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A Shaky, Shaky Start for Cianciarulo

Ralph Cianciarulo's bow illness became full-blown buck fever on first deer hunt

A Shaky, Shaky Start for Cianciarulo
Hunter Ralph Cianciarulo

Ralph Cianciarulo’s first deer hunt was not what anyone would expect from the world class bow hunter. It was an absolute disaster.

Cianciarulo was taken under the spell of the stick and string after first acquiring one when he was 6.

“I got a long bow from a yard sale, got a cedar arrow and I started shooting it,” he said. “I just loved it. I ab-so-lute-ly loved it. It just fascinated me. From that point on, I had a bow in my hand.”

He was often seen around Cicero, Ill., the suburbs of Chicago, out and about shooting his bow. He even got stupid with it.

“I did what every stupid kid did; I shot it straight up in the air and watched it come down,” he said, “and jumped out of the way.

“If I wasn’t playing sports, I was shooting my bow. Stump shoot, just shoot anywhere. My parents thought I was whacked, for sure.”

As his shooting progressed, so did his intrigue. He often visited a nearby archery shop and eventually worked out a deal to shoot there in exchange for doing odd jobs – “I don’t think there were any child labor laws then.”

His father’s family didn’t hunt, but Cianciarulo had some uncles on his mother’s side that did. He was 13 when his uncle Kenny said it was time Ralph went deer hunting. Cianciarulo remembers heading into the woods and Kenny setting him up.

“We’re walking along a fence line with a cornfield on the right and timber on the left,” he said. “He actually boosts me in a tree. I get up there, and he tells me I want you to face the timber. These deer are going to come out from the timber to the corn.”

Kenny was leaving to set up down the treeline but noticed he had forgotten his arrows, so Cianciarulo gave him two, half of what he brought in his quiver.

“He walked further down and I’m sitting there and I didn’t move,” Cianciarulo said. “I’m staring at that timber. I hear something in back of me. I look down and there’s a doe and yearling. The limb I’m sitting on is right over them.

“They start to walk -- because they probably heard my heart pounding. I remember to this day that I drew back and didn’t remember where to anchor. I drew and shot and it wasn’t even close. I think that arrow is still circling the earth.”


Ciancarulo got a bit of break that the shot was so bad the deer weren’t spooked off. He had one more arrow and another shot to kill his first deer.

“I grab my second last arrow … I fell apart,” said the co-host of the top bowhunting shows on the Outdoor Channel, "Archer’s Choice" and "The Choice." “The second one was probably 20 feet above the deer and 100 yards into the cornfield.”

He had failed miserably on this hunt, but as he sat on the limb with nothing to do but watch the deer walked around and eat corn, it hit him. 

“It totally mesmerized me. It captivated my soul,” said Cianciarulo, who was infected with the bug. “It was something that just locked me in. If Rambo would have aired, I probably would have jumped out with a survival knife.”

Unsuccessful as it was, his first hunt helped lead him to owning an archery shop, where he met his wife, Vicki. They in turn took the name of that shop, Archer’s Choice, to greater heights and much better hunts. 

“Call it buck fever, deer fever, because it’s awesome. We’ve filmed millions of people, and there’s no drug or alcohol on this planet that will give you the adrenaline rush that hunting can,” he said. “It pumps our souls.”

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