USA Dedicates Pier at Jones Point Park: Hosts Youth Fishing Event

November 9, 2017 in Articles, Conservation News, Press Release, Virginia, Work Boots On The Ground

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF) and a crowd of more than 200 union and community leaders, volunteers, park staff and youth gathered at a newly restored fishing pier at historic Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia, today to celebrate the USA’s 100th conservation project.

Prior to the dedication, the USA and local conservation partners hosted 75 students from Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy for a morning of educational activities and fishing from the new pier as part of the National Park Service’s Every Kid in a Park initiative.

“Ten years ago, I said that the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance would bring more muscle to the conservation movement,” said Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president and USA chairman of the board. “As we celebrate the USA’s 100th conservation project, I’m proud to say the USA has become a conservation powerhouse with union volunteers around the country rallying together to benefit our communities and protect, preserve and pass on America’s outdoor heritage while demonstrating what it truly means to be union.”

The restoration project was funded by an AWCF grant of $22,500 along with contributions from the USA Capital Area Conservation Dinner. The pier restoration would not have been possible without the support of many other organizations including: Smoot’s Lumber, Culpeper Wood Preserves, Simpson Strong-Tie, Guest Services Inc., Ullico, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation.Jones_Point_Park

More than 100 volunteers from Electrical Workers Local 26, Elevator Constructors Local 10, Iron Workers Local 5, Bricklayers Local 1, Roofers Local 30, Virginia American Water (employees are part of SEIU Local 32BJ), Ullico, Calibre and the Student Conservation Association donated 864 hours to restore the pier. The pier, built in the 1950s, is located on the George Washington Memorial Parkway and managed by the National Park Service. The value of materials and labor for the project topped $50,000.

“Because of rotten wood, loose railings, mismatched boards, uneven surfaces and other hazards, Jones Point Park was in dire need of work to repair the pier and bring it into ADA compliance,” said Allison Silberberg, City of Alexandria mayor, who spoke at the dedication. “Thanks to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, the American Water Charitable Foundation and all the dedicated volunteers, the pier will once again provide safe fishing and viewing access to the Potomac River for generations to come.”

To retain the pier’s historic feel, the joists and deck boards were specially milled for the project. The pier’s new handrails contain several specialized locations to accommodate fishing from wheelchairs.

“The American Water Charitable Foundation is proud to have supported the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s 100th conversation project with the $22,500 grant,” said Barry Suits, president, Virginia American Water. “Built with the help of Virginia American Water employees, the new pier will encourage greater interaction with, and appreciation for, the Potomac River—one of the sources of Alexandria’s drinking water supply—and an important water resource for our nation.”

This conservation project is the USA’s 100th since it launched its Work Boots on the Ground program in 2010. The program brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to tackle hands-on, community-based conservation projects.

“Our public lands are a treasure for all Americans, but they’re at risk of falling into disrepair with budget cuts and a $12 billion maintenance backlog,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance. “Our 100th Work Boots on the Ground project is a shining example of public and private partners and dedicated volunteers coming together to restore, conserve and protect our parks, their legacy and critical infrastructure for all Americans to enjoy for generations to come.”

USA Partners with Worldwide Trophy Adventures

October 16, 2017 in Press Release

October 19, 2017

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA) recently teamed up to provide USA members with better access to quality hunting and fishing destinations, while raising funds to support the USA’s conservation mission.

As part of the partnership, WTA will offer USA members a 10% discount when they apply for a game tag through its TAGS service, exclusive hunting and fishing opportunities, and informative articles in the USA’s magazine. WTA also will donate a portion of any trip booked by a USA member back to the USA to support its conservation mission.

“We are very excited about our partnership with Union Sportsmen’s Alliance,” said WTA owner Mark Peterson. “Both the USA and WTA share the same vision of conservation through education and engagement with the outdoors, ensuring the heritage of hunting and fishing is passed on for generations to come. We look forward to providing top quality service and specials for USA members and hope to help spread the word about all they do for everyone who enjoys the outdoors.”

A non-profit organization created in 2007, the USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. With a membership of more than 200,000 union members who share a passion for the outdoors, the USA will celebrate its 100th community-based conservation project near Washington, D.C., in November with a free, youth fishing event.

“The latest U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey shows that the U.S. has experienced a net loss of two million hunters in the last five years.  This is an alarming decline, and it should make all of us stop and take notice.  Lack of access for quality hunting experiences and limited time to hunt are two of the biggest reasons hunters stop hunting,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “We are excited to improve our members’ hunting and fishing opportunities by partnering with WTA and connecting them with the outstanding opportunities they provide.”

To help support the USA’s mission, WTA will be fully integrated into the organization through its popular shooting tour, conservation dinners, magazine and website. In addition, WTA will support the USA’s annual fundraising calendar.

As the USA continues to gain momentum among its peers, new partners – including Pure Fishing, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, Realtree and now WTA –  are noticing and committing to help the organization become a greater force for conservation, fueled by skilled union volunteers.

Union Volunteers Revitalize Dayton, Ohio’s Lakeside Lake

October 15, 2017 in Conservation News, Ohio

Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley joined the Ohio AFL-CIO, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and local volunteers and community leaders on the shore of West Dayton’s Lakeside Lake on October 11, to celebrate recent improvements and amenities.

USA Conservation Manager Rob Stroede, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, PineView Neighborhood President Lisa Rucker and Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga dedicate the new floating fishing pier at Lakeside Lake.

As part of the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, members of the Ohio AFL-CIO partnered with the City of Dayton and CityWide, the City of Dayton’s development partner, to restore and improve Lakeside Lake as one phase of a broad redevelopment plan for West Dayton.

“Lakeside Park historically was a popular amusement park for Dayton. Local citizens are working to bring Lakeside back,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. “The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and its coordination with the Ohio AFL-CIO have made the restoration of Lakeside Lake possible. Our community is honored to have support from the Ohio AFL-CIO and Union Sportsmen’s Alliance in this effort to revitalize West Dayton.”

Over the past six months, more than 100 volunteers from local unions and the community participated in four cleanups to clear out invasive honeysuckle and trash along the water’s edge to restore the beautiful vista. In September, volunteers from Ironworkers local 290 constructed two custom park benches, which were painted by IUPAT Local 249 members. Volunteers from OPCMIA local 132 and LIUNA Local 1410 poured concrete pads for the two benches and a pier abutment for the new fishing pier. Union volunteers then assembled and installed a floating fishing pier on Oct. 11, before a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of this phase of the lake’s restoration.

More work is scheduled to take place at the site over the coming months including improved pathways, lighting, parking and signage. In addition to volunteering their time and skills, local union members raised more than $25,000 through the USA’s Ohio State Conservation Dinner to contribute to the restoration project.

“The Ohio AFL-CIO is pleased to advance the mission of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance that celebrates the great outdoors and supports local communities in the city of Dayton,” said Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga. “We are grateful to Mayor Whaley, the local building and construction trades, the local labor council, union volunteers and city employees that made this project a reality for all to enjoy.”
The Lakeside Lake project was made possible by the following unions: Dayton MV Regional Labor Council, AFSCME Council 8, IBEW Local 82, Laborers’ Local 1410, Ironworkers Local 290, IUPAT Local 249, OPCMIA Local 132, USW Local 5541, UA Local 189, Dayton Newspaper Guild.

“The USA’s Ohio State Conservation Dinner is the perfect example of how USA dinners rally local unions in solidarity for community service,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance. “We couldn’t be more proud of all the unions and union members that have contributed to the success of the Ohio State dinner and the many conservation efforts they have supported.”

Many Dayton residents have fond memories of visits to Lakeside Lake, which offered fishing and scenic views before it became overgrown. CityWide made the restoration of the lake part of its community development strategy, believing its beautification is essential to community confidence and the ability to attract additional investment to West Dayton.

Hurricane Irma Relief Effort at Florida House on Capitol Hill

September 12, 2017 in General, Press Release

CONTACT: Jordan Pic/ Manager of Operations, Florida House on Capitol Hill
202-546-1555 or jordan.pic@floridahousedc.org

Connie Parker/Director of Stewardship and Government Relations, Pure Fishing
703-624-1811 or csparker@purefishing.com

Florida House on Capitol Hill, Pure Fishing and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance are organizing an effort to collect and transport supplies for the Hurricane Irma relief effort.

Florida House will collect items from Tuesday, September 12th until Friday, September 15th. Supplies can also be shipped to Florida House via Amazon Prime. The items will depart Washington, D.C. for Orlando, FL on Saturday, September 16th.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management and Volunteer Florida have identified the following items as most essential:

• Toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwash
• Buckets and mops
• Garbage bags
• Toilet paper
• Baby Diapers
• Pediasure and Ensure
• Feminine care products

Drop off for donations will be from 9am to 6pm Tuesday, September 12th to Friday, September 15th. Volunteers interested in helping box and load supplies can reach out at the contact information above. Please feel free to share with those who are interested in helping Florida.

# # #

Florida House on Capitol Hill is a nonprofit 501(c)(3), nonpartisan organization that provides cultural, social, educational and economic resources; showcases Florida’s culture and diversity; maintains and operates Florida House; and provides opportunities for Floridians to enrich their appreciation and knowledge of our nation’s government. www.floridahousedc.org

Union Volunteers Rebuild Boat Ramp Destroyed by Floods

September 6, 2017 in Conservation News, General

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Missouri American Water and Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 335 union volunteers completed construction of a non-motorized boat ramp at Minnie Ha Ha Park in Sunset Hills, Mo., for the second time this year, on August 13.

The ramp was less than a week old when catastrophic flooding destroyed the newly poured concrete in May. Undeterred, the three project partners devised a design they believe will stand up to flood waters from the Meramec River.union volunteers

“Flood waters destroyed nearly $12,000 of volunteer labor and materials invested at the Minnie Ha Ha Park and resulted in the cancellation of our dedication ceremony and paddling event, but it didn’t dampen the spirit of our dedicated union volunteers and partners at American Water,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “American Water pledged an additional $15,000 in grant money to repair the ramp, and volunteers once again gave their time and skills to reconstruct it for the benefit of the entire community.”

During the original project, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance volunteers spent approximately 250 hours tearing out the original ramp, which was built in the 1940s and in poor condition, and then grading, framing, laying rebar and pouring new concrete. The project was finished in late April and mere days later, historic flooding damaged 90 percent of the structure beyond repair.

Union volunteers returned to Minne Ha Ha Park in early August and spent another 260 hours completing the project once again. To help the ramp weather future flooding, volunteers poured more, deeper footing all the way up the ramp and placed larger rocks on its upriver side.

“A lot of people kayak and canoe the Meramec River, and the old boat ramp at Minnie Ha Ha Park was in pretty bad shape for the past 10-15 years,” said UWUA Local 335 President Allan Bathon. “Union members make a decent living, so we are able to give back by donating our trade skills and money to projects like this that benefit our community.”

“I am proud of the way Missouri American Water, Local 335 and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance came together to build this boat ramp,” said Cheryl Norton, president of Missouri American Water. “It says a lot about the determination of those involved that they wouldn’t let Mother Nature and severe flooding defeat their efforts to get this boat ramp built.”

The new ramp was one of six projects funded through a $150,000 grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF) to support USA Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation projects that improve access to water-based recreation activities. A ramp dedication and paddling event, originally scheduled for May 2017, is being planned for the spring of 2018.

See Project Photos HERE.

American Water Charitable Foundation Awards $22,500 Grant for USA’s 100th Conservation Project

August 25, 2017 in Conservation News, Virginia

The American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF) has provided a grant of $22,500 to support the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) 100th Work Boots on the Ground project at the historic Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Va.

Jones Point Park fishing pier

The USA will support the National Park Service by replacing a fishing pier at the park originally constructed in 1950 that is in critical need of repair.

The AWCF grant helps cover expenses to rebuild the fishing pier. Virginia American Water provides drinking water service to the City of Alexandria, and the company’s Alexandria District employees will help rebuild the pier by supplying some of the skilled union workers to complete a portion of the project. SEIU Local 32BJ covers Virginia American Water field operations employees in Alexandria.

“The American Water Charitable Foundation is proud to again support the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance with this grant, which is vital to rebuilding the fishing pier at Alexandria’s Jones Point Park,” said Laura Martin, AWCF president.

Located on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Jones Point Park is just a few miles from Washington, DC, and is an important urban park with fishing and boating access to the Potomac River.

“Built with the help of Virginia American Water employees, the new pier will encourage greater interaction with, and appreciation for, the Potomac River—one of the sources of Alexandria’s drinking water supply—and an important water resource for our nation,” said Barry Suits, president, Virginia American Water.

This conservation project is the USA’s 100th since it launched its Work Boots on the Ground program in 2010. The program brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to tackle hands-on, community-based conservation projects.

“Our public lands are a treasure for all Americans, but they’re at risk of falling into disrepair with budget cuts and a $12 billion maintenance backlog,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance. “Our 100th Work Boots on the Ground project is a shining example of public and private partners and dedicated volunteers coming together to restore, conserve and protect our parks, their legacy and critical infrastructure for all Americans to enjoy for generations to come.”

National parks are funded through multiple sources in congressional appropriations, but in recent years have been insufficient to keep up with the deferred maintenance on park roads, bridges, trails, historic structures, campgrounds and other facilities. As recently as 2015, the National Park Service received just 58 cents of every dollar it needed just to keep the repairs backlog from growing.

The Jones Point Park project marks the seventh joint conservation project between the USA and AWCF since 2015. In total, the USA has received $175,500 in AWCF grants for projects that improve public access to water-based recreational opportunities or enhance the environmental sustainability of existing recreational areas in Tennessee, Illinois, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

A formal pier dedication is planned for November 2017.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Communications Team Grows to Meet Mission Needs

August 25, 2017 in Press Release

FRANKLIN, Tenn. —The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is pleased to announce its recent hire of Courtney Miller as Communications Coordinator, adding to its growing team of dedicated conservationists.

Created by and dedicated to union members and their families, the non-profit conservation organization is escalating its conservation efforts, partnerships and memberships and expanding internally to keep pace.

USA

Courtney Miller

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is committed to growing our community of union members who share our passion for hunting, fishing, shooting and the great outdoors,” said Brian Dowler, the USA’s director of membership, marketing and communications. “There’s no better way for us to push forward in this effort than by growing our staff of outdoorsmen and women. As we work to bring greater awareness to the good work of USA volunteers, we are confident Courtney’s strong background in conservation will help support our communications department.”

Miller brings a versatile background to the USA, having previously served as an editor for a marketing firm specializing in the outdoor industry. She’s worked with numerous leading outdoor brands and has a strong background in public relations and marketing, offering expertise in content creation, magazine production, editing and social media management.

“I’m excited to join a team so passionate about preserving North America’s outdoor heritage and for the opportunity to help expand the USA’s communications reach,” said Miller. “I’m especially interested in utilizing social media marketing to grow an organization’s brand and community and look forward to applying my skills in that area at the USA.”

Born and raised in a family of conservationists, Miller has always been committed to supporting efforts aimed at making a better future for wildlife, increasing public land access, and keeping those efforts alive by introducing future generations of hunters, anglers and trappers to the outdoors. Miller has volunteered for a number of conservation organizations, using her communications background to grow social media presence and manage events by organizing and executing fundraisers, banquets and trade shows.

Miller, a passionate hunter, angler, camper, and second amendment advocate, joins the USA from central Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Northwestern with a bachelor’s degree in public relations.

Miller can be reached at courtneym@unionsportsmen.org.

USA and UAW-Ford Michigan Ramp Team Construct Accessible Hunting Blinds

August 15, 2017 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) volunteers from United Auto Workers (UAW) Ford Michigan Ramp Team in Michigan began construction to build accessible hunting/wildlife viewing blinds for the Sharonville State Game Area in Grass Lake, Michigan.

The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to tackle community-based conservation projects. This project was developed in partnership with Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors (MiOFO) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It will utilize funds raised at the USA’s Greater Lansing Labor Council Conservation Dinner along with materials and labor donated by UAW-Ford under the direction of Vice President Jimmy Settles and Bill Dirksen.

Materials for the project will top $3,000 and take more than 45 hours of skilled labor to complete. After the blinds are constructed, three 8 ft. x 8 ft. box blinds with custom features, including window ledges at wheelchair height and a 4-foot door for track chair entry, will be delivered and used by guests recreating through MiOFO events on the state game area this fall.

A dedication for the project will take place on August 24, 2017 at 11 a.m. near the shooting range at the Sharonville State Game Area. Action track wheelchairs will be available for use, courtesy of Brian Reno of Michigan Outdoor Mobility, who has donated use of the chairs for other MiOFO events for the past three years. Following the dedication ceremony, attendees are invited to stay for a BBQ style lunch and trap shoot.

Conceptualized in 2013, MiOFO improves outdoor recreation opportunities for wounded veterans and individuals with health challenges and coordinates a support network that facilitates their recovery through connecting with nature.

“The work of Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors to provide the public – including those with special needs—with the opportunity to enjoy nature compliments the USA’s efforts to improve public access to the outdoors,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “We are thankful to all the groups involved, especially the Lansing Area AFL-CIO and UAW- Ford Michigan Ramp Team, for working with us to support MiOFO’s mission.”

MiOFO President and Founder Thomas Jones planted the seed of a joint project after learning about the USA through the Michigan BCTC. Glenn Freeman, president of the Lansing Area AFL-CIO, connected the USA with Sheila Pedersen, UAW-Ford community service liaison at the United Way of Washtenaw County, and she secured UAW volunteers to get the project underway. As a result of the project, Defender Mobility, a veteran charity, has agreed to donate a brand-new Track Fab chair to MiOFO, and Garmin International is working with MiOFO to introduce new technologies on the track chairs and blinds this year.

“It’s really awesome how so many groups have come together on a project that will benefit the entire community,” Pedersen said.

“The work these volunteers are doing is a great service to their country,” said Thomas Jones. “By reintegrating those we serve to the outdoors, we are reintegrating them to a quality of life they may have lost. Disabled veterans and individuals with health challenges deserve access to the same areas as the general public. These blinds are in the three best areas to harvest a sunrise or a trophy buck. We are giving them community, comradery and the independence to enjoy freedom outdoors.”

As the USA celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, it is nearing its 100th Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) project. The WBG program brings together skilled union volunteers to tackle community-based conservation projects that improve public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitats, restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the outdoors.

Take the Pledge to Involve Someone in Hunting or Fishing and Enter to Win!

August 4, 2017 in Articles, General

Richard Childress, NASCAR legend and honorary chair for NHF Day

National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHF Day), an annual celebration of hunters and anglers, features a new twist this year. Richard Childress, NASCAR legend and honorary chair for NHF Day, is asking hunters and anglers to participate in the new NHF Day Challenge by taking someone hunting, fishing or target shooting. By pledging to introduce someone to the outdoors between now and NHF Day on Saturday, Sept. 23, participants will be eligible to win a Richard Childress Racing VIP race weekend package or the Ultimate Outdoor Experience in America’s Conservation Capital from Big Cedar Lodge and Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium.

“If you are a sportsman, sportswoman or an angler, you can make a difference and support National Hunting and Fishing Day by becoming a mentor,” said Childress. “Mentoring is critical to ensure our outdoor tradition lives on through future generations. Make the commitment to take someone outdoors and show them why you value hunting, fishing and target shooting.”

For millions of Americans, time spent hunting and fishing are treasured moments. Hunting and fishing brings friends and family together and provides one of the most immersive outdoor experiences possible.

“Today fewer people are connecting with nature through hunting and fishing,” said Childress. “As outdoorsmen and women, we are one of the keys to reversing this trend. Help a friend, family member, neighbor or co-worker learn how to hunt, fish or shoot. Introducing someone to the joys of the outdoors not only enriches their life, it creates a future conservationist.”

Each new hunter and angler created helps fund conservation. Every time someone buys a firearm, ammunition, archery equipment or fishing tackle, they contribute to habitat conservation and science-based wildlife management through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) program. The WSFR is the cornerstone of fish and wildlife conservation in North America because it brings funding from the sporting arms, archery and fishing industries and sportsmen and women back to state wildlife management agencies. These monies, in addition to hunting and fishing license fees, are critical for conserving fish and wildlife across our nation.

Those who pledge to take someone hunting, target shooting or fishing will be entered for a chance to win two amazing prize packages. The first grand prize is two HOT passes to a future NASCAR race, which includes pit and garage passes, garage and team hauler tours, and an opportunity to meet team owner Richard Childress. The second grand prize package is a trip to America’s Conservation Capital: Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. A passion of Bass Pro Shops founder and Ozarks native Johnny Morris, the destination spans multiple properties and thousands of unspoiled acres, making it the ultimate destination for anyone who loves the outdoors. The package includes a two-night stay in a log cabin at Big Cedar Lodge, America’s premier wilderness resort, and nature-based excursions including guided bass fishing on 43,000-acre Table Rock Lake; Adventure Passes for the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail and Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum at Top of the Rock; shotgun sports at Bass Pro Shops’ Outdoor Shooting Academy; and passes to Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, the largest, most immersive wildlife attraction in the world, opening Sept, 21, 2017.

