On this week's Deer Season Special bonus episode of the Pennsylvania Woodsman, we chat with the leader of the Sportsmen's Empire Podcast Network, Dan Johnson. Dan may work in the outdoor industry, but he is just like the rest of us; family comes first. Mitch and Dan converse over what it's been like to reach milestones in podcasting, such as launching 100 to 1000 episodes, or building a network like the Empire. Then we dive into bowhunting amidst being a husband and father. How do we prioritize our time, and how do we stack the odds in our favor? Lastly, Dan talks about 2 deer that stick in his mind over the years - one that hangs on his wall, another that is a picture within his mind. Great whitetail deer hunting episode for perspective in the busy world we live in!
Check out the Sportsmen's Empire Podcast Network for more relevant outdoor content!
Mitchell Shirk: [00:00:00] You're listening to the Pennsylvania Woodsman Podcast Deer Season Special. These bonus episodes revolve around deer hunting stories and experiences from a host of deer hunters. These whitetail hunting BS sessions will be launched every week during the 2023 hunting season, adding fuel to your fire in the deer woods.
Be entertained and hopefully learn something along the way. The title sponsor of the Deer Season Special Series is Vantage Point Archery, home to the toughest machined one piece broadheads made in the USA. VPA products are built to last, which is why they have a lifetime warranty. And if you're not completely satisfied, you can send it back, which I highly doubt will occur.
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The Pennsylvania [00:01:00] Woodsman is also brought to you by radox hunting home of the emcor cell camera stick and pick camera accessories and much more. Also brought to you by Vitalize Seed, a 1 2 planning system designed with diversity and biology in mind, making it the best food plot available. And lastly, by Huntworth Gear, quality hunting clothing at an affordable cost.
Makers of Heat Boost Technology. This week's episode is none other than the Sportsman's Empire leader himself, Dan Johnson. Dan and I have a conversation late this summer and talk about podcasting. From the start, we talk about what it was like for me starting out and having a hundred episodes launched this year.
And then we translate that to what it's been like for Dan building the empire with state specific shows and producing nearly over a thousand podcasts himself in that time. We talk about content production, how it's influenced the bow hunting world, how it may or may not influence his life. We talk [00:02:00] about bow hunting.
With the mindset of also being a father and a husband. And then of course we have some stories and we talk about the hunts where things really clicked in 2016 for Dan, as he says. And we talk about the story of an absolute mega giant in the state of Iowa that he laid eyes on. That would potentially beat the Milo Hanson buck in his mind.
It's stories. It's a great whitetail hunting BS session. Hope you guys enjoy it. Let's get to it. Joining me today for the Pennsylvania woodsman podcast is none other than the emperor himself, Mr. Dan Johnson, Dan, how we doing?
Dan Johnson: I'm doing good, dude. Congratulations on a hundred episodes, man.
Mitchell Shirk: Yeah, it's hard to believe that it's been going on that long.
Take take everybody back to what that was like in the beginning, because you started a bunch of shows on the network, like I did. Just firing from the hip, hey, anybody want to start a state specific show? What was that like on your end of the spectrum? Because I know it was overwhelming on my end.[00:03:00]
Dan Johnson: Yeah, I'll say this. I really wanted a lot of state specific content, especially in the key states. And when you talk about whitetail hunting like the biggest population of people, the biggest group, like the states with the most hunters, Pennsylvania, wisconsin Ohio, Michigan. And I really wanted, That those people that have a voice on this network, just because, from, from number one, that's where the most hunters live number two it just from a business standpoint, I want States, I want a lot of content coming out of the States with the most outdoorsman and then, the entire South as well.
So we don't necessarily have a, like a state specific Southern podcast let's say like Alabama, but we do have we do have. A feed dedicated to the Southern the Southern lifestyle, the Southern part of the United States. And so that was always a goal is to get real niche with the content that was coming out [00:04:00] of the network.
Just so people had an option because on some of the biggest. Podcasts that are out there, I feel like that's all that content's great, but it doesn't necessarily relate on a state or even county level, like some of the really niche state specific podcasts do. Oh,
Mitchell Shirk: absolutely. And it's amazing to, I didn't pay attention real closely until I started this show, but it's amazing how it seems like when you follow social media and you follow different influencers, how the podcasts have just exploded.
There's so much content out there, but it is, it seems like in this demographic, it's very, Oh, big buck killer podcast 101. And it just keeps going on. So the state specific concepts are interesting. What I, what blows me away though, is It's just how the dynamic fold and I guess from your end of the spectrum, you got to throw that APB out however you can, but it's just such a unique way for that [00:05:00] to, to transpire and get people to, cause it's like that, that awkward meeting of people on the internet.
You never know what you're going to run into.
Dan Johnson: Exactly. Exactly. And just as well as I do, that's why I vet. All these shows, like I had a couple of guys come on one time and they sent me a pilot episode and I'm just like, cause and I tell everybody this, I'm sure you can remember when I told you this, three things are going to happen when you send me a a pilot episode, I'm going to tell you.
Three things one. It's great. Let's move forward. Let's go do this to I'll critique it a little bit You come back with another episode Fit work on what I told you to fix and then you know, if it's good, then we'll move forward or three I just am completely honest with people. I say this isn't The right move for you this isn't going to be a right fit for the network.
