When I was young, my dad was a carpenter by trade. Being a carpenter is a tough way to make a living, especially during the winter in Utah. Each year as the temperatures dropped and snow started falling, my dad’s work would slow down and he’d get laid off for a few months, usually to be rehired as spring approached and the weather warmed up again. The slow months made for a difficult time financially. One of the ways my dad would make up for the loss of income during the winter was to go hunting and stock up on meat in the fall. Hunting became a necessity in our lives. I remember a few times when we weren’t fortunate enough to harvest an animal. The look in my dad’s eyes said it all. He was worried—unsure how to feed his family of eight without the extra food hunting provided.

These experiences had a lasting effect on me and have given me a strong respect and appreciation for hunting and what it means. Many people probably wouldn’t consider me much of a hunter, but I do love to hunt. I was raised hunting with my dad—his little sidekick until I was old enough to carry a gun, then his hunting buddy up until I started playing football in high school. Since then, school, a church mission, marriage, kids, and trying to make a living has cut into my hunting time. Recently however, with the direction and stability my career has provided, I’ve been fortunate enough to find more time to spend on the mountain where I feel like I belong. 


Hunting has also taught me to love the amazing and majestic animals we pursue. I’ve always had a talent for art and I really enjoy drawing. When I was young, one of my dreams was to grow up and become a wildlife artist. I guess you could say that dream came true, though not exactly in the way I expected.

My first job as an artist was working for a clothing company. Because this company had stores in Alaska, I was often tasked with drawing wildlife to incorporate in tee shirt designs. After learning as much as I could there, I decided to go solo as a freelance designer. Going out on my own was a scary thing, but I did it successfully for almost a decade. During that time, a majority of my clients were in the hunting industry. I continued drawing wildlife for apparel while also learning other skills of my trade. 

After nearly a decade of freelancing, I realized that I’d reached the limits of what I could do on my own. I wanted to continue to learn and expand my knowledge and experience, so I started looking for the opportunity to do so. It was then that I met the Harbertson brothers and we decided to start a marketing firm called Zulu Six. This led to the amazing experience of being one of the co-founders of Mtn Ops. After three years helping Mtn Ops get off the ground, I decided to step away and pursue other opportunities, leading me to join the SOLO HNTR team. 


For the most part my days are spent sitting at a desk in front of a computer coaxing creative ideas from my mind into actual existence. I produce graphics for branding, promotional and marketing collateral, strategies for branding campaigns and revenue generation, and any other creative assets my clients may require. I love every minute of it. However, at times it can become stressful and even cause me to burn out or hit a creative block. Thankfully, I’ve recently found a solution that helps me through these phases.

On many of the hunting trips my dad and I went on when I was young, there was often a third person in our party—my Grandpa Ron. Ronald N Parry was like a second father to me. I count myself very lucky to have had such an amazing man as an additional father figure in my life. My grandpa had many creative and artistic talents of his own. After a long day on the mountain hunting, when we finally made it back to camp we would often find Grandpa Ron sitting by the fire with his pocket knife out, whittling some figure out of wood. I loved watching my grandpa carve and many times he was forced to do so in order to meet one of my requests. Guns, knives, dogs, swords or anything else I asked for, Grandpa Ron was always willing. In the past his talent has inspired me to pick up a pocket knife and dabble in a little whittling of my own. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed and often thought that I’d like to do more. Then a few years ago my Grandpa Ron lost a battle with cancer and died. Losing him has increased my desire to carry on his legacy of carving. Carving has become a way for me to honor him while coping with the stress that comes with my day job.

Inspired by my Grandpa Ron and many other talented artists, I’ve committed more time to the hands on creativity of carving and it has become my creative therapy. After seeing my work and learning how many hours go into each piece, many people ask me what goes through my mind while carving, or what do I think about. Wonderfully, the answer is nothing. My mind goes blank. I enter this peaceful zone where the worries and stresses of the everyday battle to provide and survive cannot penetrate. It’s in this zone that creative blocks are obliterated and my mind is cleared and refreshed. It allows me to return to my daily obligations with a fresh perspective and open mind, ready to attack the next creative challenge. 

I feel lucky to be able to make a living working in an industry that I love and I’m grateful for those I’ve met along the way who have helped me at each step. I look forward to continually carving a creative path to success, developing my skills and sharing my talent with those around me.

View more of Joel’s work here: Skull Carving Portfolio
Photo Credit: Ty Pilcher

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