Mitchell Johnston really emerged on the turkey hunting scene when he took home the title of 2010 Grand National Senior Division Calling Champion. It wasn’t an overnight achievement; he’s been calling competitively for more than a decade, winning more than 30 contests from the local to national, even world levels.
But there’s more to Mitchell than mouth calls and kee kee runs.
His closest friends call him Mitch. Sarah and Cadence call him Daddy. And fellow champion caller Mark Prudhomme says the guys on the circuit know him to be as passionate about turkey hunting as he is devoted to his family.
I got a crash course in Mitchell by spending two days with him in his hometown of Purlear, N.C. You learn a lot about a person by staying in his home with his family. You learn even more spending hours upon hours with him in a hunting blind, along with one of his closest friends (named Cornbread).
The random stuff I took away from our hours of conversation ranged anywhere from silly to serious. And each little nugget of personal info combines into who Mitchell is today.
Everyone, meet the real Mitchell:
- He called in his first turkey at age 16 — a jake he shot with an old Ithaca.
- His wife, Ashley, killed her first buck the evening he proposed to her, which threw a loop in his special dinner plans. But it all worked out. They’ve been married for 9 years now.
- Mitchell entered the work force as a high school math teacher. He also coached baseball and tennis. But teaching left him trapped in a classroom when the turkeys were gobbling outside, so he left to pursue another passion as a firefighter.
- He delivered his first daughter, Sarah. The doctor knew he was a trained EMT and asked if he’d ever delivered a baby before. Mitchell hadn’t. “Well, right now’s a good time to practice,” said the doctor. So Mitchell went from not even wanting to be in the room to delivering her.
- He and Ashley named their second daughter, Cadence, after the rhythm of sounds a turkey makes.
- His family wasn’t at the NWTF Convention when he won his Grand National title. But he called Ashley from the stage to tell her the news. (He still tears up telling the story of his win.)
More important than what I found out about Mitchell is what he wants you to know about him.
“It’s true my family and my faith are my priorities in life,” said Mitchell. “It’s also spot on that turkey hunting is my passion. Winning calling contests and now having my own line of hunting calls and products is a dream come true for me.”
One day Mitchell hopes God blesses his company, Dead End Game Calls, to be successful enough to make a living for his family while doing what he loves, which is calling in old gobblers to his gun and helping others do the same.
Want to try a Dead End Game Call for free? Here’s your chance. Mitchell is giving away calls to six lucky Keeping Up With Karen followers — five of his Roadkill Mouth Calls and one Roadblock Slate Call. Go to www.deadendgamecalls.com and click on the Contact Us link. Fill in your name and e-mail address, and write “Keeping Up With Karen” in the subject field. Then feel free to leave Mitchell a nice little message if you want. Everyone who does this by May 31 will have his or her name in the pot for the chance at one of the six calls.