They're the epitome of the perfect hunters. They have all the latest and greatest gear, superb outdoors skills and access to the best hunting properties out there. No wonder they consistently take down remarkable animals with seemingly little effort. But as these guys and gals can attest, it's not always as easy as wait, aim and fire. In fact, like many hunters, the Realtree Pro staffers have experienced plenty of blunders, mishaps and even near-death experiences during their time in the woods and on the road.
The married couples seem to have had more than their share of crazy happenings, and no couple can vouch for this more than Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo.
Smile Through the Pain
The Cianciarulos thought they had left nothing to chance when preparing for their Arctic muskox hunt a couple of years ago. They even went so far as freezing all of their equipment and then testing each item to make sure it would function in the frigid Arctic temperatures. That's why they never anticipated what would happen when Vicki drew her bow on a large male.
"We'd finally gotten close to a bull and Vicki came to full draw anchoring the kisser button against the side of her mouth," said Ralph. "Then, much to my delight, the brass knot on the kisser button froze to her lip. I thought, 'if she releases the string, blood will spew all over the place and will make for some great footage!' But she felt her lip pulling; so she slowly let down the bow, and the bull took off. We actually had to pry her lip from the kisser button. We laughed and laughed about that close call."
It's all fun and games for Ralph until some of his own blood gets spilled. One day he took his friend Dino bowfishing for carp for the first time. He hooked the fishing reel up to the bow using an adapter, and as Ralph paddled through the shallows, he instructed Dino to hit the button that releases the line and to aim low.
"I guess he thought he'd hit the button, but he didn't. When he fired the bow, the fiberglass fish arrow catapulted into the air a few feet, but because the drag was set so tightly, it came back down and stuck me on the top of the head. The barbs actually hit my skull and curved in a little bit. It hurt badly but I couldn't help but laugh. My friend got a pair of pliers and pried it out of my head. I had blood just pouring down my face. It was quite a sight."
Although no blood was shed during this next incident, it did leave Ralph seeing red. When Ralph and Vickie hunt together in Colorado without a camera guy, they take turns filming each other. They decided that Vickie would hunt the first evening and the following morning and that Ralph would hunt the next evening and second morning.
"Vickie hunted the first night, but there was no action. The following morning, I planned to film her again, but when I tried to climb one of the stands in the tamaracks, it slid down a bit. So, we decided not to hunt from it. From my vantage point, I could see that there were deer in the East on the greenfields and that they were coming our way to their bedding areas. We didn't want to booger them up, so we returned to the truck. We drove around for a while glassing deer then returned to the hotel to eat lunch and work on our camera gear. Being the gentleman that I am, I said, 'Vickie, since you missed your morning hunt, why don't you hunt this evening and I'll film it.' She agreed. That was the afternoon she killed the giant 203 5/8 whitetail. That deer was supposed to have been mine! I'll never give up another hunt again."
He may have gotten mad at himself on that day for relinquishing his hunt, but that didn't compare to the anger he felt for allowing himself to slip into an oblivious state of mind while running bear baits one day. With a backpack full of meat scraps and doughnuts, Ralph walked from bating station to bating station as quickly as possible so that he could move on to other tasks. At one station, the bait was placed so that the bear would have to come around the other side of the deadfall to access it putting the bear within shooting range of the stand.
"I was in my own little world and wasn't paying attention. As soon as I approached the deadfall, a huge sow stood up on the other side of it and woofed at me. Her cubs ran up the tree and she charged around the deadfall straight at me. Knowing that I was in big trouble, I tried to look as tall and as mean as possible, but those of you who've seen me know that my efforts weren't very effective. She stopped a few feet in front of me and jumped up and down on her front paws and swung her head back and forth, which meant she was not happy and was about to tear into me. Let's just say that if this scene had been filmed they'd have had to bleep out the comments that followed because I said every curse word that came to my mind. I dropped the backpack and slowly began backing up. I didn't turn my back on her until I'd made it back to the two-track. Then I ran to the truck as if my pants were on fire.
"Those type of near-tragic events happen when you start taking your safety for granted. When you let your guard down, you truly put yourself at risk. Never stop respecting the animals you're hunting, especially if they could kill you with one swipe of their claws."