And the cool thing about you is that you were really nervous to start the, at the beginning and you were like, I don't know what I'm doing. And you were, getting ahold of me all the [00:06:00] time, but I will say this within the last six months, I have had more comments. About the Pennsylvania Woodsman podcast than any other podcast on the network about how people are really enjoying the content that's coming out
Mitchell Shirk: of it.
That's good news to hear. And I really appreciate that because sometimes when you're rolling and you don't get that feedback it's it's interesting. I don't know if I ever told you this, but like when we set our intro into you, that would have been, me and my friend Devon, when we started, he he's yo, let's set this intro up.
And it was honestly, Dan, it was a joke to me. I was like, yeah, whatever. What are the chances he's going to pick us? And then it was like a week later, you you emailed Devon back yeah, you guys knocked out of the park. And I literally went crap. Now this is, this just got real. It's okay, I'm gonna start a podcast, and I don't know diddly squat about it, but no, it's been great.
I just can't believe it's been a hundred episodes, two years worth, and I'm enjoying it, Lord willing, I'm looking to do a whole lot more, but I gotta ask you this question, because [00:07:00] I get asked this all the time. How do you come up... With all the content you do, because I get people that ask me all the time, Don't you get tired about talking, like, how do you run out of things to talk about?
I'm like, it's not that hard, it's a thing, but you've got to have that question, because you've got, What, 700 plus episodes with Nine Finger Chronicles, plus a bunch of other shows and stuff? Yeah, I
Dan Johnson: think I'm really getting close to a thousand total podcasts that I've put out in my life with the nine finger chronicles, with the hunting gear podcast, and then some of the other stuff that I've done as well.
And so for me, it's easy. And that's why I love doing what I'm doing is because what's my favorite thing in the world outside of my family is deer hunting and bow hunting specifically, and whenever, and there's a million. There's millions and millions of people out there who all have unique takes on hunting strategy They all have unique hunting stories.
And so all I [00:08:00] have to do is really reach out To people and say hey Do you want to tell a story or talk to me about how you hunt in the state that you hunt and it's like it? It just comes easy for me because I love talking about Deer hunting and hunting in general with all types of people from all over the u.
s And shit I've interviewed people from England and other countries as well.
Mitchell Shirk: Yeah, that's really unique. It's, again, it comes back to hunting is just one of those things that But for me, story time is always where my ears are wide open. I like when people talk about their strategies and like when you get into, I just said this on a show, earlier this year, when you get into scouting specific podcasts, I get to a point where I'm like, I feel like we're just asking the same questions and getting the same answers because you can only go so far in a podcast to highlight what people think and go from a scouting aspect.
But when you go into telling. and pulling experiences [00:09:00] from a hunt specifically and diving into, okay this is what happened and why I think this happened. And this is what I went with when I went into this hunt. That's where I'm like, Oh wow. Light bulb moment. I can apply that here and there.
And I just think it's a better listen. It's more
Dan Johnson: enjoyable. Yeah absolutely. And I don't know, man, there's just something about. The hunting community, we just have so many good people that are in it and I love talking to those people.
Mitchell Shirk: We really do. And I'm fortunate like with Pennsylvania, everywhere's got a, I guess their own unique dynamic.
I think Pennsylvania with that, that strong hunting heritage that we have. There's definitely that. Good group of people. I right now, as we're recording this, I'm in, I'm actually in Canada right now, and we're, we were talking about hunting around here with some people up here and it's just amazing how that community, no matter where you go in the country or the world for that matter can be, but, speaking of hunting stories, man, you you've been putting it hard.
You've been doing a couple of [00:10:00] out of state hunts the past few years. And then you're always always spending a bunch of time in in the home state of Iowa. So do you. Get to a point where like you're throughout your hunting seasons, you go, I want to try this new, I want to try that new.
Cause I feel like certain years I have my mind everywhere and bouncing around. You seem like when you get into your seasons, like you're dialed down to this is what I'm doing. This is how I do it. And I'm not going to deviate far from that as far as where you go and how your strategy rolls into season.
Dan Johnson: Yeah. So really over the last I want to say since, since. Damn near 26 year, 20, excuse me, 20 years, almost I guess it would be to 17 years over the last 17 years. I've been what I would consider a serious hardcore bow hunter for since 2006. All right. 2006 is the year I made a decision to say, you know what?
I'm going to, I'm going to do this bow hunting thing. I want to make this bow [00:11:00] hunting thing my life, my hobby, my passion and things like that. And so since then. I've just tried to be a student of the game, if that makes sense, and learn as much as I possibly can about all of the, everything about deer and hunting strategy and not just deer, but now, I'm expanding into mule deer as well and some other big game species.
And with the ultimate goal of just being as knowledgeable as possible about this, the deer species itself, specifically white tails, because once you can understand them and when you, and I had to learn this the hard way and really not just observe your surroundings, observe, like everybody talks about strategy, he got to get in a pinch point and you got to do find edge and bedding and blah, blah, blah.
But. It's also about deer behavior and knowing what deer do certain times of year, knowing what deer like to eat in certain terrain features, knowing how to apply those principles [00:12:00] from Iowa to another state and watching what they do. So then you can say to yourself, okay, here are the differences and here are the similarities between deer movement, deer hunting strategies.
