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Hank Parker Jr.
"Connecting with the Millennial Generation"
What a privilege it is to speak with the son of one of our nation's outdoors legends! However, it is a foregone conclusion that the Millennial Generation will soon outpace the Baby Boomer Generation in numbers. So it is now time to hear from someone who understands what its like to host a television show and the demands of an ever changing demographic target market. As a spokesman for the younger profile of sportsman who understands and can "connect" with the next generation, our readers are looking forward to getting your take on the outdoors industry and the future of hunting and fishing in America. Thank you Hank Jr. for your bold Christian faith and straight forward approach to communicating with The Christian Sportsman magazine's growing number of twenty-somethings across this great nation who love hunting, fishing and target shooting. Let's get started with the interview!
What has it been like growing up with the legendary Hank Parker as your dad?
Hank Parker Sr. - Every Angler's Best Friend!
I have heard it said that there is nothing better than having a famous child but there is nothing harder than having a famous father. I don’t know if that's always completely true especially in my case, However, I do see some truth in that saying. The reality is there are different platforms but when it comes to the outdoors my dad has left his mark. When he started his fishing show in the 80’s, he was a pioneer in the outdoor television world. With his signature grin, the catchy theme song, and the as always ending of God bless you at the end of every show, if you watched fishing back then you knew who my dad was. I have always loved hunting and fishing, I have always looked up to my dad from the very first memory I can remember. We had a special relationship because even as a small boy I would do whatever it took to go hunt with him no matter how long, how cold, how anything, I was there with him. I think most guys if they were honest would say they really want their dads approval more than just about anything and I fell in that category.
My dad grew up with out much in the way of money and became successful. A big reason for his success is because he is very determined and very hard working. I grew up with opportunity in a good home with lots of support, all I wanted was to “make it” like my dad. As a young 20 something, I didn't want to be compared to my dad but just measure up and make my way with success like he did. That's a lot of pressure, I know a lot of people who are great fisherman and just never made it to his level of success. Very few people, in the grand scheme of things, become as successful as a professional athlete such as he did. My dad has always been helpful and pushed me to give everything I have but he hasn't ever pushed me to fill his shoes or take his place.
How did you find yourself in NASCAR racing and land up in the outdoor industry?
Well, my dad became friends with Dale Earnhardt and he always liked racing. I grew up just a few miles from Mooresville (race city) North Carolina, its just a part of the culture here. I tried racing go karts and found out I wasn’t very good at fighting, (kidding) so that didn't work out. I was on a hunt when I was 16 years old with my dad along with Dale and his son. Dale Jr and I became friends then he introduced me to racing. I bought my first race car from Dale Jr, a 74 Chevy Malibu! Man it was one ugly car but it was my start.
I started racing at Concord speedway on a weekly basis and from there worked my way though the ranks racing in the Slim Jim All pro series, a traveling Nascar late model series. I got the opportunity to race in the Nascar Busch Series while I was still racing in the All Pro series. After a rough start in the Busch series my dad started his own team and I drove for him for a couple of years before I went to drive for GNC at Cicci-Welliver racing. In my racing career I ended up winning a couple of races and getting to drive for some really great people such as Ray Evernham and Dale Earnhardt Jr. I felt like I was on the brink of really making it, but through several circumstances I never raced full time in the Nascar Sprint Cup series. However, I am really proud and thankful for my time behind the wheel of a race car, I still have many friends in that world and enjoy watching the races.
What are some things you have learned by co-hosting the television show Flesh & Blood?
I have learned several things but one thing I have learned is it takes a ton of dedication to have a good hunting show. Its a year round job of planning, preparation, hunting, editing, and on and on. Don’t get me wrong, I know thousands of guys who would trade with me in a second and I really enjoy it, it just isn't something you can do half way and expect to have a good show. As always the one rule when hunting with a camera, if it can go wrong it probably will! I can remember I was on a archery hunt in Iowa and I saw a mid 170’s buck on day one of the hunt. I hunted that deer hard for about 7 days, I saw the deer almost every day but couldn't get a shot. Finally, on the last day of the hunt before good light, the deer walks right by at 10 yards! No camera light so I let him walk. That's just one example of how things can go wrong.
Growing up with a dad who was vocal about his Christian faith how did that influence your life and understanding as a man?
As I stated earlier, I have always looked up to my dad. I am very thankful for his stance, I think its important to keep in mind is the fact that he wasn’t perfect. I grew up in church and around some great people. My dad didn’t live any differently in public then he did at home. Integrity and handwork are two big things I learned from my dad that I hold on to in the light of our basis of being accepted in Christ.