Fred Fights For His Life
Pro staffer Fred Eichler, host of "Easton Reality Bowhunting" had a near-death experience while in bear camp as well, but his close demise cannot be blamed on the bears.
Fred and Dwight Shuh, editor of Bowhunter Magazine, joined up with Hunt Alaska Outfitters in August 2004 for the hunt of a lifetime, which almost became a life-ending hunt.
"On the third day of the hunt, the guides flipped the boat with me in it," said Eichler. "I was wearing heavy waders and gloves that caused me to sink like a stone in 12 feet of water. There was nothing anyone could do to save me. When my waders filled up with water, I couldn't swim. I started to pass out from lack of oxygen and all of the water I had inhaled. Thankfully, I hit a log that was hanging down in water and managed to pull myself up. I lost all of my gear including my bow. When we finally got to the shore, we built a lean-to for shelter. Thankfully, the cameraman had a lighter in his pocket and lit a fire to keep us warm. Had it not been for that fire, we probably would have died of hyperthermia. We sat around the fire for 21 hours until, luckily, some moose hunters who were coming down the river stumbled upon us. They took us back to camp, and then we got another ride out. That was the end of that trip for me. Without a bow and the rest of my equipment, I couldn't hunt. When I returned home, I actually had to go to the hospital because I had contracted a lung disease."
Sorry that Eichler had such a bad trip, the outfitter volunteered to take him hunting again the following year. Eichler ended up harvesting a Boone and Crockett grizzly with his bow at only 25 yards.
The Lakoskys Lose It All
Although they haven't had any near-death experiences afield, Lee and Tiffany Lakosky of "Scent-Lok's Gettin' Close" TV show, know what it feels like to lose all of their gear. The dynamic couple wasn't always the huge hunting stars they are today, and before they made it big in the outdoor industry, they were hitting the road and woods hard in an effort to turn their passion for hunting into a career that they could share.
"Back before our sponsors were providing our gear, we had to buy most everything, which was a big investment for us," said Tiffany. "We'd loaded a cart up with approximately 20 of our stands, targets and gear, attached it to the back of our four-wheeler trailer and headed out for an all-night drive from Minnesota to Kansas so that we could hunt first thing in the morning."
After driving for several hours, the newly married couple pulled over to get gas only to realize in horror that their entire trailer with everything in it was gone. Their gear for the entire week of hunting was somewhere on the road miles behind them.
"Well, that really messed up our hunt to say the least. My husband had a complete meltdown. We had to drive to a local sporting goods store to restock our gear, and we called up one of the companies that we were pro staffing for and asked them to send some stands to our hunting locale. We made do the best that we could."
The Kiskys Keep It Real
An irritated husband is something Kandi Kisky, co-host of "Whitetail Freaks" TV show, has had to deal with a time or two as well. Her husband, Don, who hosts the TV show with her, actually threw Kandi's bow out of the tree stand once after they began arguing over a deer she had just missed. But, Don shouldn't come down too hard on his wife as he's had to rely on her numerous times to carry all of his gear into the woods for him.
"Don had a ruptured disc and would get to where he could barely move at times, especially after sitting in a tree stand all day long," said Kandi. "On several occasions, I'd end up carrying both of our backpacks, the camera gear and both tree stands to and from our hunting setup. And on some occasions, I'd even beat him to our destination despite the load of gear on my back. Since then, he's had back surgery, so I no longer have to act as his sherpa."
Although Don may have not always come in handy for carrying things, he did make a good barrier between Kandi and a charging buck one morning.
"We were walking up a hill in the darkness to our stand one morning with the light from our flashlights leading the way. We must have walked between a hot doe and the rutting buck because all of a sudden a big buck came charging out of the woods toward us. I immediately ran behind Don and ducked down. The deer barely missed us. As soon as the buck realized we weren't another male deer competing for his woman, he scampered away. That was one spooky experience to say the least."
There you have it, the blooper and blunders of the pros. These assorted events are just a small taste of what these guys and gals have endured while attempting to capture worthwhile hunting footage for their fans. So when things don't go just right for you during your time afield, just remember that even the best booger up sometimes.