And then what the ultimate goal of applying that. to, to to a season. And so it took me 10 years really to figure it all out from 2006 to 2016. I found success, but it was more luck than skill. I would say. And so something happened in 2016 where it really started to click for me, and I've been on a roll ever since.
And it's because I've been able to open my eyes, my ears and my mind to what these animals are doing and when they're doing them and then just putting myself in the best position based off of, what Mother Earth gives me.
Mitchell Shirk: Now, a lot of bow hunters talk about having like a specialty, maybe like some people would consider themselves rut hunters, some guys like hunting [00:13:00] early hunting late season.
Do you gravitate to one specific section of the season to hunt your hardest? Or do you feel pretty confident from the beginning to the end of the season on getting all mature deer?
Dan Johnson: Yeah. So my strategy is very simple. My strategy is I'm a father of three. And so that takes priority.
Be completely honest with you. I don't have a single trail camera out right now and it's August. And so I'm behind period. And it's because I've been a baseball coach. It's because I'm, Basically a babysitter during the day. My wife works and I'm, I try to get my work done throughout the day up here in my office, but I'm also running kids to appointments.
I'm also making sure they don't get bored and burn the house down. Taking care of the honey do list. I built a deck. That's not even finished right now and and we're taking a trip to Florida here pretty soon, and we went to Des Moines for state [00:14:00] baseball. And so I'm trying to not, what I do is I knock all of that out.
I get the brownie points. I build up the rapport with the family and so they know I set my expectations and then I say to myself, okay. It's the best time of year to be in the woods and that's late October, especially in the Midwestern states It's late October to You know to the end of November and then sometimes the late season as well And so what I'm gonna be doing is I'm gonna be spending as much time In the woods as possible to try to get the job done because I know that I've put in the time other places.
And so for me, I'm not trying to attack a buck early season unless one gives me an opportunity or I have trail camera data. Most of my success from, comes from the pre rut time frame, and when pre rut, I don't mean October, the first week of November, really, is when I've found my most success.
Right [00:15:00] before the dough groups start going into heat, and I attack that first week and second week really hard. And try to use trail camera information to put a play on a buck, find the terrain features within the circuit that they're running, and attack it. And then go in and get the job done, and ultimately that's that's how I found my success in the past, since 2016.
Mitchell Shirk: This is going a little bit of a different direction than I had anticipated, but I want to dive into that a little bit more because it's speaking home to my life right now. I want to know... As much as you're willing to discuss on your mental state of off season work going into hunting season, because I'm going to speak, I'm going to speak on that a little bit for me.
This has been a really hard adjustment as my kids have grown older to see the time and preparation that I have in the off season dwindle down and not be, and just feeling unprepared. And the way I've hunted most of my life, you and I Talked about this. I hunt a lot of private land.
I do a lot of food plots. I do a lot of off [00:16:00] season work and my mindset with that type of hunting has been, if I do as much as possible in the off season and preparing, I hunt easy and I'm confident because I've got my stands in place and I play the wind, I'm patient and I usually capitalize and I usually capitalize early, for me, the best time to kill a deer.
And kill a buck that I'm targeting is like the first three weeks of October. That is when you've got a food pattern or something you can relate to with food. Just for me that's where it's just been the greatest. Translate that now with not having much preparation. I'm not hunting the main property that I've hunted.
for most of my life because number one, I don't really want to go hunt something that basically feels guided for me that I haven't put any work in for. I'm away from that. And the other properties that I have, I've got opportunity early, but it's not the same. And now I'm on a running gun situation.
I'm trying to [00:17:00] learn. A slightly different way to hunt or slightly different way to approach it. And it's just the level of unknown and how I'm going to go. I'm confident I can get on deer. It's just, it's different. When you go through having this setup of doing one way for so long, and then you switch, like my mental preparation and my mental focus has just been tough and I know that's probably transitioned in your life.
So like, where are you at with
Dan Johnson: that? Man. Again, as life gets busier I I have to dedicate less time to the hunting for right now. You know what I mean? My saving grace is that I probably get to do it a little bit more than most people just because it's my job. I run a outdoor podcast network.
I have, that's how I make my money. And I have multiple podcasts that I sell advertising on and that's how I make my money. And so I can get a little bit, I can get away with more of it because it's my job too. But on top of that, when time in the field. Dwindles, then historical [00:18:00] data and information plays more of a bigger role.
And what I mean by that is. I just, I got it, I got to go off what I've learned in the past seasons. Okay. So I've, I found success here during this time of year because because of this rut funnel or this pinch point or cause it was downwind to bedding or, my favorite areas to hunt or staging areas before, deer hit a large scale ag or something like that.
And so really what I'm doing is I'm just, this is how. The last couple of seasons have went, this is no joke. I get my trail cameras out in July and August. They just soak until I go to start hunting in late October, early November. I check my cards, I put I, I basically just say, is there a shooter deer on this area?
Okay, yes. What's he doing? Is he on more than one trail camera? And I'll draw a line between all the places on a map [00:19:00] between where I've gotten pictures of this deer. And then I go to that line somewhere. And I try to find a terrain feature or edge on that line and really it's just using information from previous years and the most current data from trail cam pics.
And then I'm hopping in a tree somewhere.
