An incredible hunter, writer, and friend named Mike Strandlund

Rob DriesleinMike Strandlund, friend and mentor to many in the outdoor publishing industry, died this past weekend at the too-young age of 56. His employer, Grand View Media, announced the shocking news today, and I join many of my friends in the outdoor industry who mourn his passing. My condolences to his children, Brad and Sara, and wife Nancy.

Strandlund brought me into the outdoor industry in 1994, hiring me as associate editor at Bowhunting World. He’d taken the reigns as editor in 1993 and remained in the role for 20 years, including through two changes in ownership. During my three years at Bow World, he whipped me into shape as an editor, and when I left for Outdoor News in 1997, I shook his hand and thanked him for his patience, brutal honesty, and a lot of good times.

In the 16 years since, I’ve rendezvoused with Strandlund dozens of times for laughs, brain-storming, and advice. He vetted more than a few of my columns over the years, because I always felt better tackling a controversial topic if Mike agreed with me.

Straight-talking and even intimidating to some, Mike was a fiercely independent individual. That probably goes hand-in-hand with spending hundreds of hours a year in the woods or mountains standing over a deer trail or stalking a bull elk. Though I’ve known some incredible woodsmen over the years, guys who can identify the sounds and habits of every bird or insect in the woods, I’ve never known a better hunter than Mike Strandlund. He was absolutely focused and lethal with a bow or a shotgun. God have mercy on the soul of any critter that crossed his hunting path.

A coworker at Bow World, Tom Kacheroski, summed it up during my first autumn at the publication, probably on a Monday morning when Strandlund recounted the deer and bears he’d stacked up via stick-and-string over the weekend. Kacheroski had worked with Mike a few years longer than me. As our editorial leader left the room, TK just shrugged his shoulders and said, “The guy’s a machine.”
And not just a big-game bowhunting machine. His German shorthairs were lean, twitching bundles of sinew and muscle. Like Mike, they lived to hunt. Between his shotgunning skills and those well-bred and -heeled canines, a rooster pheasant didn’t have a prayer.

Mike StrandlundWhen hunting seasons were closed, Mike fished hard – for trout in western Wisconsin, walleyes in the Boundary Waters, and muskies in the metro area. Out of the blue a few years back, he emailed me some photos of slab bluegills he’d hooked by fly one early summer evening.

You couldn’t talk sports or pop culture with Strandlund because he invested zero time in spectating. In the mid-1990s, he didn’t own a TV. A few days before the Green Bay Packers appeared in the Super Bowl in 1997, our Twin Cities office was abuzz. It was the first appearance for a regional football team in the big game in decades, but Strandlund just quipped, “There some sort of football game this weekend?”

Some men bring great hunting skills to the business of outdoor writing. Others survive via their command of the written word. Mike Strandlund brought the whole package.
His masterful editing aside, the guy could flat-out write. He wrote books on bowhunting, hundreds of genuinely compelling articles on equipment and technique, and page-turning, old-school hunting stories. One yarn from the early 1990s still stands out in my mind. “Black Bear Adventure” described a bear hunt in northwestern Ontario. Though a mere seven hours by car from his Minneapolis metro-area home, the story contained scenes of life-and-death danger, success and emotional relief, and wicked humor. What could have been a simple “me-and-Joe” hunting story to the greater Thunder Bay area was gripping reading and inspiring to this then-20-something wannabe writer.

Strandlund enjoyed universal respect among the hunting industry and his coworkers for his skills as an editor, manager, and hunter. In 2004, the Bowhunters Hall of Fame inducted him, citing him in the category of “Bowhunters who have shown Literary Excellence that have Advanced the Sport of Bowhunting.”

Mike lived life to the fullest and mentored me during a transitional part of my life. He had a lot of heart, listening and offering advice when I was considering proposing to my girlfriend, “What the hell are you waiting for?” And he was fun. All I remember from my March 1996 bachelor party was that Strandlund was the life of it.

Early last fall, the last time we spoke, Mike chattered away as excited as I’d heard him in years. He was hoping to draw a tag for Minnesota’s inaugural wolf hunt, and given my growing love for the Boundary Waters, he encouraged me to apply with him. “Let’s go, Robo-editor!” he said. That sadly, will have to go into my personal file of missed opportunities. Luckily, I have a bulging file of memories with Mike. Indulge me for one more.

One late September or early October morning in the autumn of 1996, my non-cordless, non-cellular telephone woke me up at o’-dark-30. It was Mike. “Got a big buck. Pretty sure he’s down. Want to help me drag him out?”

Two hours later, soaked to the bone, Strandlund, me, and Kacheroski admired a Pope-and-Young whitetail buck he’d killed in western Hennepin County. He’d arrowed the deer during a thunderstorm at first light, a situation where even most hardcore hunters would avoid dangling from a fencerow treestand. Not Mike.

