Every once in a while you cross paths with someone who stands out in a crowd; someone who is thinking about the big picture and doing something about it. Such is the case with Monte Perron of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Social Networking is a powerful tool in today’s world of communication and business. Facebook is the vehicle that introduced me to Outdoor Fathers.com, and I liked what I saw. After a few email exchanges with OF founder, Monte Perron, I knew we were cut from the same cloth, so to speak. I wanted to learn more about him and his drive to be the best father he can be and how the outdoors fits into that mission.
So I sat down with Monte to hear his story in a short interview. The following is the transcript of our talk:
PNWB: Monte, how did you get started in the outdoor lifestyle?
Monte: I have always been interested in the outdoors. When I was a child I loved being outdoors and seeing wildlife. In fact, when I was 8 years old, I lived near the Mississippi River and had a long walk on a dirt road to catch the school bus. One November morning, I saw 4 wild turkeys on my “bus walk” and was overwhelmed with excitement. In recent years I have reflected on that sighting and realized that my reaction was not that of a normal 8 year old. I am sharing this because I feel that my love for the outdoors is something I was born with. The ironic thing is that an abusive childhood made it nearly impossible for me to pursue my passion. I had to wait until my sophomore year in college to get started hunting. Physical education was required in college, and I opted for a “Casting and Gun Handling” class. I was taking it in the fall; and a high school friend was taking it as well. I became aware that the gun deer season opened during our Thanksgiving break, and suggested that we go hunting while we were out of school. I could not have picked a better hunting partner; that became apparent to me when I took a deer on the second day of our hunt. My friend was as excited as I was, and proved it with his enthusiasm in tending to my first deer. He was the youngest of 6 siblings and the entire family made a big deal out of my success. I have great memories of that event. That deer got me hooked and I have continued to pursue my passion to this day.
PNWB: It’s clear that hunting is very important to you. How did having children affect your life and your outdoor pursuits?
Monte: For me life comes down to priorities, and because of that, the addition of children to our home was a smooth transition. Prior to the arrival of my first son, Evan, I was self employed and hunted a lot. I was able to hunt so much because I positioned myself to be able to provide for my family and still have the flexibility required to be in the woods. That did not come easy. My first three years in business I only hunted a few days. By the time Evan was born I had worked myself into a circumstance that allowed me to hunt and still do well in business. That flexibility coupled with the fact that I live in an area with 60 deer to the square mile made it possible for me to hunt, spend time with my family, and be responsible vocationally. Family is real high on my priority list so spending time with them is real important to me. I remember passing some little league baseball players on a journey home from a turkey hunt when Evan was two, and thinking that Evan could be playing ball in a few years. I also remember thinking that I would be supporting him instead of hunting. Why? Because he is higher on the priority list.
When my sons were very young I realized that they wanted to spend time with me. Guess where we spent much of that time? In the woods. If I was into music we would have spent our time making music. If I was a sports fanatic we would have been playing or watching sports. The fact is I love to hunt, and they wanted to be with me, so we spent our time in the woods.
PNWB: What was your motivation behind starting Outdoor Fathers, and what do want your audience to take away from your site?
Evan and his first deer
Monte: Evan took his first deer at age 7 and I decided to write a book on how I got him interested in hunting. As I got into the book it evolved into a book about fathering and fathering skills. That book has become the segue to Outdoor Fathers. Since then, I have had numerous things that have inspired me to start and promote Outdoor Fathers. The first was a respected friend that recognized something in me that I did not recognize in myself. He helped me realize that I had something that I needed to share; I am very grateful for his encouragement. The second event of note happened at a social gathering that my family attended. During the course of the evening my wife and I ended up in a small group talking about children. I began to share some of the tactics I had used in raising our sons, and it became apparent to me that those around me were genuinely interested. I also realized that I was sharing things that were not obvious to the parents who were part of the conversation.
I experienced a similar event in a conversation with a respected customer who I consider to be a friend. You cannot fake the interest he showed in the fathering tactics I shared with him. The point is not about me. The important thing to realize is that good parenting has gotten lost over the last couple of generations. I have two amazing sons and it is a sad testimony that common sense parenting skills are so highly regarded. If I were the norm among fathers there would be no need for Outdoor Fathers. I realize that I cannot make anyone do anything, but I believe I can help and inspire some, and that is what motivates me. I know there are fathers out there who care, and those are the ones that can and will make a difference. We can make a better world with better people; I believe that starts with better parenting.
