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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.

My husband Dave started me hunting 30 years ago. My dad didn’t take me hunting – not because he didn’t want to take me, but he always took my brother with him. Too, I was playing four sports much of my life and was very busy. So, I can’t say I sat at home, and that I was sad about not going hunting. When I was growing up, little girls just didn’t go hunting.

My dad had long been an avid outdoorsman and had taken a large number of whitetails and turkeys and a mule deer. He’d hunted for doves, quail and pheasants too. In 1999, I invited my dad to go elk hunting with me. He’d never taken an elk at that time, and neither had I. We went to Silt, Colorado, to hunt Unit 42 in Mesa and Grande counties. We rented horses from an outfitter and camped out. My dad worked for the IRS for 33 years, and even today at age 85, he still has his own tax-consulting business, Painter Tax Service.

Throughout my life, Dad always was busy traveling. One morning while we were having coffee together in the backcountry on this, our first elk hunt, I told my dad, “These two weeks have been the longest time I’ve ever spent with you.” I absolutely loved that hunt, although we didn’t take any elk. For those two weeks, we had no distractions, no TV and no cell phones. I had my father’s undivided attention for two weeks, and that was something I’d never experienced.

I remember asking my dad then if he wished he hadn’t traveled so much while I was growing up.  I realized he had to work the way he did to take care of his family. However, I wished I’d had more alone time with him. Living in a wall tent, getting up before daylight, making coffee and cooking breakfast together was something we’d never done before. We saw plenty of elk on this first trip in 1999, but we both had bull tags and never saw a bull within range. Dave came out on the weekends and joined us. Those two weeks with my dad alone in the wilderness was a time I’ll never forget. It also was a beginning of our long-term deeper, father-daughter relationship through hunting.

Later, my dad came to Colorado, bought an over-the-counter elk tag, hunted with my husband in 2000 and shot a really nice bull elk. I was invited to go, but I had children to take care of, and so I didn’t make that hunt with my dad.  After the hunt, I drew Unit 76 in Creede, Colorado, went there and took a bull. So, my dad and I took our first bull elk in the same year – 2000.