Every outdoorsman dreams of turning his passion for hunting and fishing into some sort of a living. Maybe as a fishing guide or a hunting outfitter. Or maybe as a wildlife photographer or the host of a TV hunting show. It’s a universal truth among outdoorsmen that our dream of making a living in the outdoors generally comes into sharpest focus just as we’re paying for a gun, or a dozen arrows, or a tub of bait. It doesn’t have to be just a dream, though. We tracked down a half dozen people who’ve turned their avocation into their vocation, and asked them what it takes to make a living doing what they love.
And if making money in the outdoors isn’t in the cards for you, stay tuned for the next installment in this story: how to save money in the outdoors with 21 DIY projects and gear hacks.
Photo by Andrew Hetherington
The New Media Star
Last season, Mark Kenyon got a shot at the biggest buck of his life. He nicknamed a giant 10-point Jawbreaker after it appeared on his trail cameras and he tracked the buck for two years on his Ohio lease. He wrote about the deer on his blog, talked about him on podcasts, and recorded videos his hunts. Then, on October 16, Jawbreaker strolled beneath Kenyon’s stand as the evening light faded. Kenyon found the buck in his camera, drew his bow, stopped the deer, and shot. But Kenyon hit the buck too far back, and he knew it immediately. The video of the hunt shows him looking into the camera whispering “Please Lord, let him go down.”
Why do you want to be a game warden?” the college adviser asked me.
“Because I love to hunt and fish.”
“While everyone else is hunting, you’ll be watching them,” he replied. “And the paperwork? Forms, court appearances. You’ll be indoors a lot.”
So I didn’t go to school to become a game warden. I did something worse. I became an outdoor writer. That means I write about the outdoors, not in the outdoors. Remember that last term paper you wrote, sitting indoors, staring at a blank computer screen until blood leaked out of your ears? Imagine doing that 364 days a year. Yeah, I allow myself Christmas Day off.
The Gun-Store Clerk
I work in my family’s sporting-goods store. The worst thing about working with my dad is that we can’t hunt or fish together except on Sundays, when the store is closed. The other downside is that we’re stuck working when everybody else is out hunting or fishing.
Twin Bridges, Montana
For the better part of three decades, Layne Wilcox has guided hunters into the mountains of western Montana in search of elk and mule deer. He got his start right after high school, working for an outfitter in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Nine years ago, he and his wife, Candy, jumped at the chance to buy the outfit he was working for at the time. Today they operate Advantage Backcountry Outfitters in the Beaverhead National Forest.
Although she never received any formal business or apparel design training, that didn’t stop Kirstie Pike from starting one of the first companies to produce technical hunting clothing designed exclusively for women. A nurse by trade, Pike is also a diehard hunter. A decade ago, she walked into a big-box outdoors store to pick up gear before archery season—and walked out frustrated.
“There was literally nothing there for women except cotton capri pants and tight baby-doll T-shirts,” recalls Pike, who had resorted to wearing running clothes on her hunts.
Male hunters had plenty of quality hunting gear to choose from, and there was no shortage of technical apparel for female hikers, bikers, runners, and skiers. But the female hunter was left wanting. Pike decided to target that untapped market and founded Prois in 2006.
North Branford, CT
Even grizzled charter-boat captains will agree that the most critical—and thankless—job on any fishing boat belongs to the mate. Long hours, strenuous daily routines, low pay, and zero recognition? Jodi Waibel, a mate aboard the Black Hawk out of Niantic, wouldn’t have it any other way.