Most of the time, passionate people have interesting beginnings on how they got started in their craft. Same can be said for the only person to win every major turkey calling contest, Walter Parrott. As one of the RedHead Pro Hunting Team’s original members, Walter speaks up on the importance of starting young with proper education and guidance on one of the most important aspects of hunting. He’s all about utilizing his organization, the Outdoor Dream Foundation, to grant outdoor adventures to children who have been diagnosed with terminal or life-threatening illnesses. Walter sets things straight with tradition and his dedication to hunting in this episode.
Listen to the podcast here:
Talking Turkey Walter Parrott
I’m pleased to have Walter Parrott. Brenda Valentine suggested Walter and I get together and spend some time talking about his background and it’s extensive. He started competitive turkey calling back in 1978. He is a five-time world champion. He’s one of the original members of RedHead Pro Hunting team for Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. He was one of the first Pro Staffers for Bill Jordan and RealTree. Read on because this man is going to share some wisdom about hunting, our hunting tradition and what it takes to make it in the outdoor world.
We’re in for a treat. Walter Parrott knows something about turkey calling. He’s a five-time world champion. He’s been with RedHead Pro Hunting team for Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World for over twenty years. He’s also involved with Indian Creek Shooting Systems. He knows a couple of folks in the hunting industry. Walter, welcome to the show.
How are you, Bruce?
I’m doing fine. I thank Brenda Valentine for referring you to the show because she’s one heck of a lady. She said, “I got to get down there and kill a turkey.” We talked about your past. How did you erupt into who you are as a turkey caller?
I started at the age of eight turkey hunting. Missouri season started in 1960 and in 1964 was my first season. I fell in love with it the first time. The first time we went out, I didn’t hear anything gobble but I saw one and I told my dad, “That thing looks like an ostrich.” I can’t believe how big it was. I was hooked from that day forward. It’s in its infancy around that part of the world then and nobody knew much about it. The old-timers that did, if they did know anything, they wouldn’t tell you. If they didn’t, they’ll just bluff their way through. Anyway, I could gain any knowledge about the wild turkey or hunting them, that’s what I wanted to do. I started going to calling contests. I went to a couple of local calling contest in Fairview Town, Missouri. That’s where I got started, listening to those guys. The next year, I competed.
We talked about Wayne Carlton. He took a turkey call and began elk calling. I’m dating myself but that’s the way it happened. We were laughing before. I didn’t know what a kee-kee run is. I still don’t because I don’t hunt turkeys. I need to do that. When I think about that, I think about elk hunting and vocalizations for whitetail. As a good turkey caller as you are, how do you transfer that to vocalization to calling elk or calling any critter? How has that helped you?
I try to be as natural as I can no matter what I’m trying to call and I always try to pay as much attention in the woods as I possibly can. In turkey hunting, crows, owls and a lot of different things could tip you off in the woods. If I’m going to imitate any of those, I try to do as most realistic as I can. The situation a lot of times dictate how much I called, what I do and when I do it. Whitetail is just coming around here. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to go yet. I’ve been putting food plots in and working on things down here because it’s been so dry and drought-stricken. Calling deer, I will carry a grunt call all the time because there’s no need not to. If you see a deer off on the distance, you’re not going to get an opportunity but at least you can give them a grunt or a series of grunts. I’m not really aggressive with rattling horns unless it’s Texas. I went to Texas a few years ago and got on that thing. As far as rattling goes, I never would’ve believed how responsive they were to those horns if I hadn’t been there myself. Each of the area dictates itself on how I react to it with calling.
Being as passionate as you are to turkey hunting, why is the hunting tradition important to you?
That’s what I grew up doing. You were talking about how old you were and we’re similar in age. Back in those days we swam, we played baseball and we hunted. That was what we did all the time. My dad was a big bird hunter. Ever since I was big enough to walk, I followed him around. If he wouldn’t take me, then I would apparently throw a fit. I wanted to go all the time and got to, fortunately. Hunting has been a tradition in my family forever.If you see a deer off on the distance, you're not going to get an opportunity but at least you can give them a grunt or a series of grunts. Click To Tweet
You talk about your relationship with Bill Jordan at RealTree. There are a lot of readers across North America saying, “I would love to get in the outdoor business. I would love to be part of that. How do we do it?” What would you say to somebody in their teens, in their 20s, 30s, 40s even 50s? What would be the best advice? How does a guy get his toe in the water here?