Mitchell Shirk: Just that simple. No it's true. Annual data to me, I think is just as important, if not more important, unless you're running cell cameras that are giving you that, within the minute. Stuff like to me, if you're hunting mature deer and you have history with a property, I personally think I would rather take that historical data in cameras for making decisions over, pulling a card, whenever you go into a stand or every week or 10 days or whatever I think it's more valuable to have the historical data.
Dan Johnson: Yeah, 100%.
Mitchell Shirk: So you said earlier that, from 06 to 16 you were moving and grooving, learning through, and 16 is when you had some really big confidence boosters and you [00:20:00] really felt like you, you were, you, took the next step or took the next leap in, in your confidence.
And I'm curious What, was there one specific thing or one specific event or hunt or something that transpired that really just made you push a clutch in and shift it into overdrive?
Dan Johnson: It was just one of those things I had graduated college, and then I bounced around at different jobs for a while.
And. And I was my, my life was like a country song and I've told this story a hundred times, but my life was like a country song. It was somewhere around 2006 where I lost my girlfriend who I thought I was going to marry. I lost my house because I got laid off from work. And if I had a dog, I'm sure I would have lost it too, but and what happened was I was looking for something. I don't know, I didn't know what it was, and ultimately I found it through bowhunting. Nothing
Mitchell Shirk: wrong with that. Nothing wrong with that at all. It's, that's you were [00:21:00] looking for love in all the wrong places and it found you, I guess is what it comes down to.
Dan Johnson: That's a fact. That's a fact. ,
Mitchell Shirk: so you said sixteens when you really gained confidence, and I'm assuming that's just because you've 10 years and you've been tinkering and fine tuning your, and honing your skill. Yes. I'm curious, was there any specific hunts that That really opened your eyes in that time, that just reinforced what you had been trying in the field.
Dan Johnson: I wish I could tell you it was one thing, but it really wasn't. It was an entire decade of things that led up to me making... Good and both good and bad decisions, right? So and being in being able to make adjustments off of failure and not just walking out of the woods when I got blown at 3, 000 times in one set and Saying okay.
I'm just gonna go back to the same stand, you know What I had to do was [00:22:00] just break it all down and go listen I need to know why that deer was doing that. And so then I started learning about what the wind was doing and what the thermals were doing over the course of those years. Okay.
So if I set up here, it's bad, but if I set up over here. It's much better and the wind does that so I'm constantly let's say dropping milkweed or something like that And I'm not just looking at what the milkweed is doing in the next 50 yards I'm trying to watch it for the next hundred yards if I could put my binoculars up Because sometimes the thermals and the wind shift further down and it may loop back all the way around and you don't know these things but Unless you're trying to, unless you observe it and so really what it came down to was just a series of events that led up to 2016 to where I found, I finally found my groove.
I found what worked started to [00:23:00] work for me and then now that's not what everybody should be doing. That's not the best way to do things, but it's a way to do things. And that way works for, works for me. What
Mitchell Shirk: you just said there to me is really important because I truly believe there is more than one way to skin a cat in the world of whitetail hunting.
There's not a one size, I think a lot of people that listen to podcasts and watch shows and YouTube or whatever and they're trying to learn, they're trying to, they're trying to soak in as much information as possible. They think there's like this one, narrow, straight and narrow path that you have to follow in order to kill mature bucks.
And what I find so interesting is I have a very, a few specific maybe influencers or people that I personally know that are just, consistent mature buck killers and they've got some sound principles that all align with one another, but the way that they do it, many of them are very different.
And I think there's a couple of things there. Number one, where you are in the country is a big part. And number [00:24:00] two, I think again, there's a few different ways to figure out a weak point to kill a mature buck. So I think it's just, I really appreciate you. Saying how it's just important that I found my way, my
Dan Johnson: style.
And, if I grew up I'm a product of my environment too, right? And what that means is, I live in Iowa. Iowa has less than it's 1 percent between one and 2 percent available ground for the public to hunt, like core engineer ground or state ground. We don't, I don't think we have much federal ground in Iowa.
And so like access is limited unless you hunt private land. And so I just have been, I've been blessed, I guess you could say, to be on some of the farms that I have access to hunt. And that's, that environment has led me to come up with a strategy for that environment. Now, if [00:25:00] I lived in Michigan, I would be doing the same thing now, but just a different way of doing it.
I don't, I'm not, I don't want to say success, but I'm saying if I spent 17 years attacking public ground in, let's say Michigan. And I failed several times within the first 10 years. And I applied that same mentality of, I want to get the job done on whatever my target. Animal is you know, that may not be a mature buck But you know a lot of you hear a lot of guys in Michigan or Pennsylvania say dude.
I shot a three year old That's a stud in some of those states in some of those areas And so I would be doing the same thing trying to kill the top tier deer in said environment but just doing it a different way, but my, but the environment here in Iowa is such to where it's, timbered fingers and egg.
And that's the strategy that I use to, that, that strategy from that [00:26:00] environment is what I use to to try to get the job done.
Mitchell Shirk: So at your point in your we're just gonna say, for lack of a better term, in your point in your hunting career, do you have other goals and objectives that you would like to accomplish or things you wanna learn?