TAKE THE PLEDGE & ENTER TO WIN

Swagger Bipods 40% Discount (Limited Time)

July 21, 2017 in Deals & Discounts, Gear

No firearm can be shot accurately if it’s moving, and a solid base at the moment of the shot is imperative to putting the bullet onto its mark consistently. Swagger Bipods take a different approach to helping long gun shooters become more stable for the moment of truth. The legs utilize a shock cord system that retracts into the base of the bipod, minimizing the bulk of the bipod but keeping the legs accessible at a moment’s notice. The bipods offer a greater range of motion than traditional units and can be adapted for any terrain in any situation—whether being used prone, sitting or standing. Swagger Bipods offers two versions. The Field Model weighs in at 23.6 ounces and lists its most effective range as 6 ¾ inches to 29 inches. The Treestand/Blind Model weighs 25.78 ounces and lists 9 ¾ inches to 41 ¼ inches as its most effective range.

swaggerbipods.com

Swagger is proud to offer USA members a 40% discount on online purchases through December 31, 2017. Limit one bipod per user, max. spend of $439.97.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Grows Conservation Team

July 6, 2017 in Press Release

FRANKLIN, Tenn. —The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has hired Robert Stroede as its new conservation manager, adding to its growing conservation team.

Created by and dedicated to union members and their families, the non-profit conservation organization is escalating its conservation efforts, partnerships and memberships and expanding internally to keep pace.

Robert Stroede

Most recently, Stroede served as the National Archery in the Schools Program State Coordinator/Facility Manager/Biologist Supervisor for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). During his five years with LDWF, Stroede’s responsibilities included the administration, growth, fundraising, facilitation, training and event planning of the statewide Archery in Louisiana Schools (ALAS) program as well as management and use of the state-owned Outdoor Education Center and Shooting Range. Stroede increased participation in the ALAS program from 30 to 200 schools, increased public use of the Woodworth Shooting Range from 2,000 to 10,000 users per year and developed both the ALAS equipment grant and scholarship programs.

Prior to working for LDWF, Stroede spent five years as a union laborer with Laborers’ Locals 464 and 2 working gas/oil pipeline construction in Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Louisiana. During that time, he worked as an environmental compliance laborer and straw boss.

In his role as conservation manager, Stroede will support the Director of Conservation & Community Outreach by working closely with wildlife resource conservation staff, local officials and union volunteers to identify, organize and execute USA conservation projects across the country. He will also develop and evolve the USA’s conservation programs and policies, funding sources, partnerships and volunteer recruitment and retention programs.

“As we celebrate the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s 10th anniversary and look toward the future, we are committed to growing our conservation impact by expanding the scope of our Work Boots on the Ground program and connecting more local communities to conservation through outreach events,” said Scott Vance, the USA’s CEO and executive director. “With his background in union construction, conservation, program development and management and outreach, Stroede makes a great addition to our conservation team and will help propel that expansion.”

Born and raised in a union household in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, Stroede is an avid fisherman and hunter with a passion for bow hunting. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Resource Management/Biology. He currently lives in Spring Hill, Tennessee, with his wife, Jessica, and 12-year-old son, Jackson.

Stroede can be reached at roberts@unionsportsmen.org.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Hosts Family Campout at Montgomery Bell State Park

June 20, 2017 in Conservation News, General, Press Release

More than 200 youth and adults turned out for a weekend packed with outdoor activities at the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) first Family Campout at Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns, Tenn., on June 10 and 11.

According to the Outdoor Foundation’s study on youth participation in the outdoors, the U.S. is facing an unprecedented public health and conservation problem as the American childhood has rapidly moved indoors amidst changing technological and social landscapes. Reconnecting youth with the outdoors is critical to the health of future generations as well as the health of our natural landscapes.

The USA’s Family Campout engaged both youth and adults in hands-on activities including a youth fishing derby, wildlife calling contest, snake and birds of prey exhibition and conservation education. Many youth got the chance to shoot a bow for the first time thanks to a mobile archery unit provided by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). Participants also enjoyed delicious meals, and youth received fishing gear and t-shirts.

The free, public event was made possible with support from the Nashville Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC), Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council, Pure Fishing, Montgomery Bell State Park and the TWRA. Nashville BCTC President Anthony Nicholson and Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council President Billy Dycus were instrumental in the success of the event from promotion to volunteer recruitment to coordination.

“As we grow our community outreach programs, we want to create fun, safe learning environments that enable families to spend more time enjoying the great outdoors,” said Scott Vance, CEO & Executive Director of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Our first Family Campout at Montgomery Bell State Park accomplished just that. We’re thrilled to have brought together more than 200 youth and adults for activities that will leave a lasting impression and inspire a love of the great outdoors.”

Less than an hour drive west of Nashville, Montgomery Bell State Park has been the site of several USA Work Boots on the Ground projects, which bring together union volunteers to tackle conservation projects that improve and enhance public access to the outdoors, wildlife habitats and outdoor experiences for communities across America. In 2013, USA volunteers rebuilt a bridge at the park that was washed away in the 2010 flood, and in 2015, they restored a cabin utilized by local Boy Scouts that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937.

Click HERE for more photos.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to Host Family Campout at Montgomery Bell State Park

June 7, 2017 in Press Release

MEDIA ADVISORY

WHAT:
The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and a team of union volunteers will host a free family campout at Tennessee’s Montgomery Bell State Park packed with outdoor activities including a youth fishing derby, wildlife calling contest, snake and birds of prey exhibition and conservation education. Meals will be provided, and youth will receive free t-shirts and fishing gear while supplies last.

WHEN:
June 10 – 11, 2017
Check in: June 10 at 9 a.m.
Check out: June 11 at Noon

WHERE:
Montgomery Bell State Park
Group Camp No. 1
1020 Jackson Hill Rd.
Burns, TN  37029

WHO:
This free, public event is made possible by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Nashville Building and Construction Trades Council, Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council, Pure Fishing, Montgomery Bell State Park and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

WHY:  
According to the Outdoor Foundation’s study on youth participation in the outdoors, the U.S. is facing an unprecedented public health and conservation problem as the American childhood has rapidly moved indoors amidst changing technological and social landscapes. Reconnecting youth with the outdoors is critical to the health of future generations as well as the health of our natural landscapes. The USA’s Family Campout will engage both youth and adults in hands-on outdoor activities that leave a lasting impression and inspire a love of the outdoors to help ensure the future of America’s outdoor heritage.

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Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance  (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union  community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

USA and Kentucky American Water Dedicate New Pier with Ribbon Cutting & Family Fishing Day

May 16, 2017 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Franklin, TN — More than 180 youth wet their lines at a fishing event at Jacobson Park in Lexington, Kentucky, on May 13 hosted by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Kentucky American Water to celebrate the park’s volunteer-constructed fishing pier, which was dedicated on May 12.

The new handicap accessible/ADA compliant pier and sidewalk, valued at more than $33,500, was a joint effort between the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program and the American Water Charitable Foundation’s (AWCF) Building Better Communities Initiative. The pier is one of six projects funded through a $150,000 grant from AWCF to support USA volunteer projects that improve access to water-based recreation activities.

Union volunteers from the National Conference of Fireman and Oilers (NCFO) Local 32BJ SEIU, Central Kentucky Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) and Laborers Local 189 donated approximately 414 hours to excavate and form the site, pour concrete, assemble the pier sections and install handrails, wrapping up the project in December 2016.

On Friday, USA, Kentucky American Water and Lexington Parks and Recreation staff along with union volunteers gathered under a pavilion, due to heavy rain, to dedicate the fishing pier with a speaking presentation, ribbon cutting and plaque unveiling.

“The ribbon cutting marked the completion of the fourth project the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance completed with funding from American Water Charitable Foundation,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “USA conservation projects and accompanying community outreach events like the free family fishing day allow union members to give back to their local communities – something they are passionate about.”

On Saturday morning, youth and adults from across the community lined the banks of Jacobson Park reservoir to cast for channel catfish and trout with new fishing rods and reels, tackle and tackle boxes provided free to all the kids who attended through the USA’s partnership with Pure Fishing. USA, Kentucky American Water and Lexington Park and Recreation staff along with volunteers from Kentucky Laborers’ District Council and LIUNA Local 189 provided instruction and assistance to participants, including many first-time anglers.

As the USA celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, it is nearing its 100th WBG project. The WBG program brings together skilled union volunteers to tackle community-based conservation projects that improve public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitats, restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the outdoors. The fishing event at Jacobson Park marked the USA’s 15th youth fishing event and the first in Kentucky.

“Kentucky American Water is committed not only to providing safe, clean drinking water to its customers but also to being a good corporate citizen,” said Nick Rowe, president of Kentucky American Water and senior vice president of American Water’s Southeast Division. “We appreciate the unique partnership we’ve had with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, the American Water Charitable Foundation and our employees in making the new fishing pier at Jacobson Park a reality and hosting the Kentucky Fishing Derby. Our collaboration will have a positive impact on the community for many years to come.”

“The new pier provides safe and easy access for citizens with handicaps and families to enjoy the fishing available at Jacobson Park,” said Brian Rogers, deputy director of Parks and Rec, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. “We are so thankful to the USA, Kentucky American Water and the union volunteers who donated their time and skills to complete the project and organize the event that introduced families throughout Lexington to the joy of fishing.”

Speakers at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony:
Mike d’Oliveira, USA Deputy Director
Nick Rowe, President of Kentucky American Water
Michelle Kosieniak, Lexington Parks and Recreation Superintendent of Planning & Design
Jeremy Jenkins, Business Manager of Laborers Local 189
David Winer, Chief Union Steward for National Conference of Firemen & Oilers Local 32BJ SEIU
Robert Akin, Central Kentucky Building & Construction Trades Council President
Mark Isaacs, Kentucky Laborers’ District Council President/Business Manager

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT.

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Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA): The USA is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Work Boots on the Ground (WBG): Work Boots on the Ground is the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s flagship conservation program that brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to conservation projects that improve and enhance public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitat, restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the outdoors. The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program works closely with federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups to provide manpower needed to complete critical projects that may otherwise go undone.

Kentucky American Water:Kentucky American Water, a subsidiary of American Water (NYSE: AWK), is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, providing high-quality and reliable water and/or wastewater services to approximately half a million people. The company earned Best Place to Work in Kentucky honors in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. For more information, visit www.kentuckyamwater.com.

American Water Charitable Foundation:Established in 2010 with a founding contribution from American Water, the American Water Charitable Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides a formal way to demonstrate the company’s ongoing commitment to being a good neighbor, citizen, and contributor to the communities where American Water and its employees live, work and operate. The Foundation helps support American Water employee-identified nonprofit endeavors. More information can be found at www.amwater.com.

Competition & Camaraderie Through the Years

April 6, 2017 in General, Press Release

The 6th Annual Roofers & Waterproofers Shoot set an attendance record with 228 shooters.

By: Kate Nation

USA Events connect union leadership, like retired IAMAW International President R. Thomas Buffenbarger (front) with members.

When we held our first sporting clays shoot in Maryland in 2009, 152 shooters were chased to the pavilion by a torrential downpour. Instead of dampening spirits, it set the bar for the USA’s highly successful events program. Whether the sun is out, it’s pouring rain, the wind is blowing or there’s snow on the ground, union members show up at our shooting events for fellowship and fun. Bringing together everyone from veteran to novice shooters, union presidents to apprentices, retirees to children, service members and the occasional Super Bowl champion, shoots are one of our most effective tools for uniting the union community and fundraising.

In 2013, the USA shooting tour raised more than $1 million, and it has continued to grow. New records set last year include most funds raised (single event) at the Boilermakers’ shoot in Kansas City with $159,000 and highest attendance (single event) at the Roofers’ shoot in Minnesota with 228 shooters.

The Des Moines Area Conservation Dinner raised the bar in 2016 with 663 guests and raised $148,000.

The introduction of conservation dinners in 2012 bolstered the USA’s events program not only as a critical funding source, but also as a foundation for USA’s local conservation projects. Organized by union volunteers with support from USA staff, the dinners are a true testament to the dedication of USA members and volunteers. The conservation dinner season broke the $1 million milestone in 2015, and the program has grown from three dinners in 2012 to 22 dinners in 2016. Last year, the Des Moines dinner hosted 663 guests and raised a record $148,000.

As staples in the USA community, shoots and dinners raise critical funds to support our mission and operations while educating union members about the organization and recruiting volunteers for conservation projects. The growth of USA events in the past eight years has been nothing short of amazing thanks to our members, volunteers, sponsors and friends.

Union Members Volunteer to Tackle Conservation Infrastructure Crisis

April 3, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

Watching Old Faithful blast boiling water more than 150 feet into the air at Yellowstone National Park or listening to the thunderous roar of 3,160 tons of water per second pouring over Niagara Falls State Park are experiences you will never forget. If you haven’t visited America’s first national park or oldest state park, there is still a good chance you’ve spent time exploring one or more of America’s 59 national parks or 6,624 state parks. The U.S. national system of parks is the envy of the world and part of our national heritage, yet it’s easy to take for granted the natural beauty, diverse wildlife and recreational opportunities those parks provide without giving thought to the impact of more than a billion annual visits.

America’s National Park Service turned 100 years old last August. While that is reason to celebrate, we must face the reality that the infrastructure of our national and state parks is deteriorating faster than it can be fixed. For more than a decade, Congress has declined to provide adequate funding for national park infrastructure, resulting in a $12 billion maintenance backlog. State parks face a similar funding crisis – $18.5 billion in unmet repairs – as spending on education, health care and corrections takes priority over “nice-to-have” amenities.

For the public to enjoy the natural beauty of America’s parks, they require roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, buildings, trails and other infrastructure. Putting off basic maintenance leads to bigger, costlier repairs in the future and steadily degrades the parks and visitor experience.

As a newly-formed Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable works to ensure recreation is included in infrastructure legislation, union members are battling the crisis on the ground through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program, demonstrating the centuries-old American spirit of rolling up one’s sleeves to solve the country’s problems.

Last year, 863 union volunteers donated nearly 6,800 skilled man-hours to complete 18 USA conservation projects in 15 states, saving state parks, wildlife refuges and other public land agencies a whopping $210,910 in labor costs.

For the first time this year, Wyoming’s National Elk Refuge has a central and secure facility to store thousands of pounds of dropped elk antlers – an important funding source both for the refuge and local Boy Scouts – thanks to volunteers from IBEW Local 322 who built the 20×26-ft. storage shed.

“We had these skilled tradesmen working alongside a Boy Scout, who was getting his Eagle Scout honor by participating in this project, alongside refuge staff,” said Natalie Fath, visitor services manager and volunteer coordinator at the National Elk Refuge. “This is really the first time this refuge has had a project this dynamic. I certainly have a better sense of the expertise union workers bring to federal lands. This project would not have been possible … if not for all of their involvement.”

That same level of teamwork and collaboration was illustrated in Texas last spring when the USA, AFL-CIO, U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined together to dedicate a boardwalk connecting the city of Liberty with the nearby Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge. Built by volunteers from the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council who spent a grueling 950 hours battling heat, mud and mosquitos in the swamp, the 500-ft. elevated boardwalk and observation deck provide refuge visitors with access to more than 13 miles of trails and a more intimate view of the bayou.

“This project is a success story about how partnerships among agencies, communities and volunteers working together can accomplish great things,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle, Ph. D.

Through a partnership between the USA and Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, volunteers from the Southcentral Alaska Building and Construction Trades Council began construction in 2016 on two cabins at the headwaters of Eklutna Lake in Chugach State Park – the third-largest state park in the nation. Unlike existing cabins, which are only reachable by foot, ATV or boat, the new drive-up accessible cabins will provide greater access for families with young children and people with disabilities.

At another lake in the Lower Forty Eight, 44 volunteers from the Ohio AFL-CIO volunteered an impressive 1,255 total hours – an average of 30 hours each – to replace dilapidated decking, railing and benches on a fishing pier at Ohio’s Antrim Park. Volunteers also installed a section of railing at a lower height to improve fishing access for youth and those with physical limitations.

In other parks and public recreation areas across the country, volunteer projects ranged from repairing horse stables and paddocks, painting Boy Scouts cabins, replacing windows, installing fishing piers and upgrading shooting facilities.

In addition to construction and maintenance projects, USA volunteers provided youth with fun and instruction at three annual Take Kids Fishing Day events in Wisconsin, a first time fishing day in West Virginia and the USA’s annual Get Youth Outdoors Day in Minnesota.

As we celebrate the USA’s 10th anniversary this year, we are closing in on our 100th WBG project. Since WBG’s launch, dedicated union volunteers have donated more than 18,000 hours, worth more than $600,000 in labor costs, and we are just getting started. Though dark clouds may loom over parks faced with financial crisis, union members offer a ray of hope as they flex their muscles and wield their tools to ensure America’s public lands and outdoor recreation infrastructure remain for generations to come.

Flambeau Waterproof Thick-Wall Satchel

March 31, 2017 in Articles, Fishing

Versatile, adaptable, handy, durable, tough as nails – minus the rust! Those are just a few adjectives to describe Flambeau’s Waterproof Thick-Wall Satchel 4000. Proudly made in the U.S.A., these tackle boxes feature durable, thick-wall construction and a 360-degrees waterproof, airtight rubber gasket. With the removable glide tray system, you can divide and customize your tackle, whether terminal, topwater, jigs, worms or all of the above. The deep storage base provides ample room for spinnerbaits, large swimbaits, umbrella rips or even extra reels. Plus, two WP4005 Waterproof Ultimate Tuff Tainers snap right into the base cage. Built with Flambeau’s patented anti-corrosion Zerust technology, you can rest assured your lures will stand the test of time in this innovative tackle box. When all the lures you can tote get the job done, a recessed, polycarbonate lid serves as a nearly indestructible cutting surface or work station. And, while fish may occasionally get away, this satchel won’t because it floats, and each model includes lock-ready and tie-down hasps. Whether you’re an on-shore angler or kayak or jon boat fisherman who needs an organization system to protect your gear on the water, these heavy-duty satchels maximize convenience and set a new precedent for storing tackle. MSRP $96

Q&A with a Union Leader – International President Kinsey Robinson

March 31, 2017 in General, Press Release

 

How did the USA peak your interest a decade ago?
Since the concept was first discussed, I have had a keen interest in the idea of a dedicated sportsmen’s organization solely for union members and their families. In 2002, a handful of concerned union leaders began to recognize that they had a responsibility to members that went well beyond traditional collective bargaining. They understood that 74 percent of union members hunt, fish and recreate in the outdoors and that as leaders, they had an obligation to demonstrate to those members that their unions appreciate and support what they do in their off-work hours.

How does the USA benefit your members?
The USA allows Roofers and Waterproofers to connect with like-minded members from other union organizations. Our members actively participate in the shooting tour, conservation dinners and conservation projects, and they enjoy the benefits provided through the magazine and “Brotherhood Outdoors.” Lastly, because we are a charter union, we enjoy the benefit of no-cost membership.

In just 10 short years, what USA accomplishments give you the most pride?
There are so many, many things that give me a sense of pride about the USA. It would be impossible to address them all. The fact that the organization has grown from a small group of concerned union sportsmen to more than 225,000 members is a source of great satisfaction to me. These numbers demonstrate the importance of the USA in the lives of union members. We have seen an outpouring of volunteerism because union members understand the value of conservation and giving back to their communities. It makes me proud that union members are willing to take up the challenge of protecting and restoring our natural environment.

What are your fondest memories from the last decade?
I have fond memories of participating in both shooting events and conservation dinners – seeing the enthusiasm generated by hundreds of union brothers and sisters sharing in their outdoor passion. It has been an honor for me to meet and engage members I would have not met if it were not for the USA and these great events.

Based on what you’ve observed over the last 10 years, why should union members join the USA?
During the next 10 years, the USA will see fantastic growth in membership and status. It will be recognized as one of the most potent forces in the conservation movement. There will be more involvement from rank-and-file members as they are becoming increasingly anxious about the impact that human activity will have on our precious natural resources and that their hunting and fishing opportunities can be permanently diminished. They understand that the investment of time and money to protect our landscape and wildlife will be a cost-effective investment in America. The USA is a way for union members to band together to harness the collective power of unions in order to protect wildlife and the environment. When we begin the process of restoring America’s land and water, restoration projects will provide good jobs, employing American workers – jobs that can’t be out-sourced to foreign countries. Our quality of life as union sportsmen and women is directly connected to the survival of fish and wildlife.

You and your wife, Mona, have directly affected thousands of people through the USA. Why is this so important to the Robinson family?
Mona and I are avid outdoors sportspersons. We spend the majority of our leisure time hunting, fishing and target shooting. We have a strong wish to pass on our great outdoor traditions to the young people in our community and throughout the country. The USA has given us an avenue to do just that through the many shooting events it puts on and the annual USA/Roofers Union “Get Youth Outdoors Day,” which is an event held in Minnesota that brings youth from union families together for a hands-on introduction to the shooting sports. The kids learn about hunter and firearm safety and how to shoot a compound bow. The experience of seeing young men and women laughing and smiling while learning about safety, responsibility, wildlife and the environment is priceless. Compliments from the parents and the enduring friendships we have made are most gratifying for us. It has been a gift to Mona and me to have the opportunity to mentor young people in the shooting sports. It is imperative to us that we share our outdoor heritage and do all we can to make sure future generations will always have access to a place to hunt, fish and enjoy the great outdoors.