The first thing I’d say if you’re an adult is don’t quit your day job. That’s a hard question because things have changed since I got on board with this deal. I was fortunate enough that RedHead was purchased by Bass Pro Shops and Jerry Martin was there. They went to start a pro hunting team. He got a hold of Bob Foulkrod and I was his second choice. Bill went up there and talked to him about me. Jerry was looking for a turkey guy. He was familiar with me from the calling competitions. I was fortunate enough to get asked to be part of that team.
Things fell into place. I was a brick mason for 25 years and I had to labor five years before that. I had a good boss. Once I got up to where he was making me run work I didn’t want to because I don’t want it consuming all my time, I would leave on a Friday afternoon, get in the water barrel to wash my face and get on the airplane, work the show the whole weekend then get back at midnight. I’d get up Monday morning and go back to work at 5:00 AM. There’s a lot more to it than just being on TV and having an opportunity. You have to have the right personality, be able to talk to people and be sincere. It’s easy to sell a good product.
You went to work Friday afternoon and get on the plane in the evening to do the show, come back late Sunday night, went to bed, get up and went to work again. That’s what it takes. It takes hard work. I’m thinking of Dr. Shawn Tyson. I talked to him with Pure One Outdoors. He was a chiropractor, but he loves the industry so he developed some products. He said to me, “I’d work my day job for ten hours a day then I’d spend four hours every night. I did go to the kids’ games.” Every spare minute he had, he said, “I didn’t hunt for a while because I want to devote myself to a company.” You heard Walter say the same thing. He dedicated himself to something he loved and it’s a passion. Talk to me about the passion that you see in the industry now that makes us both hopeful for our future.
You have a lot of young hunters nowadays who do some television shows, lean in the right direction and support all the organizations and the sport that we love. That’s where we need to stay strong. You need to be a member of the NRA and NWTF to help protect our rights to hunt and bear arms. You need to teach the youth about the outdoors because they really don’t know. I’m saying that and speaking from experience from my granddaughters. The oldest one was in the girl scouts. I asked her, “What do you learn at the girl scouts? What do they teach you? Do you know how to build a fire?” “I don’t know. We don’t know anything about that.” I said, “Do you know anything about survival?” “No.” I’m sure they taught them some good things, nice ways to sell cookie and stuff like that but still they need to know about the outdoors. What if something happened? You never know. A lot of people and young people don’t know how to take care of their selves and they would have some major problems. It’s something simple as building a fire when it’s wet. That was all part of the outdoors for me. That’s some things that we learn. We’ll go lay on the back, clean your fish, eat and learn how to live not basically off the land but that’s fun when you’re doing that. Those are lifelong skills that you can use.
You sometimes scratch your head about what kids are learning. I’ve been fortunate to do some work with the huntmaster program here in Colorado. We took kids from all walks of life. We get them out in a secure setting but a setting they had to figure out. It’s amazing the things that you and I picked up because that’s what we did. After school, I remember when I was in grammar school, I’d grab my little fishing rod, some worms and I’d go to catch some trout, take them home and we’d eat them. I was on my way home from school, and I said, “I’m going to catch a couple of trout.” It’s the same thing with squirrels, rabbits and all the other critters that kids love to chase. How do we share that? The groups that you’re involved, how do you get the kids involved?
There are different programs. The NWTF has the JAKES, and we do some youth hunts that actually have some children that have cancer and other various life-threatening illnesses. We do that every spring and try to promote all that, not getting off the youth part of it. Those kids love to go and a lot of them are terminal and going through a lot of things. That’s what they want to do. They want to learn to hunt. We have a turkey hunt every spring in Georgia. The Outdoor Dream Foundation bring the families in and have a little dinner, give the kids some good stuff and they get to go out the next day and hunt some prime property. You do it any way you can. Try to get the children involved. You’re right in your statement, “You want to work in learning.”