“Lightning was going off and I could barely see through the rain as he came through,” Mike recounted. “It was pretty cool.”

A few days later, during that pre-digital photography era, we admired the photos of his booker.

“I’m glad I got to share that day with you guys,” Mike said.

Me too, Mike. That and many other days.

The release from Grand View Media regarding Strandlund’s passing is below.

Bowhunting World Editor Mike Strandlund Dies Suddenly At Age 56

It is with great sadness that the associates of Grand View Media inform you of the passing of Mike Strandlund, editor of Bowhunting World magazine, editorial director for Grand View Outdoors. Mike died suddenly while on vacation. He was 56.

Mike began shooting a bow at age 12, hunting with it at age 16. Thus began a lifelong passion and career that took this bowhunter and journalist on adventures all over the world.

Mike began writing for outdoor magazines in his mid-teens. Growing up in Minnesota and Wisconsin, he earned his journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1980, financing his education by freelance writing and trapping. He spent five years as a newspaper editor in Wisconsin, then five years as a writer for the National Rifle Association’s American Hunter magazine. His responsibilities grew to editing and managing the production of books and other publications for the NRA’s Hunter Services Division.

He joined Bowhunting World and Archery Business magazines, owned by Ehlert Publishing, in 1990. He was named editor of the titles in 1993 and promoted to editorial director in 2002. When Grand View Media bought the titles in 2004, Mike continued in his role. In 2009, Grand View Outdoors promoted Mike to editorial director.

In recognition for his literary excellence in advancing the sport of bowhunting, Mike was inducted into the Bowhunters Hall of Fame in 2003. His clear, insightful articles about his experiences have informed, influenced, and entertained multitudes of readers.

Mike’s survivors include his wife, Nancy, children Brad and Sara, parents Zonnie and Jean and sister Kim, Grand View Media colleagues, and many friends and hunting companions through the years.

His passing leaves a true void. We will miss him greatly.

Bowhunter and journalist

Mike enjoyed both modern and traditional archery and pursued game across North America and Africa. He embraced not just bowhunting, but the entire hunting experience, everything to planning and practicing for a hunt, to adjusting his equipment and form in pursuit of “the perfect shot,” to just observing the environment and animal behaviors while sitting on stand or in a blind. According to his profile with the Bowhunters Hall of Fame, he counted “whitetails, elk, wooden recurves, tight groups, September sunsets and November daybreaks” among his favorite things.

As passionate as he was about hunting, Mike was equally passionate about his role as a journalist and communicator. Raising the standard of outdoor reporting and providing well-researched, useful information while engaging the reader was a priority. He wanted the contents of every issue of Bowhunting World to matter to everyone who turned its pages.

“All the most important things in life—patience and acceptance, beauty and honor, strength and love, physical and mental acuity, challenge and compassion—are all distilled in bowhunting,” Mike told the Bowhunters Hall of Fame. “That’s what makes it so fascinating to do, and to write about.”

Thoughts about Mike from several of his Grand View Media coworkers

“While many people strive their entire lives to ‘stand out’ Mike was an absolute original who regularly shunned the spotlight. A true master of his chosen craft, Mike will forever be revered for his deft ability to raise the level of outdoor journalism, and positively impact the many journalists, friends, and like-minded outdoorsmen lucky enough to have known him.” 
—Mark Melotik   

“I admire Mike for the skilled hunter and archer he was. I was fortunate to share many hunting camps with him and enjoyed numerous conversations on hunting tactics and technique. What’s more, I admire him as an accomplished journalist and co-worker. Mike steadfastly promoted editorial integrity and fairness, and he sought only quality work from his writers, which not only enhanced our editorial content but helped each writer grow professionally.”
—Lee Hetherington 

“Mike could be intimidating to approach, but you were always glad you did. One of the most well- rounded people I have ever met, over the years Mike and I discovered mutual interests in seemingly logical areas of hunting and sports, but also music, motorcycles, and more. He was genuinely a great human being, and I will miss seeing him every day I come to work.”
—Jared Pfeifer

“My time with Mike was shorter than many others in the industry, but I consider myself lucky to have enjoyed numerous adventures with him in the field.  I respected him greatly as a journalist and editor.  He was certainly a gifted wordsmith and brought our passion for the outdoors to life through his words in a way that only he could.  Mike was just one of those rare guys who had that special ability to bring an intelligent unique perspective to topics that separated him from others and earned him the respect of his peers.  We will miss Mike here at Grand View Outdoors and I know he will be missed by his family and many friends in the outdoor industry.”
—Derrick Nawrocki

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