Raising an Organization – USA Celebrates 10 Years

March 31, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

As I wavered on the thin line between consciousness and falling asleep on my feet during one of my 6-month-old daughter’s nighttime crying fits, I found myself comparing the rearing of a child with establishing an organization. When I was hired in January 2007, the newly formed Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) was six months shy of opening its doors to members, and I was the third person on staff. The USA has changed a lot since then. While ample planning, expert advice, partnerships, research and examples can bring a lot to the table, so much of establishing and growing an organization comes down to trial and error and learning and adapting as you go, much like the rollercoaster ride of parenting

Much like children, an organization can grow up fast. Shoots and conservation dinners were not part of the USA’s early vision, but from the very first USA sporting clays shoot in June 2009, there was no denying the power of events in creating a sense of community among members. By 2010, the USA had a full-scale shooting program, and 2011 saw the introduction of a custom USA truck and trailer for transporting gear to events across the country. With the success of the shooting program, the USA tested the waters in 2012 with its first three conservation dinners and quickly tripled that number in 2013. Not only have these events become a staple within the USA community, they serve as significant fundraisers for the organization. In 2013, the USA grossed more than $1 million through shooting events, while USA conservation dinners broke that threshold in 2015.

The original vision for the USA was to be a one-of-a-kind club exclusively for union members and their families that hunt, shoot, fish and enjoy the outdoors. The concept was pretty simple: deliver value-added benefits away from the jobsite to union members who were passionate about the outdoors. With contests, giveaways, a dynamic website and TV show, it was an exciting, social program of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP).

Just shy of its third birthday, the USA experienced its most significant change. In order to better meet the needs of the union world with its own vision and mission, the leadership of the USA made the decision to separate from the TRCP in early 2010 to blaze a new trail as a stand-alone conservation organization.
For me and other staff, it was both an exciting and tense time as the USA experienced the growing pains that came with learning to stand on our own. Armed with a solid foundation, committed union leadership, a growing membership base and strong partnerships, the USA grew into the organization it is today. Our mission: “To unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.”

The USA continued to deliver value to its growing number of members and, recognizing a unique opportunity to tap into the diverse trade skills of union members, the USA launched its Work Boots on the Ground program in 2010. The objective of the program was to bring together union members who were willing to donate their time and talents to tackle hands-on, community-based conservation projects throughout North America. Thanks to a multitude of union volunteers, the USA completed an impressive 88 projects between 2010 and 2016 that improve public access to the outdoors, restore America’s parks, enhance wildlife habitats and mentor youth in the outdoors. In July 2014, the strength of the program led to a Memorandum of Understanding between the USA, AFL-CIO and Department of the Interior stating their collective commitment to rebuild, renew and restore our country’s national parks, national wildlife refuges and other public lands. As part of that partnership, the USA completed its largest conservation project to date in 2016 – the construction of a 500-ft.-long elevated boardwalk in the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge. Nearing its one hundredth Work Boots on the Ground project, there is no doubt the USA has found an effective niche and brought the strength of the labor community to benefit conservation and our great outdoor heritage.

“I didn’t really expect much when I joined,” said Clayton Bolton, a member of IAMAW LL946/DL725 and one of the USA’s earliest members. “On the surface, it appeared to be a social group for union members that liked to hunt and fish. While it was pretty cool in the beginning just to be able to communicate and share with like-minded members scattered across the country, today’s USA involvement in community services and conservation efforts is beyond astounding.”

The USA has also seen a lot of change in its membership structure as it worked to strike a balance between growing membership and providing the greatest value to members. In addition to adjusting membership over the years, the USA executed a variety of recruitment campaigns including national giveaways, refer-a-friend campaigns, direct mail, events and more.

“The one thing I never expected is that the USA would be able to offer no-cost memberships to union workers belonging to charter unions,” said Roofers International President and USA Treasurer Kinsey Robinson. “This event has been a game changer, allowing every member of a charter union to join the USA without a financial burden.”

Though not every technique worked, and the changes were rarely easy, the USA has grown tremendously from March 2009 when it achieved its ten thousandth member. Today, the USA continues to grow and has more than 225,000 members.

“When I first heard about the USA, I was very excited there was finally an outdoor sportsmen’s organization for union members exclusively,” said Wess Ringgold, a member of UA Local 602 who joined the USA in 2007. “The extent of how fast the USA has grown in the last 10 years in mind boggling. What has surprised me is how many things union members can be involved in: conservation, gun-a-week calendars, USA shoots, Photo of the Week, conservation dinners and ‘Brotherhood Outdoors.’”

While the USA was fortunate to have a television presence from the beginning thanks to its union and corporate sponsors, the TV series has seen its own evolution since 2007. From changes in the production company, network, format and the very name of the program from “Escape to the Wild” to “Brotherhood Outdoors” in 2011, the USA has continually shared the compelling stories of hardworking union sportsmen and women with the American public. Those efforts led to a coveted Sportsman’s Choice Award for top hunting and fishing combination show in 2011.

“‘Brotherhood Outdoors’ has provided a great service to the Union community by selecting members (including me) for trips,” said Eric Patrick, business manager of IBEW Local 196 and longtime USA member. “The USA has educated the non-union community on the benefit of being a union member with the stories delivered on the series. They have basically put a face with a name.”

Like the TV series, the USA’s website, which went live the day the USA opened its doors, and the Union Sportsmen’s Journal, which began as a newspaper in 2009, were part of the USA’s early multimedia plan which connects thousands of USA members who may never meet face-to-face through engaging stories.

Like a parent, you can influence what a new organization will grow into, but to some extent, it takes on a life of its own. You have to be able and willing to adapt for it to flourish. It’s hard to believe that in January 2007, the USA was just an idea and a check for $1.2 million presented by nine unions as seed money. A decade later, it truly is a one-of-a-kind organization that not only connects the union community outside the workplace, but also boldly demonstrates what can be accomplished by volunteer union members to help preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

As we celebrate the USA’s tenth birthday this year, we extend our deepest thanks to you – union leadership and members, corporate partners and friends – for your steadfast support through all the ups and downs. Your hard work, sacrifice, financial support and dedication have made the USA one of America’s premier outdoor organizations, and we hope you will join us in shaping the next 10 years.

Electrical Worker Wins Trophy Hunt

March 28, 2017 in General, Press Release

Last fall, Dan Weber, a retired member of IBEW Local 34, won a trophy white-tailed deer hunt from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Sqwincher, a provider of hydration solutions for those in the field and on the worksite.

“You’re kidding me!” Weber exclaimed as Mike d’Oliveira, USA’s deputy director, let him know he won. “I’m not that lucky.”

That call was just the beginning of Weber’s journey. Shortly after, he received his gear for the hunt – a Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter FX muzzleloader and a Carhartt Rugged Outdoors Buckfield jacket and pants set. Then, on Dec. 3, he boarded the plane for Buffalo County, Wisconsin – the world’s top county for Pope & Young whitetails – where he spent five days at the Bluff Country Outfitters hunting lodge. Pat and Nicole Reeve, hosts of the TV show “Driven” on the Outdoor Channel, guided Weber on the hunt.

While searching for a trophy buck, the hunting party had to contend with the unseasonably warm weather which had the deer taking refuge deep in the woods. They spotted a few smaller bucks throughout the week, but no trophies. The last day of the hunt brought snow and cold air, but the glimmer of hope was short-lived as heavy winds reaching speeds of 25 to 30 miles per hour soon followed, and once again, the big bucks stayed out of sight. Although Weber didn’t harvest a buck, he said the experience was one he’ll never forget. He’s even considering going back to lodge for a family vacation.

“I’ve thought about taking my wife and going there this summer just to spend time at the lodge again,” he said.

“We take it for granted,” said Pat Reeve, speaking about the hunting opportunities he and his wife have as TV hosts. “People who are electricians or work in other skilled trades don’t often get out into the field as much as we do, so when they do have the opportunity, they generally appreciate it that much more.”

Weber was an active member of his union for 47 years and still attends Local 34’s meetings to keep in touch with his union brothers and sisters. That kind of dedication is exactly what the USA and Sqwincher were hoping to reward.

“Partners like Sqwincher understand how hard our union brothers and sisters work,” said d’Oliveira. “Their generosity adds so much value to our organization and helps us show our members that we care deeply about their outdoor passion.”

USA Volunteers Renovate Oak Mountain Horse Barn

March 22, 2017 in General, Press Release

For years, Alabama State Parks have been unable to afford many necessary repairs and updates. To offer support, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) volunteers recently renovated a horse barn at Oak Mountain State Park, transforming a structure that had fallen into disrepair into a potential increased revenue source for the park.

While state parks often provide a first point of access for many to the outdoors, from 2011 to 2015, the Alabama State Parks saw $15 million from their budget transferred to other government programs. As a result, numerous upkeep projects were suspended, five parks closed and others were forced to limit their services and hours of operation.

Even Oak Mountain, Alabama’s largest state park, with more than 500,000 visitors annually, has been forced to contend with a budget and continually postpone infrastructure repairs, such as those required for the four barns near the front of the park.

“For years, we would come up with maintenance projects, and then the general fund would take millions from the state parks,” said David Johnson, office superintendent, Oak Mountain. “That would drastically affect what we could do, so things like the stables got put to the side every year.”

Furthermore, the barns could help to offset park operating costs. Oak Mountain currently boards 18 horses for a monthly rate of $450 each and has the potential to board eight more with the new renovations.

It was after the USA’s 2nd Annual Alabama Conservation Dinner in September, held to raise funds for a local project, that Patrick Cagle, president of the JobKeepers Alliance, spoke with state park officials and identified the barn renovations as one their most pressing needs. With the support of Bren Riley, president of the Alabama AFL-CIO, and Donald Stanley, president of the Alabama BCTC and business manager for Insulators Local 78, the dinner brought together 200 attendees and energized the union community to volunteer to improve outdoor access for their fellow Alabamians and out-of-state visitors.

One of the dinner attendees, Craig Francis, apprenticeship and training coordinator at Insulators Local 78, volunteered to serve as the project manager and encouraged his apprentices to lend a hand, as well.

“I consistently preach to our apprentices the importance of contributing to the community,” said Francis. “In the past, we’ve helped clean up areas damaged by tornadoes, and this project at Oak Mountain seemed like another great opportunity to aid the wider Alabama community.”

More than 40 volunteers began work on Nov. 26 and replaced the siding, built and installed new Dutch doors and set new fence posts for the paddocks. In addition to Francis and numerous apprentices, Glenn Welden, president of Insulators Local 78, and Ricky Aaron, another apprenticeship instructor, also assisted with the renovations, and several employees from Oak Mountain helped run the auger to dig holes for the fence posts.

“Our state park system is heavily dependent on the support of our partners, volunteers and the communities where we exist,” said Greg Lein, director, Alabama State Parks. “It’s organizations like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Alabama AFL-CIO and Alabama Building and Construction Trades Council giving their time and talents that really make parks like Oak Mountain such a great success.”

Made in the USA: Henry Repeating Arms Lever Action .410 Shotgun

March 21, 2017 in Articles, General, Hunting

Henry Repeating Arms has introduced two lever action .410 bore shotguns for those who like their small-gauge shotgunning to be done through a quick-handling platform they’re familiar with in rimfire and centerfire versions already used in the field.

Both model variants are based on Henry’s blued steel-framed .45-70 Lever Action, with five-shot tube-loading magazines chambered for 2.5” shells only, dark straight-grained American walnut furniture, pistol grip wrists, checkering fore and aft, sling-swivel studs and a good thick non-slip ventilated black rubber recoil pad at the rear. Whether you’re in a camp that regards the .410 as a beginner’s gauge or a camp that considers it a specialist’s gauge, Henry’s got you covered with these two new models. MSRP $850-$902

From the Director’s Desk: A Milestone for Union Sportsmen

March 16, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Scott Vance, CEO & Executive Director, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance

What do you think of when someone says “a decade?” Most of us probably think of our own lives and how fast the years have gone by. I can certainly relate as my beard has turned gray and at least a portion of my hair has turned loose over these past 10 years! The most significant event in my entire life happened just 10 years ago when I became a dad. A decade used to seem like a long, long time to me, but as I’ve put more decades in my log book, they now seem shorter than ever.

The renowned iPhone was released just 10 years ago. YouTube was launched in late 2006 and now houses nearly 82 million videos. Ten years ago, Facebook was made available to anyone over the age of 13 and now has 1.8 billion users. Ten years, ago Miley Cyrus was still Hannah Montana. And last, but certainly not least, just 10 short years ago, several visionary union labor leaders and conservationists announced that they were forming a group called the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) that would unite labor unions all across this great nation for conservation and the preservation of our outdoor heritage.

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been 10 short years since our union leaders teamed with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) to form what is now a thriving and influential conservation organization. In those ten years, a tremendous amount has happened. The USA has grown from a sportsmen’s club into a true conservation powerhouse that makes a difference in hundreds of thousands of lives each year through our Work Boots on the Ground and youth outreach programs. Each year, thousands of union members come to connect and enjoy USA dinners and sporting clays shoots that help drive our conservation efforts. The USA has also grown into a permanent, self-sustaining non-profit which no longer requires the support of TRCP, but it still strongly values the partnership and relationships we’ve built together.

I am still very much a rookie with the USA, but in my few months on the team I find myself constantly awed and energized by the overarching concept and untapped potential. Uniting patriotic, tireless union members through conservation and for conservation leaves a legacy that will live on long after we all are gone. We put to work the innovation, knowledge, determination and drive of a labor community that has a resilient and an undying dedication to the progress and success of this country. We are connected by shared skills, bound by a common purpose, and united by a passion to leave things better than we found them. Harnessing the power of our labor unions and putting that energy to work for conservation was not only visionary, but it also has the potential to be the most influential thing to happen for conservation in a very long time.

In a few months we will complete our one hundredth Work Boots on the Ground project. What a testament this milestone project is to the men and women who volunteer their time, skills and resources to help others enjoy the outdoors. Started in 2010, the Work Boots on the Ground program has improved access to millions of acres of wild places and connected thousands of people to the outdoors. Our goal is to not only continue these vitally important conservation infrastructure projects, but to substantially grow them over the next several years. As state and federal agency budgets continue to shrink, the USA will become even more important to building and sustaining the vital infrastructures of our parks, wildlife management areas and public waters.

We are also focused on growing our community outreach programs. We want to create a fun and safe learning environment that not only allows you, and your family, to spend more time enjoying the outdoors, but also unites a community around conservation, labor and outdoor heritage. USA members tell us that three things are vitally important to them when it comes to the outdoors. First, they want to spend more time in the outdoors with family and friends. Secondly, they want to have more places to hunt, fish, shoot, camp, boat and recreate outdoors and they want quality experiences when they do these things. And, finally, they want to pass along this vitally important outdoor heritage to the next generation. The USA wants to build programs and events that do all of these things. We will need your input, ideas and, most importantly, your energy to help us grow the next generation of conservation leaders and the next chapter for the USA. The time to change the future of conservation is now, and I know that together we are up for that challenge.

I am enthusiastic, excited and a little impatient to see what the next 10 years hold for our organization and our great nation. I am honored and humbled to be a part of something so wonderful and with so much potential, and I can’t wait to be part of it with you and your family as our partners.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance inks MOU with Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever

March 10, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Jess Levens


The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever (PF/QF) signed a Memorandum of Understanding yesterday at a cosponsored breakfast at the 82nd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Spokane, Washington.

The partnership will last through March 7, 2020, and allows the organizations to team up on conservation and habitat projects, mentored hunts, volunteer training and education.

The USA is a non-profit conservation group created by and for union members and their families. What makes the USA truly unique is that it harnesses the power of expertly-trained union volunteers who put their professional skills to use by tackling projects that create or improve public access to the outdoors, improve wildlife habitats, mentor youth in the outdoors and restore America’s parks, which are in disrepair and backlogged by tens of billions of dollars. The USA also raises funds that cover materials and equipment through local conservation dinners, sporting clays and trap shoots, plus a new fishing tournament program.

USA’s CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance and PF/QF’s President and CEO Howard Vincent signing MOU

PF/QF will lend its expertise in wildlife biology and habitat conservation to identify collaborative opportunities and set the USA’s massive, expert volunteer workforce in motion.

“We are honored to partner with Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever as we collaboratively mobilize our volunteer work force to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters and our next generation of conservationists,” said Scott Vance, USA’s CEO and executive director. “Their willingness to partner with our union sportsmen ultimately helps both organizations do more for conservation.”

Like the USA, PF/QF is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization driven by its conservation mission. This like-mindedness will help all involved ease into the partnership as we focus on hunter recruitment, retention and activation, as well as habitat conservation through infrastructure and prescribed burning, said Vance.

“The recipe to create wildlife habitat in 2017 is to build bigger partnerships and engage larger groups of people,” said Howard Vincent, PF/QF’s president and CEO. “I am thrilled to formally welcome the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to the prairies, fields and banquet halls where our organization works to create habitat for pheasants, quail, pollinators, monarchs and hunters. Together as partners, we can all do more for wildlife and our hunting heritage.”

AFL-CIO President and USA Chairman Richard L. Trumka, an avid sportsman and conservationist, said he is proud of this partnership and eager to see the future results.

“It gives me great pride to see the USA join forces with Pheasants Forever, a respected conservation organization,” said Trumka. “The USA has completed 88 high-impact conservation projects since 2010, and those are just the beginning of what we can do with strategic partnerships with other non-government organizations. I believe USA is poised to make a greater impact in communities across this nation than ever before.”

This partnership comes on the heels of a similar MOU signed between the USA and angling giant Pure Fishing, Inc., last month.

“By teaming with like-minded partners, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is expanding not only our conservation footprint, but also our ability to connect our union members and their families to the outdoors,” said Vance.

About Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever: Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 149,000 members and 720 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent, the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure. Since creation in 1982, Pheasants Forever has spent $708 million on 517,000 habitat projects benefiting 15.8 million acres nationwide.

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The USA is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Turkey Prep (not a recipe)

March 8, 2017 in Articles, General, Hunting

By: Chris Ellis

I remember not that long ago, it seemed like the sport of turkey hunting used to be easy – grab a few shells from the gun cabinet and an old, reliable pump shotgun and hit the woods. The hardest part was walking back to the truck with the turkey and plucking the feathers neatly enough so that none of them made it to the dinner plate.

As with most things in life, we humans tend to complicate matters – especially matters we care deeply about. In the true spirit of complication, as a pre-season ritual, a band of avid turkey hunters set a date on their calendars to meet at the gun range for our annual turkey-gun-patterning session.

My crew showed up at a predetermined locale with one goal in mind – to pattern our shotguns for the spring gobbler season. You see, turkey season is considered by most to be a short season, and in that short amount of time die-hards want everything predictable to be well, predictable. So, with a mixture of no less than 12 variety of shells with various forms of shot, shotguns of all makes and models, a plethora of choke tubes and targets, we were bound and determined to see which turkey load/choke combination would serve our needs the best in the weeks ahead. (With all of us bringing a mixture of shells and chokes, we saved time and money by each of us not having to buy everything individually. We all share the initial cost of setting up our shotguns.)

To save the shoulders (and wallets) from soreness, we started with target loads at the 25-yard line. Once our shotguns were sighted in some with beaded sights and some with optics, we switched to mega-magnum loads and began the process of increasing yardage to see just how far we could shoot and still have an effective pattern on the turkey target. Some shotguns patterned easily and required no choke change or load modifications while others were finicky and took many different combination trials to gain headway. The ranges varied from 15 to 40 yards until we were satisfied that our field guns were ready for the chance to wreck Old Tom’s day.

With the speak of shotshell pellet ballistics (internal, external and of course terminal performance), our motley crew of worn out turkey hunters sounded like an article I once read about the how a shotgun actually works, and I am sure if recorded, we could have sold the session to one of the outdoor television networks and appeared really smart … Until, someone brought up the a “favorite” complicated topic for turkey hunters: How far of a shot is too far?

The conversation quickly turned to field experience, and old tales of miraculous hits and misses began surfacing. Someone knew someone who knew a guy who shot a dreaded field turkey at 60 paces and dropped it like a stone. Others laughed and said it is best not to “stretch” the barrels and wait until the turkey is at a much more suitable distance before firing.

Perhaps the best advice came in the form of two memorable quotes from this particular range session: “Wait until you can clearly see the definition of the folds in the gobbler’s wattle,” said a tenured turkey hunter.

The second bit of advice that proved to be truer than any: “Boy, all these shotguns pattern well at 25 yards.”

