Lee & Tiffany
Lee and Tiffany Lakosky are to outdoor TV what Lucy and Desi were to black and white television in the 1950s. Lee is the tactics and strategy guy who holds a degree in chemical engineering. Tiffany was once a flight attendant whose light-hearted, sometimes zany, nature adds spice to any situation. Together they have one of the hottest shows on the Outdoor Channel. Here’s what they had to say about hunting, elk and never being apart.
Bugle: When did you guys first go elk hunting?
Lee: We hunted together in Colorado on a pack-in horse trip on public land. It was the first time I had ever heard an elk bugle. I shot a real nice 6×6.
Tiffany: It was the first time I was ever on a horse. I would just hang on.
Bugle: How did putting that sight pin on an elk feel? Were you shaky?
Lee: Yes is the short answer. But that’s how it is for me with any animal. If I was going to shoot a doe, I would still get just as excited. But being in the mountains and hearing those bulls scream and having something as big as a horse come in—that was one of the most memorable hunts I have ever had.
Tiffany: I totally agree. I remember hearing that first elk bugle, and I almost threw up on the spot.
Bugle: How does it compare to whitetails?
Lee: I’m from Minnesota, and 99 percent of my life has been hunting whitetails. Hearing elk bugle is special to me because we don’t get to hear it and see it everyday. I’m thankful the elk rut is in September before the deer rut even begins, because it would be hard to choose which one to hunt.
Bugle: You’ve been married eight years now. How does being married and working together work for you?
Tiffany: We balance each other out on a lot of things. He makes me step up my game, and I level him out a bit on some stuff he takes so seriously. There’s no one I’d rather spend time with than him.
Lee: Tiffany is my wife, and she’s my best friend. I want her with me everywhere I go. It’s just more fun that way. We’re lucky that way. When I’m not around her, I’m just not that happy. Maybe everyone’s relationship isn’t that way.
Tiffany: Sometimes we might need a little break. The other day we came home to Iowa after 13 straight weeks of appearances, and we went shed hunting together. I really don’t like walking around for hours on end to look for sheds, but if someone is with me who I can talk to, then that’s okay. So we’re out the other day and I ask Lee, ‘So what’s your favorite color?’
Lee: I don’t know. I don’t have a favorite color
Tiffany: Everybody has a favorite color. Is it blue or green?
Lee: I don’t know. I’m not five. I like them all. Just be quiet.
Tiffany: If you’re not going to talk to me, why do you even want me here?
Lee: Well I want you near me. I just don’t want you talking. She talks to hundreds of people at seminars while we’re on the road. When we get home, I’m just thinking about planting, business, a million things. But sometimes I just don’t want to talk.
Bugle: You both hunted the UU Bar in New Mexico last season for an episode of Team Elk. How did that go?
Lee: Unreal. It was one of my favorite hunts of the entire year even though we never killed an elk. We saw lots of elk, but we knew what kinds of bulls live there and we were holding out for top-end stuff. It was without a doubt the most fun we’ve had on an elk hunt. To call in as many elk as we did, I just never had that successful of an elk hunt. I remember telling Tiffany on the second day that I don’t want to shoot one because I don’t want to be done. We stayed in a cabin at 10,500 feet in the middle of nowhere. It was right on a lake where hundreds of elk would come down every night. You couldn’t sleep because they were always just screaming.
Tiffany: We weren’t hunting together, but we should have been. I’m used to deer hunting from a stand, and I think I stayed back more than I should have. It seemed like I would get on some big elk that were out of my range but in Lee’s range. And Lee was passing up elk I would shoot that were right in his lap. Next year we’re going to hunt together.
Bugle: What was your earliest hunting memory?
Lee: I grew up hunting deer in northern Minnesota. I started hunting when I was 9 and didn’t shoot my first deer until I was 16 because there were so few deer in that area. I could count on one hand the number of deer I saw in all those years. It was tough hunting. The very first buck I saw was the one I shot. You can’t really learn a lot about deer if you don’t see any. When I started bowhunting, it took me seven years to shoot my first deer with a bow. Ten years ago before we started our show, I couldn’t pass up any deer.
My dream hunt was for moose, and Jim Shockey invited me along for a hunt. The first day I passed up a giant moose, but I wanted to see what else was out there. Even Shockey was like, “I can’t believe you passed that up.” But I’m not so much into the killing as I am into the hunt and seeing what’s here and looking for the best possible animal. We never shoot something just for a TV show. We shoot something that we’re proud of. We have too much respect for animals. I wanted to experience the Yukon, and on the sixth day I shot a moose that was bigger than the other one. It might be number three or five in the world. You can’t shoot a great animal if you shoot a good one first.
Bugle: Tiffany, if a boyfriend or husband wants to get his better half involved in hunting, what advice do you have for him?
Tiffany: The best advice is keep it light, fun and positive. And the gear has to fit. You’ve got to get them their own gear, especially for shooting a bow. When I first started I felt so much pride in shooting my own bow. You have to keep it fun, make it enjoyable. I hear people tell me they tried and just gave up. They say, ‘Well, we sat for 12 hours and we didn’t see anything.’ That’s not the way to go about getting people into it. You have to go out with friends and show them how much fun you have.
My mom is a great example. I didn’t grow up hunting, and my mom would actually take our hunting photos and cut out our faces because she didn’t want to see them with the animals. When we moved to Iowa, she started to come down and cook for all our guests. Then she started to see how much fun everyone was having.
About a year after that she came up to me and said, ‘I want to shoot a turkey and a bear.’ Lee and I were like, What? We took her muzzleloading, and she shot a bear. She couldn’t pull back a bow. She probably weighs 75 pounds soaking wet, she’s had breast cancer, scoliosis and arthritis. The next year, she shot a turkey with her bow, and she’s going out with us this year. She’s totally hooked.
