Survival skill

Wherever Austin Manelick is, a bow isn’t too far behind.

Some of the best archers in the country took to the Warren County Fairgrounds for this weekend’s Regions Pro-Am Archery Tour event, though none carried the star power of Manelick, who is one of eight competitors on National Geographic’s Ultimate Survival Alaska.

The show features Manelick and the other “survivalists” dropped into the Alaska wilderness, forced to hunt for food and build shelter from the extreme conditions. The task is nothing new to Austin, who has spent nearly his entire life living in the 49th state.

“Alaska has something for everyone,” said Manelick, who has practiced subsistence hunting since the age of five. “I just love the raw beauty of it. I call it the land of endless challenge. Every day is a competition with yourself.”

Though he’s made his living in Alaska, Manelick maintains strong ties to Warren County. His parents are natives of Russell and attended Eisenhower High School. Austin is a graduate of Penn State University, where he was a member of the rugby team for four years.

“I always seem to find myself (in Pennsylvania) during whitetail season,” said Manelick. “The great thing about this area is you can be in the woods 365 days a year. Everyone in the archery community has good things to say about Warren County. It’s just a lot of fun.”

Manelick’s love of the outdoors has led to a promising career both on television and behind the scenes. He helped to start Allegheny Whitetails – a Russell based hunting operation – with his father, Greg. He runs his own outdoor blog (missionak.com) and has produced hunting shows for a number of networks in the past.

“My goal is to inspire the next generation to make their own adventures,” said Manelick. “There are a lot of kids out there who want to get into the outdoors, but they don’t know where to start. That’s who I’m really trying to reach.”

His experience in filming the Alaskan outdoors made him an ideal candidate for Ultimate Survivor, as National Geographic chose him as the only contestant who didn’t apply to be on the show. Austin was the youngest member of the program at just 24-years old at the time of filming.

When the name of the game is surviving, however, it’s not age that matters, it’s experience in the outdoors.

With food scarce, Austin has done whatever it takes in order to find a meal. He has eaten fish heads, frogs, and even berries found in bear droppings.

Yes, you read that correctly.

“Hunger will really drive people to do some really interesting things,” Manelick told National Geographic. “Finding other sources of protein is essential for survival.”

The search for food was a major aspect of the show, which premiered on May 12 and wrapped up this past Sunday. The survivalists were given three days to push through treacherous terrain and conditions to get to a landing zone, where a helicopter waited to take them to the next leg of the journey.

Although many might question the show’s menu, Austin says that the real challenge is Alaska itself.

“The toughest part about the show is just the cold and the wet,” said Manelick. “Getting to the landing zone, everything is against you. Cold is the unseen killer.”

Cold, and the native wildlife.

“People don’t realize, as soon as you take a step out the door you’re the lowest being on the food chain. One slip and you can be gone in the blink of an eye. You have to be thinking all the time, or your own wits could be the end of you.”