The biggest dilemma in setting up your shotgun for turkey hunting is getting a pattern you like and are confident in both close and long-range situations. Setting a shotgun up for ultra-long shots that throw a softball-sized pattern at 45 yards can mean that if a turkey sticks his head up at seven steps away, that shotgun is now going to be so super tightly patterned that making that shot can be tricky. I’ve seen many turkeys missed at close range with super-magnum set-ups that your granddaddy’s old .410 shotgun would have clobbered the bird. On the flipside, if you pattern your shotgun with a load/choke combination to have the perfect pattern at 15 yards, and Old Tom steps out at 43 yards, that shot can be tricky, too. Finding a happy medium in both range and pattern densities is the key to having assurance in the field. When the old gobbler finally presents himself to you, having that load and pattern data and knowing your ideal effective yardages will give you confidence to take the shot.

When setting up your shotgun for turkey hunting, don’t complicate things. More importantly, spend some time at the range practicing hunt scenarios.

 

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Adds to Leadership Team

March 8, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has hired Brian Dowler to be its new director of membership, marketing and communications, as well as Forrest Parker as its new director of conservation and community outreach.

Created by and dedicated to union members and their families, the non-profit conservation organization is escalating its conservation efforts, partnerships and memberships and expanding internally to keep pace.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is more focused than ever on uniting the union community through conservation,” said Scott Vance, the USA’s CEO and executive director. “We are committed to growing our conservation impact through partnerships, volunteer empowerment and good old union ingenuity. We look to greatly expand the scope of our Work Boots on the Ground program in the coming years and also connect more local communities to conservation through family and youth outreach events.”

Brian Dowler

Brian Dowler

Dowler served as the National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) director of membership marketing and industry partnerships. In his nearly 13 years working for the NWTF, Dowler handled the organization’s direct mail and digital marketing efforts, helping grow NWTF’s adult membership and non-event fundraising revenue. He also managed the organization’s relationships with endemic retail and affinity partners. Prior to his role in marketing, Dowler served NWTF’s members through its communications efforts as public relations manager.

Dowler hopes to increase membership value proposition through new benefits and affinity partnerships, bring greater awareness to the USA’s good work for conservation and create stronger relationships with endemic partners and USA members.

“Brian brings a diverse history in non-profit membership acquisition and retention, direct fundraising and communications,” said Vance. “Our charter unions and labor partners have done tremendous things for conservation over the past decade, and we believe Brian can bring a new dimension to our organization. We are happy to welcome him to the team.”

Dowler, a passionate hunter, angler and recreational shooter, hails from Parkersburg, West Virginia, and graduated from Marshall University with a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. He currently lives with his wife, Rebecca, and daughter, Emily, in Martinez, Georgia.

In his role as director of conservation and community outreach, Parker will lead the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program and work to increase the reputations of unions in their local communities through youth outreach events, volunteer infrastructure projects and more. Parker plans to key in on new conservation partners – other non-profit and for-profit organizations – and select projects with highly tangible impact that will drive more community engagement.

Forrest Parker

Forrest Parker

“Forrest’s impressive background in conservation, project management and infrastructure construction make him extremely qualified to lead the charge for our conservation programs,” said Vance. “His passion for the outdoors and passing along our conservation heritage to the next generation drives him to constantly strive to connect more people to hunting, angling, shooting and other natural pursuits. He’s the perfect addition to our team to help connect more of our union members to an enlightening, healthy and rewarding outdoor experience.”

Parker, who enjoys adventure hunting worldwide, most recently served as the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority’s executive director of engineering. He spent the previous decade serving the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, where he created innovative, sustainable conservation programs and sportsmen-based revenue programs such as the Cherokee Trout Fishing Enterprise, which has a $24 million annual impact.  Parker’s volunteer experience includes serving as executive director for Talking Trees Children’s Trout Derby, a founding member of the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians and an advisor for the South Carolina Fellowship of Christian Athletes Annual Hank Parker Invitational Charity Shoot.

Parker earned a bachelor’s degree in natural resources management and policy from Western Carolina University and resides in his hometown of Cherokee, North Carolina, with his wife, Amy, and two daughters, Faith and Reagan.

The USA harnesses the power of expertly-trained union volunteers who put their professional skills to use by tackling projects that create or improve public access to the outdoors, improve wildlife habitats, mentor youth in the outdoors and restore America’s parks, which are in disrepair and backlogged by tens of billions of dollars. Vance said the additions of Dowler and Parker will undoubtedly help the USA build a strong reputation as a conservation powerhouse and grow its membership of 225,000-plus union members and their families.

Both Dowler and Parker have begun work at the USA and can be reached at briand@unionsportsmen.org and forrestp@unionsportsmen.org respectively.

Big Smallies: Get Ahead of the Pre-Spawn

March 7, 2017 in Articles, Fishing, General

By: Chris Ellis

A trophy-sized fish is what drives us to spend so much time, energy and money on our passion – fishing. So, when a group of anglers starts the conversation about catching big fish, it doesn’t take long until the phrase “pre-spawn” rears its ugly head.

The pre-spawn time in fishing can be a mystery. In fact, it’s hard to predict the exact time, and circling dates on your calendar as fishing days is well, tricky. Throw in predicting the weather and water temperatures during the spring, and you might just have a full-blown planning nightmare on your hands.

So why do we put ourselves through this? Just like hunting the rut to deer hunters searching for the elusive big buck, fishing the pre-spawn is considered “the time” to fool big fish into biting. Why? Let’s take a look.

To simplify a complicated subject, I decided to pick a species. I’ll start with river fishing and smallmouth bass – my home-water species – and try to unlock the mysteries of catching trophy bass during the pre-spawn.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE SPAWN?
In short, spawning for smallmouth bass just involves the male finding and preparing the nest, the female laying her eggs while the male fertilizes them, and then the male guarding the nest, and young, for a period of time. They don’t spawn on any one specific day or week though. It tends to be spread out over a period of time, like a bell curve, with a few spawning at the beginning, and ending, of the spawning period.

WHAT CAUSES THE SPAWN TO OCCUR?
Lengthening days is what triggers the spawn of all fish, just as it causes turkeys to gobble and the rest of nature to come alive, but the water temperatures also play into it. I’ve always felt that smallmouth actively spawned mostly between 58 and 62 degrees on the rivers of my home in West Virginia.

But rivers aren’t lakes, and different sections may have different water temperatures caused by depth, creek or spring influence and where the river flows from – i.e. bottom or top release dams or free flowing from high in the mountains. Each river and section of river is different and the nearly month-long spawn may occur at different times depending on the body of water.

HOW DO WE KNOW THE SPAWN HAS STARTED?
Look for male bass to be making the nest and guarding it. Also, smallmouth need a clean grave to spawn, so they often times have to fan out areas to keep them clean. Catching a bass with a tail that has sores or areas rubbed raw is a tell-tale sign.

Why is fishing the pre-spawn so productive or is the pre-spawn just another fishing tale?

The myth may come from the fish “feeding up” for the upcoming spawn, which is a big stress on their bodies. Females use a lot of energy producing eggs, and the males use up lots of energy guarding the nests.

We have all heard folks say they catch females off the nest, but only the males guard the nest. Perhaps they caught a female hanging nearby that was going to lay her eggs with the guarding male, but only the males guard. Having said that, it is when the males are in guard mode that they are most susceptible to the hook.

Also, the fish may be more available because they have moved into certain areas where they stage up before spawning. Even though smallmouth aren’t really schooling fish like walleye, you can still pattern them because they will tend to be in the same-type areas.

PATTERNING IS THE KEY
Back when I was a fishing guide for smallmouth bass in my home state, there were a few old crusty river guides that understood the stages of the spawn and how best to catch fish much better than I. They were good – really good. I was convinced, like most young guides, that the old guards had a magic bait or a secret go-to technique. It wasn’t until later that one of the old river rats told me his secret.

“Think like a bass. You know the water is going to rise in the spring, so you have to build your nest for your young someplace hidden and safe,” he said in a whisper so that the others in the local hangout couldn’t hear. “Look behind the downstream-side of an island or a point of river bank, the inside bend in the river where the water will eddy during high flows, behind large boulders and big rocks in the water – anyplace safe and sound. But here is the key; the river’s bottom must be right. Smallmouth like clean rocky, gravel bottoms. They don’t like mud.”

“Find and mentally mark these areas in the late summer and early fall when the water is low and clear. Remember them well. Come next spring, you will know the best kept secret in fishing – fish where the fish are!” So, you want to catch more big fish during the pre-spawn? Perhaps the best answer is to fish where the fish are.

TOP 5 LURES FOR PRE-SPAWN RIVER SMALLIES
There are many natural enemies of the smallmouth nest – lots of egg-eating fish out there that will decimate a nest if the male bass is gone including sunfish, minnows, etc. As for the fry and young of the year fish, once the male leaves them, they are just another small fish trying to survive long enough to grow up. So, fishing baits that mimic these natural enemies, as well as having the baits rigged correctly
so that they bounce along the bottom, is key.

Larry Nibert of the West Virginia Experience suggested these Top 5 Lures for river smallmouth fishing during the pre-spawn:

  1. 3 ½ – 4-inch tube baits. Any earth-toned color. Rigged on either weedless/slip sinker or with inserted lead head.
  2. Z-Man Big TRD stick baits. Rigged wacky or Carolina (wacky-rigged is preferred).
  3. G-Tail grubs. Any earth-toned color. Rigged with 1/8 to 1/4-ounce grub lead head.
  4. Swimbaits – Paddle tail. Any earth-toned color or two-toned. Rigged with swimbait lead head of ¼-ounce or larger.
  5. Suspending jerk baits.

Union Volunteers Refurbish Cedar Hill State Park Facilities, Provide Training for At-Risk Youth

March 2, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

As Texas state parks struggle with hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance, union members in the Dallas-Fort Worth area volunteered their time and unique trade skills on Feb. 24 and 25 through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program to refurbish safety railings at two scenic overlooks, install benches and paint a primitive restroom at Cedar Hill State Park.

Between prep and on-site work, 26 volunteers from the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 100 and Sprinkler Fitters Local 669, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 20, International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 21, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Job Corps and Morgan Stanley Investment Group, along with several family members, logged more than 197 hours to complete the projects. In addition to donating labor, union members raised the $2,334 needed for lumber and other materials at the USA’s Dallas-Fort Worth Area Conservation Dinner last year.

While improving the park, the project also provided hands-on training for four students from the IUPAT Job Corps, which gives at-risk and underprivileged youth academic and vocational training to prepare them for the job market.

“We enjoy the comradery of Union Sportsmen’s Alliance conservation projects,” said Texas State Building Trades President and UA Local 100 Business Manager Craig Berendzen, who led the projects. “Volunteering our time and skills makes us feel good and provides an avenue for us to get the message out that union members really care about their communities. Sometimes we are our best kept secret.”

Being so close to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and its more than six million residents, Cedar Hill State Park is an integral part of the community for outreach, interpretation, education and economic impact. It is also the site of the USA’s first state park project in 2013, which involved union volunteers reconstructing three dilapidated bridges.

“Since Work Boots on the Ground began in 2010, union volunteers have donated more than 18,000 hours and $600,000 in labor costs to improve access to wild places across the country and connect thousands of people to the outdoors,” said Scott Vance, USA CEO and executive director. “Our goal is to not only continue these vitally important conservation infrastructure projects, but to substantially grow them. As state and federal agency budgets continue to shrink, the USA is committed to helping build and sustain the vital infrastructures of our parks, wildlife management areas and public waters.”

Set in Stone: OPCMIA Cements Commitment to USA

March 1, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is pleased to welcome the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association (OPCMIA) as its newest charter union. Joining the ranks of the AFL-CIO, Building and Construction Trades Department and 14 labor unions, OPCMIA solidified its commitment to help the USA fulfill its conservation mission through valuable financial support and promotional resources.

Through their sponsorships, charter unions provide their members with the added benefit of a no-cost USA membership, which means active and retired OPCMIA members can now join the USA for no cost and get access to the USA’s digital magazine, promotions and giveaways, member-only discounts and more.

“It is with great pleasure that I announce that OPCMIA has joined the USA as a charter union,” said OPCMIA General President Daniel E. Stepano. “The USA unites union members who love the great outdoors and are willing to volunteer their unique trade skills to help protect our outdoor heritage for future generations. By organizing conservation dinners and shooting events across the country, the USA creates a unique atmosphere where all union members – from a young apprentice to a general president – can come together off the job site and bond over their passion for the outdoors and all the recreation it offers.”

Matt Gehris, OPCMIA Local 11, got his first turkey as a guest on "Brotherhood Outdoors."

Matt Gehris, OPCMIA Local 11, got his first turkey as a guest on “Brotherhood Outdoors.”

Boasting a longstanding relationship with the USA, OPCMIA members were involved in the USA’s very first hands-on conservation project in 2010 where union volunteers, including OPCMIA Local 599, assisted the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with a white-tailed deer study. OPCMIA members also repaved a wheelchair accessible trail at Virginia’s York River State Park, replaced gravel with concrete in a picnic area at Iowa’s Lake Ahquabi State Park and assisted at the USA’s Take Kids Fishing Day events, among other conservation projects and USA events.

Each year, OPCMIA Locals 633 and 518 have teams at the USA’s Twin Cities and Kansas City sporting clays shoots, and OPCMIA locals have purchased tables at the USA’s Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle and Des Moines conservation dinners. Perhaps most notably, the USA’s television series, “Brotherhood Outdoors,” featured Matt Gehris, a member of OPCMIA Local 11, on his very first turkey hunt in 2013.

“As we celebrate the USA’s tenth anniversary, we are honored and very proud of the growing number of unions that have pledged their support to the USA’s conservation mission and provided their members who hunt, fish, shoot and recreate outdoors access to an organization they can call their own,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance. “The USA is for unions, by unions, and partners like OPCMIA help keep the USA as strong and durable as the plaster and concrete its skilled members craft on the job site each and every day.”

USA, Pure Fishing Hook Up with New MOU

February 22, 2017 in Fishing, General, Press Release

Franklin, Tenn. – The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and angling product powerhouse Pure Fishing, Inc., have hooked up to improve the future of angling and conservation across America. To memorialize the partnership, the two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday in Washington D.C., that will last through March 8, 2020.

The purpose of the partnership is to work collaboratively on angler recruitment, retention and reactivation programs and events and jointly develop a national angler recruitment program that connects union and non-union families to the benefits of angling and the outdoors.

Ultimately, both organizations feel this partnership will help ensure a rich future of fishing in America. Pure Fishing produces more than 30,000 pieces of angling equipment, and its portfolio features some of the top brands in fishing. Through its strong volunteer workforce and support from its 17 affiliates and charter unions, the USA has completed nearly 100 volunteer projects and community outreach events since 2010.

“The USA’s dedicated union volunteers have already introduced thousands of families to the outdoors, with potential to reach many more,” said AFL-CIO President and USA Chairman Richard L. Trumka. “Partnerships with industry pace setters, such as Pure Fishing, are exactly what it will take to build these programs to a level that secures the future of angling, and hunting, in the United States.”

Scott Vance, USA’s CEO and executive director, said he feels strongly that this pairing is primed to make a major impact on people’s lives.

“We are very honored to have Pure Fishing as our partner as we expand our angling recruitment and retention programs nationwide,” said Vance. “Their brands represent some of the best outdoor products in the world, and their support will help us connect thousands of youth and their families to an outdoor pursuit that is healthy, fun and sustainable. This partnership will also help union members give back to their local communities in ways that enrich lives and natural resources for everyone.”

John Doerr, Pure Fishing’s president and CEO, also expressed great optimism about what can be accomplished with Pure Fishing’s experience and resources combined with the USA’s skilled labor force of more than 225,000 union members.

“We are excited about our new partnership with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, as it dovetails perfectly with existing Pure Fishing initiatives to protect and restore fishable waters and fish populations both today and in the future,” said Doerr. “We look forward to partnering with the hardworking men and women of the USA in their efforts to improve access to fisheries and provide education to ensure that current and future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the great sport of fishing.”

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About Pure Fishing, Inc.: Pure Fishing, Inc. is a leading global provider of fishing tackle, lures, rods and reels with a portfolio of brands that includes Abu Garcia®, All Star®, Berkley®, Chub®, Fenwick®, Greys®, Hardy®, Hodgman®, Johnson®, JRC®, Mitchell®, Penn®, Pflueger®, Sebile®, Shakespeare®, SpiderWire®, Stren®, and Ugly Stik®.

With operations in 19 countries and a dedicated workforce conversant in 28 languages, Pure Fishing, Inc. is a subsidiary of Newell Brands, Inc.

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

USA Taps Rusted Rooster to Produce Brotherhood Outdoors

January 20, 2017 in Brotherhood Outdoors TV, General, Press Release

Jonathan Scaife, IAFF Local 3690, poses with his freshly-harvested white-tailed buck on the revamped Brotherhood Outdoors, which is now produced by Rusted Rooster Media.

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has enlisted outdoor television powerhouse Rusted Rooster Media to take over production of Brotherhood Outdoors.

Brotherhood Outdoors is entering its ninth season with new episodes on Sportsman Channel beginning in July.

Rusted Rooster, founded and operated by brothers Chris and Casey Keefer, is the production house behind TV shows Sheep Shape and Dropped. The group will produce nine original episodes of Brotherhood Outdoors for the third and fourth quarters of 2017, and nine episodes in 2018. Rusted Rooster also works with industry giants such as Buck Knives, PSE and Winchester.

Brotherhood Outdoors takes real, hardworking, American union members – selected through an application process – on a hunting or fishing trip of a lifetime, while highlighting their home and work lives. The show gives viewers a look at everyday people on realistic excursions. The show also offers a glimpse of the USA’s conservation efforts, which are executed by an all-volunteer union labor force.

With 2017 marking the USA’s first decade, its leaders decided a big, bold move for Brotherhood Outdoors was in order.

“Television offers our organization a way to highlight our members’ dedication to their skills, their families and their hunting and angling passions,” said Scott Vance, executive director, USA. “Rusted Rooster has a proven track record in outdoor television production and a vision that, I believe, will elevate Brotherhood Outdoors to a new level of excellence in television.”

According to Chris Keefer, Brotherhood Outdoors will be more focused on the individual guest each episode in order to build a deeper personal connection and a more intimate outdoor experience for viewers. In its first eight seasons, the show had a traditional, host-driven format, but the Keefer brothers have plans that are refreshingly non-traditional.

Brotherhood Outdoors is such a unique concept,” said Chris Keefer. “We have high hopes and great things in store as we work to make each episode a personalized cinematic story for each guest. We really want viewers to identify with the people on the show and see quality hunting and fishing trips.”

Active and retired union members can apply to be on the show by submitting the online application at http://unionsportsmen.org/brotherhood-outdoors/be-on-the-show/.

Additional episodes of Brotherhood Outdoors can be viewed at www.myoutdoortv.com

About Rusted Rooster Media: Rusted Rooster Media is an award-winning production house based in Midland, MI. The creative team at “The Roost” is best known for their commitment to telling a great story, and their ability to mine out every last bit of human interest that can be found, from every angle.

Sportsman Channel: Launched in 2003, Sportsman Channel/Sportsman HD is a television and digital media company fully devoted to honoring a lifestyle that is celebrated by millions of Americans. A division of Outdoor Sportsman Group, Sportsman Channel delivers entertaining and informative programming that showcases outdoor adventure, hunting and fishing, and illustrates it through unique and authentic storytelling. Sportsman Channel embraces the attitude of “Red, Wild & Blue America” – where the American Spirit and Great Outdoors are celebrated in equal measure. Sportsman Channel reaches more than 36 million U.S. television households. Stay connected to Sportsman Channel online at thesportsmanchannel.com, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

From the Director’s Desk – Fall 2016

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General

THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO CHANGE THE FUTURE OF CONSERVATION

Alaskan Union Volunteers Build Public Use Cabins

November 14, 2016 in Alaska, Articles, Conservation News, General, Work Boots On The Ground

ALASKAN UNION VOLUNTEERS BUILD PUBLIC USE CABINS

Put & Take: The Other Trout

November 14, 2016 in Articles, Fishing, General

PUT & TAKE

Mule Deer: A Classic American Hunt

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General, Hunting

MULE DEER: A classic American hunt

Union Leader Q&A: NFLPA

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General

Q&A WITH A UNION LEADER

Man vs. Ram

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General, Hunting, Meet a Member

Man versus ram

Houdini’s Last Escape

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General, Hunting, Meet a Member

HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance partners with Flambeau Outdoors

September 6, 2016 in Press Release

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to announce that it has partnered with Flambeau Outdoors – a longstanding industry leader in hunting and fishing storage, as well as decoys and hunting calls.brand-outdoors

“It is an honor to partner with the members of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance,” said Kim Norton, director of marketing, Flambeau. “As an outdoor sporting company with humble beginnings, connecting with the hardworking men and women of the USA was something we found invaluable. It is a terrific opportunity to share our products with them and to contribute to their conservation efforts, which ensure greater access to the outdoors for all.”

