I have been very lucky in my life to be surrounded by so many skilled, talented folks who have taken the time to impart their wisdom and experience to me. There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting down with friends and discussing the ways things used to be or just enjoying some great stories from when game was abundant in Illinois. For many years in my past, I worked with a gentleman by the name of Tad Johnson, who along with many other feathers in his cap is also writing a book about his father Mel Johnson. It’s odd that I worked with Tad for so many years but somehow we never discussed that is father was Mel Johnson. The Mel Johnson that still holds the World Record Buck that was killed back in 1965. When Tad called me and we began to discuss his dad and all of his great accomplishments I could hardly contain myself. Then Tad called me to go to lunch with him and his father so I jumped at the opportunity. How often to you get to set down with a hunting legend? Upon meeting Mel I realized that he doesn’t see himself that way. He just sees himself as another hunter and conservationist, but me and many others he is a legend in the outdoors world. One reason is that everything he harvested was with a recurve bow. I can’t imagine hunting bear with a recurve. Not sure my nerves could handle it. He has traveled the world hunting animals and spending time with people like Fred Bear and others who were the pioneers of the outdoor industry. The stories these guys can tell put shivers down my spine.
After Tad, Mel and I had lunch they invited me back to the house to see some of the mounts and of course the record deer. This deer was 204 4/8 inches and to think that since 1965 no one has killed one bigger. With all of the food plots and mineral supplements out there it is hard to believe that this record has stood the test of time. I know we can’t supplement our deer with mineral blocks or food piles but to think that many other states allow you to feed your deer and yet no one has been able to top the mark Mel set all of those years ago. When I ask Mel about the deer he started talking about when they first started hunting deer, that there just wasn’t many around. Then as time went on he talked about going on hunts where you see 30 to 50 deer in an evening. Of course, that has now seemed to change since the introductions of new diseases in our area. Mel has gotten to see the complete transformation of deer hunting. The amount of knowledge he has from all of those years of hunting is irreplaceable. To be able to see the deer herd grow from a few deer to hundreds to thousands and now watching the deer herd deplete over the last several years.
What I bet a lot of people don’t know is, Mel also had a Brown Bear that at one point was in the top ten of scoring. As you can see in one of the pictures in the article he has harvested many bears and some very nice size one as well. His man cave was lined with mounts included multiple deer, turkey, walleye, bluegill, bear, crappie and smallmouth. It was quite the site. I hope that someday I have half of the accomplishment Mel has had and he is so humble about it all. I just thought that everything he did was such a great feat and not only what he was hunting but how he was hunting. To only hunt with a recurve and be able to have so many successful hunts goes to show you that with hard work and dedication to your craft, everything is possible. I really appreciated the time he spent with me and allowing me to visit his home and hear the stories that he shared with me. I am grateful for these encounters.
I have been blessed to be able to make my living in this industry. Many only dream of being able to talk fishing and hunting for a career and I am very grateful for the opportunity that has been presented. Not only did this open the door to meet people like Mel Johnson it has opened doors to meet hundreds of people who love the outdoors as much as I do.
We are now sitting at the end of May and the weather is finally starting to break. We had a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend and it looks like the next couple of weeks we will be getting closer to summer. The mushroom season is now over in Central Illinois and the season is wrapping up in Northern Illinois. The reports were scattered. I myself walked several days and several miles and did find around 8lbs this year. On a normal year I would get two times that but the last three years I have just not been able to find that big patch. Everything here was one here, two or three there. I think the biggest patch I found this year was 14 mushrooms. Usually I am lucky enough to find patches two or three times that size. Really not sure if the weather is changing the season or if maybe we have just had a few bad years. I enjoy walking the woods and finding them and most of the time I give most of them away. There are many people who can’t get out anymore but still enjoy a nice mess of morels and I try to take care of as many as I can. Since mushroom season was so short I decided to take the chance and plant my garden a little early. I have my garden planted and my wife likes to tease me about my need to garden and my love to can what I harvest. This was something my grandma ingrained in me. I would spend countless hours watching her garden and can all of the vegetable they could. Now that I have gotten older I have started canning and showing my daughter how to do it. It is nice during the winter to go get a fresh jar of tomatoes or green beans. We also have a blackberry patch, black raspberry patch and a raised strawberry bed. We will make our jams and jellies from these.
I have been talking with a lot of fisherman and the Crappie are just now getting up on the beds. That last cold snap kind of put them into a holding pattern and with the warm up they should be moving back up in to the shallows and there should be a couple of great weeks of crappie fishing to come. By the time this article is out we should start seeing the bluegill come up to the beds and there is no better time to take your kid out fishing. If you can find the beds, then you and your kid can have a day they will never forget. To me that is what it is all about. Being able to take my kids and wife out fishing and watch the smile on their face when they can’t keep the pole in the water. We as a family always go camping on Memorial Day weekend and there is no better way to spend time with the family than on the water. So please take the time to take your kid fishing and don’t forget you can always email me the pics to ASOAndyB@gmail.com. Every kid loves to see their picture in the Magazine. So don’t wait any longer and plan the next fishing trip with your kid, grandkid, niece or nephew and you will make a memory that will last forever. Besides Father’s Day is coming up and where else would you rather be than on the water.
May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!