My granddaughters were scared to death with guns. I said, “What do you mean? Let’s go shoot.” “No, what, guns?” I said, “Yes.” The oldest among them was seventeen and we went to the gun range with a friend of mind. I had to bring a bolt action .22 out there. I’m not preaching that a .22 by any means is the safest weapon in the world but we were in a range setting with sandbags. The middle one started crying. She couldn’t imagine shooting. I said, “You don’t have to shoot but you need to stop crying. I’m not going to make you do something you don’t want to do.” “I’m afraid.” I said, “There’s no need to be afraid if you just don’t understand. It’s no different than a vehicle. You can make anything you want to make in this world bad if you want to but there’s nothing wrong with a gun if it’s handled correctly.” Finally, she said, “I want to shoot.” She ends up shooting every shell that we had. Once she understood, there was not a problem. The only problem is the person who’s handled the gun. I said, “How do you handle a gun? How do you treat? You treat them like they’re all loaded.” You never point one in a direction that’s unsafe. You have to consciously always think about that for safety aspect.
I grew up bird hunting with my dad. He was right-handed. I was left-handed. He said, “Two’s a company, three’s a crowd when you’re quail hunting.” He will shoot from the center to the left. I will shoot from the center to the right. There were no mistakes. You didn’t cross that line because if you did, you’d be standing over the empty gun watching. For some kid that loves to hunt as I did, you know what I’m talking about. If you love to hunt and fish like we did, taking that away, you learn pretty quickly. You only get one chance as far as the loaded gun goes. I don’t want to get off and rant. I see a lot of that on television, people jumping and pointing their shotguns and rifles in unsafe directions. It makes me a little nervous.
I’m fortunate with my grandkids. They all have been in the range. I cannot remember how old my bolt action single shot .22 is. I’ve had that for a long time but that’s where they start. They can’t muzzle anybody, their brothers, sister, dad or me. I’m not saying it’s a smackdown, but all of a sudden, I’m in their face and saying, “You just shot me.” “What do you mean, gramps?” I said, “Did the muzzle go at my body?” “It’s not lowered.” “Yes, it is.” “How do you know?” “Check it.” It’s not loaded but I said, “You’ve got to learn this from day one.”
It’s like Walter said, “You don’t get a second chance.” You’ve got to train the kids, your wife or your brother right because people now, in my opinion, have a strange sense about what guns are and what they’re not. Walter and I, we’re privileged that we grew up the way we grew up. It was just there. I thank my neighbor for training me. He got in my face one time and said, “If you do that again, there’s no more trout fishing, grouse hunting, rabbit hunting and no more killing squirrels.” That got my attention.
It did and you never worry about a gun because right off the bat you learned early on that’s something you don’t mess with so nobody did. It was not a problem and not a big deal. One more thing on the .22 rifle, my dad wouldn’t let me have one until I was sixteen. He wouldn’t let me hunt with it for the simple fact that he said, “That’s the most dangerous round there is that people do not respect.” He said, “If you look on the box, the range says 1.5 miles. That’s there for a reason. People don’t respect that.” He would not let me mess with one until I was sixteen years old. That’s how dangerous they were. They still are very dangerous.
One time we’re sitting at the barn and a fox came across the field. Adam gave me his .22, he said, “Go ahead shoot that.” I said, “Shoot it? I can hardly see it.” He said, “You’re going to learn a lesson here.” He said, “Put it about three feet over his head. See that piece of corn behind it? Aim at the top of that corn.” I did and I hit right in front of that fox. I’m a little kid so I don’t know how far it was but it wasn’t 100, 200 yards. I knew that because I knew how big the cornfield was. If you’re planking, make sure you’ve got a backstop. If you’re shooting a squirrel, make sure he’s on the right side of the oak tree. This is important as you train up your kids. Walt, what are your thoughts?
You’re dead-on. It is very important. You only get one chance and that’s it. You hear about it all the time, youngsters having accidents with their parents. I know we’re trying to have fun on the show but this is very important. People need to think it over, always safety first.
Let’s talk about your girlfriend that out-hunts you with whitetails. What’s up with that?
It’s the truth. We got a place we get to go in Kansas where we’re fortunate enough to hunt. I enjoy it. There’s a nice lake there. We can fish. I go out there about three or four days before they show up and I scout around, glass around and find out what’s going, trying to find the deer that she wants. The first deer she wanted to kill was a Boone and Crockett deer.
Her first deer?