Flambeau traces its origins to back to 1947, when the Sauey brothers – W.R. and Ed – hand built a molding machine, which they used to create the Halik Frog, a topwater fishing lure. Since that time, the company has grown into one of the largest producers of hunting and fishing equipment, the majority of which it continues to manufacture in the U.S.

According to USA Deputy Director Mike d’Oliveira, Flambeau’s history of crafting high-quality outdoor gear and their dedication to U.S. manufacturing make partnering with them an easy decision.

“Flambeau has built a legacy out of hard work and love for hunting and fishing – a legacy that our members can certainly appreciate,” said d’Oliveira. “We are thrilled to have such a great partner in our pursuit of preserving North America’s outdoor heritage.”

Flambeau’s quality products will be featured and fully-integrated into the USA’s member promotions and will be used as raffle prizes and giveaway items at sporting clay shoots and dinners, which help raise funds for USA’s conservation projects. Flambeau will also be a product sponsor on Brotherhood Outdoors, the USA’s award-winning TV show on the Sportsman Channel.

“Flambeau has never lost its original spirit of innovation and continues to make many cutting edge products,” said Norton. “We hope these products will help USA members in their outdoor endeavors.”

Two of Flambeau’s most advanced products include Zerust, which is a formula injected into tackle storage plastic that forms a vapor barrier protecting metal tackle from corrosion, and UVision, which is a signature paint for waterfowl decoys. These products ensure that outdoor enthusiasts can make the most of their time hunting and fishing.

According to d’Oliveira, the generous contributions from partners like Flambeau and other great brands support the USA’s goal of uniting the millions of active and retired labor union members who hunt, fish, shoot and live an outdoor lifestyle.

For more information on corporate partnerships and sponsorship opportunities with the USA, email d’Oliveira at miked@unionsportsmen.org or call 615-831-6796.

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Flambeau Outdoors: Flambeau, Inc. is a member of Nordic Group of Companies, Ltd. Nordic Group (headquartered in Baraboo, Wisconsin) is a privately held holding company consisting of subsidiaries with 22 facilities, and 23 marketing units around the world with over 2,400 associates. Nordic Group companies manufacture and distribute plastic, seating and transportation products worldwide for industrial, commercial and consumer markets. Flambeau Outdoors, a division of Flambeau, Inc., is a widely recognized manufacturer of quality, innovative outdoor products for the hunting and fishing enthusiast.

Riprap For Fall Bass

August 24, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by John E. Phillips

As the bone-colored Zara Spook did the Texas Two Step across the water about 6 to 8 feet from the riprap below the dam, leaving a V-shaped trail on the surface, I watched for a bass to blow up.

Riprap provides a great place for bass to hold and ambush baitfish.

Riprap provides a great place for bass to hold and ambush baitfish.

The Spook, named for a red-light district in Mobile, Alabama, called Zara Street, worked its magic as it rose like a Phoenix high in the air with a largemouth bass attached to its treble hooks. As quickly as the lure and fish had come out of the water, they reentered about 2 feet away.

My 7’2” medium-heavy Lew’s rod pretzeled under the weight of the fish. As the bass raced to get back to its rocky home, the drag on my baitcasting reel checked its charge. While I kept my rod tip high in the air and turned the handle on my reel hard and fast, the bass shook, flopped and occasionally jumped. But the hooks on the Spook held in the bass’s jaw all the way to the boat. I prepared to lift the fish cautiously due to those treble hooks.

When I finally got the bass to the boat and made pictures, I gently lowered it back into the water to fight again another day. Regardless of the time of year, the weather or the water conditions, I always can catch bass on riprap, especially that close to the dam and below a dam, particularly in the fall. As the air temperatures cool, the water temps will follow, and that begins a migration for bass and baitfish from deeper summertime haunts. Riprap, especially along a bridge over a major creek channel, is a pinch-point for that fall migration of fish. A particularly honey hole for fall bass on any reservoir where bass tournaments are held is the closest riprap to the primary tournament weigh-in location.

Why the Bass Are There

Big, chunk rocks and boulders are often layered along a bank and into the water below to keep the bank from washing away. Riprap is found above and below dams and also around bridges, marinas and lake and river homes to prevent erosion. The riprap concentrates bass too, because it provides a current break and vertical structure where the bass can move up and down, depending on water and weather conditions.

Bass, which are ambush feeders, have plenty of dark, shady spots to hide in along the riprap as they wait to attack their prey. Riprap also attracts baitfish like shad, sunfish and crawfish. Because of the abundance of bait and cover, saltwater stripers, hybrid striped bass, largemouth, smallmouth, spotted and white bass, catfish, crappie and other species congregate around riprap.

During the summer when the water seems hot enough to boil an egg, the bass find cool, oxygenated water along the riprap when hydroelectric plants at many dams are running current. In the winter, the water needed to generate electricity comes from the bottom of the lake above the dam, which means the riprap may be warmer than the water in other parts of the lake. Also, the riprap rocks absorb heat from the sun and transfer that heat into the water.

How to Catch Riprap Bass

Unless the weather’s really cold early in the morning, I like to fish topwater lures parallel to and 4 to 5 feet in front of the riprap. Although a wide variety of chugger, prop, buzz and walking topwater baits will produce bass in that first hour or two of daylight, when the sun fully comes up I like to fish either the bone-colored, the black or any shad pattern Zara Spook (http://www.heddonlures.com). I let the bass tell me by the number of strikes each lure solicits which lure they prefer and what type retrieve. I’ll start off with a fast retrieve and then slow my retrieve down to a lazy, walking-the-dog type.

As the sun gets higher in the sky, the black-and-blue jig drug along the edge of the riprap or hopped from rock to rock can produce some great bass strikes.

As the sun gets higher in the sky, the black-and-blue jig drug along the edge of the riprap or hopped from rock to rock can produce some great bass strikes.

 

As the sun climbs in the sky, the bass will move deeper on the riprap. After the topwater bite ends, I prefer fishing a soft plastic jerkbait like Mann’s Reel’ N Shad (http://mannsbait.com) or a Strike King (http://www.strikeking.com/) Series 3 shad pattern crankbait. I’ll swim the white, yellow or green pumpkin Reel’ N Shad fairly quickly about 2 to 3 feet under the water. If I don’t get a strike after several casts, I’ll go to the crankbait, fish it 3 to 4 feet deep, hesitate the bait for a split second and then fast retrieve until the crankbait hits another rock.

My final fall riprap tactic is to fish either a 1/4-ounce or a 1/2–ounce black-and-blue football head jig with a black-and-blue soft plastic crawfish trailer, or a green pumpkin jig with a green pumpkin crawfish trailer. I’ll cast the jig out to the 4 foot water, drag it over the rocks and let it fall, or hop it off the rocks and then drag it along the bottom.

By fishing three segments of the water with the lures I’ve described, I most often can pinpoint the bass, know in what water depth they’re holding and understand the type lures to use. If you go to a new lake that you’ve never fished before, the two best places to start are on riprap and main river points.

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.

Brotherhood Outdoors Labor Day Marathon airs Sept. 3 on Sportsman Channel

August 23, 2016 in Brotherhood Outdoors, Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Press Release

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (Aug. 23, 2016) – The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Sportsman Channel are teaming up again to honor the American workforce during the 2016 Brotherhood Outdoors Labor Day “Salute to the American Worker” – Presented by Wolverine, which airs Saturday, Sept. 3, from 5-8 p.m. EST.

DCIM102_VIRBOver the course of six consecutive episodes, Brotherhood Outdoors will examine guests’ family and work lives while showing viewers that regular, hardworking men and women have what it takes to get out there and hunt and fish with pros Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen.

Brotherhood Outdoors is a testament to those who make our American way of life as spectacular as it is today,” said USA Deputy Director Mike d’Oliveira. “When I watch some of these episodes, I think two things: First, I’m reminded of the hard work and dedication it takes to make our country tick, and secondly, I see all of these great stories from the men and women to make this all happen. It makes me proud that we have the opportunity to showcase their unique trades skills and their passion for the great outdoors, and we are appreciative of Wolverine Boots to help us tell this story.”

The show’s relatability to the “everyman” and its intimate glimpse into its guests’ lives are what make Brotherhood Outdoors a truly unique show in its category.

Schedule for Sept. 3 (EST):

5:00 p.m.     Sheet Metal Worker (SMART Local 19), Keith Gilmer sees 100 deer the first day of his dream hunt, but he decides to wait patiently for a big Montana muley to appear from amidst the abundant whitetails and give him the perfect shot.

5:30 p.m.     Laborer (LiUNA Local 5), Mark Kezler feels the vibration as toms come drumming, spitting and gobbling within 100 yards. Yet the wise old South Dakota Merriam’s turkeys dodge the plan again and again as hosts Daniel Lee and Julie try to lure them within Mark’s range.

6:00 p.m.     Painter (IUPAT DC 30, Local 157), Jason Gaal, armed with a flashlight to spot glistening eyes, prowls for Florida gators. Suspense runs high with the big, toothy lizards as host Daniel Lee ends up in the murky, gator-infested waters.

6:30 p.m.     Auto Worker (UAW Local 838), Aaron Heying overcomes paralysis on this New Mexico bear hunt with help from his wife as hosts Daniel Lee and Julie and their guide carry Aaron, his wheelchair and equipment through the woods to get in range of his first bear.

7:00 p.m.     Plumber (UA Local 68), Mike Cramer wards off unusually warm temps with dancing and one-armed push-ups as he waits for his shot at a Colorado bull elk once the snow finally begins to fall.

7:30 p.m.     Roofer (Roofers Local 23), Derek Carrington heads to Kansas to hunt in one of the best trophy-producing units in the state, and it all comes down to the wire on this heart-pumping whitetail adventure.

Presented by Bank of Labor, Brotherhood Outdoors is also sponsored by the following unions, contractors and corporate partners: Buck Knives, Carhartt, Burris/Steiner, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, National Electrical Contractors Association, and United Association/International Training Fund.

To find Sportsman Channel in your area click here.

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Sportsman Channel: Launched in 2003, Sportsman Channel/Sportsman HD is a television and digital media company fully devoted to honoring a lifestyle that is celebrated by millions of Americans. A division of Outdoor Sportsman Group, Sportsman Channel delivers entertaining and informative programming that showcases outdoor adventure, hunting and fishing, and illustrates it through unique and authentic storytelling. Sportsman Channel embraces the attitude of “Red, Wild & Blue America” – where the American Spirit and Great Outdoors are celebrated in equal measure. Sportsman Channel reaches more than 36 million U.S. television households. Stay connected to Sportsman Channel online at thesportsmanchannel.com, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

USA appoints Scott Vance executive director

August 9, 2016 in General, Press Release

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has appointed Scott Vance as its new executive director. Vance will begin his new role Sept. 1.

Scott Vance

Scott Vance

Vance currently serves as the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) vice president for hunting heritage and executive director for hunting heritage centers. In his nearly 17 years at NWTF, Vance piloted many successful endeavors, including leading a multi-national, multi-disciplinary team of wildlife and conservation professionals to restore the Gould’s wild turkey to southern Arizona.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is doing outstanding things for communities, wildlife and our conservation legacy,” said Vance. “It is with tremendous excitement and gratitude that I accept this auspicious role. The opportunities that lie ahead for us are enormous, and the ability to serve the USA as we conserve our nation’s treasured resources is deeply humbling and incredibly exhilarating. I look forward to helping enhance the lives of union sportsmen and women and their families in ways that are fun, rewarding and impactful.”

With a background rich in wildlife conservation and biology plus his proven track record of successful, creative problem solving and nearly two decades of experience in the non-profit sector, Vance said he sees a wealth of potential in the USA and is eager to lead the 9-year-old non-profit into its next decade.

“We are at a critical crossroads in our country, and ensuring a strong conservation future depends on skilled, knowledgeable, dedicated people to make it happen,” said Vance. “I couldn’t be more confident that the men and women of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance are those kind of people.”

Vance is a hunter and angler who spends time outdoors with his family and his champion bird dog, Hydro. For him, the USA’s mission of conservation and preserving America’s outdoor heritage goes beyond work – it’s a part of his everyday life.

“Scott Vance has all the credentials to lead the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, but it’s his genuine passion for the outdoors and conservation that set him apart as the clear choice,” said AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, who serves as the USA’s chairman of the board. “He not only believes in our organizational values, but he lives them every day. I know that Scott has the vision and experience to propel the USA to new heights.”

Bowfishing For Fast-Action Fun

August 8, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Bob McNally

Bowfishing is an exciting, easy-to-do sport that’s fun, and it also practical—keeping a bowhunter active with his equipment during spring and summer.

Michael Evans (right) is a tournament bowfisherman who also guides clients, specializing in night fishing trips that produce endless shot opportunities.

Michael Evans (right) is a tournament bowfisherman who also guides clients, specializing in night fishing trips that produce endless shot opportunities.

And this isn’t “shooting fish in a barrel” either. Hitting a moving fish 3 feet deep with an arrow takes plenty of skill.

Laws vary from state to state, but bowfishing is legal almost everywhere. However, be sure to check local regulations to learn what species of fish are lawful for bow harvest, and what seasons of the year they may be taken. Most states require bowfishermen to have a fishing license, for example.

“Rough fish” such as gar, carp, buffalo, catfish, suckers and tilapia are typical freshwater bowfishing targets. A multitude of marine fish may be shot with bows, too, including such abundant targets as stingrays, which are excellent table fare.

In spring, most freshwater “rough” fish species can be found without much difficulty in shoreline spawning areas, especially below dams, in creeks and quiet back-bays off lakes.

All gar are classed as rough fish. They are among the most popular targets of bowfishermen, especially in the summer when gar are found daylight and dark cruising or loafing in shallow water.

All gar are classed as rough fish. They are among the most popular targets of bowfishermen, especially in the summer when gar are found daylight and dark cruising or loafing in shallow water.

Carp are the traditional target of bowfishermen everywhere. The bottom feeders are big (10- to 20-pounders common), and in most areas they’re considered undesirable because they displace game species like bass and trout. In addition, carp can be found in huge numbers in lakes and rivers that offer poor or marginal sportfishing.

A pond or river where bass fishing is poor can offer great carp bowfishing. Thus, bowfishing for carp can be superb in large urban areas— lakes, ponds and rivers where few sportsmen consider casting a lure. And bowmen who shoot carp are doing sport anglers a favor by removing the species from waters where fisheries departments are trying to increase bass and other gamefish populations.

Carp spawn in spring, usually in large, muddy bays during bright warm days. In a lake loaded with carp, a quick boat tour of shoreline shallows should reveal prime areas where carp are spawning. Normally the water is muddy from carp grubbing on shallow bottom. Also, carp frequently are seen rolling at the surface or pushing wakes in shallows.

Big carp weighing over 10 pounds can be spooky, so archers who wade or quietly walk shorelines at times can be more successful than bowmen in boats. Working the shallowest waters also is necessary because actively spawning carp can jam in water so skinny their backs break the surface.

Tailraces below dams are great places for spring bowfishing because rough fish mass there in their up-stream migrations for spawning. Often the very best bowfishing in tailraces occurs weeks before the action peaks in lakes since river fish begin their migrations upstream before they actively begin spawning.

Bowfishing for tilapia is popular for many Floridians. These non-native, exotic fish are great table fare.

Bowfishing for tilapia is popular for many Floridians. These non-native, exotic fish are great table fare.

In Florida one of the most popular bowfishing targets is the non-native blue tilapia, often erroneously called Nile Perch. This 2- to 4-pound fish is bream shaped and makes spring nests in bass spawning areas that look like bomb craters. Tilapia are classed as an “exotic” by the state fisheries department because the fish were accidentally introduced into the state. Blue tilapia eat weeds and insects, so they’re rarely caught by anglers. Further, they are believed to displace spawning bass, so the state and most anglers want them out.

In many lakes throughout America, gar are top targets for archers. In some areas bowfishing tournaments with big dollar purses are held for gar and other species. While spring bowfishing for gar can be good, summer action is best.

Enthusiastic archers build and use special boats designed specifically for bowfishing. They have large, high decks— both fore and aft— and some have powerful lights used for night bowfishing.

Night bowfishing has become so popular in some areas that full-time guides such as Michael Evans, of Sparta, Ga., (www.letshunt.net) specialize in night bowfishing. He provides all equipment for $75 per hour for up to three persons. Some nights from his specially outfitted boat his archers get more than 1,000 shots with their bows, collecting barrels full of suckers, carp and other rough fish. The largest carp taken off his boat is an 82-pounder, and they’ve shot buffalo to 68 pounds.

Gar are great bow targets because in summer they frequently “sun” or cruise near the surface, making them vulnerable to archers. Naturally, the nearer the surface the fish the easier it is to hit with an arrow.

Finally, rough fish taken with a bow and arrow are good to eat, so don’t waste it. Catfish and tilapia delicious, and even gar, buffalo and carp are table fare when cleaned and iced promptly after shooting. Deep frying, pan frying, broiling or smoking can make even rough fish taste like a gourmet delicacy.

Aim Low At Underwater Targets

Aiming lower than a fish appears is necessary when bowfishing.

Aiming lower than a fish appears is necessary when bowfishing.

Refraction is the bane of bowfishermen. This is the way water “bends” light waves, and it makes a fish appear where it is not. And the deeper a fish holds in the water column, the more refraction comes into play.

What this means is that an archer must aim well below where he sees a fish in order to hit it with his arrow. In the case of a fish down four or five feet, an arrow must be aimed two feet or more below the fish to strike it.

Refraction of light waves makes a fish appear higher in the water column than it actually is. And that makes successful bowfishing all the more difficult, and rewarding when archers succeed.

 

Salty Side Of Bowfishing

There are tremendous opportunities for saltwater bowfishing throughout America’s coastal regions. Sharks and stingrays are standard targets for bowmen, but flounder and mullet also offer excellent sport.

Instead of gigging flounder at night on shallow flats in spring and summer, bowfishermen can use archery gear.

In many coastal tidewater areas during summer, mullet can be found in huge schools cruising just below the surface, and frequently far up tidal rivers long miles from the coast.

Sharks may be the ultimate bowfishing targets because they’re big, extremely tough, and abundant during summer. Almost all coastal areas have sharks, which can be chummed close to archers for exciting action sure to stir a shooter’s nerves.

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.

 

 

Going Hog Wild

July 23, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by Bob McNally

All wild game is tough, but feral hogs bring new meaning to the word. Few animals are as resilient to hunters and their gear than this domestic animal that has taken to the woods and multiplied to astounding numbers throughout much of America.

State and federal agencies are declaring war on feral pigs in the United States, allocating millions of dollars to stop the spread of this non-native critter. That means for sportsmen there are liberal opportunities for exciting hunts that can result in delicious meat.

State and federal agencies are declaring war on feral pigs in the United States, allocating millions of dollars to stop the spread of this non-native critter. That means for sportsmen there are liberal opportunities for exciting hunts that can result in delicious meat.

Indigenous only to Europe, Asia and Africa, domestic pigs were brought to our shores by early explorers and settlers. Later, sportsmen wanting to hunt European and Eurasian wild boar as they did in their European homelands, brought pure-stain wild boar to America.

According to wildlife researchers, the earliest documented importing of domestic pigs to America was by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1539. De Soto traveled with hogs during his exploration of Florida to feed his men. During those travels many hogs escaped, which established feral pig populations wherever de Soto roamed.

Today, Florida has wild swine in all of its counties. Wild and bountiful pig populations also have been established in similar ways in an increasing number of states.

In some regions, primarily the Smoky Mountains of the Southeast, people still insist that Russian or “Prussian” strain boar run wild. In 1912, a game preserve was established in Graham County, North Carolina. Fourteen Eurasian wild boars were brought to the preserve, called Hooper Bald, and from the beginning they rooted their way out of the enclosure and freely roamed the area. They mated with domestic pigs, and some of those crossbred wild swine inhabit the Smokies today.

From a pragmatic hunter’s perspective, many sportsmen don’t care whether the pigs they hunt are Russian, Prussian or plain ol’ piney woods rooters. Nearly every wild hog chased is an elusive, cunning and tough animal to harvest. Wild hogs would just as soon charge and fight, as dodge and run. And rare is the hunter who has ever seen a pureblood European wild boar in America.

Feral or wild hogs can be hunted year-round on private land in most states where they are found. During the general big game hunting seasons, much public land is open to hog hunting in these and other states, too.

Feral hogs are extremely destructive from their constant rooting, and they propagate fast so are disliked by many landowners. Moreover, they displace native game like deer and turkeys. State agencies—wildlife and agriculture—despise wild hogs. However, sportsmen have awakened to the fact that hogs are tough, elusive wild animals that are every bit as much fun to hunt as other game. Hogs also can be hunted at times of year when other targets are unavailable. Many sportsmen target hunting hogs from late winter through spring. From January through May it’s cool where hogs live. Briers and brambles are less of a problem, insects are scarce and snakes are not especially active.

While a hog’s vision is poor, its hearing and sense of smell are as keen as a whitetail deer’s. Mature hogs know that humans present danger, and will spook from man scent at distances to 300 yards.

