In high school, he played sports and filmed his hunts and “sold or gave away DVDs around my hometown.” There probably was, in all honesty, some good natured “bless his heart” thoughts. Phelps didn’t care. He was determined. After graduation he attended community college to begin a path for an electrical engineering degree. Sitting inside thinking about a career that bored him to tears eventually lost the fight to his outdoors passions.
“Nothing got me going like the outdoors,” Phelps said. “I was just jacked about being in the outdoors industry in some way. The biggest thing was that I didn’t know how to do it or who to talk with. I was just a young guy with a dream from western Kentucky, but I knew I wasn’t going to stop trying. I was not going to go through life knowing that I didn’t try to make it happen.”
Phelps is 26 now, but back then as a 19-year-old he was like a lot of young people with their life ahead of them. After dropping out of community college he worked at a lumber yard and doing construction work. He hunted and kept that dream going. Finally, he reached out to Mathews Archery in Wisconsin with a plea of sorts.
“I just asked how I could do some work for them or if they had anything at all, or knew anyone I could talk with about it,” he said. “They directed me to a PR firm in Kansas City that they worked with, and I contacted them. That led to some internship work with them, which was great and a super way to get a foot in the door, get some experience and meet more people.”
Rocket Blast Connection
Working with the PR firm and Mathews definitely opened some doors for Phelps, who was eager to help with anything and learn more about videography.
One day he got a call to come to Kansas City. The crew was going to Wisconsin to shoot some commercials and videos for Mathews. Phelps left his home in Owensboro, Ky., not knowing anything about the project other than they were going to be busy.
“They couldn’t and wouldn’t tell me who it was that we were filming or working with,” he said. “Then I found out that it was going to be with Levi Morgan. This was when Levi was going from Elite back to Mathews. It was pretty busy. I hadn’t been around a lot of celebrities and was pretty star-struck. But it was cool, and we had a good time working together.
“I asked Levi for advice and people to meet, and he hired me for a couple of projects later that year. That really was great and helped me get my start. It was a great learning experience, which is what I needed and wanted.”
Since then, Phelps has worked with Moultrie, Morgan, Realtree Road Trips, Small Town Hunting, Lee and Tiffany Lakowski and others. The push and drive paid off, and still is. Phelps doesn’t know what will transpire in the future but for now, he’s appreciative of every moment.
He’s also a firm believer that you should always be ready for anything. Just like in baseball, where a base hit could be the one that puts you on a nice streak at the plate, a meeting during a hunt or work project or even at a gas station could be a break.
“That’s been the story of my life, multiple times, to be honest with you,” he said. “One handshake, one meeting, one conversation that led to meeting someone else or another project to work on … you honestly never know. It’s truly been a dream job. I’ve had the chance to travel to multiple countries, I’ve met a ton of people already, and there’s still a lot more to see and learn.”
Phelps recalls two experiences that left lifelong impressions. One was in the mountains of Northwest Territories as Morgan pursued a Dall sheep. The other was pursuing alpine Sika deer on Kodiak Island in Alaska.
“The scenery was incredible,” he said. “It just left you speechless. Waking up in a tent on the side of a mountain where those incredible sheep lived, or taking a boat off an island in Alaska and climbing as the sunrise illuminated everything, it’s just impossible to describe.”
Advice for the Future
A lot of successful people have scads of advice for being successful. You may on occasion see something like, “CEO Says Do These 18 Things!” or “These Habits Will Make You Successful!”
Phelps admits he’s still learning. But he says two key factors have been instrumental for him, and he recommends them to anyone interested in pursuing a dream in the outdoors industry.
“First, life is not easy,” he said. “It’s not fair, it’s not a smooth road. You’re going to have some bumps and potholes. You’re going to have to suffer a little bit. You have to persevere and stay after it, just like anything you want to achieve.
“I’d say that No. 1, you have to have good work. You can’t just get work because you know people. You have to work on your craft and continue getting better at it. And No. 2, definitely network and be a people person. Be someone that others would want to have in camp. Do good work, help out, chip in, network, talk with people, always be ready.”
About the author: Alan Clemons is a professional outdoor writer whose work has appeared in countless newspaper columns and magazine articles for more than three decades
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