Is there anything as a student of the white tail, that you're like, man, this is one area that I feel weaker in my game, or I just wanna know more about deer and deer hunting in this specific realm of white tails.
Dan Johnson: Really? I just want to keep doing what I'm doing. Obviously the way I approach it, I want to learn as much about deer in general, but individuals as well. I want to be able to step my game up from when you've killed And So when you've started stacking up four year olds or older mature, let's just say mature deer, then it [00:27:00] becomes about what mature deer do you want to shoot, right?
And so right now I am a, I'm a hit list guy, but I think it would be really cool. To just say I have one deer on my mind this year and I want to shoot that deer. I did it last year. Although I lumped the, my, the buck that I ended up shooting. I lumped him in at, I want to say three other deer I put on the hit list.
He was one of them. He came by, I shot him and that's the story. But I want to be able to some year ago, this buck or nothing. And I've, I did that from 2007 to 2000 and, man, I wanna say 11. From 2007 to 2011, I really was focusing on one deer, but I shot deer in that timeframe. But the goal, so the goal, the ultimate goal is to be able to.
Locate one deer, locate [00:28:00] his patterns and make a move on them. And I also did that in 2020, I put together a hit list and maybe it's time for me to just find one deer and go after him. And then the other thing, and this is a, again, another answer to that question, but from an environment standpoint, I would love to shoot a net, not a gross, but.
No, excuse me. Not a gross. You want to shoot a
Mitchell Shirk: Gross buck. Not net
Dan Johnson: deduction. Not net, yeah. I want to shoot a gross Boone and Crockett. Yeah. I think it would be cool to shoot a buck over 170. I've had opportunities over the years, Adam, it's just never the deer that I'm chasing in the, in those environments have, I've messed up on a couple of deer of that caliber.
I've missed, I've put bad hits on deer of that caliber never capitalizing on it. But I think, if I play my cards right and continue down this path, it's just a matter of time until I get [00:29:00] a, a big antler deer. It's cool. You look at my wall, I look at my wall, I should say every day and I go, God, that's a pretty good wall.
Of mature bucks, but it would be cool to have one that just scored ridiculously high, but I'm not necessarily basing any decisions that I'm making off of antler size, if that makes sense. Yeah. You're hunting an age class. Yeah. Yeah. For the most part, hunting an age class. But, again, I say I'm hunting an age class, but I'm not going to be shooting a one 30 class seven year old or whatever I just, for me, I want to put, I'm to the point where I want to put my tag around a big, old, big antler mature buck.
And that's, that, that may sound. Greedy. I don't know what the word is. It may sound selfish, but that's what I want. I, not to justify it, but there's guys out there. A lot of guys out there who I know, especially in the industry [00:30:00] space, who the only thing they care about is the number of inches on the deer.
And I care about it a little bit, but not enough to. Pass I don't, I would have a really hard time passing a 160 to, hopefully get something 10 inches bigger. You know what I mean?
Mitchell Shirk: Oh my gosh. That's a whole rabbit hole discussion right there because growing up in Pennsylvania, I never thought I would have the opportunity of shooting.
Something that would gross Boone and Crockett, right? And I I was fortunate in 2020, there was a deer that I had pictures of at my place the year before, and he was probably a high 140s to 150 type deer, and he made it through, and the next year when he showed it, he showed up, he just blew up.
He was Frickin gross boon giant, and I couldn't believe it, and the series of events that unfolded I was fortunate enough to kill him, and I think about that all the time He grossed 170, and I think [00:31:00] There are people throughout the entire country In some way better whitetail states than I am That have never killed a deer of that class I'm like, I can't believe, first of all, how frickin lucky I am, too and, I look at that deer all the time and think like how special that is, but you brought up the numbers and passing up smaller deer, like one of the conversations that came up about that deer.
So I sent the tooth of that deer. And when it came back, he came back as a four and a half year old deer at one 70 made huge jumps and a couple of big buck hunters. I know who I respect. They were like, What would he have been if you let him go? He might have been 190 next year. And I'm like, yeah, shit.
Yeah, exactly. That was seriously like I would have killed him as a three year old when he was 145 to 150. Like I would have shot that deer all day long. And it gets to a point where I love scoring deer. I just think it's a metric to kind of visualize. And I don't think it's a bad thing, but yeah.
does go [00:32:00] to that extreme. The whole scoring thing goes to extremes because some guys are like, so anti scoring and if you ever put a tape measure on deer, like you're degrading the game itself. And then the, the other end of the spectrum is people that all they care about is the end result when you add those numbers up.
And again, I would say I'm the same way. I'm in the middle too. I think it's a cool metric to use just to talk about white
Dan Johnson: tails. Yeah. I got 11 deer. Yeah. I got 11 deer mounted deer on my wall. And. I've scored two of them. And so that I, in a way I don't give a shit what the score is.
Ultimately if I want, obviously if I want to shoot a Boone and Crockett, let's say, then inches are important, but. I'm not going to, I'm not making really any decisions based off of it. What I'm getting at is it would be cool to say, I have a booner on the wall. With that said, I am [00:33:00] such an advocate for doing what makes you happy.
And I say this all the time, and this has been a thing that's been beat to death by the podcast, just podcasters. If you love going out. In hunting and you're extremely happy and you're happy in general about shooting a fork horn or a spike buck, man, I am going to celebrate that with you. I'm going to celebrate that with you.