Another aspect of the wild hog that excites hunters is that they are semi-dangerous. Although a black bear is better equipped to hurt you, a 300-pound hog poses plenty of adrenaline-pumping danger, especially for hunters who stalk pigs on the ground, taking shots at close-quarters.

Deer hunters know to look for buck rubs when scouting. Hogs also make rubs, leaving mud on trees, which is a sure sign wild hogs are using an area.

Deer hunters know to look for buck rubs when scouting. Hogs also make rubs, leaving mud on trees, which is a sure sign wild hogs are using an area.

In places where there are good numbers of hogs, stalking is great fun and plenty sporty. Working into the wind around planted field edges and creek bottoms often results in shots at pigs. Stalking like this also leads hunters to places where they can erect tree stands. Trails with abundant tracks, rooting, and places where hogs rub their bodies against trees can be prime locations to hang tree stands.

Hunting hogs with dogs may not be every hunter’s idea of a calm and relaxing time in the woods, but if a hunt that’s plenty wild, strenuous and dangerous is your cup of tea, hog-dogging is wild as it gets. Often dogs bay a hog in impenetrable cover, and a hunter must work his way into the hog-dog fracas for a clean, killing shot. Normally the hog is madder than a coiled rattlesnake, and a wise sportsman always has his escape route planned as he moves his way to a position for a proper shot.

Though I’ve never had to use it, I often carry a handgun when stalking hogs with a bow or when hunting them with dogs. I’ve been charged too many times by wounded wild boar not to have a great deal of respect for them. They are incredibly fast, extremely strong, agile, and I’ve seen what their tusks can do to a dog. It’s not pretty.

Hogs are a unique game animal. They can be pursued year-round in certain states. They’re abundant. Landowners often want them taken off their property. They’re not difficult to find or hunt, yet are challenging targets that are semi-dangerous. And they’re great on a dinner plate.

Who could ask for more?

A Place To Hunt Hogs

Hog numbers are growing, and hogs are expanding their ranges in states across the county. Finding a hunting area that offers a good chance at a wild hog encounter is becoming easier—much to the chagrin of wildlife managers.

Wildlife mangers want to get rid of wild hogs, so bag limits and hunting seasons rarely exist. The wide-open hunting opportunity lends itself to more challenging methods, like archery and crossbow hunting.

Wildlife mangers want to get rid of wild hogs, so bag limits and hunting seasons rarely exist. The wide-open hunting opportunity lends itself to more challenging methods, like archery and crossbow hunting.

Below are states with good hog-hunting possibilities, along with website information for the state’s wildlife agency. Always check local regulations before hunting.

Alabama (www.outdooralabama) has feral hogs in almost, if not every, county of the state. Best bets are in many of Alabama’s large swamp bottoms, especially in the southwestern part of the state in Baldwin, Clarke, Monroe and Washington counties.

Arizona (www.azgfd.com) has feral hogs on the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge along the Colorado River below Hoover Dam in Mohave County, and there’s a growing population, known as the “Dugas Herd,” that ranges from north of Phoenix south to Camp Verde.

Arkansas (www.agfc.com) has feral hogs in many parts of the state, particularly the Ozark National Forest and in the southern half of the state. On Arkansas public land, feral hogs may be killed only during open firearms bear, deer or elk seasons from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset with methods legal for that season or zone. On private land, it’s open season year-round.

California (https://www.wildlife.ca.gov) has wild pigs in at least 33 of the state’s 58 counties. Some of the best hunting is found in Fresno, Mendocino, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis, Obispo, Santa Barbara and Sonoma counties. A hunting license and wild pig tag are required to take wild pigs in California. Wild hog hunting is open all year, and there is no daily bag or possession limit for wild pigs. Wild pigs can be hunted on private land with the permission of the owner, and on public land such as national forests, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, and some state wildlife areas. Wild pigs are much harder to find on public land, though access is usually free. Harvest data says about 93 percent of the wild pigs killed in California are taken on private land.

Florida (http://myfwc.com) is about overrun by feral pigs. There are wild hogs in good numbers in most any of the state’s 67 counties. On public land, hogs can be taken during most hunting seasons, except turkey. According to biologists, Florida’s best WMAs for hog hunting include: Northwest Region – Aucilla, Blackwater Hutton Unit, portions of Blackwater, Apalachicola Bradwell Unit, Choctawhatchee River and portions of Joe Budd. North Central Region – Andrews, Flying Eagle, Big Bend Hickory Mound Unit, Big Bend Snipe Island Unit, Big Bend Tide Swamp Unit, Mallory Swamp, Steinhatchee Springs and Devil’s Hammock. Northeast Region – Tosohatchee is the best hog area where hunters get to use dogs. In terms of sheer numbers of hogs taken, Three Lakes typically is tops, followed by Tosohatchee, Triple N Ranch, Guana River, Bull Creek, Three Lakes Prairie Lakes Unit and Fort Drum. Southwest Region – Green Swamp has the largest harvest each year, followed by Green Swamp West, Babcock/Webb, Chassahowitzka and Myakka State Forest. South Region – Dinner Island Ranch, J.W. Corbett, Dupuis, Okaloacoochee Slough, Allapattah Flats and Hungryland.

Georgia (www.georgiawildlife.com) swamps in the coastal plain and southern half of the state may have the most wild pigs, but hogs can be found from the north Georgia mountains to the coastal marshes and the piney woods and bottomlands in between. Fort Stewart in southeast Georgia is a sprawling military installation with lots of public hunting opportunity, and state WMAs for hogs include Ocmulgee, Flint River, Oaky Woods, and Riverbend.

Hawaii (http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/recreation/hunting) has excellent wild hog hunting on five of the six islands, especially on the islands of Hawaii and Kauai. Only Lanai doesn’t offer hunting for wild hogs. If you’re not from Hawaii, the state has some restrictive firearms registration requirements for visitors. Check the regulations.

Kentucky (http://fw.ky.gov/Wildlife/Pages/Wild-Pigs-in-Kentucky.aspx) wild hog hunting is best McCreary, Wayne and Whitley counties, but feral pigs are found in at least localized populations in every Commonwealth county. Hunting is allowed year-round.

Louisiana (http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov) has feral hogs throughout the state, and like in most areas they prefer bottomlands and swamps, which there is plenty of in Louisiana. The highest concentrations are in northwest Louisiana, in the Mississippi Delta, and in coastal areas. The central part of the state generally has lower numbers of wild hogs.

Mississippi (www.mdwfp.com) best pig hunting is found along the bottomlands of the Mississippi River and in the southeastern corner of the state. On private lands, baiting is legal.

New Mexico (http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us) has a rapidly growing population of feral hogs, on the east side of the state along the Texas border. There are high concentrations of wild hogs around the Pecos and Canadian rivers, and in the San Luis, Animas and Peloncillo mountain ranges of Hidalgo County. No hunting license is needed, and there is no season or limits, although night-hunting is not allowed in New Mexico.

North Carolina (http://www.ncwildlife.org) wild hogs are scattertened through much of the state in localized populations, but the highest numbers and biggest area of range is in the western national forests and on private lands in the mountains. There are numerous pay-to-hunt operations in the Carolina mountains. In eastern North Carolina, local hog populations center around river systems and swamps.

Oklahoma (www.wildlifedepartment.com) has a feral hogs in the southeastern part of the state and in the Arbuckle Mountains. Numerous pay-to-hunt ranches now offer wild hog hunting in Oklahoma.

South Carolina (www.dnr.sc.gov/hunting.html) has had wild hog populations since the 1500s when Spanish explorers released pigs. The Savannah River drainage and the coastal Low Country harbor the state’s largest wild hog populations, but they are wild pigs were documented in all 46 counties. Wild hogs are not protected in South Carolina and there is no closed season or bag limit on private land.

Tennessee (https://www.tn.gov/twra) has good populations of wild boar in the southeastern mountains and along the Mississippi River bottoms in the west. Blount, Fentress, Monroe, Pickett, Polk and Scott counties are among the top bets for pigs. On public land in Region 3, wild hogs may be taken incidental to deer hunts on the following WMAs: Alpine Mountain, Bridgestone-Firestone Centennial Wilderness, Catoosa, Skinner Mountain, Standing Stone State Forest, and Tellico Lake. Wild hogs may be taken on any deer or bear hunt on South Cherokee WMA. In Region IV, wild hogs may be taken on any big game hunt on the North Cherokee; any deer or turkey hunt on Kyker Bottoms Refuge; and on any hunt, small game or big game, on the Foothills WMA and the entire North Cumberland WMA. On the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, wild hogs may be taken with a special permit during any deer hunts and by small game hunters after the deer season.

Texas (http://tpwd.texas.gov) has plenty of pigs throughout the state. The western and panhandle areas traditionally had fewer numbers, but populations in those areas are now expanding, too. Guided and paid-access hunts are plentiful in Texas.

 

 

Wild Hog Recipe: Corned Wild Boar Shoulder With South Carolina Grits & Golden Raisin Vinaigrette

Chef Nick Melvin of Venkman’s, Atlanta

Chef Nick Melvin of Venkman’s, Atlanta

Chef Nick Melvin, Venkman’s (venkmans.com), Atlanta

Corned Boar Shoulder

3/4 cup Kosher Salt

3/4 cup Brown Sugar

4 tsp Pink Salt

10 Cloves Garlic, smashed

5 TBSP Pickling Spice

1 Carrots, peeled and rough chopped

2 Yellow Onions, rough chopped

2 Celery Stalks, rough chopped

5 Pounds Wild Boar Shoulder

1 gallon water

  • Heat salt, brown sugar, pink salt, garlic, pickling spice, carrots, onions, celery, and water. Once at a boil, turn off heat and let cool.
  • Once brine is cool, add boar shoulder and let sit for 48 hours.
  • After 48 hours, place boar on a rack on a sheet tray and place in a pre-heated oven at 250 degrees and bake until an internal temp of 190. Approximately 2 hours.

Grits

1 Cup Yellow Anson Mill Grits

8 Cups Chicken/Pork Stock

1 Cup Cream Cheese

1 Stick of Butter

Salt and Pepper

  • Bring stock to a soft boil, and whisk in grits.
  • Continuously stir grits, until they are tender and become creamy, approximately 45 minutes.
  • Add Cream Cheese, Butter and Salt and Pepper

Golden Raisin Vinaigrette

2 Cups Golden Raisins

2 Cups Warm Water

4 Cups Red Wine Vinegar

1 1/2 Cup Sugar

1 1/2 Red Onion Minced

2 TBSP Toasted Fennel Seed

2 Cups Seedless Red Grapes, Halved

1/2 Cup Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

  • In a bowl, cover the raisins with the warm water and let stand until plumped, about 10 minutes. Drain.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, red onion and fennel seeds.
  • Simmer over moderate heat until thickened and reduced by 1/2 about 25 minutes
  • Stir the raisins, olive oil, and grapes into the syrup.  Season lightly with salt

Plating

To plate, place grits on the base of your plate and top with sliced boar, and finish with a golden raisin vinaigrette.

 

Wild Boar Recipe: Wild Boar Bacon

Chef Anthony Gray, Bacon Bros. Public House, Greenville, S.C.

Chef Anthony Gray, Bacon Bros. Public House, Greenville, S.C.

Chef Anthony Gray, Bacon Bros. Public House, Greenville, S.C.

This is a wet, brined bacon with stronger spices than regular bacon, and it helps to curve the strong flavors of wild game. Need 7 lbs. or at least 2 slabs of wild boar belly.

For the Brine

5 quarts water

1 cup kosher salt

1 cup of granulated sugar

1 2/3 teaspoon curing salt (nitrates are not allowed in bacon by the USDA). This can be omitted. The recommended amount of nitrites in bacon is 156 parts per million, this recipe contains 120 ppm.

Spices

2 Tablespoons white pepper

1 Tablespoon garlic, powdered

1 Tablespoon Mace

1 Tablespoon Coriander ground

1 Tablespoon dry rosemary

1 teaspoon nutmeg

 

To Coat After Brining

1 cup of cracked black pepper

1 cup of coriander

1 cup of maple syrup

  • In a blender or spice grinder, grind the spices and curing salt to a fine powder, and add the mixture to the water and incorporate fully. Place the belly in a food grade container, and add the brine, making sure to cover completely. Store the container in a refrigerated space of a minimum of 40 F for at least two days, flipping the bellies at least once to ensure even curing.
  • Remove the belly from the brine, and rinse under cold water. Allow the belly to dry on a resting rack with a pan underneath for 24 hours, keeping it refrigerated.
  • Prepare the black pepper and coriander, cracking in a spice grinder. Rub the bottom side of the bellies with enough maple syrup to slightly coat, and apply the black pepper and coriander to that side.

Prepare a smoker set at 200 F, and put on the bellies. They should cook low and slow until the internal temperature reaches 185 F. After cooking, cool completely, and then slice and use like traditional bacon.

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.

Survive A Night In The Wild

July 14, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst

To survive a night or more in the wild, prepare for the worst, no matter what the weather is or how far you plan to hunt or hike from your truck. It’s better to be prepared and not need something than to not be prepared and need it.

To survive a night or more in the wild, prepare for the worst, no matter what the weather is or how far you plan to hunt or hike from your truck. It’s better to be prepared and not need something than to not be prepared and need it.

Mike Cramer knew better, but the sight of a big bull elk can make even the most sensible man throw common sense aside. So with two hours left in the day, Cramer worked his way down the steep Colorado mountain, weaved his way through the thick timber and crossed a boggy meadow as he closed the distance on the bull. He never made it.

“It got dark, so I headed back up the way I came, but apparently I kept veering off to the right,” recalls Cramer, a retired plumber from Houston and a member of UA Plumbers Local 68. “I ended up walking all night. I figured I’d find camp sooner or later. I walked the entire next day, too.”

Three days later, exhausted, disoriented and slipping in and out of hallucinations, the USA member started screaming for help in a last, desperate attempt to make it home to see his wife, who was pregnant with their first child

“I thought I heard someone yelling back at me, but I was hearing that before, so I thought I was just hallucinating again,” he recalls

Turns out, they weren’t just voices, they were his friends who were heading out of the Colorado wilderness on foot to get help. Cramer was less than a thousand yards from camp.

Mistake Number One

Before heading out for his hunt, Cramer was smart enough to grab an emergency blanket, often called a space blanket, and he had a lighter with him. However, he had nothing else he needed to survive in the wild.

Erik Kulick, founder of True North Wilderness Survival School, knows more than most about surviving outdoors.

“The biggest mistake people make is not being prepared,” Kulick said. “They don’t expect to get lost because they aren’t going far from camp, or they know the land or something like that, so they don’t have the necessary equipment when they do get lost,” says.

What’s equally important, adds Kulick, is simply admitting you are lost and accepting that you will likely not make it home when you thought you would. No one likes to spend the night on cold, hard ground, but there comes a point when it’s critical to acknowledge you won’t make it back to camp safely. That point varies. Weather, terrain and your physical condition can dictate when it’s time to stop walking and start preparing.

Kulick says it can take two hours or more to fully prepare properly for a night in the woods.

“The psychology is critical. People tend to panic and behave irrationally when they realize they are lost and it’s getting dark. Nothing is more important than keeping a level head, so you can make rational decisions,” he adds.

First Things First

First, build a shelter. Without one, you’ll risk getting wet and losing precious body heat from wind and cold. Books and TV shows often tell us to build one from branches and leaves, but there’s a simpler way.

“I always carry a 10-by-10 sheet of plastic. It’s light, it’s cheap and I can use it in a number of ways to make different shelters,” Kulick says.

Where you build a shelter is less important than simply building one, but given a choice, find a place that is protected from the wind and as protected from rain and snow as possible.

Next, build a fire. Cramer had a lighter with him and the woods were dry, so he was able to build a fire quickly. He might not have succeeded if the woods were damp, though. That’s why Kulick says it’s critical to have some sort of highly flammable tinder. He prefers cotton balls soaked in Vaseline. They burn hot, and they flame long enough to catch even damp sticks on fire.

“You can start a fire in a downpour if you have the right tools. It won’t be easy, but there is almost always enough dry fuel out there to get a good fire going,” he says.

Forget Food?

It never hurts to know your wild, edible foods, but nothing is more important than having adequate shelter and the ability to build a fire under the worst circumstances.

It never hurts to know your wild, edible foods, but nothing is more important than having adequate shelter and the ability to build a fire under the worst circumstances.

Should you learn how to build snares or identify edible plants? That’s unnecessary, says Kulick. Most people can go a couple of weeks without food, but few people lost in the wilderness are lost for more than a few days. You’ll lose some weight, and you’ll feel like you might starve to death, but eventually you’ll forget about food.

“The U.S. military did a study and found most people burn up more calories trying to gather food than they actually gain from the food itself,” he says. “Focus more on staying safe and warm and dry.”

Once you survive your night in the woods, you’ll have a much better chance of making it out safe and sound the next day. 

Always Take…
Whether you strike out into the backcountry for a few hours or a few days, there are things you must always carry with you. It could mean the difference between life and death.

Survival expert Erik Kulick recommends a 10-by-10 sheet of 2 mil plastic for a shelter, a wind-proof lighter, and a ferrocerium rod—a man-made metallic material that produces sparks.

Also carry reliable and effective tinder, 50 feet of parachute cord, a fixed-blade knife, a flashlight, a signaling device and a water purification tool. A metal cup can be used to heat water, which can raise your core temperature.

If you run out of water in your canteen, you’ll need to drink.

“I like survival straws, but you’ll have to get on your knees to drink, so you may get wet,” Kulick says. “Iodine tablets work, but you’ll need a bottle or something to hold water.”

It’s also good to have a map and compass, but only if you know how to use them.

A GPS can be an invaluable tool, but you must know how to use it. Make sure you have fresh batteries, and always carry a paper map… just in case.

A GPS can be an invaluable tool, but you must know how to use it. Make sure you have fresh batteries, and always carry a paper map… just in case.

Get Schooled

The best way to learn basic survival skills isn’t from a reality TV show, but from a skilled, experienced instructor. There are numerous wilderness survival training schools throughout the country and most offer high-quality instruction on basic and advanced skills.

Simply going through one course isn’t enough, though.

“You have to practice what you’ve been taught. The more you do it, the better you get, and the faster you can do it when you really need it,” says Eric Kulick. “Go out in the woods when it’s raining, and practice starting a fire. It may save your life one day.”

Survival School Contacts

True North Wilderness Survival: www.exploretruenorth.com

Nantahala Outdoor Center: www.noc.com

Wilderness Awareness School: www.wildernessawareness.org

Boulder Outdoor Survival School: www.boss-inc.com

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.

Trouble Shoot Boat And Motor Problems

June 23, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Bob McNally

There’s no worse feeling than getting the trailer backed down the ramp, turning the key, and realizing the long-awaited trip to the lake just hit a major speed bump.

All anglers owning boats encounter some difficulties at various times. Know how to deal with some of the common headaches to get back on the water and fishing quickly.

All anglers owning boats encounter some difficulties at various times. Know how to deal with some of the common headaches to get back on the water and fishing quickly.

Own a boat long enough, and you can’t avoid at least some mechanical pitfalls from time to time. Most problems are simple headaches with which an angler or boater can easily and quickly fix.

Other boat and motor problems are more involved, and they can be expensive to remedy. Leave those major issues to a good mechanic, but any boat owner should know how to deal with the minor issues that commonly arise.

Here are some quick fixes for ordinary boating hassles, allowing anglers to get back to fishing fast.

Motor Won’t Start

This is a common problem, with many potential causes.

If a battery is dead at the start of a day and you have a battery-selector switch, make sure it’s turned to the “on” or “both” position. Some boats have such a switch for multiple batteries. This switch may have been set to off by a mechanic or someone who has borrowed your boat… someone who knows that boat lights or an aerator accidentally left on can drain hot batteries.

Another culprit for nothing happening with the motor when you turn the key is a disconnected kill switch. This happens often with fishermen who are running from place to place when a kill switch lanyard is connected to a belt loop or life jacket. Make sure the kill switch is properly connected.

Occasionally, an ignition switch becomes loose, and this can be quickly remedied by tightening the screws that hold it in place so the switch has proper electrical contact.

Be sure a motor throttle is in neutral before starting the engine.

Be sure a motor throttle is in neutral before trying to starting the engine.

Also, be sure the motor throttle is in neutral. Sometimes a throttle is bumped from the neutral position while leaving and entering a boat. Wiggle the throttle to get it into neutral, and then try cranking.

Finally, never overlook the possibility that the fuel tank is out of gas. If the engine is trying to fire, which means it’s getting juice from the battery, don’t assume you have gas. Your fuel gauge may not be working properly. Check for gas.

Dying Boat Battery

If a boat motor grinds when trying to start, but the battery quickly withers and dies, at least you know the battery connections are making some contact. Still, check the wire leads from the motor to the battery and tighten them, since running bumpy water often can loosen battery nuts and wire connections.