Bugle: Anything to add on that one, Lee?
Lee: I worked at an archery shop through college. Guys would bring their wives in to the man cave (aka indoor range) and give her their hand-me-down bow. Everyone would be watching. They weren’t able to pull it back. They’d stick an arrow in the ceiling. Now they’ll never ever pick up a bow again. For Tiffany, within a week with some help, she shot beautifully, and within a month she outshot the pros at the shop. When a person shoots that well, it’s something they can’t wait to do. When it came time to go hunting two years later, I knew she could shoot. That wasn’t going to be a problem. Her first deer was a clean, quick kill.
Bugle: Tiffany, what challenges or barriers to hunting might women experience? How should they overcome them?
Tiffany: As a woman, there might be some confidence issues, and you have to let go of your inhibitions. You have to be willing to learn and make mistakes. A lot of folks come to see us through our appearances, and we love to meet people. A lot of daughters and women tell us they don’t have their husband or dad with them when they go out hunting. They’re out sitting in some other stand and not hunting together.
Lee: I was out there helping Tiffany because I had made all those mistakes myself. No one bowhunted in my family. I would talk her through it as I was filming. I’d tell her the yardage, and we used one sliding pin so she didn’t get thrown off. She always made nice clean shots and follow-throughs. Another thing, if it wasn’t a perfect set-up, we just didn’t take the shot because I didn’t want to turn her off of hunting.
Tiffany: I’m not a deer expert. I just got lucky. I married a guy who’s a deer nut, and we’re lucky to do a TV show. I think it makes me relatable to people. They ask me questions they might not ask Lee. They might bring up a time when I missed that deer on TV, and I tell them, ‘Heck yeah, I missed it. I just got so excited. Every time I miss something I try to take that experience and learn from it so I don’t make that same exact mistake the next time.’ And people are receptive to that.
Lee: Tiffany never portrays herself as an expert. She’s out having a good time. She shot a turkey the other day. She says, ‘Hey, look. He’s got good pokers.’ Those aren’t pokers, those are spurs. It’s just stuff that cracks you up, and women and girls can relate to her because she shows them that she’s out there having a good time, and you don’t have to be an expert on these things to do this.
Tiffany: I like being able to show people why we hunt. We’re trying to promote hunting, family and being together. From novice hunters to old guys, everyone can really relate.
Bugle: Let’s step back to the year 2000. Was there any clue that you guys would be where you are in life now?
Lee: Not a clue. There was no bigger fan of hunting shows than me. Like anyone, you dream about those shows, but you never think it would ever happen to you. We didn’t know anyone in the industry. We always did our hunting, filming, shed hunting for fun. I’d drive my $500 car down to Iowa just to look at deer, because I never got to see them in northern Minnesota. Iowa back then wasn’t even open to nonresident hunters. My childhood friend Paul and I would go to the Holiday gas station down the road. They had a hunting section in their movies, and that’s what we did all weekend. We made pizzas and sat down in my basement and watched hunting videos until 2 in the morning in the summer. When we could drive, we had some good spots to film deer and that was our life. We fell into this by complete accident.
I did some freelance writing in college and went to the Archery Trade Show on a media pass, which was like heaven. I took Tiffany with me. Michael Waddell, who was a camerman for RealTree back then, and I were the same age. I had bought a farm in Kansas after I got my job as an engineer and told Michael about it. He wanted to come down and hunt turkeys on the farm with me. Tiffany and I learned about filming cutaways, interviews. The next year we had just a phenomenal year hunting on film. And it was all in focus. I was on Monster bucks 10 and on the back cover. I was just thrilled to be a part of it. By the third year, people started talking on the Internet (mostly about Tiffany) and pretty soon a couple companies asked us about hosting a TV show.
Bugle: What’s next? Any hunting goals you have yet to achieve that you’re working on?
Tiffany: I want to shoot a moose with my bow in the next five years, maybe in the Yukon.
Bugle: Lee recently shot a massive moose. Any rivalry to get a bigger one?
Tiffany: No, not at all. The only thing we argue about is who gets to sit in the stand. We’re always saying, “No, you go.” I get just as much enjoyment when he gets a shot at a great deer.
Lee: So many people ask us, “Who shot the bigger one?” But it doesn’t really matter to us. I was so proud when Tiffany shot her first animal. I don’t care who shoots it. We’re married, so it all goes on the same wall. We get a lot of kids asking us how to do hunting shows, and we tell them just to stay in school. Anyone can hunt, but there’s a lot more to running a business. People always say to us, “I wish we could hunt all the time.” Well, I wish I could, too. There’s a business behind everything. My goal is to see us continually putting out a better product.
Bugle: Have you seen any changes in hunting since you started?
Tiffany: You know, one of the most rewarding aspects of all of this so far is seeing all the young girls and women coming through our line now. It used to be predominantly men, but now it’s easily 50/50. I love it when I see some girls straight from cheerleading competition still in their little outfits, and the next morning they’re going out turkey hunting. You really can do it all. You don’t have to be a tomboy. Even my little niece, who is as girlie-girl as it gets, is out there catching frogs, and she’s doing it in a tutu.
Lee: It’s really amazing how every year, we’ve seen progressively more women come up and tell us about how they recently started hunting. We didn’t get that in the early days. We didn’t think we were going to be role models, and we are thrilled that people come up and tell us how our show helped show them how fun much they can have.
Lee and Tiffany are proud members of Team Elk. Be sure to watch their New Mexico elk hunt on the RMEF’s new TV show, Team Elk.