Cara Harper knows firsthand the power of social media.
The 25-year-old Little Rock native described herself as just “a normal girl who hunted with her dad,” and, as people do, she posted her hunting experiences on Instagram.
“I was sharing my passion, and people gravitated towards that and followed along with my story,” said Harper who lives in southwest Nebraska with her husband Grant.
Outdoor apparel companies wanted to follow Harper’s story too. Now they pay her or provide her with free gear to promote their products on her platforms, which include about 61,000 Instagram followers and about 10,000 on Facebook.
She declined to say how much revenue she generates from the companies, but for Harper it’s not about the money. She’s interested in the people behind the brands.
“I’m pretty picky about who I work with and products that I endorse,” she said, adding that she feels like she works for the best brands in the industry.
Harper currently promotes Jagemann Sporting Group, Prairie Rock Outfitters and the Super Retriever Series, according to her website CaraHarperOutdoors.com. But her full-time job is a director at a community center in Nebraska.
Over the years, attracting followers has gotten harder, and Harper has embraced a hashtag strategy on her posts to ratchet up interest and share her love for the outdoors.
“I always want to put hunting in a positive light, and be professional about things,” Harper said.
A Born Hunter
Hunting has been a way of life for Harper as far as she can remember.
“I even went turkey hunting before I carried a gun,” she said.
Harper credits her dad, Gary Holland, who didn’t treat her differently from her older brother Jake just because Harper was a girl. Her mom, Melanie Holland, wasn’t much of a hunter herself, but was also supportive.
Harper wanted to follow in the footsteps of the hunters in her family because that’s where the excitement was.
“My dad taught me about blowing a duck call or how to handle a dog for duck hunting,” she said. “It was more than me just tagging along.”
Her favorite places to hunt included the White River National Wildlife Refuge.
As her family bounced from one hunting season to the next, the trips included an annual elk hunting excursion to Colorado.
Harper graduated from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville in 2016 with a degree in agriculture business public relations. Naturally, her career is focused on promoting companies in the outdoor and firearm industry.
A big break came in 2015, after Harper posted an item on Instagram about her uncle passing down his Beretta shotgun to her.
“My family has always been very, very Beretta strong, ‘Beretta Pride,’ ” she said.
The post caught the eye of Beretta USA Corp. of Accokeek, Maryland, which sells hunting gear and firearms. The company reached out to Harper and wanted to work with her.
“I never in a million years would have dreamed that I can be an ambassador for Beretta,” she said of the only brand she’s ever used.
Harper said one of her most supportive mentors is Jake Latendresse, owner and executive producer of Latendresse Media, of Timnath, Colorado, which offers services such as managing social media and high quality imagery for companies in the outdoor industry.
“When I met her, she was a typical college student with a growing social media presence,” Latrendresse said. “But her Instagram account stood out to me. She delivered a clean, honest account that differentiated herself through integrity.”
“He’s just fantastic,” Harper said. “I’ve known him for probably four years now and he’s given me so much advice along the way. … Because when companies started reaching out to me, I didn’t know how to handle all that.”
As a talent seeker in the media world, Latendresse told Harper he could picture her in a field reporter’s role. She researched classes at the university to expand her potential, convincing him she had potential and a willingness to learn and grow.
Latendresse’s advice paid off. He noted that Harper began with 800-900 followers when they met, a count she has nurtured to more than 60,000.
“Social media has opened so many doors,” Harper said. “I got to go with Beretta to Alberta [Canada] and hunt outside the country.”
Other opportunities followed.
In 2017, Harper became co-host for Ducks Unlimited Television for a year and a half, but they split last summer over a conflict with sponsors.
Ducks Unlimited’s sponsors were “different than my personal sponsors,” Harper said. “In the beginning that wasn’t an issue, but it kind of came to be one, unfortunately.”
Harper also credits Latendresse for the move to Nebraska with her husband last year.
Latendresse introduced the couple to Prairie Rock Outfitters LLC of Broadwater, Nebraska, which supplies hunting guides.
“My husband was a waterfowl guide and I helped out whenever I could,” Harper said. “And we just ended up falling in love with the area.”
And, of course, the hunting is great.
“You can hunt waterfowl in the morning and then go out in the afternoon and hunt world-class whitetail deer,” Harper said.
“Cara has also worked hard at learning about advanced hunting techniques for big game and waterfowl,” Latendresse said. “This [led to her] becoming one of the more experienced women in the outdoor world.”
Harper’s plans for the future involve hunting as much as possible. And she’ll continue to promote the outdoors.
“I love to experience wildlife,” she said. “Anytime that you have a close encounter with a deer or with ducks, … it’s just so incredible to witness God’s creation firsthand. I feel that’s the way you’re supposed to experience it.”