If the nuts are corroded, scrape off the gunk with a knife or screwdriver—a wire brush is best. Then wipe the connections clean. Check the connections again for tightness. If possible, apply some silicone dielectric grease for battery terminal connection preservation, or spray on oil like WD40 to battery terminals to improve conductivity.

Dead Cranking Battery

If your cranking battery dies, trade it with another on-board battery that may be used for an electric motor or other electronics.

A set of battery jumper cables is valuable boating equipment, and they may be used for jumping a dead cranking battery with a charged one, or getting a jump from another boat if you can summon on-the-water help. A wise angler once said the two most essential pieces of emergency equipment that are too often left out of a boat are toilet paper and jumper cables.

Another possible solution to a dead battery may be a burned-out fuse. Know where your boat fuses are located, and be sure to have replacements of correct size and type. Be sure to have a fuse puller, too.

Fouled Prop

Fishing line commonly wraps around a boat motor propeller, whether it’s your big outboard or the electric trolling motor.

Monofilament line is bad enough, and braided line is even worse. Line can work deeply into a propeller seal, and it can ruin a motor. Get it out immediately and thoroughly before trying to run the motor propellor.

Weeds can also foul a prop. Most weeds, even tough-stem bulrushes and pads, normally can be removed by hand after a motor has been hauled up to expose the prop. In the extreme cases, and certainly with fishing line, a knife or scissors will be needed to free a prop from obstructions.

Sometimes simply pulling on an end of a fishing line removes it from a propeller. The motor may need to be put in neutral for a prop to spin freely as line is pulled.

With a big outboard, occasionally fouled weeds or line are well out of reach of anglers in a boat. If you can reach shore by electric motor or paddle, work the boat into the shallows, so you can get out and remove fouled material.

In deep, open water, it may be easiest to free a big motor propeller from in the water. While wearing a life preserver, ease overboard and have a look at the prop. Sometimes using a diver’s face mask, snorkel and fins make prop cleaning simple.

If a battery is dead at the start of a day and you have a “battery selector switch,” make sure it’s turned to the “on” or “both” position. Some boats have such a switch for batteries, and it may have been set to “off” by mechanics and others who know that boat lights or an aerator accidentally left on can drain a “hot” battery.

If a battery is dead at the start of a day and you have a battery selector switch, make sure it’s turned to the “on” or “both” position.

Engine Overheats

Never ignore an engine that is overheating. A boater should learn to instinctively glance at the temperature gauge when running the big motor. If you let the motor overheat, it can ruin an otherwise perfectly good engine.

Check the water intake on the motor near the propeller. Is it blocked? Usually it is simply weeds, lily pad stems or a plastic bag blocking water flow, which is needed by a motor to cool it.

Occasionally, especially on smaller outboards, the water outflow nozzle at the bottom-rear of the cowling can become plugged, and it must be opened for clean water flow. This and the intake ports can be cleared of debris with heavy single-gauge wire, something like No. 14 electrical wire,or even with heavy monofilament line that can be worked into the outflow nozzle and intake port.

Steering Locked

Most modern boats with steering wheels are hydraulic, and if the wheel won’t turn, or the motor won’t react to the wheel, it’s likely low on fluid. Add some fluid, and check for a leak, which may be short-term repaired with duct tape and chewing gum—no kidding.

Some steering systems require grease, and there are nipple fittings on the motor that should be greased periodically.

Everyone who heads out on the water should have the know-how to fix simple, common boat and motor problems.

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.

 

NFLPA, USA Team Up to Put the ‘Sport’ in ‘Sportsmen’

June 22, 2016 in General, Press Release

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) officially signed on to support the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) as its sixteenth governing affiliate. The decision was a result of years of dialogue discussing how the two organizations could work together to enhance the value for their members, and the partnership was solidified with the recent appointment of NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith to the USA Board of Directors.

Many NFL players and former players (Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson, Brian Urlacher, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri and Joe Thomas, to name a few) are avid outdoorsmen who enjoy hunting, fishing and spending time in nature with friends and family. The NFLPA and its members also place great importance on volunteerism and community service, according to Nolan Harrison, former NFL player and current Senior Director of Former Player Services. With the USA’s mission to unite the union community for conservation and its unique environment of fellowship in the outdoors, the partnership is a natural pairing.

“We are always looking for ways to connect with our larger family of organized labor,” said Smith. “Because so many of our players participate in hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities during the off season, the USA became a natural way for us to get our players more involved in this union and with other union members outside the football world. With so many different unions with different goals, I believe we always have to focus on the things we have in common. When I look to the USA, I look to it as one of the ways we can focus on the core things that bind us together.”

Dave_Butts_team

Former Redskin and now USA member Dave Butz (center) took the high over all individual award at the USA’s 4th Semi-Annual IAMAW St. Louis Area Shoot.

With some NFLPA members already in the USA’s ranks, the opportunity to extend the involvement to all current and former players will go a long way in building excitement and participation in events and volunteer projects, plus it will certainly – to borrow a line from AFL-CIO President and USA Chairman Richard L. Trumka – add more muscle to the conservation movement.

“We are ecstatic to have the NFL Players Association join the USA as its newest governing affiliate,” said USA Deputy Director Mike d’Oliveira. “They represent so many members who share a deep passion for our outdoor heritage, and we welcome them and their families with open arms to our growing team of hardworking sportsmen and women.”

With the NFLPA’s charter-level support, active and former NFL players can join the USA at no cost and are encouraged to participate in the organization’s fundraising dinners, sporting clays shoots and volunteer conservation projects that improve public access to the outdoors, enhance wildlife habitats, restore America’s parks and mentor youth to be responsible stewards of our wild spaces.

Pull the Trigger on Your 2017 USA Calendar Order

June 16, 2016 in Articles, General

2017 USA Calendar inside reader spreads.inddBelieve us—we get it.  Everywhere you turn, somebody is looking for a donation.  When they are all good causes, how do you choose?  We made it extremely easy for you.

Six Simple Reasons to Donate to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance:

  1. You value hunting, fishing, shooting and America’s great outdoors, and your donation will support the USA’s conservation mission.
  2. Partners that donate $2,000 to the USA by Sept. 1, 2016 will receive 100 of the USA’s 2017 calendars and a Remington gun.  Those calendars and the gun can be used to raise funds for worthy union causes.
  3. Partners that donate $1,000 to the USA by Sept. 1, 2016 will receive 50 of the USA’s 2017 calendars and a Carhartt jacket.  Again, they can be used as a fundraiser.
  4. Everybody needs a 2017 calendar to remember important events, appointments as well as anniversaries and birthdays (better safe than sorry, guys).
  5. The calendar is a great way to enter the USA’s 2017 52 Gun Sweepstakes for a chance to win a gun every single week of 2017.
  6. Those guns add up to more than $30,000 in value.

Donating to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to support conservation is more like making an investment when you can use calendars as a fundraising tool for your own worthy cause, but don’t just take our word for it.

Brad Dutcher

Brad Dutcher

“The USA calendar program has given us the opportunity to speak with our members, not only about conservation and the outdoors, but the issue of responsible gun ownership as a whole,” said UAW Region 4 Assistant Director Brad Dutcher. “With over 2,500 calendars sold last year, we have already seen our share of lucky winners. Our local unions do an excellent job getting these calendars out to their members. Many of those locals use the proceeds for community projects as well as donations to our veteran organizations.”

Based on the request of many unions that participated in the calendar program in the past, we got an early start on the 2017 calendar to give our partners more time to promote calendars to their membership. We have the 2017 USA calendars in hand and ready to ship, so now is the time to pull the trigger and make a donation.

Click here to order your calendar today.

Face-to-Face at Union Conventions

June 15, 2016 in General

In an age when teenagers (and some adults) start and end relationships with a text message, we keep tabs on friends and acquaintances through Facebook and professionals send emails more often than they pick up the phone, there’s a lot to be said for face-to-face communication. That isn’t to deny the importance of emails, text messages and social media or how they have revolutionized communication, but they simply can’t replace meeting and talking in person.

(L-R) USA staff Craig Coffin, Heather Tazelaar and Kevin Grubbs prepare to greet union members at USA’s booth at the 2016 BCTD Conference.

(L-R) USA staff Craig Coffin, Heather Tazelaar and Kevin Grubbs prepare to greet union members at USA’s booth at the 2016 BCTD Conference.

That’s why the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance attends 15-18 union conventions each year, despite a staff of about 15 people who juggle 40-45 USA shoots and dinners annually. Attending conventions provides us with the chance to address large audiences as well as speak one-on-one with union leaders and members about the USA and cultivate relationships that lead to the formation of USA dinner committees, new shooting events and conservation projects.

Attending union conventions also helps us grow our union-dedicated outdoor community because everyone who visits the USA booth and fills out an application, enters our daily door prize or gun drawing, takes a spin on our Spin N’ Win wheel or makes a Gun-A-Week calendar donation receives a complimentary USA membership.

As valuable as union conventions are for growing membership and building relationships, attending can be a challenge when you consider event scheduling, manpower and cost of travel, lodging and booth registration. As a non-profit organization, we strive to be efficient with our budget, so we can bring the greatest value to our members and partners while keeping our conservation mission top priority.  Before attending any convention, we weigh the estimated costs with the potential benefits and consider whether or not there are opportunities to at least cover our costs through fundraisers at the booth and other methods.

Our all-time record for fundraising at a union convention was $15,775 at the 2012 UA convention, and we hope for a repeat performance this year.

How you can help:
If you’re a union leader involved in convention planning and would like the USA to attend, these are a few ways you can help us:

  • Let us know about the convention as far in advance as possible
  • Comp booth space for us in a high traffic location
  • Allow us to fundraise to help cover costs
  • Provide us with a speaking or presentation opportunity
  • Let us know if we can pre-promote our booth and activities
  • Stop by the USA booth – we’d love to talk to you
  • Encourage fellow members to stop by our booth 

    Attending a union convention this year?
    If you’re attending a union convention this year, there are many reasons to stop by the USA booth (if we have one):

  • Learn about USA events and conservation projects
  • Order your USA 2017 Gun-A-Week calendar(s)
  • Learn how the USA can connect you with union brothers and sisters outside the workplace
  • Apply to be a guest on USA’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV show
  • Earn prizes from Buck Knives, Carhartt and other USA partners on our Spin N’ Win wheel
  • Enter to win gear in our Daily Door Prize drawings
  • Enter to win guns, cash or other gear in USA’s 50/50 or gear drawings, while helping us offset the cost of attending the convention

    By all means, post on our Facebook page, chat on our forums, text us your hunting and fishing trophies—we love it all. But we really want to meet and talk to you in person.  Although we can’t make it to every convention, don’t hesitate to invite us. We’d love to see you there!

National Elk Refuge ‘Shed’ Shed Project

June 15, 2016 in Articles, Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground, Wyoming

elk_700There are few sights more awe-inspiring than thousands of elk gathered in a valley bounded by the rugged Teton Mountains carving the Wyoming sky.

Located in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the National Elk Refuge has been a winter feeding ground for the Jackson elk herd since 1912.  Though established for the elk, the refuge also serves as a home for bison, pronghorn, wolves, moose, deer, bighorn sheep as well as a variety of migratory birds and small mammals.

Maintaining the refuge habitat and managing such a large elk herd is a costly affair, but luckily, the bulls pay room and board in the form of the valuable antlers they drop, often called sheds, before leaving the refuge for their summer range.

Through a partnership that’s been in place for almost 50 years, approximately 200 youth, leaders and parents from the Jackson District Boy Scouts help the refuge staff collect the antlers each spring.  Scout leaders then sort, bundle, weigh and tag the antlers in preparation for an annual public antler auction the local troops organize the Saturday before Memorial Day weekend.

This year, the antlers tipped the scales at more than 11,000 pounds and raised approximately $175,000.  Of the money raised, 75 percent goes to the National Elk Refuge for habitat enhancement and research and 25 percent is given to the Jackson District Boy Scouts.

Where are thousands of pounds of antlers worth hundreds of thousands of dollars stored from the time they are collected until late May?  That’s a challenge the National Elk Refuge has grappled with for years. The antlers are stored in several locations, displacing refuge equipment and storage space for employees. The staff work around the antlers until the time for the auction draws near, and the storage space has reached its capacity.

“We’ve always known there was a need to get all the antlers in one secure facility, but there were so many other priorities, and money is tight,” Dippel said.

That won’t be an issue next year, thanks to a group of IBEW Local 322 volunteers led by a Local 322 organizer, Bruce Johnson.

elk_275Johnson had long been interested in organizing a USA conservation project, and after he connected with USA staff at the 2015 IBEW Membership Development Conference, the USA reached out to the Department of the Interior (DOI) to identify Wyoming conservation projects in need of manpower.  Among those projects was the construction of a 20×26 foot storage shed with electric and heat to securely store the antlers.  It was the ideal project, according to Johnson, who said most of the volunteers are avid elk hunters like him.

From the start, the project was a shining example of collaboration and community spirit.  Lower Valley Energy donated the use of a line truck for the project, and a couple of its employees volunteered their time to relocate an existing gas line where the new shed was to be built.  Before framing began, local Boy Scout Nathan Watson assisted Kevin Anderson, a scout leader and owner of Four Corners Concrete, Inc. in prepping and pouring the pad that forms the shed floor for his Eagle Scout service project.

Because IBEW Local 322 represents carpenters, painters, mechanics and other wage workers at Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park in addition to inside electricians and linemen, the 35-40 volunteers who built the shed brought a diversity of skills and equipment to the project, and NECA contractors graciously donated the material to wire the structure.

Jack Shinkle, Historic Preservation Carpenter for the National Park Service, served as the advisor for the construction while Steve LaRosa, Heavy Equipment Operator for the National Park Service, handled logistics, job assignments and safety.

In addition to benefiting the National Elk Refuge and local Boy Scout troops, the new shed “is a way to showcase that union people are sportsmen and do care about the outdoors,” said Johnson, who explained that he often uses the outdoors as a way to reach across boundaries and find common ground with non-union electricians.

“This refuge would not get along without volunteers.  We just don’t have enough staff to handle everything that is going on,” Dippel said.  “We are honored to have the presence and expertise of the union volunteers.  It’s just invaluable.”

A Place to Hunt Hogs

June 14, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

Archery HogHog numbers are growing, and hogs are expanding their ranges in states across the county. Finding a hunting area that offers a good chance at a wild hog encounter is becoming easier—much to the chagrin of wildlife managers. Below are states with good hog-hunting possibilities, along with website information for the state’s wildlife agency. Always check local regulations before hunting.

Alabama (www.outdooralabama.com) has feral hogs in almost every county. Best bets are in large swamp bottoms, especially in Baldwin, Clarke, Monroe and Washington counties.

Arizona (www.azgfd.com) has hogs on the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge along the Colorado River below Hoover Dam and a growing population, known as the “Dugas Herd,” that ranges from north of Phoenix south to Camp Verde.

Arkansas (www.agfc.com) has hogs in many parts of the state, particularly the Ozark National Forest and the south. On public land, feral hogs may be killed only during open firearms bear, deer or elk seasons with methods legal for that season or zone. On private land, it’s open season year-round.

California (https://www.wildlife.ca.gov) has wild pigs in at least 33 of its 58 counties. Some of the best hunting is in Fresno, Mendocino, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis, Obispo, Santa Barbara and Sonoma counties. A hunting license and wild pig tag are required. Wild hog hunting is open all year, and there is no daily bag or possession limit. Hogs can be hunted on private land with the landowner’s permission and on public land such as national forests, BLM land, and some state wildlife areas. Hogs are much harder to find on public land, but access is usually free.

Florida (http://myfwc.com) is about overrun by feral pigs. On public land, hogs can be taken during most hunting seasons, except turkey. According to biologists, Florida’s best WMAs for hog hunting include: Northwest Region – Aucilla, Blackwater Hutton Unit, portions of Blackwater, Apalachicola Bradwell Unit, Choctawhatchee River and portions of Joe Budd. North Central Region – Andrews, Flying Eagle, Big Bend Hickory Mound Unit, Big Bend Snipe Island Unit, Big Bend Tide Swamp Unit, Mallory Swamp, Steinhatchee Springs and Devil’s Hammock. Northeast Region – Tosohatchee is the best hog area where hunters get to use dogs. In terms of sheer numbers of hogs taken, Three Lakes typically is tops, followed by Tosohatchee, Triple N Ranch, Guana River, Bull Creek, Three Lakes Prairie Lakes Unit and Fort Drum. Southwest Region – Green Swamp has the largest harvest each year, followed by Green Swamp West, Babcock/Webb, Chassahowitzka and Myakka State Forest. South Region – Dinner Island Ranch, J.W. Corbett, Dupuis, Okaloacoochee Slough, Allapattah Flats and Hungryland.

Georgia (www.georgiawildlife.com) swamps in the coastal plain and southern half of the state may have the most wild pigs, but they can be found from the north Georgia mountains to the coastal marshes and the piney woods and bottomlands in between. Fort Stewart in southeast Georgia is a sprawling military installation with lots of public hunting opportunity, and state WMAs for hogs include Ocmulgee, Flint River, Oaky Woods and Riverbend.

Hawaii (http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/recreation/hunting) has excellent hog hunting on five of the six islands, especially Hawaii and Kauai. Only Lanai doesn’t offer hog hunting. If you’re not from Hawaii, the state has restrictive firearms registration requirements for visitors.

Kentucky (http://fw.ky.gov/Wildlife/Pages/Wild-Pigs-in-Kentucky.aspx) wild hog hunting is best in McCreary, Wayne and Whitley counties, but feral pigs are found in localized populations in every county. Hunting is allowed year-round.

Louisiana (http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov) has feral hogs throughout the state and, as in most areas, they prefer bottomlands and swamps. The highest concentrations are in the northwest, Mississippi Delta and  coastal areas.

Mississippi’s (www.mdwfp.com) best pig hunting is found along the bottomlands of the Mississippi River and in the southeastern corner of the state. On private lands, baiting is legal.

New Mexico (http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us) has a rapidly growing population of feral hogs on the east side of the state along the Texas border. There are high concentrations of wild hogs around the Pecos and Canadian rivers and in the San Luis, Animas and Peloncillo mountain ranges of Hidalgo County. No hunting license is needed, and there is no season or limits, but night hunting is prohibited.

North Carolina’s (http://www.ncwildlife.org) wild hogs are scattered through much of the state, but the highest numbers and biggest range is in the western national forests and on private lands in the mountains. There are numerous pay-to-hunt operations in the mountains. In eastern North Carolina, local hog populations center around river systems and swamps.

Oklahoma (www.wildlifedepartment.com) has feral hogs in the southeastern part of the state and the Arbuckle Mountains. Numerous pay-to-hunt ranches now offer wild hog hunting.

South Carolina (www.dnr.sc.gov/hunting.html) has had wild hog populations since the 1500s when Spanish explorers released pigs. The Savannah River drainage and the coastal Low Country harbor the state’s largest wild hog populations, but there are hogs documented in all 46 counties. There is no closed season or bag limit on private land.

Tennessee (https://www.tn.gov/twra) has good populations of wild boar in the southeastern mountains and along the Mississippi River bottoms in the west. Blount, Fentress, Monroe, Pickett, Polk and Scott counties are among the top bets. On public land in Region 3, wild hogs may be taken incidental to deer hunts on the following WMAs: Alpine Mountain, Bridgestone-Firestone Centennial Wilderness, Catoosa, Skinner Mountain, Standing Stone State Forest and Tellico Lake. Wild hogs may be taken on any deer or bear hunt on South Cherokee WMA. In Region IV, wild hogs may be taken on any big game hunt on the North Cherokee; any deer or turkey hunt on Kyker Bottoms Refuge; and on any hunt on the Foothills WMA and the entire North Cumberland WMA. On the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, wild hogs may be taken with a special permit during any deer hunt and by small game hunters after the deer season.

Texas (http://tpwd.texas.gov) has plenty of pigs throughout the state. The western and panhandle areas traditionally had fewer numbers, but those populations are now expanding, too.

Fly Fishing For All

June 12, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Beau Beasley

Have you ever thought of taking up fly fishing as a new outdoor sport? Many assume that fly fishing is a sport for college professors—folks who wade in tweed jackets, know the Latin names of the fish, and smoke pipes on the river.

Fly fishing, and even tying flies, can be enjoyed by all ages and by anglers from all backgrounds and fishing interests.

Fly fishing, and even tying flies, can be enjoyed by all ages and by anglers from all backgrounds and fishing interests.

Think again.

Fly angling may be the quiet sport, but it appeals to both sexes, all ages, and folks from every walk of life. So what sets fly angling apart?

First, forget the thought that fly fishing is somehow “better” than spin fishing; you’re starting from a false premise. Rather, fly fishing is to conventional fishing as bowhunting is to hunting with a firearm: not better, just different. Whereas the spin fisherman throws a weighted lure that pulls out his line, the fly angler casts a weighted fly line while his fly just goes along for the ride.

