From Gophers to Crushing It
Lee and Tiffany's rise a simple case of whitetail passion
MT. PLEASANT, Iowa -- Tiffany Lakosky was excited about her new bow case, possibly with the same level of giddiness some women might have when receiving a new purse.
Lakosky, though, isn't typical, which quickly became evident as she started dragging things from the case.
The list of items could be tedious; from Allen wrenches to broadheads, all highlighted by a package of Jack Links beef jerky. It produced a chuckle.
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"You never know what I might pull out of one of these bags," Lakosky said, "might be a hand gun, or make-up, or a pair of snippers." (The latter for trimming limbs, not fingernails)
The simple statement seems to describe Lakosky to a T. She’s an enigma: Not just another pretty face. Her make-up often includes camouflage face paint, all surrounding a steady eye when it comes to sending an arrow into big bucks.
Tiffany is the pretty part of “Crush with Lee & Tiffany.” The husband/wife team has changed the way people look at deer hunting, especially for young girls who grew up with more of a penchant for playing with Barbie dolls than GI Joes.
“I really like my girly things,’’ Tiffany said. “But I like to hunt, too. I have no problem whacking a buck while wearing a little make-up and with my earrings in place. It’s who I am. That’s all I’ve ever tried to be.”
Being themselves is all either of the Lakoskys ever tried to be, even with their movie-star good looks. The fact they are so popular is an accident born from a giving heart and a passion for deer hunting, nothing more.
OutdoorChannel.com caught up with the pair at their Deer Camp last week. They quickly learned Deer Camp (often regarded as a getaway for hunters) is actually home for the Lakoskys. Like so much of their life, it was not planned that way.
Lee Lakosky grew up in the middle-class suburbs of Columbia Heights, Minn., with a view from his bedroom window that included high-rise buildings and bedroom windows of surrounding homes. The son of a bricklayer, he somehow, amidst the suburban crush, became obsessed with deer hunting.
“I don’t know how it happened,’’ Lee Lakosky said. “I guess I was born that way. I’ve been obsessed with deer since I was a kid. The interesting thing is that was in Northern Minnesota, and there weren’t that many deer.
“Maybe there are some deer there now, but back then it was terrible. They even closed the season back in the ‘70s because there weren’t many deer.”
Lakosky recalls sitting as a child waiting for his father to return from deer hunts, hoping he would have a deer. Most times he didn’t. Every once in a while, he would come home with a doe and even more seldom there was a buck.
“It was very rare that they even brought home a deer,” Lakosky said, “but when they did, they’d hang it in the wood shed. We’d be out there all day long the next day. We’d take toy guns hunting them and shooting them and everything.
“When they took me, the first 10 years I deer hunted I don’t think I saw 10 deer. Tiffany is always asking, ‘How were you so obsessed with deer when you never even saw any?’ I think that (not seeing anything) was probably part of it.
“Reading all the magazines and you’d see other deer pictures and stuff in Outdoor Life. My grandpa had big stacks of Outdoor Life and Field & Stream. I always just figured it was something that we were doing wrong, that we didn’t know how to hunt them. So I researched everything that I could and read. I’ve probably been obsessed with deer ever since I can remember.”
On the other side, Tiffany Lakosky lived three miles away and was friends with one of Lee’s sisters. She played with Barbie dolls and “girlie” things, but had a tomboyish thread running through her. Her brother would often place her as the goalie in the neighborhood hockey games. Her family didn’t hunt. They were more into fishing for walleye.
As the two matured, Lee studied chemical engineering in college, working at an archery shop to get by. The two dated, but Tiffany quickly learned if they were going to spend any time together she would have to be at the archery shop helping Lee fletch arrows. She eventually picked up a bow and learned to shoot.
They each learned quickly nothing came easy in life. Tiffany was in her first year of college when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer; 10 days later her father would die of a heart attack. She would leave college to be a stewardess for Northwest Airlines.
Lee would start a career as a chemical engineer. In the beginning his shift work allowed him to pretty much take off for most of deer season. With Tiffany garnering free flights through Northwest, the two jet-setted their away around the best deer hunting grounds in the country.
It was perfect. They got married. Then it started getting hard. Lee’s job changed and it was no longer possible to take off for deer season.
He did the only natural thing: He quit. With a new bride and no job, the two moved from their home, which was close to being foreclosed on, and into the deer camp Lee and three friends had bought in Iowa.
The two had always hunted together, always videoed their hunts.
“I just wanted to show my friends the things I was seeing and learning,’’ Lee Lakosky said, “or critique things if I made mistakes. I never thought about television.”
With David Blanton, Michael Waddell and Don and Kandi Kisky pushing them, the two sent in their videos to Realtree and were soon being highlighted on the popular “Monster Bucks” videos, their notoriety growing in the deer hunting world. Scent-Lok offered them a television show idea and they accepted.
“Why not?” Lee said. “I had just quit my job.”
Tiffany was still flying the friendly skies, both of them working to make ends meet.
The two never realized they had a following until after their first season of “Gettin’ Close” aired.
“We lived out here, working on the farm, kind of out of sight and too busy to pay attention,’’ Tiffany said.
In prior years, they had showed up at outdoor shows like the ATA or NWTF events to work for Realtree, doing whatever anyone wanted them to do: Handing out T-shirts, running to get coffee. They were the gophers.
Then their show aired. When they showed up at the NWTF show in Nashville, with full intentions of being gophers again, the line at the Scent-Lok booth to meet them was 200 yards long.
“There’s this huge line of people there and we’re like, ‘What the heck?” Lee said. “All of these people were there to see us, and we’re like, ‘What in the world just happened?’ We were planning on just coming there like we did the year before and just work it, you know: ‘You look like you’d be a large, let me go back and get you a shirt.’
“We just sat in our little hole in Iowa and nobody knew us that first year and we didn’t know what was taking place outside of there. We were just working on the farm, trying to make ends meet.”
Today they are in the highest demand. Their summers are filled with commercial shoots, work on the 10 farms they manage in Iowa and getting ready for the rest of the year. They begin shooting their deer hunts in August and wrap them up in January. Then comes all the appearance work, which is even more daunting.
That’s the extreme Reader’s Digest version of the first few years of the Lakoskys’ life together. There are a myriad of stories in between their first meeting and where they are today.
In this case, they are at Deer Camp and it’s home. Like many deer camps, it’s a metal building, with a huge living room filled with what you would expect from any deer-obsessed hunter: Deer heads cover the walls, with a half dozen elk mounts and a caribou, welcome signs with images of deer are interspersed and literally everything in the area screams ‘big bucks.’
A 3-foot high, 20-feet long and 3-feet deep pile of whitetail sheds buffers the fireplace. (The couple trains their retrievers to pick up sheds and typically find about 400 a year) Tiffany often plays a game with Lee by grabbing one of the sheds and asking him where it came from. Lee always answers quickly, in an almost Rainman fashion.
The back door opens up to an archery range full of Morrell targets and 3-D targets ranging from 30 yards to 100 yards. On the mornings they don’t hunt, they each follow a routine of shooting a dozen arrows.
In the parking lot is a tour bus, with bigger than life images of them side by side dragging a deer from the woods. That’s their mobile deer camp.
Their life during deer season is chasing deer around their property or in other states, never settling for just the run of the mill buck.
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