Growing up, it was a dream of mine from a young age to someday have my own hunting show. I knew this was a pipe dream and was also well aware that there were tens of thousands of other people out there who would love to have jobs in the outdoor industry. At that time, Outdoor TV hadn’t yet blown up into what it is today. 12-15 years ago, there were a handful of solid hunting shows, but I knew there was room for more in the space, especially if they were unique. I had hunted since I was 12 in Pennsylvania, but due to being so involved with high school sports, I didn’t really jump all-in the sport of hunting until my senior year of high school. I began to utilize every free second I had hunting and filming. I learned a tremendous amount about hunting in general, as I just couldn’t get enough of hunting whitetails with my bow. I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot from each one of them. As far as filming goes, it seemed that I had a natural and creative eye behind the lens. I remember thinking to myself, this is my path into the industry. This is it!
Just like anyone else wanting to get into the outdoor industry, I began to think, “Where do I start? How do I even get my feet wet?” I knew my path was behind the camera but wondered how I was going to stand out from everyone else that wants a job in this business? I was introduced to Dan Thumma, Owner of Grand C Calls in Carlisle, PA and began to film a bunch of his team’s hunts as a “pro staffer.” Dan was a phenomenal turkey hunter, so not only did I get to hone my skills behind the camera, but I also learned a tremendous amount about turkey hunting. I then decided to give my filming game a leg up on the competition and get a college degree, so four and a half years later, I graduated from Shippensburg University with a Bachelor’s in Comm/Journ focused on video production. This led me to land an internship with an outdoor video production company, and the day I graduated college, I had a job producing hunting shows. Talk about getting thrown in with the bulls. I had to learn TV network guidelines and edit a 13 episode series on my own right out of the gate. I filmed a few wounded warrior turkey hunts for a turkey hunting legend, Bill Zearing, owner of Cody Turkey calls. It was perfect; I hadn’t made hardly any money up to this point both editing and filming, but what more could a young guy right out of college want? I was single and willing to travel. I met quite a few people. A couple years into it, the opportunity presented itself to co-host a hunting show. This was it… this is what I had worked so hard for. Can this really be happening? I came to the realization that not only had I landed my dream job, but I was co-hosting my own TV show. Regardless of the career path you take, breaking the ice and landing a job in the outdoor industry is challenging. Stay persistent, work your tail off and things will fall into place. I was in a unique and fortunate situation that by having my own tv show, I was able to hunt more than I actually would have normally, but this isn’t typically the case. Cameramen and editors rarely get to hunt for themselves. I’ll get more into having time to hunt shortly.
After a couple years of having a cameraman over my shoulder or running the camera for other tv shows, the reality started to set in that I just wasn’t as successful as I use to be on my hunts. I couldn’t figure it out. I was getting to hunt in better places all over the country but going home empty handed on more hunts than ever. When you have a hunting show, there’s a ton of added pressure. You have to perform, and in order for you to perform, there has to be game to hunt. Not to mention, you automatically have double the scent and double the movement every time you and a cameraman step into the woods together. The odds are stacked against you right out of the gate. The camera and I had developed a love/hate relationship. That thing has cost me more animals than I can shake a stick at. Camera operator errors, too dark to film, cameraman/hunter communication; it was extremely difficult to have all the stars align and capture the perfect kill on film. I am a perfectionist, so if it weren’t perfect, I wouldn’t take the shot. I would get frustrated at watching a 300 inch bull walk in and out of range without being able to shoot, but I had to remind myself that I wouldn’t have this opportunity to begin with if it weren’t for having a tv show.
Co-hosting a show for two seasons was a lot of fun, but I got to the point in my life where I needed to start supporting a family. The reality of it is this: only a handful of tv shows out there actually make a comfortable full time living by solely hosting tv shows. Most guys and girls that are on tv today, have other careers to support their passion.
Flash forward 7 years after graduating college and producing 5 different shows on The Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, NBC Sports, Wild Tv and MAV TV, and I’m currently in a position as the online content manager for Guidefitter, doing what I love to do.
Any time you turn a passion into a career, it is going to affect it at some level. I’m telling you. I lived, breathed and slept hunting. I still do to an extent, but I have learned a tremendous amount about what is really important in life and having a work/life balance. When your work is hunting all day in some way, shape or form, and your passion is hunting, you have to let off a little bit and find a balance if you ever want to enjoy a family life. What I get excited about the most today, is jumping up in a treestand without a cameraman and throwing it back to my old ways. Just me, being a loner in the woods, chasing whitetails. So… the hype of having my own tv show has gone away since I have had the opportunity to live it and realized that it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but I will never lose that passion for hunting big whitetails and bugling bull elk.
At the end of the day, there are only a handful of jobs in the outdoor industry where you may get more time to hunt than the average Joe. The two main jobs that jump out at me are an outdoor writer and tv personality. Outdoor writers often get to partake in writer's hunts while outdoor tv personalities obviously have to spend a majority of hunting season afield to shoot all the needed content for their tv or web show to air.
Just because I have a career in the outdoor industry, doesn’t mean I get more time to hunt. As a matter of fact, since I am no longer co-hosting a tv show, I get less time to hunt. The common misconception out there is that if you land a job in the outdoor industry, you get more time to hunt. Ask a hunting guide how much time they get to hunt for themselves. So, You Want To Be a Whitetail Outfitter, Eh? will give you some great insight on what it takes to live this life. Ask a director of marketing how many days a year they get to venture into the field. Ask a cameraman how often they get to climb a tree with a bow or gun in hand instead of a camera. Ask a taxidermist when he or she needs to be in the studio the most. Then once you get done with those conversations, ask them if it’s all it’s cracked up to be. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me I have the dream job, I would have one thick wad of cash in my pocket. The truth of the matter is that this is our livelihood. There is no doubt, we love what we do. The only issue is, we have to make hay when the sun is shining, and for most outdoor industry jobs, our busiest time of year is when hunting season is in full swing.
If you want more time to hunt for yourself, here are some jobs in the outdoor hunting industry that wouldn't be recommended.
Great article Tyler! Hit the nail on the head. I am quickly learning my time in a treestand has diminished!
I tell my clients this all the time! I love my job, but rarely do i ger to hunt for myself. Most of the animals we are pursuing i have never even had a chance to hunt.
Well put.....My dumb ass is 3 of the first 4 on the list!
Great article Tyler! And very true!