I don't care if you, where you are, where you're at hunting for me is such a health. It's a healthy thing for me. Like I need it. I need the break. I need to focus on something else. Other, in my life. And I think for, this is going to sound like a men's health thing, but I think men in general need to have something to where they can step away for just a little bit.
Refocus and recenter, and then come back a better person. And when I go on my out of state hunt, and I go on my hunting [00:34:00] trips, that's, that is that opportunity. I get, I know that my family's taken care of, back home, I can go do my thing, I can escape for a while, I can recenter, and I can come back and have a clear head, and say, you know what, it didn't work out, but now it's time to get back into dad mode.
Mitchell Shirk: You brought up a good point earlier too Doing what makes you happy. I wonder do you feel like in today's world with all the social media and everything else going on, do you feel that it's worse now than it was years ago for people who do stuff because... They have to prove themself to other people doing what makes you happy I, I've always said it doesn't matter what I kill and what I have on my wall, I'm the only one that cares about it nobody else is gonna care what I kill and everything else, but there's still this overwhelming desire, I think, for myself and I'm speaking on this because I was once in those shoes, so I'm wondering, is that just, I'm, The progression of a hunter, and some people have to prove themselves at a [00:35:00] younger, as a younger hunter, at a younger age and then they mature as a hunter, or is that amplified and worse now just because of the way society is and the way social media is, like what, where do you fall on that spectrum, because you've interviewed tons of people that we talk about whitetails.
Dan Johnson: I think it is human nature. To want to be good at what you love. And so a lot of people for our conversation here, there's people out there who absolutely love, and I'm one of them. I love bow hunting. So I put so much time and energy into it. Why not try to be the best at something? It's just that what I want to be the best at, I don't want to be the best at killing large antler deer.
I want to be the, I want to be the best. I want to be good. I want to be really good at locating a mature whitetail and shooting him with an arrow. That's my goal. And I feel it's human nature to just want to improve yourself, [00:36:00] to better yourself, especially if it is your passion, it's like a craftsman, right?
A woodworker or a cabinet maker, or, when they first started out. They were probably crap at doing what they're doing, like any type of trade, then all of a sudden, you start getting good at something. And so now you're going like, not only does my reputation on how I make my money depend on it, but I also want, I also just want to, I love woodworking and I want to be the best woodworker there is.
And it, it's, I feel it's just human nature, but then. There's, there, there can be an arrogance side in that as well. And sometimes a person can look arrogant, but also sometimes a person can just be straight arrogant. Yeah. And a lot of it, it's so objective it's hard to, it's such a blurry line.
Mitchell Shirk: Yeah. And onto that, like you can do something for so long and [00:37:00] then get it in your head that you're the man, like I'm the best at this. It can be really hard for some people to accept the fact that there are better hunters and there are better bow hunters than me out there.
That's happened to me, but you know what, when I accepted the reality that. I am not God's gift to hunting whitetails and killing big deer. And I started listening to other people and what they're doing. It made me a better deer hunter. There are people out there in my life, and some people that I've actually never met, but I've learned from through their content that they put out.
If I ever get the opportunity to shake their hand, be like, look, you made me... Opened my eyes and made me a better deer hunter and I think that's important because that comes back to the whole community thing and that aspect
Dan Johnson: of it, but yeah, I'll be honest. I like, I used to think that the key to success, especially in the whitetail space is killing big antler deer.
I I don't give a shit. About [00:38:00] that. Honestly, I don't care. Because number one, I don't have the resources that these other people have to manicure properties and have large tracts of land that are, that you talked, had a conversation with a guy a while back and he was talking about it. He spent X number of dollars on planning a bean field for deer.
All right. And we're talking maybe a 50 acre food plot. That's a huge, that's a huge, it's a huge expense. And because he didn't like how it turned out, he just did all up and replanted soybeans again. So they would regrow. And so I look at something like that and I go, are you kidding me?
That's diesel fuel, that's equipment whether you own it or whether you rent it, that's the seed, that's the fertilizer, the time commitment to that. And some people just, that's what, like you, you love [00:39:00] habitat work, you love habitat work. I don't have the ability to do habitat work on some of the properties that I hunt.
Not yet. Anyway, I'm hoping someday that changes because I can definitely see the interest in it, but I've never had those resources. I've never wanted, I've always found ways to kill deer based off of the environment that I have available to me. And so just it's hard.
I can't, what I'm getting at is I can't relate to that style of hunting. Like I just can't and I feel like there then comes a line between entertainment and actual value, right? Because if somebody who manages large chunks of property and hunts over hunts over giant food plots and doesn't go into the timber and spends, 10, 20, 000 a year on manicuring properties.
You know what would happen? I would be living in my truck right now if I spent [00:40:00] ten grand on, on food plots.
Mitchell Shirk: You'd be back to living the good old country song.
Dan Johnson: I would, I tell you what, I'd have a lot more free
Mitchell Shirk: time. Oh man, if that would happen, man, we would have to get like Morgan Wallen or something to write Dan Johnson's life story is what we'd
Dan Johnson: have to get.
I planted a food, like, when planting a food plot goes wrong.
