I am told that I was 18 months old, sitting with my dad at the base of a tree, when he killed a basket rack 8-point buck. I obviously do not remember this, but as far as I know I have the earliest start in hunting than anyone I know. The outdoors and baseball is all I knew growing up in North Georgia. Baseball was the only thing I was good at, and hunting was the only thing I was passionate about. Early in life, one way or the other I was going to make a living doing one of those two things. My chances for playing professional baseball were one in a million. But from my perspective, making a “living” hunting was even more far fetched than pro baseball. But after a lot of years and plenty of hard work, here I am working in the hunting industry.
Hunting for a Living?
My name is Caleb Copeland. I am 32 years old, and I have been an outdoor TV and content creation producer for a little over 8 years. I have been blessed enough to get to work with some of the best names in the outdoor game. The Crush with Lee and Tiffany, Jeff Foxworthy, Mossy Oak, Bass Pro Shops, Craig Morgan, The Habit, Nock On TV and tons of others. It has been a roller coaster ride, but I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.
So yes, I found a way to make a living hunting, kind of. Is it a dream job? Yes. Sorry to spoil the story so early. But there is some fine print with any outdoor industry job that you better be aware of.
Outdoor TV Production
One of the first things that few people consider is how much personal hunting time you are about to give up. Unless you are the host of a show (good luck with that), then you are going to spend more than 95% of your time in three places. 1) Behind the camera, 2) Behind a computer, or 3) Behind a steering wheel driving to the next place. In my first 5 years of “my dream job,” I bet I hunted a dozen times for myself. For me this was an easy sacrifice because I was getting to be in the outdoors. I was getting to experience everything that comes along with a hunt except getting to pull the trigger myself. For a lot of folks this is a hard pill to swallow.
Another thing that you never think about is if you do have some time to hunt for yourself, it is never during the peak rut for deer or good gobbling times for turkey. When things are on fire in the woods, you will be filming someone else’s hunt. Just know from the start, your hunting time will be dramatically cut down, if you get to hunt at all.
The other part that was probably the hardest, and is still the hardest for me, is being gone from home and from family a lot. In the beginning, I was newly married and being away from my wife was hard. Now that I have 3 kids, it’s really hard. When you are home, life is always smooth. But as soon as you walk out the door for that elk trip you are filming for the next 10 days, all hell seems to break loose at home. Kids are sick, wife’s car will not start, you name it and it has happened while I have been away. You are then helpless. There is nothing you can do halfway across the country.
One thing I learned early on is you need a super independent wife that can problem solve on her own. You need a good support system of people around you if you want to work a travel job in the hunting industry. This is the only way you can make it through. This may sound over the top and far fetched, but you can ask almost anyone else that travels for a living, and they will tell you the same thing.
After years of being in the business, I now know how the job is done. I know the loose ends to tie up before leaving home. My wife knows what to expect, and most of all, I know how to be efficient with my time so I can be home as much as possible, or be out hunting on my own.
If you’re creative, like to be outside a lot and love to travel, then being a producer just might be the perfect job for you. But if you want to make good money, you’ll need to be more than just a camera toter. You need to learn the skill to be a producer and editor, or as we call them, PrEditors. Guys that can effectively do both really open a lot of doors of opportunity in this business. Learn to edit and there will be a job for you. Better yet, it will make every aspect of outdoor production better for you. Knowing the ins and outs of the editing process makes you a better and more efficient producer. It will save you time and headache when dumping footage to hard drives, and it lets you tell the story better through the lens.
Business Beyond Outdoor TV
Outdoor TV may be the more visible hunting job you’ll see while flipping channels on TV or online, but there are plenty of other opportunities beyond outdoor TV for employment. Social media marketing, communications, writing, sales, farming for wildlife, and guiding hunting or fishing trips are just a few of the many jobs that allow most anyone to launch a career into the hunting industry.
As you might have guessed, like being a TV producer, most all these jobs require more “business” than they do hunting. Even the top names in the business don’t get paid to hunt. They are paid to promote gear, sell product and bring exposure to a particular business.
Consider what you are passionate about. Decide if pursuing it as a business will be a good or bad move, then go for it. As they say, if you love what you do, you’ll never “work” a day in your life.
5 Tips on How to Get a Job in the Hunting Industry
- Build your skill – It can’t be stressed enough, learn how to edit. Do not just learn how to use the program, learn the process of storytelling through an edit. Learn to hide edits, edit to music, show pace, and all the other nuances that come with the editing process.
- Find ways to add value – The name of the game in getting your foot in the door with a company is to add value. The days where you are a “prostaff” and companies send you product for nothing is over. Adding value comes in many forms. Find out what makes a company or client tick.
- Be available – In a day and age where we have more ways to get in contact with people it seems like its harder and harder to get things done and to get someone on the phone. When someone calls you, answer. If you cannot answer, call them back or send them a text as to why you can’t answer. I pride myself on always being available and responsive. It goes a long way, and it isn’t hard.
- Be professional – When you approach a potential client, carry yourself and present yourself in a way that is professional and buttoned up. First impressions are everything.
- Get Exposure – Don’t be afraid to work for free, gain experience, go on some trips out of your own pocket. Get to know as many people as you can and put yourself in a position to be needed. Be the guy or girl people want in camp. If you are not a person people want around in hunting camp, I don’t care how good at your job you are, you will not be invited back.
How to get a Job in the Hunting Industry – Conclusion
Regardless of what job you pursue in the hunting industry, just know it won’t come easy. You’ll have to work as hard as anything you’ve ever done. Anyone that says, “I want to get a job in the hunting industry so all I have to do is hunt all the time,” is naive. It simply doesn’t work that way. But when you find the right job and are able to provide for your family, while doing exactly what love to do, you’ll realize, there’s no better place in the world to be.