Behind the Elk Hunt
Cameramen capture adventure for Outdoor Channel viewers
-- There are a couple guys with TV cameras here at Elk Camp. They’re collecting footage for upcoming episodes of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation show “RMEF Team Elk,” recently voted Fan Favorite Best New Series on Outdoor Channel.
For cameramen used to chasing elk across mountains, this work must seem like gravy.
No lugging 30 pounds of video gear upslope through a jumble of blowdown!
Ken Sciacca, a veteran TV pro from Pueblo, Colo., just finished his second hunting season behind the camera for “RMEF Team Elk.” And he has the scars to prove it.
Part of Sciacca’s job is keeping up with show co-host Cameron Hanes, one of the most physically fit wilderness athletes on the planet. Hanes, a workout junky and ultra-marathoner, also writes an elk-hunting fitness column for RMEF member magazine “Bugle.” But, for Sciacca, matching steps with Hanes isn’t the hard part.
Amid those many miles, Sciacca is charged with recording the hunt while not interfering with the hunt. When a rutting, fiery-eyed bull steps out of the brush, slobbering and peeing and screaming and looking for a fight, it’s on Sciacca to get that shot. To ensure camera settings are correct. Focus. Compose the picture and follow the action. Without being seen, heard or smelled by the elk. But videoing the hunt also isn’t the hard part.
So what’s the hard part?
Sciacca laughs as he tells a story now legendary among “RMEF Team Elk” crew.
“Our hunting party was on horseback heading deep into a national forest,” he said. “The trail was narrow and the mountain was steep, and my horse had a problem with the load it was carrying. I had my tripod on my back and my camera under my arm. Suddenly the horse bucked. My gear and I were thrown over the front. I was sore and scraped up and got a black eye — but I saved the equipment!”
“A few days later, we were hunting about six miles from camp. We ran out of water and I started getting dehydrated. Our guide told me the water in the creek was safe to drink, so I did. Well, I got giardia.”
“The dysentery lasted six weeks. My doctor prescribed some medicine and I kept on working. But then one morning on another hunt I was cleaning up with an alcohol wipe. The alcohol reacted with my medicine and I started vomiting. I was really sick, but still kept on working.”
“And all that trouble started on a hunt when we didn’t even see an elk!”
But Sciacca says the rewards of his job far outweigh the negative. He’s been touch-‘em close to monster bulls and lots of other critters. He once filmed for 30 minutes as an unsuspecting bull wallowed at just 15 yards. He’s marveled at 300 head of elk in a shallow lake, silhouetted against a setting sun, bulls sparring and splashing in the orange, glittering light.
“It was just surreal,” he grinned. “Who else gets to see that kind of stuff?”
Sciacca also takes great pride in working with the “RMEF Team Elk” production crew at Big Time Entertainment.
He explained, “It’s a joy to shoot for them. Because I know that when I take the time to get a special shot, or if I’ve collected something really unique, the editors are going to do their best to get it into the show. And the production values will be topnotch. Together, I think we’ve got something going on that’s very different and very good.”
By voting “RMEF Team Elk” as their favorite new series, Outdoor Channel fans would seem to agree.
Elk Camp News and Notes
Inside the Elk Camp host hotel, the Riviera, a 24-hour tattoo parlor is offering an RMEF logo tattoo for $200. As of Saturday morning, the final day of Elk Camp, two especially avid RMEF enthusiasts had taken advantage of the opportunity and are now sporting the new ink.
In fund-raising auctions held Saturday, the final day of Elk Camp, a Labrador retriever puppy sold for $8,200. An Arizona special elk tag brought $85,000. An opportunity to shoot with USA Shooting Team Olympic athletes at their official training facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., sold for $7,500. Auction proceeds will help fund the conservation work of RMEF in 2012.
Veteran outdoor writer and TV show host Jim Zumbo was honored at Saturday night’s grand banquet with RMEF’s highest honor, the Wallace Fennell Pate Wildlife Conservation Award. The award honors special contributions of lasting significance for the benefit of elk, other wildlife and their habitat across North America. Zumbo, an early and avid RMEF supporter, hosts “Jim Zumbo Outdoors” on Outdoor Channel. He accepted the award before a banquet crowd of 1,570.
Spotted today at Elk Camp: Jimmy Big Time of “Jimmy Big Time” on Outdoor Channel, racing legends Johnny Unser and Richard Childress, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Alliance Jeff Crane, and country music sensation Clint Black.
Bryan Langley of McMinnville, Ore., won the RMEF/Leupold World Elk Calling Championships on Saturday. Langley competed in the Professional Division. Also crowned were: Men’s Division — Brad Cain of Keizer, Ore.; Women’s Division — Jesse Diesing of Loveland, Colo.; Pee-Wee Division — Colton Crawford of McMinnville, Ore.; Voice Division — William Card of Fallon, Nev.
Elk Camp 2013
Next year, RMEF’s annual convention and expo will return to Las Vegas, Feb. 28-March 3, at the Las Vegas Convention Center and new host hotel Mirage.