Outdoor television has produced a steady stream of female celebrities over the past two decades — and most of them owe a debt of gratitude to Vicki Cianciarulo.
Vicki and her husband, Ralph, pioneered a husband/wife hunting show format that paved the way for such household names as Lee and Tiffany, Pat and Nicole, and Levi and Samantha. In fact, 2017 marks an incredible 17thconsecutive year on the Outdoor Channel for the Cianciarulos, whose Archer’s Choice and The Choice series remain among the network’s most popular programs.
During that time, Vicki has demonstrated her big-time bowhunting chops over and over, taking everything from giant whitetails, bull moose and bison to behemoth black bears, red stags and Cape buffalo.
While Vicki insists she rarely stops to consider her legacy, she acknowledges “it’s kind of humbling, because I never set out to do anything like this.” In fact, growing up in the Chicago suburbs, a career in hunting is the last thing Cianciarulo saw coming. She never even tried archery until after college, when she started dating a guy who participated in local 3-D shoots.
“I got tired of just walking around carrying everyone else’s arrows,” she said. “So, I wanted my own bow.”
In 1989, that boyfriend took her to a nearby pro shop to purchase her first rig — a Pearson Probe. The name of the shop? Archer’s Choice. And its owner? Ralph Cianciarulo.
After she got that first bow, Vicki started shooting against the guys in the pro shop league. And when she and her boyfriend broke up, it wasn’t long before a new spark ignited.
“Ralph asked me out for dinner one night, and that was it. He and I just had this magnetism,” Vicki said. “We started deer hunting together, and we have been like yin and yang ever since.”
With Ralph’s encouragement, Vicki advanced rapidly both as an archer and a bowhunter, and it wasn’t long before she was behind the pro shop counter helping customers and tagging impressive trophies in the field. Back in those days, however, Vicki said being a woman didn’t necessarily make her the most popular person in hunting camp.
“My first caribou hunt, we went up and it was Ralph and I and two other guys with us. There were supposed to be six of us in the wall tent, and this one gentleman just threw a fit,” she said. “He would not share a tent with a girl, and he made the outfitter move him because he didn’t want to deal with a girl in camp. There’s definitely been a huge change in attitude [over the years]. The guys are realizing maybe you get to spend more time in the woods if you bring your wife or girlfriend with you.”
Ralph and Vicki were married in 1993 and produced their own series of hunting videos and DVDs throughout the 1990s. In 2001 — the same year their son RJ was born — they made their Outdoor Channel debut. In 2006, Vicki became the first female archer ever to take a 200-inch whitetail on film when she shot a 203 5⁄8-inch buck in Colorado.
Since entering America’s living rooms nearly two decades ago, Ralph and Vicki have used a combination of humor, humility and great storytelling to build one of the most loyal fan bases in hunting. And along with that has come innumerable accolades — such as Outdoor Channel’s coveted Golden Moose award as fan-favorite hosts — and a string of endorsement deals from major outdoor manufacturers such as Realtree, Browning, Cabela’s and Hoyt.
For Vicki, one of the most gratifying milestones came seven years ago, when Hoyt began producing a Vicxen Signature Series of bows for women.
“I am extremely proud Ralph and I were the first couple on the Outdoor Channel. It was always a guy’s sport, and hopefully I did have a hand in getting more women out there,” Vicki said. “It’s a really neat feeling when someone says, ‘You are the reason I started,’ or ‘You are a great role model.’ I love to hunt, and to be able to share it with everyone and grow the sport is amazing.”