Since retiring from the Columbia County school system in 1986, Shirley Johnson's sights have been set on more than settling down on her peaceful Appling farm.
The grandmother of five and great-grandmother of three continues what she's done her entire life: hunt.
From October through December, Johnson, armed with her Marlin rifle, heads to a hill on her property and situates herself in a 15-foot enclosed deer stand -- a birthday present from her late husband.
"I love to do it," Johnson said. "I love to see children that get excited about doing that."
The 77-year-old likes to be ready for action by 6:30 a.m. and doesn't come down from the stand until about 11 a.m.
She often has company in the form of family members who live close by.
Last year, Johnson took her great-grandnephew, great-grandson and granddaughter hunting on separate occasions. She first taught and quizzed the youngsters on hunting safety.
"It's always exciting when the young folks can get a deer," she said. "I love for them to like the woods and be outdoors."
Johnson's love of hunting -- and the outdoors -- started at an early age.
Born close to where she lives now on Dozier Road, Johnson was the oldest of four girls.
"Daddy and I did a lot of fishing and a lot of hunting," she said. "He didn't have a boy in the crowd, and I was his tomboy."
After earning master's and specialist degrees in elementary education at Georgia Southern University, Johnson and her husband moved to Augusta, where she taught at T. Harry Garrett Elementary School.
In 1965, the couple, who raised two daughters, built their dream home on Appling land passed down to Johnson from her great-great-grandfather. It wasn't until then that Johnson shot her first deer. Since then, she estimates that she has killed more than a dozen.
Though most of her recreational time was spent in the great outdoors, Johnson's focus also stayed on her career.
Johnson started Columbia County's gifted program in 1970. For 12 years, she traveled to county schools on a school bus to teach gifted fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders.
Before retiring in 1986, Johnson served as North Columbia Elementary School's principal for four years.
As a teacher of gifted children, Johnson's appreciation of nature continued to flourish. Class assignments included field trips to Okefenokee Swamp in south Georgia, Heggie's Rock in Appling and Stone Mountain near Atlanta.
Nowadays, Johnson still turns to the outdoors to keep active.
"She's always doing something," said nephew-in-law Davenport Davison, who also hunts with Johnson on his Appling property. "She pretty much does like she wants to do."
In addition to hunting and fishing, Johnson tends to her vegetable garden and enjoys making preserves and jellies. She is also an active member of Shiloh United Methodist Church.
"I guess the country just kind of gets in your blood," she said.
Reach Jenna Martin at (706) 868-1222, ext. 109, or firstname.lastname@example.org.