provided by John Phillips
Every outdoors enthusiast needs to read this blog before it’s too late for him or her to impact a daughter, a niece or some other female to love being outdoors. Mossy Oak Pro Donnelle Johnson of Franktown, Colorado, spotlights something that many of us overlook and don’t do – take our girls hunting and teach them a love for the outdoors. Johnson has been a Mossy Oak ProStaffer for 9 years, speaks at numerous hunting seminars each year and owns with her husband HuntData LLC that many hunters depend on for information to know the best places to hunt, how to hunt them and learn their elevations, hunter density success and percentage of public lands. HuntData includes information on hunting sheep, goats, moose, elk, mule deer and antelope in Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Washington and California. A well-established elk hunter, Johnson has been hunting for 30 years.
In 2000, when Dad hunted with Dave, my husband, I had three children to raise. I had to stay home with our kids. Dad came home with a big 6x6 bull elk. The following day I left for my hunt at the Creede Unit to hunt with Dave. Then in 2004, my dad and I did a drop-camp elk hunt. I had drawn an archery tag for Creede and switched from being totally a rifle hunter to being a bowhunter and a rifle hunter. A friend of ours, Chuck Lehman, and I hired an outfitter to participate in a drop-camp hunt where a packer packs in your gear, drops it, leaves and then returns a week or so later to pack out your gear and any game you’ve taken. But I didn’t take a bull.
Chuck knew this area very well, and although I had several chances at 5x5 bulls with my bow, he encouraged me to wait on a better bull. So, I ate that tag. However, the hunt was still an adventure. When Chuck, my dad and I went into the spike camp with the horses and mules, we had to cross 13 creeks. While there at camp, rain fell for three days and three nights. Those creeks became higher and higher and deeper and deeper. The outfitter couldn’t come and get us. We were supposed to be picked up on day 7 of our hunt.
Dad didn’t have an elk tag on this hunt. He went with me to be with me, and that was very exciting. Dad was 71 years old at that time. Although the weather was bad, I still called in an elk within 8 yards of me, as well as some 5x5s. One of the funniest things that happened on this hunt was that we spent all day, one day, trying to get a fire started. I’d brought wooden matches in a cardboard box that I kept inside my tent. But because of the rain, the condensation in the tent was so high that my cardboard box disintegrated. Once we got a fire going, one of our major objectives was to keep that fire going. However, even in that miserable weather, my dad hunted with me. I never took a shot. But my dad and I had an amazing time together.
Finally on day 11, I walked out to get help. I had two problems. Our friend Chuck, who’s passed away now, had Hepatitis C, a liver disease. He’d recently come out of the hospital after having a liver transplant. I realized I was way back in the mountains with someone who had a new liver and was on rejection meds and my 71-year-old father. I knew if something went wrong for either of them, I’d have a major problem I might not be able to solve.
While on this hunt, I decided to get in touch with nature and myself. So, when I hiked in and out, I didn’t use my flashlight. All my senses were heightened. There was no noise and no trappings of society. On that hunt, I learned about how to overcome my fears and learned that when you’re in the wilderness for 11 days and don’t know how long you’ll be there, or how you’ll get out of that wilderness, plenty of mental games will be playing in your head that you must overcome.