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10 So-Called Dream Jobs vs. Harsh Reality

From the outside, any career in the outdoor industry looks like a dream job. However, the reality is often something closer to a nightmare.

All of the jobs listed here can be awesome, but each comes with a downside that's not apparent until you spend a few days doing them. Here's a look at what you can expect.


Game Warden/Conservation Officer

What kid didn't dream of becoming a game warden? Unfortunately, the shine wears off the badge quickly. Sure, the outdoors is your office, but you'll spend every opening day of your career behind the windshield of your truck, driving from camp to camp, checking licenses. You do get to carry a gun, but the only time you'll use it is in dispatching roadkill or defending yourself. Still, busting poachers and protecting wildlife is a valiant pursuit, and most officers will tell you the rewards are worth the long hours away from the family.

Hunting Guide

Getting paid to scout during the off season and hunt all fall long sounds awesome, until you realize you don't get to carry a gun. Or if you do, you'll only use it to back up your "sport" after he misses a wounded buck for the third time. Follow that with the nasty job of field dressing yet another gut-shot deer and you'll realize being a guide ain't all it's cracked up to be. Soon, you'll be getting your guilty pleasures by death-marching Delta Bravo clients just so you don't have to hear them drone on about how much better their last trip was. The payoff comes in the form of wide smiles (and, hopefully, a healthy tip) when you guide a hunter to that trophy of a lifetime.

Lodge Owner

This job requires you to be equal parts promoter, circus ringmaster, and babysitter as you manage an ever-rotating cast of hunters, guides, and staff, all of whom have issues. Not only do you have to promise the moon, but you also have to deliver it with a B&C rack attached. Lock up the liquor cabinet or the bad clients will drink you out of booze the first night. It's their vacation after all, and you're expected to entertain them as such. The job does come with a built-in excuse, but after a while it gets difficult saying, "You should have been here last week" without smirking.



Travel the world, stay at the nicest lodges, and film the next Sportsman Channel star. Sure, there is a certain satisfaction in capturing the shot…until you don't because the camera batteries went dead at the wrong time or the "talent" didn't listen to you when you told him it was too dark. Get ready to hump a hundred pounds of gear over the mountain, too. There is one good thing about being behind the camera: You're not the tool wearing sparkly jeans and painting your face like the Ultimate Warrior.

Alaskan Packer

The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, but that part of the Constitution doesn't necessarily apply in the Alaskan bush. Make no bones about it, you're an indentured servant who spends every waking moment wrangling stock, hauling feed, and shoveling manure. You'll have the opportunity to lay your hands on some amazing trophies, but don't plan on ever getting to hunt for anything other than a stray horse. You do get to spend more time outdoors than anyone else on the hunt. However, even the aurora borealis gets old after the 23rd night in a row riding to camp in the dark. Plan on blowing your meager pay on booze and boobs at The Great Alaskan Bush Company when you finally get back to civilization at the end of the season.


Playing with sausage is fun at first, but fall is when meat-cutters make their nut. Don't plan on taking a day off from the opener until two weeks after the last day of the late-season. By then, you'll be sick of the smell of blood and guts. Each hunter thinks his deer should yield 200 pounds of prime cuts, so plan on giving animal anatomy lessons over the phone to every angry customer that calls in to bitch. Keep plenty of bandages on hand, for those long nights slicing steaks are apt to lead to more than a few cut fingers. Like high school shop teachers, rare is the butcher who isn't missing a digit.


Gun Store Employee

Talking about guns is great. Until you have to discuss them every day with the general public. We'll leave it up to you to decide which group — the noobs or the know-it-alls — is worse, but both will get on your nerves within your first week behind the counter. The bonus is getting the inside intel on new-gun introductions before your buddies, but when the manufacturer fails to deliver or, worse, sells a lemon, you get the brunt of the complaints from irate customers. The deep discount on guns is a perk, but be careful or all of your meager salary will go back to the house, because, frankly, who can resist the temptation?


Camp Cook

I hope you like the nickname "Cookie," because that's what everyone will call you, whether you're a Michelin-star chef or, more likely, a dishwasher who got promoted when the last "Cookie" quit. Be ready to please two masters: the outfitter trying to scrimp on food costs and the client who nowadays is likely to be allergic to gluten. Your only interaction with animals will come from running a trapline to catch all the mice that will invade the cook tent within the first week. On the upside, you'll only have to master six recipes…which you get to repeat with each new group that arrives.

Bush Pilot

From the cockpit of a bush plane, you get an aerial view of the country's most amazing scenery and wildlife. The downside? You're a glorified taxi driver who'll spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning up vomit from airsick passengers. Even experienced pilots lose their nerve after a lifetime threading tight mountain passes and touching down on choppy tundra. Life expectancy is short and the odds of developing a nervous twitch are high. The money can be good, but it all goes back into airplane fuel, replacement parts, and life insurance.

Catalog Copywriter

If you write for one of the big outdoor retailers, your work will be seen by more readers than Stephen King's latest opus. Of course, you won't get any of the credit — or even a fraction of his pay. And everyone will read your stuff while they're on the crapper. Cool new gear will cross your desk on a daily basis, but you won't be allowed to take it out of the building. Nor will you have time to hunt anyway. The work is seasonal, so while your friends are in the field, you'll be working overtime writing women's clothing copy for the spring catalogs.

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