TERRE HAUTE —
I’m struggling to find the correct words to describe this incredible 44-year-old outdoorsman!
At times, I will get down on life and feel sorry for myself. Everyone should meet John Steinbrenner at one time n their life. This man sees no challenges, just solutions for anything he comes up against.
Johnny has cheated death two times in his life while battling cancer. He lost one leg and a portion of his lower jaw. He is the most positive upbeat and full of life person you will ever meet.
One snow covered night on Dec. 15, 2013, I was driving a one lane road winding through the hardwoods on the way to a well placed homestead nestled in the mouth of a large hollow. The rough sawn poplar lap sided home greets you with a wraparound porch and smoke coming from the chimney. The front wall sports about 50 trophies that he has claimed from the head of deer have taken. There is fox and coyote passing through his backyard, not knowing he is the most accomplished trapper in Central Indiana. The hand hewn barn beams in the house he built allow more trophies of deer and turkey to be displayed.
While setting in his fur shed, I went back in time with all the fruits of his labor hanging from the ceiling drying on stretching boards. Coyote, fox, coon, beaver, mink, muskrat, and a skunk or two with a deer waiting to be skinned.
He likes to sharpen his knives with a cardboard type wheel on a grinder motor and coats it with Jeweler’s Rough. I spotted clothes dryer with cedar wood chips n it and he said “No, there’s not a heating element in it.” He tumbles coyote hides in it to bring out the shine. Johnny buys fur from local trappers also.
China has the biggest demand for fur in the world and they are having some trade disputed at this time, so he hates to quote any fur prices until the first big sale of the year, which happens in the country of Denmark.
Johnny is a mentor for a neighbor boy that was named after the Hoyt bow company. Hoyt Griffin sees the sun come up and down in Johnny and imitates him in many ways. Hoyts Dad, Joey, is an avid outdoorsman, also. Hoyt is 11 and will take all of Johnny’s opossums to skin and stretch, even if he only makes fifty cents.
When Hoyt was about 6, his mom was going to throw away a G.I. Joe doll dressed in camo’s that was missing one leg and with great affection Hoyt said “No, Mommy, that my Johnny! You can’t throw him away” Johnny told that with great pride.
Last year he traveled to North Carolina to trap bobcats and caught eight of them, along with Nutria. You say, “What's Nutria?” It looks like a cross between a beaver and muskrat about the size of a beaver. Bridget, Johnny’s wife, thinks Nutria and Bobcat is a delicacy.
Sixteen days in October proved to be very fruitful after setting 30 MB550 Minnesota Brand leg hold traps with 42 coyotes hanging in the fur shed. If the snow gets deep, he goes to snares and says if they are set right they will not kill the animal but will be like a dog on a leash.
As I ask a frequently asked question he threw his head back with a big smile saying “No, there are no wolves or mountain lions in these woods, but here are plenty of otter! He thinks otter season may open in 2015.
Trapping is the best management tool for fur bearers, it keeps population healthy and in check. When over-population occurs, the animals are highly susceptible to disease. Missing inks in the food chain create too many species to not have any natural predators like the coyote.
Johnny says everyday on the trap line is like Christmas. He caught a 27.5-pound coon!
This man does more than any two men his age and is an inspiration to all.
Johnny, you are my mentor. You are an awesome individual and truly a man of the great outdoors.
Kenny Bayless can be reached by email at email@example.com.