Shooting no longer has to mean killing for this Niles hunter

Published 1:13 pm Monday, August 18, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- For a local taxidermist and global hunter recently-turned film maker, shooting no longer necessarily means killing.
What it does mean for Paul Ranft, a life-long Niles resident, however, is going to exotic places and hunting camps to shoot footage of other people who hunt wild animals.
The hunts he currently films are later shown on the Outdoor Channel's "Wildlife Point Blank," a program hosted by national bow hunting expert Phil Phillips.
The program is sponsored by Scent.Lok, a company based out of Muskegon that specializes in hunting-clothing and backpacks.
Their products are known in hunting communities worldwide.
Ranft, who also owns an outfitting company in Iowa, went to South Africa for his last assignment, where, although filming most of the time, he also had the opportunity to hunt.
The assignment included filming the animals who roam the planes of a South African game park three hours north of Johannesburg, close to the country's border with Botswana.
Of the 27 different planes game species, the Kudu impressed him the most.
Ranft said the Kudu is similar to the American Elk, although the meat of the Eland, another game species, tasted the best.
When filming, Ranft uses new, light and modern digital camera equipment.
That is unlike in the old days, when a cameraman typically had to drag heavy equipment wherever he went, sometimes having problems keeping up with the hunters.
Ranft, however, stays fit by running five times a week, averaging five to eight miles and sometimes running with a 20-pound backpack.
Although Ranft was in South Africa to film bow hunting, he also had plenty of time to learn new things about the culture and the people of South Africa, a country that is currently experiencing many changes since the apartheid regime came down in the early 90s.
Ranft said those involved with making the program try to show a total experience from the locations they film.
Ranft said the program is currently the number one rated hunting program in the country.
And, while attempting to minimize graphic hunting scenes, although that is a natural part of hunting shows, Ranft said they try to educate people what the country side and the people are like at the locations they film.
Ranft was also impressed with the local trackers and how they have adapted to their environment, which was an environment Ranft at times himself found harsh.
During the day it was 85 degrees and dry, while the temperature dropped to the high 30s at night, he said. In his second year of filming for the show, Ranft is currently the show's preferred cameraman.
The Outdoor Channel has 16 million viewers and "Wildlife Point Blank" shows at 10 a.m on Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays and 1 a.m. on Mondays. Ranft will be going to Colorado to shoot footage for new shows this fall.