Hank Parker Jr. with his son ... decked out in camouflage and ready to hunt!
How did you come to faith as a follower of Jesus Christ?
That is a good question! I grew up in a Christian home with parents who followed Christ. I understood early that my sin had separated me from a right relationship with God and that faith in Christ was the remedy to repair that relationship. I understood that but I think I understood it more as I wanted to go to heaven and not as much of realizing the greatness of Christ. When I was racing in the NASCAR Busch series, a guy that was a chaplain for MRO and I became pretty good friends. At that point in my life I had basically walked away from my faith in Christ, through many conversations and one in particular it was like a light switch came on. I finally understood, Jesus died to ransom and redeem the many but also me. God's response to my rebellion and pride was that he sent his Son to die in my place! He adopted me into his family, forgiving my sin…"What else could be greater?" was my thought. I no longer looked to Christianity as a check list to be considered a good person but rather I saw it as God lovingly calling then ransoming me through the death and resurrection of his son.
What do you see as the difference in cultural Christianity and true authentic Christian manhood?
Cultural Christianity, still has its place in some areas but seems to be quickly fading. What I mean, it is no longer a benefit or politically correct, for the most part, to be a follower of Christ. Cultural Christianity develops because of family, citizenship, or cultural ties rather than a personal encounter with the living God. Authentic Christianity is the acknowledgment that I am a sinner separated from God because of my rebellion against him. Christ lived a perfect life and died a sacrificial death on my behalf and rose from the dead three days later providing the perfect sin sacrifice for those who place their faith in him alone. My faith is in the perfect work of Christ alone who justifies, making me right with God. So, Christian manhood is always in recognition of my failure or inability and in Christ’s work on my behalf, which should create humility and thankfulness.
Manhood, is a big topic right now, I mean look at all the guys proudly wearing beards. The Duck Dynasty phenomenon has made it cool to be a man's man again. There is a lot of confusion on manhood, it seems. Some identify manhood from the images we take from endurance and skills developed from sports, mechanics, hunting, etc. but I think manhood goes much deeper than that. Jesus said “greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”. Ultimately, Jesus was speaking of his inevitable crucifixion but he also represented true masculinity which is associated with the two words, "sacrifice and responsibility". Human beings bear the image of God, men are to serve as the leaders in the homes and society.
Leadership is not just privilege but also sacrifice and responsibility, a great burden to be entrusted with. As husbands we are called to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. We often think of that as some heroic act, perhaps taking a bullet for our women. The reality of this passage is that as men we lay down our prerogatives in order to love and serve our wives in a way that sees them flourish. Christian manhood is always about our identity as men who have been bought by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and to be used for his purposes to make him and his forgiveness known to families, communities, and the nations to know this great God. I would suggest a book called “Father Hunger” By Douglas Wilson to any guy on this topic.
While engaged in extensive travel as you are in filming outdoors shows, how do you deal with the many temptations of our permissive culture?
Men don’t like to talk about any weakness or failure we would rather talk about victory and strength, at best we may joke about our failures but joking is as far as it goes. Lust is a huge issue in our culture. It has been documenting that over 80% of men view porn at least twice a month. Pornography is accepted in our culture and even flaunted. The Christian life is not a simple “let go and let God” mentality, it’s a war, a serious battle for the allegiance of our hearts. Men seem to be drawn to visual images and porn is a huge attraction that must be fought against or it will claim your marriages, mind, and life. I saw my first pornographic images when I was in the fifth grade leaving an indelible mark. Access back then was limited to magazines but now it is more accessible.
Today a man can view about anything his heart desires on a Smart Phone at any time. I deal with this battle in several ways. I have conversations with my wife concerning my personal temptations to sin prompting me to take actions such as installing a computer program called Covenant Eyes. I have guys in my life that know me and we hold each other accountable. When I am on the road, it is pretty normal for one of my buddies to check in with me encouraging me to stay strong.
I think there are many temptations in our current culture, but especially personal lust. I have two daughters and two sons who I want to constantly point to Jesus, encouraging them to remain strong in their integrity; its worth the battle. My personal advice: get an internet filter (Covenant Eyes is great), find a couple of guys with whom you can be open and honest, and consider a book called “Every Mans Battle”.
What trends do you see for the millennial culture's hunting and fishing involvement? What is popular with younger sportsmen in America?
Hank Jr. and Billy Take a Break from the Hunt!
