Fulfilling a dream, or three

Published 6:28 pm Thursday, March 10, 2005

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Have you ever wondered what it's like for the people behind those television cameras? You know the ones that actually tape the shows we enjoy everyday? Niles native Bud Ranft has the answer.
While he doesn't exactly tape shows like Friends or The Simple Life, his job is a little more exciting and dangerous and it doesn't take place on a set.
Bud was offered a job three years ago being the head camera man for an outdoor television show called Wild Life Point Blank and they are in the works on another show airing in July called Gettin' Close, which they are speculating will be the No. 1 rated outdoor show.
Bud tapes the owners of the show at their best and travels all around the world to places like Africa, Australia, British Columbia and all over the United States to film these shows. Soon he will be leaving for Russia and Argentina and he is going to Nebraska and Iowa in April to hunt and film turkey.
For example, Africa has 50-60 different species of antelope and thousands of other wildlife, which can make things a bit interesting when you never know what you are going to run into.
So how does someone from a little town like Niles run into a job like this?
Bud started his own business in Iowa and started making his own promotional videos. The producer of these shows saw a video of Bud doing an outdoor show in Lansing and contacted him and offered him the job.
Bud got his start in photography when he was young, taking still photo's and video taping all the wildlife he would see.
While Bud admits he does like traveling to so many different places, it can get pretty hard at times.
Not only does Bud work for Scemt-lok and run his own business in Iowa, he also has a taxidermy business that he runs out of his house called Classical Taxidermy.
His daughter, Alex, who is a sophomore at Niles High School, has been helping him with his business also.
Alex is really into art at school, but has been her dad's hunting partner since she was 12, catching animals like turkey, deer, fish and a bear, which all hang in her parents' house, except the bear which serves as a rug.
Walking into the Ranft household, you will find all different types of animals that have been caught throughout the years. They range from deer, fish, a turkey and a weasel to a caribou, elk, otter bobcat, and bears. Bud also made a coffee table and an end table out of antlers.
To some, this would be a bit much to have all these hanging in your house, but the room is set in an outdoors theme, so it's not just a deer hanging on the wall looking straight at you, it's really unique.
The new show's focus is to not only be No. 1, but to draw an audience of every age and gender.
"A lot of our show is actual behind the scenes footage. We like to show what happens in camp, the interactions with guides and other people around, it's not just sitting in a blind watching someone shoot animals. We're trying to bring entertainment to outdoors television and it's been working so far,"
Ranft admits he used to be big into the whole killing idea, but his hunting style has changed since his dad, who he grew up hunting with, passed away.
Southwest lower Michigan is pretty big and is one of the top-notch areas to hunt in Michigan. The revenue that hunters bring in is in the millions of dollars throughout the whole state, but this area is known for having more deer than most.
Black bears or chocolate bears, are also very well known in Michigan, but not around here, thankfully. They stay in the UP where there is more woods and not so many people.
Bud admits his run-in with a chocolate bear wasn't too pleasant.
One night while on a trip, he decided to go sit in one of the tree stands by himself. His plan was to take a fishing line and a donut and, as he told his friends, he was going to reel himself in a bear. He did and was stuck in a tree for three hours. He even caught it on tape.
Bud admitted the event went on for a while. He did everything he could to get the bear to leave. He threw sticks at him, a pocket full of rocks, anything he thought would work.
Finally, the bear went off about 40 yards and allowed Bud a chance to get down. He did and went yelling and screaming at the bear and it finally left.
So, is it true that if you encounter a bear you should play dead?
Alex also ran into a situation with bears the first time she was bear hunting. This time it was not one, but three.
Though bears are very dangerous animals, Bud admits most of the time their focus is not to kill you, they just want you out of their territory and away from their food.
While this may be enough to scare some people away from hunting, the two admit they really enjoy what they do.
Though Bud enjoys everything he does, he admits he is very busy. He plans on doing the television show as long as he can and eventually would like to move up. He also plans on sticking with his other two businesses as long as he can.
Both of the shows Bud tapes can be seen on the outdoors channels on Dish, Comcast Cable and pretty much any cable that runs outdoors channels. Bud also has a website available about his business in Iowa, www.timberridgeoutfitters.com.