances along the way to swap out for another show. That is, until Mossy Oak's latest project came along.

Mossy Oak's "Deer THUGS" is a series aimed at hard-core deer hunters airing on the Pursuit Channel.

"When I heard about this project, and heard who the Deer THUGS were, I begged to build the show," Ellis said. "Until then, we'd had a lot of great, exciting projects come through, but none I wanted more than 'Hunting the Country.' The Deer THUGS themselves, the information they offer, the personalities they bring to the table, all made me want to get involved, and after we held the initial setup shoot for the series, I knew I'd made the right decision."

"Deer THUGS" airs in the fall and winter, giving way, not coincidentally, to "Turkey THUGS" in the spring, also on the Pursuit Channel.

"It's the subject I know best and the style of hunting I love most," she said. "There's nowhere else I'd rather be." — Kevin Tate