Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 10, 2013

Gaylord teen making mark in hunting world

BY LORAINE ANDERSON landerson@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Jada Johnson won’t have to go job hunting when she graduates from Gaylord High School in May. Hunting, making hunting videos and marketing will be her job.

Johnson, 17, is host of Big Boys Adventures, established five years ago with her future in mind. The company films and produces hunting videos for ABC, NBC and cable TV hunting shows in the United States and Canada.

Mostly hunting with a PSE Stiletto bow made for women hunters, Johnson is also featured in PSE and other hunting gear and product commercials.

It takes strength to shoot a bow. Johnson works out for an hour three days a week in a variety ways — lifting weights, cardio exercises, yoga and regular softball practice, which starts next week. She plays first base for the Gaylord High School girls’ softball team.

Though she occasionally does hunt with a Thompson Center .308 rifle, she prefers bow hunting.

“There’s more of a challenge to it,” she said.

Like her father, Kevin Johnson, owner of Johnson Oil, a retail propane and gasoline distributor in Gaylord, she also prefers hunting animals that answer calls, like elk, turkey and moose.

“‘Big Boys’ is not a reference to hunters,” noted Kevin Johnson. “It is the name hunters often give to the elusive game animals.

Jada attributes her love for hunting to her father. He began teaching and mentoring her when she was about 6 or 7 after she asked to go with him to his deer blind, a heated and comfortable shanty in Otsego County.

“Lots of old-timers think you have to take your kids into the woods and sit in the cold and suffer like we did,” he said. “But it’s a different world and we have to adapt if we want to spend times in the woods with our kids.

“You have a lot of time waiting in a tree stand or a shanty. That’s where you can bond with your kids and really get to know them.”

Jada took her mini-DVD player and electronic games with her in the early years. She was 10 when she shot her first game animal, a white-tail deer, in Texas, which has a youth-only season for licensed hunters 16 and under.

Her dad, 47, is a self-described “extreme” hunter whose goal is to kill each of the 29 traditionally recognized big game species native to North America in his lifetime. He has five more to go — the desert sheep, rocky mountain big horn, shiras moose, Roosevelt elk and the Dall sheep. His most recent kill was an almost 2,000-pound bison in Colorado. Jada’s mother, Darce, also is a hunter.

The Gaylord HIgh School senior has been hunting in Michigan since she was 14, the legal age here. Her younger sister, Madison, 14, also hunts but is more interested in art and dance, her father said.

Hunting has taken Jada many places: New Zealand, Canada, Wyoming, Colorado, Ohio, California and South Dakota. Over the last few years, she’s slain an elk in Otsego County, a moose in British Columbia and bear in Ontario, as well as a red stag, elk and goat-like tahr and chamois in New Zealand. She also hunts deer and turkey.

The Johnsons eat the meat from the animals they hunt or have it processed, frozen and sent home in the U.S. In foreign countries, they give it to charitable organizations. The family has several small freezers as well as a walk-in unit.

The hunting videos produced by Big Boy Adventures’ five-member Gaylord-area filming crew will be aired on The Pursuit Channel starting in April and on WildTV in Canada plus area ABC and NBC affiliates during the second half of this year.

Jada said she plans to enroll part time at the University Center in Gaylord after high school graduation in May. She wants to earn a two-year associate degree in marketing and then possibly transfer to a larger four-year school to get her bachelor’s degree.

Jada Johnson will be one of the hosts at the upcoming March 15-17 Traverse City Hunting & Fishing Expo at Howe Arena at the Grand Traverse Civic Center. Daily admission is $6 for adults, $4 for teens and senior 65-plus. Kids 12 and under get in for free. Hours are 4-9 p.m. Friday, 9-7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.