No. She’s hunted her whole life. She killed several deer but she looked at it as an opportunity to kill a big deer which is right. You never know how many chances you’re going to get or how many times you can let it go. She passed numerous nice deer. It takes a lot of Boone to get the 170 inches. She passed a nice 150 inches. The first deer she shot has got a 10-inch drop tine and he scored, he grows 175 inches. She let another deer that was a Boone and Crockett go by. That sounds great and that sounds like every time you go to Kansas and see a deer like that, you know yourself that’s not true. You never know what kind of smorgasbord you’re going to have. She killed that deer and I videoed it. She said, “I’m going to kill a 200-inch deer.” I said, “Sure, I’m going to have to quit with you. You’re killing deer like this.”
Four years later, she bowhunted for a while and then she fell when we were turkey hunting one day. She got hurt. She got up, got her leg twisted and a great vine fell down and cradled her like a baby. Ashley broke her forearm and she’s had a problem shooting a bow. As most women are, she has an awesome shot with rifle. Nobody shoots better than women do with rifle and she’s one of those. I went out there and saw the deer and it scared me. The first time I saw it was in an alfalfa field. We walked down hunting another deer. There was a little draw in the field. I got a glimpse of his antlers in the evening in the spotting scope. Lo and behold it was and we saw him again. She ended up getting a shot and killing it. She passed up some other deer. We were setting up a deer stand on a different side of the property. I’m nudging her and she said, “I see you.” I said, “We’re wasting our time hunting over here,” so we started hunting that deer exclusively and got a glimpse of it in the evening. Before the next morning, we got in on him. Things worked out and she shot him through the neck at 90 yards.
How do you live with that?It’s easy to sell a good product. You just have to have the right personality, be able to talk to people, and be sincere. Click To Tweet
She’s too cocky. I’ll just say, “Who’s guiding you? What if I was there by myself? I probably would’ve shot one before that deer.”
I’m hunting mature deer. I’ve been doing that for the last few years because some years I don’t shoot anything. People say, “How come you let that buck go?” “I don’t want to shoot them.”
She has about eight or nine tags but that’s her opportunity when she gets to go to try to take a big deer. She’s passed up some mature deer, but there’s one behind every tree and we’re on a deer farm. If it’s a farm, that’s what it is. Occasionally they have a good one and you get an opportunity at it, but it’s fun. I like that part of the world. Four or five cars go down the gravel road in the morning and four or five cars comeback in the evening. You might see a rug grader. You might see a combiner or somebody dragging some farm equipment.
The postman or even UPS.
That’s about it.
Why do you think women are the fast-growing segment in the outdoor industry?
It probably got a lot to do that their boyfriends and husbands are hunters and they get started into it. Unfortunately, I had a root canal and I was getting a cap put on. They’re finishing me up and the young lady in there was talking about hunting, her and the dentist both. She said she tried rifle hunting. The rifle was too big and it hurt her. She and her dad were trying to find one, but the price was so high. I tried to help them with where to go and get a good buy on that. She said, “I want to bow hunt,” but she said the bow prices are worse than the rifle. I said, “A lot of times they are.” I told her there are some kits that she can get to shorten her draw lengths and get in for the right price. She’s never tried this so didn’t know what she’d like or not. It’s not a good idea to spend a lot of money on something that you don’t whether you’re going to like or not. It has a lot to do with their spouses or their boyfriends. If they want to tag along, they have to do something.
I think of Kirstie Pike over at Prois. Brenda Valentine’s iconic if you look at her resume and her career. She’s been a leader, the first lady of hunting in North America. It’s the things she’s done at the Professional Outdoor Media Association. She’s involved heavily with the National Wild Turkey Federation. It’s all that and how much she’s given back but she’s one of the models that women have. She is so humble. You can sit with her and have a cup of coffee, a slice of apple pie and you think you’ve met a friend that you’ve known since grade school. That’s how she is.
I think about people like that who have reached out and helped hundreds if not thousands of women understand that they do have a place. You mentioned something before, I’ll echo off of that right now, “Women are better shooters than men overall.” I used to be involved in guiding fly fishermen. I’d love to have women as a client simply because they just want to learn. They soak it all up. They let it become a rhythm of their body and it’s instinctive. I don’t know how else to say it. I get guys out there and macho and testosterone, they’re frothing the water as I call it or putting their flies in the wheels behind them but women take it so easily. What are your thoughts on that?
They don’t have an ego, that’s the main thing. One man doesn’t like another man telling him what to do and how to do it. Women, tell them how to do it, they do exactly what you tell them to do, just like the casting that you’re talking about. That’s why they’re proficient at it. A man, he’s fighting it all the time. First of all, he doesn’t want another man telling him how to do something.
