How to Become a Pro Staff Member in the Hunting or Shooting Industry

Many hunters and archers have wondered how they could become a “pro staffer” for a company within the industry.  I’ve fielded the question many times, and just recently received this email…

“I have been trying to get on a pro staff for a while, but have had little success.  I love to hunt more than anything else and have had good success.  Do you have any tips or ideas on who I should contact to become a pro staff member?”

I am a relative newcomer to the “industry” side of things, but I’ve gotten to learn from some great people at companies throughout the business.  What I hope to share with you today is not a formula to gain pro staff positions, or a way to create a name for yourself as a hunter/shooter; instead I’ll share my perspective, and what I’ve learned from some great people in the industry.  (Not every company works the same way, so I cannot speak to every facet of this subject.)

What is a pro staff?

The “pro” in “pro staff” can stand for one of two things, or sometimes a combination of both – the “pro” can stand for professional or promotional.  Not all pro staff members are professional hunters/shooters, but typically all professional hunters/shooters are on the pro staff of companies in the industry.  (And when I say “professional”, I mean guys that are actually making money and supporting their livelihood by hunting/shooting.)

Even companies that have a staff of professional hunters/shooters are doing it for promotional reasons, so in the end, a pro staff exists to promote a product.

Read that last part again.  The purpose of the pro staff is to promote the company/brand/product that they are associated with.  Far too many people want to become pro staff members because they want to promote themselves, not promote the company.

There’s a weird sort of ego tied to the idea of being a “pro staffer”, as if the position validates the person.  This ego is, in my opinion, a big part of what is wrong with this part of the industry.

What does a pro staff member do?

If a pro staff exists to promote, then the pro staff members’ job is to promote the company/brand/product.  The common misconception is that this promotion means shooting a big buck and including logo/product placement in the “trophy photo”, or shooting an archery tournament with your “shooter shirt” on.  I don’t mean to discredit any of those things, because they do have some value, but the pro staff member should be doing much more than that!

Not only should a pro staffer promote a product, they should promote the pursuit.  Pro staff members should seek to further hunting/shooting by being involved wherever possible.  Yes, the product is important to the company, but without a healthy industry surrounding hunting/shooting, the company has no chance at being successful.  Pro staff members should be active in promoting and protecting the future of hunting and shooting for this generation, and the next.

There are a variety of ways that pro staff members promote the company/brand/product that they represent, including: attending trade shows, consumer shows, retailer events, shooting events, producing content for informational and promotional use (photos, videos, and/or articles), participating in online and social media, working with archery pro shops, etc.

Different companies have different strategies for promotion, but it is safe to say that being a pro staff member involves work.  Yes, I’m sorry to disappoint – it’s not all free gear and endless self-promotion – it is work.  You’ll spend time, money, effort, and energy to represent and promote the company you’re working for.

What does a pro staff member get?

Alright, let’s be honest – part of the appeal of becoming a pro staff member is the access to free or discounted gear.  A reason that so many people want to become a pro staffer is because they think that they won’t have to do much, but they’ll receive a ton.  But, in one way, or another – pro staff members work hard for their (supposedly) “free” gear.

In fact, as a pro staff member, you may not get any free gear at all.  Some companies have different levels of promotional staff, such as “field staff”, “shop shooter”, and yes, “pro staff.”  Typically “pro staff” members receive some free or heavily discounted gear, with the opportunity to buy more discounted gear at their choosing. Field staff or other promotional members often just receive an opportunity to purchase products at a discount.  Again, don’t be fooled into thinking that becoming a pro staff member means you can pick up the phone at any time and receive whatever you ask for.

Additionally, many companies will make arrangements with other manufacturers in the industry, so that their pro staff can receive industry discounts from a variety of brands.

What qualifies someone to be a pro staffer?

Are you pro staff material?  As we’ve discussed, companies have different strategies for their promotional positions, but let’s just put it this way – applying for a pro staff is like applying for a job.  Companies aren’t just looking at a big buck that you’ve killed, or a great round that you shot on the course, they are looking at you – the person.

Do you have a genuine passion for the pursuit (hunting, archery, etc.)?  Are you already involved in promoting and protecting the industry?  Do you have any accolades, accomplishments, or activities in the industry?  Are you willing to give up your time to attend events, work with dealers, and perform other duties?  Are you a good communicator, a responsible worker, and can you build a good relationship with dealers/customers?

Remember, it’s not about what a company can do for you; it’s about what you can do for them.

Finally, do you have a genuine belief in the company/brand?  And are you already using their product(s)?  This is a personal pet peeve, so excuse my rant, but it drives me nuts to see someone seeking a pro staff position from any, and every, company that will give them the opportunity.  Why spend so much time and effort promoting something that you’ve never used, or wouldn’t buy with your own money?  I understand the need for television shows or professional shooters to accept sponsors that are willing to help them pay the bills, but the non-professional that is seeking a promotional position should not be seeking it from a company whose products haven’t been personally tried, tested, and trusted.

How do you become a pro staff member?

So, the million dollar question – how do you get on a pro staff?  I can’t speak to every situation, but in general there is an application process.  Applications are typically accepted yearly, and then reviewed, and opportunities are given to applicants that fit a particular need of the pro staff.  If you are interested in joining a pro staff for a particular company, then contact them and ask about the application process, and when applications can be submitted for consideration.

