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Having a Hunter’s Heart

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.

Donnelle Johnson and father with mule deer

Not only did Dad start hunting elk in his later years and come to see my moose and me when he was 85 years old, he always has been an avid hunter. He loves to turkey hunt. He actually guided the lady governor of Oklahoma on a turkey hunt. When I first started hunting with my dad, I was in my 30s, and we turkey hunted together. However, when you’re turkey hunting, you have to be quiet, move slowly, call to the turkey, sit on the ground and continue to be quiet as the bird is coming toward you. So, there’s not a lot of interaction between a dad and his daughter on a turkey hunt. But at least we were hunting together and spending time together. Dad taught me how to call turkeys. You don’t have to do much calling in Oklahoma because you can bait turkeys there. 

We’d set up in a blind between the feeder and where we thought the turkey could come. I got to watch Dad call in turkeys, and then years later he watched me call in an elk. I thought that was neat. I never will forget the first turkey I took when hunting with my dad. The first turkey that Dad called in for me was a jake, and I took him. I didn’t wait on a longbeard or a tom with big spurs. I just wanted to take that turkey to show my dad I could. That hunt was another exciting moment in a long list of moments that I spent with my dad. We both enjoyed the hunt but more importantly, we were both were old enough to really appreciate the time we spent together on that hunt. I never will forget how proud my dad was when I fired, and that jake flopped. My dad probably never dreamed that one day I’d be hunting with him, or that I’d harvest a turkey while sitting beside him. 

I don’t think my dad ever thought I’d grow up to be a hunter. I don’t know that I ever thought that either. But when I married Dave, he’d just started elk hunting and had been bit by the elk-hunting bug. He enjoyed the sport so much that he insisted I go with him. Then I fell in love with elk hunting, and I wanted to share what I’d learned with my dad, as he had shared turkey hunting with me. 

At Christmas, 2019, my 84-year-old dad came out and took his first mule deer with us. I was fortunate enough to be with him on that hunt. What was funny about that hunt was I let my dad shoot my pink Carbon Express crossbow. I called that mule deer hunt a cross-pollination hunt. My husband had taught me to elk hunt, my dad had taught me to hunt turkeys, and now I had taught my dad to elk hunt and mule deer hunt. I don’t know if he would have had an opportunity to take a mule deer with a crossbow, if we hadn’t hunted together. Before this time, Dad had only elk hunted with us in Colorado. I convinced him to apply for that mule deer tag.

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