Guys, you can learn from your wives or your girlfriends. Help them get into a sport that they’re good at it, humble yourself and ask them, “How do you do that so well?” Humble yourself and bite your tongue but we miss many great opportunities to help women get empowered. That’s the biggest thing because the outdoor industry shows women that they can do it. Once you gain that confidence, you can transfer that into other parts of your life. That’s a life lesson that I’ve learned through hundreds of people I’ve had on the show and all the other stuff I’ve done in my life. You empower a person that they own it and then they blossom as a human being.
We went to a small lake in the south. Bass grow bigger down here and there’s no doubt. I’m from the Midwest, from Missouri, and it takes longer for bass to get big. We’ve been turkey hunting and turning out fish and then a friend of ours took us over to this lake and she kept casting in the same place. I like to think I’m a bass fisherman. I’ve been bass fishing long as I’ve hunted and I said, “Do you just keep pounding that same place? Do you think there’s one there?” She said, “Don’t worry about what I’m doing.” I laughed and went on. In a couple of minutes, she caught the biggest bass I’ve ever seen in my life. I don’t know if she knew, but if I ever held a twelve-pound bass, I was holding one that day. When it was swirling in front, I was excited and she said, “I got it.” I’m waiting out here wanting to get my hand on its lip because I want to touch it. You tell me. I’ve been in the woods with Brenda and she’s sharp. We got to travel together and we had a blast. She called me up. She was excited that she was going to go with somebody that she knew for once we had some fun. We went to Arizona and we came to Colorado. She’s a hoot.
I’m friends with Judd Cooney. His friend visited his farm up there in Iowa and hunted with him. The stories don’t end.
Judd is a mess.
You get him wound up. He’s iconic. He’s another gentleman that’s written more articles and has over 100,000 pictures taken in his career. Are there people you want to say hi to on the show?
I’d like to say hi to the Pro Staff, the RedHead Pro Hunting Team. I haven’t seen them in a while, but I‘m going to see Grant Woods and Rob Keck. Give a shout out to them for me.
Walter Parrott, this has been fun. Brenda said it would be fun and she’s spot on. We didn’t talk about a lot of whitetail things, but we talked about the hunting tradition. We’re just a couple of old guys sitting on the porch and talking about things that are important to us and how it’s changed and molded our lives. On behalf of the audience across North America, thanks for being a guest.
Thank you for having me.
Make sure you read the next episode of Whitetail Rendezvous. We’re going to head to Northern Minnesota with that show and we’re going to talk to Tina Kane. She is the Executive Director of Treezyn, which is a new camo pattern on the scene. I use it during my sheep hunt and it works. It blended in. It kept me warm and it was very functional. I didn’t have any problems with it at all. I’m very happy to have Tina Kane, Executive Director of Treezyn on the next episode of Whitetail Rendezvous.
Before we go, can I take a moment to say thank you? As we started the Whitetail Rendezvous podcast journey, we had no idea what to expect. After four years, we received a ton of feedback from over 400,000 audiences and climbing to 500,000. Speaking of which, we are closing on over 600 featured guests. Thank you and a quick shout out to all those who have left an iTunes review and your feedback. I get those and appreciate it. It’s awesome to see what you have to say. We do read every single one of them. I want you to know that I am incredibly grateful for your kind words regarding the show. All ratings and reviews help us to attract more audience. If you’re new, welcome. It’s great to have you.
If you haven’t taken the time to rate and review our show and like the hunting on private land strategy on how to get permission to hunt private property, go to WhitetailRendezvous.com. As a special gift for rating and reviewing our show, when you get there, look for the start button to get the details. I’ll share you the top techniques from some of the top hunters in the country on how they get permission to hunt on private land. I’ll share with you the exact techniques to use to get permission. It’s my way of saying thanks for rating and reviewing the show on iTunes. Join us next time and remember we’re all in this journey together, learning, sharing and becoming 365 hunters.
- Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World
- Indian Creek Shooting Systems
- Pure One Outdoors
- Outdoor Dream Foundation
- Dr. Shawn Tyson – Past episode
- Brenda Valentine – Past episode
- Kirstie Pike – Past episode
- Judd Cooney – Past episode
- Professional Outdoor Media Association
- National Wild Turkey Federation
- iTunes – Whitetail Rendezvous