As I’ve mentioned before, many companies have different levels of promotional relationships, so starting as a “shop shooter”, then working your way up to a field staff member, may help you become a factory/pro staff member.  Typically a “shop shooter” is not tied directly to the company, but is given an opportunity to represent the shop and receive discounts from the company.  This is a great way to get involved in the industry and prove that you are willing to work hard for the betterment of the sport.

Don’t wait for a position to validate your love for, promotion of, and involvement in the pursuit.  Start now by getting involved, working hard to promote hunting/archery, and helping out in any way you can.  Prove that you have the drive and willingness to work.  Be helpful.  Network with other hunters, shooters, shop owners, and pro staff members.  Be patient.  Have a good attitude and be positive!

There is a lot more that could be said on this subject, but I hope this gives you a good idea of what a pro staff is, how they work, what is required of pro staff members, and how you can begin to work toward an opportunity to become a pro staff member for a company that you truly believe in, and want to support.

The Author

Mark Huelsing is a regular guy with an irregular passion for bowhunting and the outdoors. Learn more about Sole Adventure or get in touch with Mark...

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  • Arin Cluber

    I personally have had experience with becoming a Pro and Field Staff member very early after heavily and very passionately getting into Archery. My little tip for honest, passionate archers that want to become a Pro or Field Staffer as quickly as possible is to consistently research and follow all ends of the archery industry (new and astablished companies, dealers, products, stories of professionals, etc… etc…) especially the ones that are new and are looking for all different levels of Archers to promote their company and/or product(s). I am a strong believer in only pro or field staffing for a company or product that you ‘truly’ believe in, as said above, or you will not be fulfilling the commitment you submitted yourself to. By not doing this in a proper manner, it will only damage your reputation in the Archery Industry instead of building a reputable one that is very crucial to have if you want to climb your way up this exciting (yet time and money consuming) latter.
    *I hope this little tip will be of help to you! I wish each and everyone of you only the very best in your adventures in the wonderful world of Archery!!
    Most Sincerely With Best Regards,
    Arin Cluber

    • SoleAdventure

      That’s good advice, Arin. Thanks for sharing!

  • Al Quackenbush

    Some of the best advice I have read, Mark. I am going to share this post so others can understand what it really means to be on a Pro Staff. Promotional indeed! I am one who like you, must believe in the product in order to represent it. There are plenty of companies willing to throw you product just to be their ‘marketing team’ and have you do the work. Then there are the companies that I like working with that want to see you work first and then put you on their staff and may offer you something. Cheers for a great post!

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, Al! I know that you’re one of the guys that “get it”.

  • Ben Gustafson

    Great post Mark!

    My advice would be to work your butt off, have a passion, work your rear off, establish a network/audience in your medium, work your tail off, don’t expect things to be given to you, work your back side off, promote, promote, promote, help others without expecting things in return, and finally work your A$$ off.

    • SoleAdventure

      That’s solid advice, Ben! ;-)

  • Alain Cluber

    Like my wife Arin said it very well below, First of all you need to have the passion, the drive and be ready to give a lot of your time ! We are a team of French/American Archers of all different experience levels based out of France. The “ArcheryHolic Team France” that was originally ceated in Texas, where I use to own an Archery Shop and also promoted my shop in France. Now, the team promotes 2 Americans and 1 German company by creating and maintaining Facebook pages in french for them, having booths at tournaments, doing videos/written reviews, sharing our experiences with these different companys’ products, technical advice to the consumer, etc… We also give feedbacks and new product ideas to those companies.This is a small part of the iceberg. .. so if you would like to get involved in this wonderful side of the archery world, you will have to be dedicated but in return, you will meet some awesome people and create solid relationships with those companies. One of my advices is to not create conflict of interest, do not take anything for granted and only do it because you truly believe in it! You will be representing and being one of the faces of a company so your public attitude and image is really important to them. Also, be very careful with your words and actions to not criticize other companies and products as this will effect your reputation and credibility…
    Cheers and shoot staight!

  • PushingWildLimits

    Great and honest points Mark, you are spot on. I totally agree with the ego part as well.

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, J!

  • 3.6.5 Whitetail

    Awesome post, Mark. Not only is this a great read, but you are a true representation of what it means to being a viable pro staff member. Your dedication and passion are a great example and validate all the points you have made in this post. Stay the course!

    • SoleAdventure

      I really appreciate that, Randy!

  • Starving Outdoorsman

    I have done the “PROmote what you have never used before”. It turned out to be a good product and probably one of the best. But I never knew that originally and then they also let what seems like anyone and their dog on board. It was not the experience I thought it was but changed my point of view to pretty much what I just read in this article. I now do some other things with bigger companies that I do truly believe in and have used and it is much more satisfying. Don’t do it just to do it. Do it because you want to. I have never received anything for free either. Great article. I did send an email to G5 the other day asking if they offer deals to people in the industry that do my type of thing (blog, photography, some prostaff/testing) and many will not look at you unless you have your own TV show or are starting. I asked them because I want to shoot their bows and use their product, not because I want any old position available.

    • SoleAdventure

      That is some great perspective. Thanks for sharing!