Editor’s Note: Hank Parker has worn Mossy Oak since the company’s inception. He hosts two hunting shows; Hank Parker 3D on the Pursuit Network and Hank Parker’s Flesh and Blood on the Outdoor Channel, and a fishing show that has run on the Outdoor Channel for 30 years titled Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine.
One of the things I appreciate about Mossy Oak is the company’s major emphasis on families hunting and fishing together in the outdoors, something that’s very much in line with my philosophy. I have learned that time with my children is one of the most-important things in the world.
Early in my life, I came to realize that all the money in the world wasn’t worth jeopardizing time spent with my family. Later on, I worked hard on my outdoor business to maximize my time with my children. I’ve learned through some hard times that life is about priorities and values. When I figured out my priorities, I transitioned from taking big deer to watching my children take big deer. Let me tell you about one of my greatest hunts.
When I was hunting in Canada a couple of years ago, I passed-up a really-big buck. Once I told the outfitter what happened, he said, “Hank, that is the biggest buck we have seen on this property this year. I can’t believe you passed him up.” I explained, “I know that buck is probably going to score about 170 points on Boone and Crocket, but I honestly believe he is only a 4-year-old deer. If no one else harvests him, he’ll be a monster next year. I would like to take him then.”
The next year, I went back to Canada and hunted with the same outfitter. The outfitter said, “Hank, you were right. The buck that you passed up last year will score about 185 points this year. He is an awesome buck. He is still coming to that same stand where you saw him last year. When we get a west wind, I want you to hunt that stand and take that buck.” My son, Billy, was on the hunt with me. I told the outfitter, “No, I want Billy to try and take that big buck.” The outfitter looked at me and said, “Hank, you’re crazy.” I smiled and said, “No, I really want Billy to take that buck rather than me.” When we had a west wind, Billy went to the stand and took the monster buck. After we cleaned the deer and celebrated Billy’s hunt, the outfitter took me to the side and said, “Hank, letting Billy take that monster buck demonstrates true love.” What he didn’t understand was that I was much more excited for Billy to take the buck; I was so unbelievably proud and excited, it was more of a memory than if I had taken that big buck. As hunters mature, I think we derive much-more pleasure from watching our children enjoy the thrill and the excitement of taking a big buck than if we do it.
I am often asked about the greatest moment I ever have had in the outdoors or the highest point in my outdoor career. People assume I’ll answer, “Winning the Bassmaster Classic,” or “Being named Angler of the Year on the Bassmaster circuit,” or “Taking a trophy buck.” But actually none of those great moments are my greatest outdoor moment, which was a turkey hunt many years ago. I was hunting on the Broad River in South Carolina with my then-7-year-old son, Timmy. I had told Timmy not to talk when we were in turkey woods, unless he had an absolute emergency. God had painted one of those incredible, breathtaking sunrises for us that we saw as the fog lifted off the river.
Once I heard a big longbeard turkey gobbling his brains out across the river, I felt like we had a pretty-good chance to get him to fly our way, so we could take him. I remember Timmy sitting between my legs, tensing with excitement, hearing the gobbler. I had such a wonderful feeling of peace, serenity and family. The best way to describe it was our hunt was like a Norman Rockwell painting. As I was enjoying the beauty of the moment and looking off in the direction the turkey was gobbling, I felt a tug on my shirt. When I looked down, I saw Timmy smiling, and he whispered four words that still choke me up today, “Daddy, I love you.” I have remembered those seconds more vividly than any other experience I have had during my outdoor career.