Many words come to mind when I think about describing Kevin Parnell; selfless, dedicated, driven, family-oriented, humble, and so much more. He is a proud, southern country boy, through and through. Kevin grew up with a very tight-knit family, who have always been outdoor-oriented. His granddad Donald, now 95 years old, started farming the very land that Kevin works on today, an impressive 80 years ago. A man, who Kevin describes as the backbone of the family, unknowingly created a legacy for many generations to come, all with only a 7th grade education. It’s funny how a man with relatively little education, has so much to teach. So much in fact, that the same farm his grandad started all those years ago, has now grown to house a run of 115 Black Angus cattle and 180 acres of grass for seed and hay, all taken care of by Kevin and his father, with plans of expanding even more in the future. They are the largest black-owned ranch in Northern Florida. Kevin credits Mr. Donald with teaching him to be the man he is today. This way of life is so second nature to him that, at times, he takes it for granted that not everyone is lucky enough to grow up with open land, cattle, and most importantly, a close family. His granddad, uncle and parents all live on the land, with family from Texas planning to move back as well.
One of the advantages to growing up with your own family land, is having your very own wide-open area to hunt, fish and explore. They have even dug their own pond, stocking it with catfish and tilapia. Kevin has been hunting on his family’s land since he was 6 years old. Having their own property has allowed them to build their own permanent tree-stands. And, in order for them to be safe for all members of the family, especially his granddad, they have been built with extra stability and security, even a small porch to make entry easier. Funnily enough, Kevin himself is the only one to this date that has actually fallen out of one. And, of course, his family never let him live it down. On their land, they are able to hunt wild hogs, turkey, axis deer and sika deer, which are not native to Florida, but now call it home, coming from a nature preserve that closed down nearby.
Since they do not lease out their property, everyone that hunts the land is either family, or close friends. They have all become so tight-knit over the years, that they’ve come to call themselves a hunting group. Over the years, Kevin, the youngest of the bunch at 33, has become the man to plan all of the group’s hunting trips. He considers it an honor to be around these men, all in their 60’s, able to learn from them, listen and cherish their stories. The most outstanding trip they have had, would have to be a guided elk hunt at Big Oak Elk Ranch in Iowa. In the 5-6 years of planning for this week-long trip, the group lost one of its members, and decided it was time to finally go, in honor of him. They left Florida on a Sunday morning at 5am, arriving at the ranch by noon the following day. Tuesday morning, the hunt began, but before leaving they all formed a circle and prayed. At the end of this epic hunt full of stories, memorable conversation and bonding, all five men harvested not just an elk, but a trophy elk. It was huge in their small community, being that you just never see all 5 members of a hunting group come back that successful, let alone all five being black men. The trip home was one for the books. Everywhere they went, people were stopping them, wanting to know the story of these epic elk horns. Onlookers would drive past them on the freeway, taking pictures, honking and showing approval and amazement. The most memorable part of driving home was probably when they stopped to get dry ice for their coolers. What they thought to be a short stop, turned into a 2 hour story-telling adventure, full of pictures and amazement. By the time they were finally ready to get on the road, not 1 employee was left doing their job, they were all gathered around these men in awe. The group arrived home full of pride for such a huge achievement.
What’s next for these guys? Well, they have an antelope hunt planned for just 4 of them in Casper, Wyoming for September. And, Kevin has already plotted out the food plots on their property for the upcoming season. While deer season runs August to January, they will not start hunting until black powder season opens in October, and then into rifle season. While he is definitely interested in learning about hunting in other areas, he has also been fortunate to not have to deal with hunting public land. Also, when not hunting or fishing their own land, his family likes to charter deep sea fishing boats of the Florida coast.
Growing up around guns, Kevin has always felt comfortable using them. Realizing that others weren’t as comfortable, an opportunity sort of fell into his lap. While having a get-together at his house, the subject of firearms came up and some of his guests had expressed that they were afraid of guns and asked what you can do to become unafraid. Kevin started talking to them about it, showing them an unarmed weapon and how to handle it. One woman suggested that he should be teaching this, as he was so skilled at explaining firearms and making people understand what they are used for. So, in January of this year, he made the leap and started his own business. His biggest selling point is that he is able to have his classroom and shooting range on the same property. He only teaches four students at a time, all while charging roughly half of what others charge. Limiting the numbers to ensure small classes, located on the same property as the range makes for a much safer and more controlled environment.
Having these new skills under his belt, Kevin became the Tactical Firearms Instructor with Black American Outdoorsman. He has built a team of 5 other firearms instructors, with plans of growing. They plan on getting the whole team together soon. But, in the meantime, all being in Florida, him Avery and Stephanie all plan to meet up and create training videos to share with the Black American Outdoorsman community. Be on the lookout for what Mr. Parnell has in store. You will not be disappointed!