Mitchell Shirk: Hey, I one thing I'm curious about. So you talked about a couple of the deer hanging on your wall. I'm curious when, I have a couple that I look at and they just, I stare at them a little bit longer than the other ones, and I just smile a little bit more just because of what transpired for that.
I'm curious, like the deer you look at on your wall, is there one deer or two deer or something in particular that man that one's a little bit extra special.
Dan Johnson: So we got about. We got about 10 to 15 minutes left. So I'm going to tell you two stories here. Okay. One is from 2016 and [00:41:00] I. It was the year that everything clicked for me.
I look at that deer every single day and I smile at it. I'm not joking. I'll, I always walk downstairs, take a couple sips of coffee because it was that buck that made me the hunter really that I am today. And what I mean by that is the first, it's like the first championship is always the sweetest, right?
And so I put together a game plan and I. Got the job done on it. I, it was the rut. It was man, I'm trying to think it was the rut. I showed up to the property the first day that I was there. I walked, I went into all my trail cameras. I pulled all the cards. I came back home and I flipped through all the cameras and there was this Big mature buck.
He's not big in antlers, but he's big in body big roman nose on him and I [00:42:00] located his position. He was coming to this scrape on a field edge over and over again. So I said man, he must be somewhat close And so then it started raining And I missed an afternoon hunt and I missed a morning hunt And it rained all day and right at about three 45 ish the rain, there was going to be a break in the rain.
I said, man, everybody says get in the tree stand right after it rains. And so I got in the tree stand and I'm not joking. As soon as the last drops of rain started. Falling in the sky Started to clear up just a little bit. I See a deer stand up in this marsh and it's him And he starts walking to the field edge I'm sure he was gonna go to the scrape but before he gets to the scrape I give one He stops looks in my [00:43:00] direction takes a 90 degree turn Starts walking right toward me complete broadside.
I hit him high in his spine, but I dropped him right in his tracks And I was like It worked. Yeah oh my God, it worked. My, my strategy worked, I spent all this time, curating a strategy and it worked and I was so fired up, for a, for 135, 140 inch 10 pointer. In Iowa and I was and that right there got me fired up.
All right, so that's the first story And that
Mitchell Shirk: was just everything that transpired from learning wind location and everything That was just the accumulation of all that into one hunt.
Dan Johnson: Yeah, ten years ten years into one hunt You know what? And so it worked out and I was pretty jacked about it.
Now. Here's one Here's a story of the biggest buck I've ever seen with my own eyes. Okay, and This was man I wish I would remember the date, but I think it was [00:44:00] before I got my finger cut off. So it would have been previous to 2005. It was either 2000. It was either. No, you know what? I think I did have my finger cut off.
So that would have been maybe 2007, 2006, 2007. So somewhere in that timeframe, I wish I could remember the exact year anyway. Showing your age, man. Exactly. I'm leaving a property, and I pull off the, I pull off the gravel onto the blacktop to cross an interstate to come back to another blacktop that leads into town to where my house was.
And... They're, I'm coming up on this farmhouse and I'm sure you guys got them out there to where a farm separated by a road, right? So you got the house on one side and then maybe a barn on the other side. And so I'm seeing these does cross the road under the farm yard light and there, these does are like eating [00:45:00] bird seed out of the bird feeders.
And I'm like, Oh, that's cool. And then I look across in the barn yard, there stands still to this day, the largest white tail that I have ever seen. And besides high fence, like those high fence freaks of genetic freaks that are like 200 inch yearlings. To this day, there's been no deer killed that could have matched this deer.
I will confidently say that it would score larger than the Hansenbuck. Like it was a world record. Typical guaranteed. It was like an eight by eight. And I would not be surprised if the G twos and G threes, the brow times were probably eight inches long maybe nine. The G twos and threes. I would say definitely 12 inches, if not longer, could have been [00:46:00] 14, but his G twos, his G threes and his G fours were all the same size.
And then it started staggering down from there. But he was a typical eight by eight, and he was probably Over 20 wide, he just looked like a picket fence, like just standing there. And I, he was so huge that I just, I let go of my steering wheel to turn around as I'm driving to look out the back window to still see him.
And so I turned around, I drove by him again, but he was already gone at that point. So the next day, I went over to the farmhouse and I said, Hey man, do you allow hunting on your property? I'm just curious. It didn't look like a spot that held like it would have just went under the radar just from the location of this place.
And so I end up knocking on the door and the farmer answers it. And I [00:47:00] asked him the question, he goes, you saw him, didn't you? So he knew this buck was there. And he goes, no hunting and to this day that boggles me because if somebody would have shot this deer, it would have made headlines all over the world.
All over the whitetail community, it would have been, it would have been the typical number one period. I just. Knowing what I know about deer, knowing how antlers, like I'm not the greatest at judging. And sometimes when you get fired up, you may go, Oh, I saw a Booner, but he's 150.
You know what I mean? This is a, this was a no doubter. Like when a guy hits a home run and it goes into the upper deck? Yeah. This is a no doubter world record, and every single year I'm more confident in it based off of what I see hanging at the Iowa Deer Classic, what I've seen hanging at the Illinois Deer Classics and things like that.
[00:48:00] And so the, these, it, it was gigantic. And it's been ingrained in my memory. Just the light. It's dark all around the light from the yard light shining down on him next to a red barn with a it's a horse door next to it. And so the bottom door was closed. The bottom part of the door was closed.
