Lee and Tiffany Lakosky have the world by the tail.
The couple, who grew up in the Twin Cities and now live on a farm in southeastern Iowa, have become superstars in the world of TV deer hunting shows. They spun their passion for deer hunting -- and each other -- into fame, if not fortune.
And a lifestyle that pays them to hunt virtually every day six months a year, and live on lands where monster bucks roam.
"We're so, so lucky and grateful to be where we're at," Tiffany said. "We never anticipated this. It's unbelievable."
Their show, "Getting Close with Lee and Tiffany,'' is among the top-watched programs on the Outdoor Channel. Renamed this year to "The Crush with Lee and Tiffany,'' the couple run their TV production company from their farm, employ eight, endorse and advertise for an assortment of hunting gear manufacturers and make celebrity appearances at sports shows, such as the Minnesota Deer Classic, where they will appear this weekend.
How popular are they?
"We can't even walk through a sports show, we need security guards," Tiffany said, because they draw a crowd. "It's kind of weird."
The good life
It's an unlikely path for a former flight attendant and a former chemical engineer, both of whom grew up in Columbia Heights.
But what sets them apart from other TV buck slayers is that they are a young couple, articulate and photogenic. Lee credits three main reasons for their success.
"I have just a huge passion for whitetail hunting, I'm just nuts about it," he said. "The farm we have produces great deer every year. We get whitetail footage that no one else gets."
And Lee says he's a perfectionist. "I want every show perfect. There's no 'That's good enough.'"
Also, he says, it's his wife. Having a woman -- particularly such an attractive one -- starring in a hunting show broke ground.
"People have taken to her," Lee said. "They see how much fun we have. It's amazing how many women and kids and young girls call and e-mail and come to these shows. And how many young girls want to take up hunting because they see Tiffany.
"We really hit on a tone that no one else has hit on. We appeal to the hard-core hunters, but it's also just good entertainment. It's fun to watch."
Added Lee: "We don't try to pretend we're professionals. We're just out there, a couple of rednecks from Iowa, having a good time."
Said Tiffany: "I don't consider us experts. Shoot, I just hunt a lot."
It doesn't hurt that their show routinely also stars eye-poppin' trophy animals.
A long shot
The road to the good life in Iowa began in Minnesota. Lee, 42, comes from a hunting family. "My parents and relatives are from the Iron Range, and I grew up hunting in northern Minnesota."
Tiffany, 33, also grew up in Columbia Heights, and didn't hunt, but fished and spent time at her family's lake home. They first met when Tiffany was a teenager and was friends with one of Lee's sisters.
"I knew of her for many years before we started dating," Lee said. They met again while both were in college. He worked at Bwana Archery in Little Canada then, and she would visit him there. Soon, they were target shooting together. Then he invited her to go hunting.
They were both in a tree stand when Tiffany coolly shot her first whitetail with a bow.
"I was immediately hooked," she said. "From that day on, my world has been totally different."
"We dated for five years," she said. "He proposed to me in a food plot in Iowa."
Starting over in Iowa
The marriage of video and hunting started early for Lee. As a teenager, he and a buddy recorded their hunts for fun. "Even when I started filming Tiffany, it was never with the thought we'd do a TV show," Lee said.
In 2003, two weeks after they were married, Lee quit his job as a chemical engineer. "I wasn't doing what I love to do," he said.
Said Tiffany: "He called me and said, 'Do you want to move to Iowa?' I said 'OK, we'll give it a shot.'"
Lee had written for some outdoor magazines while in college, met people who were on the pro staff for Realtree outdoor products and he and Tiffany had begun to appear in some videos they produced. Then, just two weeks after they moved to Iowa, Scent-Lok clothing called and asked if they would star in a TV show, which became "Getting Close with Lee and Tiffany."
"Within two years, it was the No. 1-rated show on the Outdoor Channel," Lee said. "We had no idea it would take off like it did."
Tiffany gave up her flight attendant job two years ago.
Now life is pretty good.
They live in a pole barn converted to a home. They own or manage 5,000 acres for trophy whitetails. They rub elbows with county western stars, NASCAR drivers and retired Major League ballplayers, all of whom make their way to Iowa to hunt big deer.
"We'll just ride this as long as we have fun," Lee said.
Said Tiffany: "You couldn't do what we do if you didn't love it.''
Doug Smith • firstname.lastname@example.org