On the hunting side I am genuinely concerned that we are losing numbers. It is amazing to me that our numbers are not growing strongly. Television and video is the most powerful marketing presence available. Hunting shows have enjoyed tremendous growth over the last decade, and we are still only holding ground. To illustrate, let me give an example. Years ago, Clint Eastwood did a movie called Dirty Harry during which he boldly carried a 44 magnum revolver and touted its superiority. Gun makers could not make 44 magnums fast enough after the release of that movie because of “Dirty Harry’s” endorsement. I believe that without today’s media presence we would be in great decline, so I am grateful to those who have taken the risks necessary to produce shows that promote hunting. In conjunction with this media effort, state wildlife agencies are making unprecedented efforts to recruit new hunters. These efforts include liberalized bag limits, increased doe harvesting, more public land, and special youth days. Sadly, both efforts are falling short. Both are commendable, but IMO, the biggest problem we have is a “daddy problem” and only fathers can solve that. From the very beginning I have encouraged fathers to become part of the solution. Hunting fathers that do will be helping to solve both problems. That is what Outdoor Father’s is all about!
PNWB: Well, I couldn’t agree more. So let me ask you – how important do you feel the outdoor lifestyle is in raising kids today?
Monte: In my case it has been extremely important. One of the biggest reasons is that it is a replacement for TV. I know that sounds trite but I believe that my boys and I have a great relationship in part because we have spent so much time in the woods. Being in the outdoors void of any electronic distractions has forced us to communicate which in turn has fostered an intimacy that has solidified a relationship with each son. I know them and they know me. Hunting has also provided an opportunity for me to instill confidence and responsibility to them when they harvest and help tend to an animal.
PNWB: Do you see any barriers to kids and young adults entering into the shooting sports, hunting, or fishing?
Monte: Yes, I see two that are obvious to me – anti hunters and the “daddy problem”. Anti hunters concern me because they are part of a cause. Much of their funding comes from passionate people who have made a conscious decision to support their cause. It is an active decision. By contrast, funding for state wildlife agencies comes from hunting license sales and taxes on hunting products. The hunter is not making a conscious effort to support a cause; he/she just wants to hunt! They are not joining the fight; they are simply doing what is needed to be legal and prepared to hunt. The fact is many do not even know that we are in a fight. When you couple this with a liberal media that seems to be more supportive of the “antis” – it disturbs me.
I touched on the “daddy problem” earlier. Generally speaking I believe that we are about two generations removed from effective fathering. I recently read a
n excerpt from the book Fatherless America by David Blankenhorn which stated that:
“The U.S. is becoming an increasingly fatherless society. A generation ago, an American child could reasonably expect to grow up with a father. Today, an American child can reasonably expect not to.”
Although that statement does not apply to my family now; it is a grave concern to me because of the impact it has on our world. I was a fatherless child, and I am acutely aware of the consequences. I have been determined not to let that dysfunction continue to my sons.
The encouraging thing is we can do something about both concerns. We just cannot continue to do the same thing and expect different results. First of all, hunters must become willing to react to opportunities to get new people involved. I know for a fact there are lots of people that would go hunting if invited. Who is going to get them started if we don’t? The thing is we have to be willing to give both time and effort. We have to find a place in our attitude to stop thinking about our hunt, and our stand, and our trophy deer, and our opportunities. We need to dedicate some of our thoughts and efforts to helping the kid across the street get his first deer, or our 40 year old co-worker get off to a good start, or the single mom find a place for their kid to hunt. The list is endless, but we need to become sensitive to it. It can be our greatest opportunity, or our greatest neglect – we get to decide. The ‘daddy problem”, on the other hand, is a little more complex because it is not possible to make another father want to be more effective. I am encouraged because I believe that fathers who care can influence other fathers simply by association. In my own case, I was positively influenced by watching good fathers as a child. Their influence was significant in spite of the fact that it was not possible to see it until the next generation. I know that sometimes I am “preaching to the choir”, but I believe that if the choir keeps singing others will join in. That is what keeps me going.
PNWB: Monte, if you had just one minute to mentor another parent on raising children, what would you say to them?
Monte: I have heard it said that children do not come with instructions. I believe that if a child came out of womb with one piece of paper that said – “Love Me!”, and the parent was committed to learning what love meant, they would have a great chance of doing a great job of raising that child! Having said that I believe that the parent’s premier responsibility is to understand what it means to love their child. Here’s a hint – you won’t find it in Hollywood!
PNWB: I want to thank you for your time and the chance to talk about a subject you’re obviously very passionate about. Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share?
Monte: First of all, I want to thank you for the opportunity to talk about this subject that I dearly love. This is a work of passion for me and because of that it is easy for me to commit the time and effort that has been required to make it work. IMO, both areas – hunting and fathering skills – fit together like a glove. My vision is to make a difference by empowering fathers and encouraging outdoor pursuits.
I know that there is an emphasis on hunting at OF, but I think the most important thing is the encouragement to fathers. There is value here for fathers that do not hunt as well. If I were asked if it were about hunting or being a good father – I would have to respond with – YES!
The future of Outdoor Fathers looks promising. Our Facebook page is growing daily, and I am beginning to book speaking engagements to promote this mission. I am more excited about this than any endeavor I have pursued in my adult life. I am very grateful for every person who shows support. Once again, Tom, thank you for doing just that.
For all you dads out there, I hope this will inspire you to make time and be there for your kids, and to get them outdoors!