The top part was open. There was an old wooden fence behind him. And then all this brush like, like honeysuckle all along the fence line all illuminated by this yard light. So it was like an orange type color and he was It would be cool to have that image like Somehow recreated by ryan kirby or one of the other larry zack it would be cool to have that if I could tell them Hey, this is what I would like to see on a painting And then they could make that image.
That would be crazy. That
Mitchell Shirk: whole thing is like a [00:49:00] story of you saw Bigfoot. It's almost what it's like. Oh, yeah. That'll be a story you'll tell till the day you die. It'll be like crazy old Grandpa Dan was telling the story of this mega giant buck that nobody ever saw. And he's sounding a little loony the older he gets when he tells it.
Dan Johnson: So I told that story to a guy who lived in the area a handful of years after it happened and he said He saw About a half a mile away in a different year. He saw the biggest deer He's ever shot and this or he's ever seen and this guy has shot This guy shot multiple for 200 inches. Okay, and so He's I just, he goes, yep.
Three years ago I saw the biggest deer I've ever seen in my life. But this one had a drop time that spiraled down off of his main beam like it, like a slinky, like it spiraled down [00:50:00] and he's like the mass. It was non typical. It was just crazy. And he's he said the number two 30 to me. He's it was definitely two 30.
Wow. 30 non typical. I'm like, and I trust this guy. And it's all, I'm just like, dude, this it's not that way anymore, but Iowa back in the day used to be that, before, before people started moving into it, before the industry took hold of it, before a lot of non residents started buying ground in the South, the Southern part of the state, we had a, we didn't have that much non resident, like before non residents were coming here in droves to hunt the deer.
It used to be. Mythical like Iowa used to be mythical. Yeah, it's not that way anymore times. Oh, yeah, like the late 90s That like the 90s before people started really paying attention to Iowa There's guys out there [00:51:00] And I know this is taking long, but there's guys out there Who have, I would not, who have the best walls in the entire country and you'll never hear about them.
You won't know who they are. They're what's going to end up happening. And this is. They're like all their deer antlers are, that are on their wall their heads that are in their garage, stacks of Euro mounts that are from deer that are, Oh, this guy shot a 200 inch deer.
He had it Euro mounted and then he nailed it to his machine shed inside of his machine shed. They're just going to get thrown away. So all these deer are just going to get thrown away by the kids because they don't care about hunting. And so these like literal legends. that you'll never meet.
You'll never know who they are. And that's what made Iowa so special back then.
Mitchell Shirk: I know I've heard you talk about that. I've heard other people talk about it. And it's a shame because there what killed that is media. And that's why I never was a big fan of it. Now, [00:52:00] here I am being being a hypocrite a little bit, cause now I'm doing podcasts and media.
But at the same time, I appreciate you telling stories like that, because I can think of a couple of places that I hunt. Big Woods, Pennsylvania, some of the public land I hunt, and I do this for, that nostalgia of history that I have in some of those places, and just the interest and the draw and the allure of that, those mountains and stuff, and I've seen glimpses of some really big woods bucks, and something like that is just one of those things that I can picture standing on a side hill looking across a big bench and a patch of laurel or rhododendron and just see a glimpse of something that is just like The, the picturesque whitetail.
And that's that's right around the corner. It's almost here and I can't wait for it. Stories like that is what gets me fired up, but man, we've been rolling for a while. I appreciate you taking some time and BS and whitetails with me. Man this has been good. Hey, I appreciate it.
Anything you want to leave us with?
Dan Johnson: Hey man. Other than. [00:53:00] I get pretty fired up about just being a good person. So outside of me saying the standard, Hey, go check out the sportsman's empire. Go check out Mitch's podcast, tell, share it with your friends. I'm a huge advocate for positive energy.
And this is where it gets a little hippie, but if you remain positive, even in the most stressful and negative situations, that positivity will help somebody else have a better day. And there's sometimes in there, there's sometimes in life where you need to just like if, A shit sandwich is sitting in front of you.
Sometimes you just gotta eat it with a smile on your face. And that kinda lets everybody else know that things are gonna be okay. And I'm just a, I'm a huge advocate for being kind to people. Being positive. Being, being aggressive when necessary, I guess you would say. But, for the most part just be, just...
Good vibes, man. I say it all the time. Good vibes in, good vibes out, and that's my motto. [00:54:00]
Mitchell Shirk: Nothing beats positive energy, and I always just use, it's the corny term, but nothing beats love. That's one thing that I've believed and said many times is nothing trumps love. You, you can't, you might have an awkward feel to it or a bitter taste to it just because of the situation.
But at the end of the day, nothing will overpower that. And I think there's so many avenues of life even outside of deer hunting. So I appreciate you, you leaving that with us. And I hope everybody listened to this as we go into whitetail season and all our fall seasons. Man, keep positive in the field and even at home.
Cause as we were talking about before. Stuff can get a little bit hectic when you're when you're not when you're not in the mindset of whitetails, cause home is still about it. Man, I appreciate that. Yup.
Dan Johnson: Hey, again, congratulations on a hundred. Appreciate
Mitchell Shirk: it, man. Yeah. It's good feeling.