I see a lot of great advancements in technology for one. Who doesn’t like checking out night vision equipment for a predator hunt? It seems there has been so much technology advancement especially with the speed of archery bows. With all the new technology, its almost overwhelming when trying to enjoy the simplicity of outdoor adventure. Texts, emails, and IPhones make it difficult to seek out the solidarity our the great outdoors. Everyone addicted to the technological gadgets desperately needs to powering down for a bit. It can be so easy to sit in a stand and text or play digital games on a phone. Does that not defeat the whole purpose of being in the hunting stand.
On a positive note, predator hunting seems to be on the rise among younger sportsmen because of the excitement and great rush! Also, archery hunting seems to be as popular as ever, which is also my favorite. I am glad to see guys out hunting, some of my best memories are out in the woods. I love taking my kids and enjoying it with them as well as seeing other guys engage their sons and daughters.
Who are some of the guys you respect and look up to within the hunting and fishing industry?
Where do you start? I have always looked up to David Hale and Harold Knight, those guys are just plain awesome. I could go on and on but two guys I have met and have been blown away by how down to earth they are is Toxey Haas and Cuz Strickland from Mossy Oak. Toxey could be a guy who flaunts his personal wealth but doesn’t, he’s always wearing camo and talking about turkey hunting. There is nothing flashy about that guy, period. Cuz, he’s the kind of guy that will call you up out of the blue just to see how things are going. They are just great guys who have experienced great success, without letting it go to their heads. Also, I really like traditional archery, so Fred Eichler who is a guy I enjoy watching on television. Nick Mundt is also another one of those genuine down to earth good guys, pretty crazy but how could you not like him?
What does becoming a husband and father mean to you?
Man, I love being a dad! I love my wife, she has been such a supporter and pushes me to be all that God wants me to be. Its a joy to come home. It has been hard trying to keep my schedule under control but we continue to work on that. People ask often if my wife hunts and she really doesn’t, she has been a few times with me. She is pretty competitive so I am afraid to get her on some of my good turkey properties! I have four children, two girls, Alex and Madison, and two boys Boone and Cade. We are also in the process of adopting a little girl. Being a husband and dad has its work and responsibility but its more than worth it. I can’t put into words the joy they bring me and the love I feel for them.
What have your learned from the past that might influence you as now being a husband and dad?
One of the biggest things I have learned from seeing it done correctly and seeing it done wrong is as a man admitting when I am wrong and asking for forgiveness. I hear guys say they can’t ask their kids for forgiveness because they will loose the status of being viewed as the head of the family, I disagree. It is important to model to your kids humility and a willingness to admit failure, then strive to learn from it and move on. Life is short, don’t waste it!!!
If you could give some candid advice to our readers who aspire to become involved in the hunting industry, what would it be?
There is lots of opportunity out there, work hard and pursue your talents. Our production company is always looking for guys who are good camera operators.
What is the typical day like in the life of Hank Parker Jr. when you are not in the woods hunting?
Monday through Friday I work in our production studio, Dry Creek Productions. Long time friend John Tate and I own Dry Creek which produces Hank Parker’s Flesh & Blood, Greg Zipadellies Drop Zone, Bucks of Tecomate and Tecomate Whitetail Nation. Most of my days are spent in front of a computer or in meetings. Most people are surprised by that and think I am in the woods 24-7 but that is not the case.
What goals in life do you have for your family, for yourself personally, and for your career?
My goals for my family are to finally finish studying through the Bible. We have Bible study about 3 to 4 times a week and we started in Genesis and are working our way through at the end of each study. My kids draw pictures to help outline the story and we have them all in a book to help chronologically see the Bible. Its fun but we are about 3 years deep and are almost finished with the Old Testament. As a family we are excited about the soon adoption, we are ready to see our little girl come home. Goals for myself? I want to continue to grow in my walk with Christ and kill a deer with my long bow! Seriously, my goals could be placed on a long list but more to the point, I want to bring glory to Jesus and see the proclamation of the Gospel, front and center, in every aspect of my life. As far as my career, I would like to see Dry Creek Productions continue to grow on the same path that it is now and producing shows that we are proud of and working with people we respect.
What is in the future for Hank Parker Jr. say5 to 10 years from now?
My life seems to have been a twisting and turning road. I really could have never guessed I would be where I am now and I really don’t know where I will be 5 to 10 years from now. I am humbled at God’s grace and the opportunities he has given me, I look forward to seeing how God grows my family as well as myself.