Plenty of hunters dream of joining a hunting company’s pro staff with the belief that they’ll get to hunt for a living, be paid big bucks and receive a closet full of free gear. For a handful of people who’ve reached celebrity status, this dream has become reality. For the majority of pro-staffers, though, the perks are much more modest.
In reality, few pro-staffers are paid money for their services. Instead, they receive a limited amount of free or discounted gear in exchange for their work. And, most pro-staffers do not get to hunt for a living. Like you, they have normal jobs and only hunt during their time off, and usually, on their own dime.
But, if you’re the right fit, being on a pro staff can be a fun time and the gateway to a career in the outdoor industry. Check out what this list of hunting industry professionals had to say:
(Or skip right to the advice you want to read)
Simply being good at hunting, turkey calling, shooting a bow or other outdoor skill just isn’t enough. There are thousands of great sportsmen and women, but only those who are also good communicators have a shot at becoming a successful pro staffer.—Lee Lakosky, Realtree Pro-staffer and Co-host of The Crush
“You must come across as educated, well-spoken and well-written,” Lakosky says. “Many companies expect their pro staffers to write magazine articles, give seminars, take photographs, talk to the public and speak on camera, so you need to be able to perform each of these tasks well."
Lee originally had no intention of hosting a TV show or getting on a pro staff. "I simply loved to hunt and wanted to be involved in the outdoor industry any way I could. I worked in an archery shop for eight years. I volunteered to run booths at trade shows. I also started writing articles for various hunting magazines. Even though I wasn’t getting free product, I always wrote about the gear I used because I believed in it. Companies appreciated that and took notice.
“We also started volunteering to work in Realtree’s booth at trade shows and other events,” Lakosky continues. “We never asked for product or free gear, which set us apart from others. We just enjoyed the industry so much that we were happy to do it. To make it as a pro-staffer, you need to first ask, ‘what can I do for you?’ instead of ‘what can you do for me?’”
If your main goal is to simply hunt more, then I recommend finding a job with a flexible schedule so you can fit in more hunting. – Timothy Kent, owner Theory 13 Creative LLC, marketing agency for Wild Game Innovations
Will being a pro-staffer land you free hunting trips? Not likely. What it will certainly do is create work out of your hunting passion. That could be a good or bad thing depending on your goals, but if one of those goals is simply more hunting time, joining a pro staff is not the best way to make that happen.
“Being on a pro staff is not for those who just want to hunt more; it’s for those who want to be involved in the outdoor industry,” Kent says. “Compensation and the opportunity to hunt more should not be the main drive.”
Again, companies create pro staffs as tools for promoting their brands and products. Being an active, engaged communicator is of the utmost importance for any pro-staffer. “A Prois pro-staffer is expected to promote the brand using the avenues available to her, whether it is through blogs, radio or TV appearances, gear reviews or publications,” Grand says. “She is expected to provide the company with regular updates and photos or video of her activities.”
“Companies are looking for people who will give back to the business,” Turner says. “The first step you need to take toward making it on a pro staff is to volunteer. Volunteer at your local archery shop. Volunteer at your state’s department of conservation youth events. Volunteer to man a trade show booth for the company you’d like to represent.
Volunteering at various events and for different companies will get you noticed, provide you with experience and will help you make connections in the outdoor industry. And those connections are vital. Make sure to always act professional and don’t burn bridges. People move around a lot in the outdoor industry, so you never know who will hold the key to your success in the future.”
Realtree’s pro staff compensation, which takes the form of money, free gear and/or a monetary allowance for free gear, varies depending on the level of pro-staffer.
“Some of our pro-staffers are the cream of the crop with top-rated TV shows,” Peacock says. “Pro-staffers at this level make their living being hunting celebrities and of course receive the biggest compensation package from us. Lower-level pro-staffers may have a TV show, but they are not as famous as the top-tier pro-staffers. These men and women are generally known in certain circles because of their specialty. But most of them have regular jobs they must work around to fulfill their pro-staff duties.”
Although there are hundreds of solicitations each year, few people are added to the Realtree Pro Staff as a result of simply submitting a resume. Instead, most members of the Realtree Pro Staff have already been in the outdoor industry for some time, and have built relationships with Realtree employees in the process. They’ve proven that they are professional, well-spoken, and willing to work and represent the brand through their available communication channels. And they have a passion and knowledge of hunting and the outdoors.
That, in a nutshell, is what’s required of any pro-staffer, anywhere. If it describes you, start following the advice these experts have offered, and be persistent. You never know where it might end up.
Hey, Lee and T-Bone were both archery shop volunteers not long ago.