Elk Escapades and the Fast 15

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Each year when visiting with our Fast 15 honorees, who you can read about starting on Page 7, we love finding out all about them — not just their professional pursuits, but also how they spend their time away from work and what they consider fun.

Invariably (this is Arkansas, after all) there are always a few hunting enthusiasts in the group.

And then there’s Hannah Cicioni, who says she’s been hooked since her first pheasant hunt when she was 12 years old. She has since taken more big game animals than most avid hunters.

And by big game, we mean big game. One of Cicioni’s favorite annual activities is a two-week solo adventure to Colorado and Utah to hunt elks.

“That’s my time. That’s just for me,” she says. “It’s just me and my backpack and my bow. I chase elk through the mountains and sleep wherever I end up that night.”

Cicioni has made the trip each of the past three summers, and is planning the fourth later this year. And if you’ve seen mounted bull elk heads hanging in Rogers businesses Parkside Public Burger and Ozark Beer Co., you know where they came from. Cicioni harvested both of them in 2014.

“Sometimes I get into some sketchy situations that, thank goodness, my mother knows nothing about,” she jokes. “But I’ve managed to come out through the end of it. Hunting and being outdoors is my favorite thing to do.”

Cicioni said the solo trips are fun — right up until the time she has a successful hunt.

“That’s when the work starts,” she says.

Cicioni took her first bull elk — which can weigh anywhere from 700 to 900 pounds — in Crested Butte, Colorado, in a location that was approximately 8 miles from her truck.

She said it took her three round trips and a day and a half to quarter and pack the meat back to the vehicle site.

It’s physically demanding work, not to mention, shall we say, messy.

This is all taking place, mind you, in a wilderness that’s heavy with mountain lions, cougars and other predators that are naturally attracted to the ripe smell of elk meat.

To say nothing of the hunter who is carrying it.

“I’ve got a sidearm with me; the park rangers out there actually insist that hunters carry one if you’re bowhunting,” Cicioni said. “They’d much rather discover a dead mountain lion than a dead human.”