The fly angler’s lure is called a fly—a synthetic pattern, hand-tied to a fish hook, that looks like an insect (a grasshopper or dragonfly, for example), small fish (maybe a minnow), crayfish, sculpin, fish egg, leech, shrimp, crab… The possibilities are almost endless.

If a fish might consider it edible, believe me: a fly tyer has tied it. I’ve seen flies tied to look like baby ducks! Thousands of fly patterns already exist; you can copy one at a fly-tying vise yourself, invent and tie your own pattern, or benefit from someone else’s hard work and just buy ready-made flies. I have fished all over the country (and outside of it), and I always use commercially tied flies. Fly tying simply doesn’t interest me—and that’s okay, because other folks are obsessed with it and eager to sell me their creations. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Yes, it is true that the elusive trout is the fly angler’s gold standard prey. It is also true that you can fly fish, proudly, for just about any species. Your local waterway may offer small and largemouth bass, striper (rockfish), bluegill, carp, crappie, shad, or any number of similar freshwater species. You can also fly fish from watercraft like drift boats and rafts, and bring surprisingly large fish to hand with a fly rod. My home state of Virginia boasts muskie that are often more than 30 inches long and weigh over 25 pounds. Incidentally, these muskie are plenty big enough to pursue those baby duck flies I mentioned earlier.

In many situations, fly fishing offers anglers the best option for presenting a lure. When redfish are tailing in shallow water, a subtle fly presentation works great.

In many situations, fly fishing offers anglers the best option for presenting a lure. When redfish are tailing in shallow water, a subtle fly presentation works great.

Some fly anglers are dedicated to saltwater fishing, eagerly pursuing red drum, specked trout, cobia, Spanish mackerel, false albacore, tarpon, and even barracuda—all on the fly. In fact, there are entire saltwater fly fishing tournament trails where anglers pursue very large saltwater species like tarpon, permit and even sailfish, all on the fly. And some brave souls have been known to fly fish for shark! It’s often hard for those with preconceived notions about what fly fishing should be, to believe such massive fish can be captured with a fly rod but it true.

High-anxiety types, take note: Many fly anglers find fly casting uniquely therapeutic. In fact, some nonprofit organizations have capitalized on the therapeutic nature of fly casting—and, for many, fly tying—to support cancer patients (Casting for Recovery; www.castingforrecovery.org) and to rehabilitate wounded veterans (Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing; www.projecthealingwaters.org). Both organizations provide fly fishing outings free of charge and the natural comradery that goes along with fly fishing is indeed healing.

Finally, fly fishing is easy enough that even children can learn how to cast and to tie their own flies. Parents and their children can enjoy fly fishing together when parents remember to patiently focus on skill-building and togetherness and let go of the goal of landing scores of fish. I’ve taken my kids along with me to some of our local waterways, and it’s always a good time. Be sure if you’re fishing with children to bring a few snacks, or some other edible treat to make the day go more smoothly if the fishing action is slow. In today’s world, whatever we can do to get our kids outside and off their computers or cell phones, and connected to the great outdoors is a good thing. Besides, this is a sport your child can pursue and enjoy with you for a lifetime.

Want to take up the quiet sport this spring yourself? Contact your local fly shop to get started. Fly shops are owned and operated by fly fishing fanatics just waiting for you to drop by so that they can share what they love about the sport with you. Fly shops often host instructional classes for newbies at no cost, or sell beginner outfits which sometimes savvy fly shop owners will sell, which come with a free fly casting lesson.

Note: Beau Beasley (www.beaubealy.com) is the author of Fly Fishing the Mid-Atlantic, and Director for the Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival (www.vaflyfishingfestival.org).

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.

Former NFL Player, Proud USA Member

June 6, 2016 in Articles, General

Ask what Deion Sanders, Brett Favre, Bo Jackson, Brian Urlacher and Randy Moss have in common, and almost anyone can tell you they are football royalty. What most people don’t know is that they all share a love of the outdoors. Add names like Adam Vinatieri, Joe Thomas, Jared Allen, Trent Cole, Herschel Walker and Hall-of-Famer Larry Csonka and that still doesn’t begin to tackle the long list of current and former NFL players who love to hunt, fish, shoot and spend time outdoors.

After years of discussions, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance scored a touchdown in early 2016, welcoming the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) as our newest charter union and opening our doors to the many athletes whose sporting pursuits take them beyond the football field and into the woods and waters we all cherish.

Charter unions provide valuable support and resources to help the USA fulfill its mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.  Through their sponsorship, they also provide their members with the added benefit of a no-cost USA membership.

The USA is proud to already count a number of NFLPA members among its ranks, including Darryl Haley, a former Patriots, Browns and Packers lineman.  Haley had the opportunity to visit national parks as a child through a program for young athletes with good grades, so he knows the importance of getting youth engaged in the outdoors.  In one of his blog posts promoting the Every Kid in a Park initiative, he wrote “it is my personal passion to connect young people with parks.”

It was a shared interest in outdoor access and engaging youth in the outdoors that attracted Haley to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance:

“I joined the USA after meeting some of the members and seeing their efforts to maintain and improve our parks and recreation areas,” Haley said. “As I attended additional events, and met members from around the country, I had great respect for their outreach efforts.  The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance had a sense of teamwork.  This reminded me of playing professional sports, where every team member brings something important to the process of meeting the goals.

Darryl Haley (R) catches up with USA staff members Mike d'Oliveira (C) and Walt Ingram (L) at the USA's Capital Area Sporting Clays Shoot

Darryl Haley (R) catches up with USA staff members Mike d’Oliveira (C) and Walt Ingram (L) at the USA’s Capital Area Sporting Clays Shoot

The Capital Area Shoot was an opportunity to meet many members and discuss their plans and programs.  I felt an affinity for their determination and sense of purpose. Not only were they protecting our natural spaces, but they wanted to extend these spaces to those that were unfamiliar with them.  This struck a chord with me because … my first exposure to national parks was as a young boy.  Those experiences clearly stayed with me throughout my life!

Each event attended brought new connections and introduced me to dedicated members with a love for the outdoors and preservation.  I felt these events, while on their own were enjoyable and fun events, offered an ability to interact and share ideas.

The USA’s efforts to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage through hands-on conservation projects and youth events dove-tailed perfectly with my own efforts.  I feel that they demonstrate the power of teamwork and using everyone’s input to reach the goal of protecting and preserving our natural environments and green spaces.  Most importantly, while they are achieving their goals of conserving and improving these environments, the outreach to young people achieves the most important goal – ensuring that the next generation values these natural environments.  Through this awareness and exposure, they will impact young lives and provide a means to keep these programs moving forward for years to come.”

5 Worm Tricks For Bass

May 26, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Bob McNally

Thread a plastic worm on a hook below a 5/8-ounce bullet weight, cast it out, and feel for that electric tap-tap on the end of the line.

A plastic worm has likely produced more bass than any two other bass lures combined. Don't limit your worm fishing to basic a basic Texas-rig. Worms are versatile.

A plastic worm has likely produced more bass than any two other bass lures combined. Don’t limit your worm fishing to a basic Texas-rig. Worms are versatile.

The Texas-rig, as it’s known, has probably produced more bass bites than any lure and technique in the history of bass fishing. While great, a Texas rig should not be an angler’s sole weapon in his or her worm-fishing arsenal.

The following five techniques for fishing plastic worms are good alternate methods for standard Texas-rig fishing.

Not every tactic works every time on the water, but these methods allow fishermen to greatly increase their options, putting more largemouth, spotted bass and smallmouths in the boat at times when the standard Texas rig fails.

No. 1: The Carolina Option

A Texas-rigged worm works great in heavy cover. An angler can fish it through stumps beds, brushpiles, grassbeds—the thickest, fishiest cover available. For more open-water situations, like a main-lake point, a hump, or gravel flat, there’s a better option that will cover more water more quickly, and that option is the Carolina-rig.

The difference between a Carolina rig and a Texas rig is that with the C-rig the hook and weight are separated by a length of line (3 feet is standard), a swivel, a bead to protect the swivel knot from the weight, and then a 3/4-ounce to 1-ounce round weight.

The weight stirs up silt and creates a commotion when dragged across the bottom, getting a bass’s attention, and then along comes the worm, often floating up above the bottom and slowly sinking as the bass sees it. The Carolina-rigged worm is a great option, often used as a search bait to find schools of bass on main-lake structure.

No. 2: Wind Drifting With Worms

In strong wind, many worm fishermen turn to other lures, like spoons, crankbaits, spinnerbaits or jigs. While those lures and their inherent tactics can be good, more anglers should use the wind as their ally in presenting worms to bass.

To work windy water with worms, motor upwind and use the trolling motor to make a controlled drift over the water you intend to fish.

The trick is to make controlled drifts, with worms cast out behind a boat, using the wind to move you across spots holding feeding bass. Try to hold the boat sideways to the wind, but if the drift is too fast, sometimes turning the boat in-line with the wind may be better. A sea-anchor also can help slow a drift in very strong wind.

No. 3: Hole-Hopping Weeds With Worms

This same technique can be employed using weedless spoons, spinnerbaits, and weedless plastic frogs, but rarely are those lures better at probing holes in weed beds than a plastic worm.

A worm is a great option for fishing weed beds. In very thick vegetation, it's often the only option.

A worm is a great option for fishing weed beds. In very thick vegetation, it’s often the only option.

The technique is simple. Just cast far back into the vegetation, and using rod work, guide the worm to open pockets in weeds. Often bass follow the motion line of a worm crawling across the top-side of weeds. So when the lure hits an opening, the bass is already there, mouth open and waiting. Sometimes bass blow up on worms skittered across weeds. When that happens, glide the lure as quickly as possible to the closest hole, allowing the bass to find and hit the lure.

There are two good options for probing holes in thick vegetation. For longer casts where an angler moves the worm across the weed bed and then lets it fall in the holes, use as light a bullet weight as you can effectively cast. A 1/4-ounce is plenty. Too heavy of a weight won’t allow an angler to move the rig across the surface of the weed beds.

Or, use stealth to move in close to weed bed and drop a Texas-rigged worm into the holes. In thick weed beds without many holes, anglers “punch” the weed beds with heavy 1 1/2-ounce weights that penetrate the surface vegetation. For punching, an angler will need a stout rod and heavy line to get a bass to the boat.

No. 4: Bottom-Hopping Worms

The standard retrieve method for an angler using a sunken plastic worm is a slow crawl that imparts a snake-like slither to the lure across a lake or river floor. That retrieve has been the undoing of plenty of bass. But retrieving a worm in only that manner is akin to fishing a crankbait with only one speed, winter or summer, fall or spring, cold water or warm.

At times, bass want a super-active, high-hopping, pulsating and gyrating plastic worm—just like at times they want a spinnerbait moving fast or irregularly; or a topwater plug zigging and zagging. Try hopping a bottom-contact worm a foot or two, or more, off the bottom if your usual slow-crawl isn’t producing. For summer fishing, high, aggressive hopping is my standard worm retrieve when fishing a Texas rig.

No. 5: Wacky Worming

In clear water for spooky, pressured bass, a wacky rigged worm is one of the most deadly ways to unnerve bass. Another plus for the wacky tactic is not many bass have seen a worm rigged and fished this way.

Wacky-style rigging is pretty simple. With a standard worm hook, simply barb the lure once through its middle. Usually the lure is used with an exposed worm hook, and often no weight. If weight is desired, it can be set up with a split-shot pinched on the fishing line a foot or two above the worm hook. A better way is to insert a nail-type sinker into the worm plastic, head or tail. Usually a thin-diameter worm is used to get the most action from the lure as it falls through the water column. Hooking a worm wacky style also worm at times when using a Carolina rig on main-lake structure. Drag the Carolina rig a little more aggressively than normal to get the wacky-style worm to impart the pulsing action.

A weedless hook can be used, or one can be rigged weedless by threading one end of a rubber band through the hook eye, then securing the other end of the rubber band under the hook barb. Weedless-hook wacky worms are great for fishing deep, clear-water weed edges, docks and standing timber.

A plastic worm is a great bass lure. But don’t limit your worm fishing to Texas rigs fished slowly and with finesse. The worm is a versatile bait.

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.

CUGA Vests: When Your Hardworking Dog Deserves the Best

May 20, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

Cruiser demonstrating a retrieve at USA's Get Youth Outdoors Day

Cruiser demonstrating a retrieve at USA’s Get Youth Outdoors Day

Mark Meyocks, an avid outdoorsman and long-time USA partner through his affiliation with WelldyneRX, entertained youth and adults at the USA’s 2015 Get Youth Outdoors Day with a demo of his Labrador Retriever, Cruiser, retrieving bumpers to demonstrate a hunting scenario.  If there is one thing Cruiser loves, it is to retrieve.  Last year, Cruiser’s love of retrieving led to a hefty vet bill for Mark, but it also inspired Mark to develop CUGA dog vests.

Q&A with Mark Meyocks

Tell me about your dog Cruiser and the type of hunting he does.
Cruiser was my 60th birthday present to myself.  When I got him, I had a choice between two dogs.  I threw some bumpers, and one dog retrieved some bumpers but wanted to hang around.  Cruiser caught and retrieved 30 bumpers in a row without fail.  He was an amazing retriever from the get go, so he was my dog.  His grandmother’s name was Tipper, and his dad’s name was Trouble, so I named him Tipper’s Trouble Cruise.  We hunt pheasant and quail and a little bit of waterfowl.  My true passion is upland game.  Cruiser is a wonderful retriever; he handles very well.

My relationship with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance reinvigorated my passion for being in the outdoors and working with my dog.  I relocated from Las Vegas to Yakima, Washington to spend more time in the field training and hunting and fishing.  If I pack up for a road trip, and I’m not taking Cruiser, he is bummed.  There is nothing like the special relationship between humans and their 4-legged friend, the dog.

How did your idea for CUGA dog vests originate?
We went hunting last fall in Eastern Washington.  A lot of hunting these days is done in areas that used to graze livestock. Now the land is more agricultural with wheat and soybeans and things like that, so the fences have gone into disrepair.  When you hunt, dogs often encounter not only natural vegetation like sticks, branches, briars and raspberry thorns that will cut or scrape them but also barbed wire, and it’s a real problem for hunters.  Their dogs get cut up.  That can become very expensive.

My dog got hurt.  We had gone hunting, had a great morning hunt and still had a bag limit to finish.  As we went to get out of the truck, Cruiser stepped out of his crate, and he had a hole the size of a silver dollar in the middle of his chest.  I stopped the hunt and took him to the vet.  The vet said it wasn’t too bad; it could be stapled together in 10 minutes.  It was the second day of hunting, so I asked the vet if he could hunt.  He asked if I had a vest. I said I had a neoprene vest.  He said to put the vest on him, and he’d be fine.  We hunt waterfowl with the neoprene vest.  It has flotation and warmth, but it’s really meant for a dog that’s going to sit in a blind, observe where the downed birds go and then go out and do a short retrieve.

The next day, we went hunting, and I put the neoprene vest on Cruiser.  It was about 52 degrees but because of the way the armpits were lined on the vest to protect his chest, he literally rubbed the inside of his front legs raw.  He could barely walk, let alone do what he was naturally bred to do.

Why did you feel that similar products on the market weren’t adequate for Cruiser?
I looked everywhere for vests for my dog – Amazon, Pheasants Forever, Cabela’s.  I ordered five different vests.  They were all light, inexpensive, thrift shop nylon barely protecting the dog on the back or shoulders.  They didn’t adhere well because it was Velcro strapped across the top.  The dog can catch as it goes under fences.  Nothing I found would protect the dog the way I wanted.

Cruiser-Photo-e1457562871834Tell me about some of the unique features of CUGA Vests?
When I went hunting with my dog this fall, we were in a lot of heavy cover.  My dog has a black collar that we use for training purposes, but when hunting, I put an orange collar on him, so I could keep track of him.  It was totally inadequate for seeing my dog.  I knew I needed something with a good blaze orange component.

While in the Midwest, I visited my mom and talked to her about all the dog vests I had tried.  My mom sewed a lot when I was growing up, and I told her I was thinking about making my own vest.  I said I needed something with really durable material on the chest.  It had to be breathable and waterproof, but it also had to stand out, so the dog can be seen.  She asked what I was going to do about getting the corners, circles and bends.  I told her I had never sewn in my life.  She recommended bias tape, a material that goes around the edge and acts like a hem.  So I researched various providers of bias tape and probably made 20 trips to a Jo-Ann Fabrics.  I bought a sewing machine and went to Rockywoods Fabrics in Colorado, which sells fabrics for people to make backpacks and stuff.  One material they had was a 1050 Ballistic CORDURA® fabric that was very sturdy and near impenetrable.  It’s like a Kevlon infused material.  I used that as the breastplate.  It’s stiff, but it really protects the dog’s chest.  They also had a 1000 Denier blaze orange camo.  I bought those materials, blaze orange bias tape and the thread recommended by Rockywoods and went to work making the first vest.

In doing my research, I noted that the state of Wisconsin recently approved pink camo as a qualifying display color for hunters in the field, so I’m also making pink camo vests for the female hunters who would like something a little different.

Did anyone help you in the creation of the CUGA vests in addition to your mom?
The trainer I use has been training field trial dogs for over 35 years.  His parents emigrated to the U.S. from Italy, and his dad was a tailor and his mom was a seamstress, so I got critiqued on my sewing techniques after the first vest.  But I got ideas about how to make a better, more durable product.

By the time I had my first vest, it was December, and I went hunting with Cruiser and my best friend, Jim.  My dog was running all over the place doing what he’s supposed to do.  Jim said, “Man, I love that vest.  Would you make one for my dog?”  I went back to my dog trainer with the vest I made for Jim, and he critiqued it more and asked me to make about five of them for him.  When my vet saw it, he bought one for his dog.  I began wondering if there was a partial enterprise to be had.

My wife told me I needed to include Cruiser in the name, so we came up with Cruiser Upland Game Armor (CUGA).  I was talking to the guys at the fly shop, who also guide hunts not far from me, and one of the guys introduced me to a patent attorney.  So now the vest is trademarked in the United States.

Do you make all the vests yourself?
I am at the moment, but that is going to stop.  My idea was that the first 100 vests would come out of my sewing machine, and I’ve already been in discussions with domestic providers in Washington State.

Do you make different size vests to fit different size dogs?
It is a custom vest.  When we go to commercial production, we’ll have to have a number of different sizes because there are athletic dogs, retriever breeds, flushing breeds that would all benefit from the vest.  We request measurements, so we know the vest will fit the dog.  Not all dogs are athletic.  With our vest, we are able to have a vest for the athletically trim dog, the young dog, the large barreled dog, the old dog, and it can protect the dog where it needs protected the most – the chest, sides and back.  Like a knight’s armor, it’s not 100% protection or the dog wouldn’t be able to do its work.  However, where they do get nicked up is fairly manageable.  When we go commercial, we will probably have a selection of between nine and 12 sizes available based on chest dimension, front of chest, weight, the area around the barrel of the chest, the girth in front of the hips and the length between the nape of the neck and the back of the hips.  The securing for the vest is 2” Velcro, and it goes on and comes off well.

Is the vest designed exclusively for upland hunting or can it be used for waterfowl hunting?
When you are upland game hunting, you are often in areas with water that birds hang around.  Not all birds shot in the field go down where they are easy to get to, and sometimes they will cross water.  This vest is a waterproof, breathable material.  You can wash it and let it air dry.  It’s designed for the dog to be able to swim, master a retrieve and go on hunting without any problem.  Not everybody is a hunter, but if you have a dog that likes to run aggressively in the field, this vest will definitely protect it.

Is the vest too hot or too cold for different times of the year?
Any time of the year, you need to be cognizant of signs that your dog is overheating.  The product is breathable, so if it’s 80 degrees, your dog can wear it, and it will breathe, but you need to watch your dog.  Dogs won’t be much more susceptible to heat with the vest than without.

When and where are the vests available for purchase?
They are currently only available online at www.cugavest.com

How much do they cost?
$125

Where would you like to see CUGA in 5 years?
In 5 years, I see CUGA having far more products available on the website.  For instance, we have bumper stickers.  Everyone who buys a vest also gets a bumper sticker.  I used a union printer in Washington State.  I believe in what labor does and what they represent to citizens in our nation and around the globe.

Give Fawns A Chance

May 10, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

It’s true. Nature is cruel, particularly for the young, and especially for deer fawns.

Newborn fawns are vulnerable, particularly to predators like coyotes.

Newborn fawns are vulnerable, particularly to predators like coyotes.

Disease, accidents, predators and poor nutrition all take their toll on the wild animals that roam the landscape. These days, it’s even crueler for whitetail fawns. As coyotes expand their range and numbers, the chance of fawns making it to adulthood in some regions has dropped significantly. Recent research conducted in the southeast has shown that coyotes can eat 70 percent or more of a new fawn crop. It’s no wonder many hunters are seeing fewer deer these days.

Shoot A Coyote, Save A Fawn?

Which leads to the question, should we shoot coyotes? For many hunters, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Any coyote removed from the landscape is one less fawn killer.

“It’s not that simple,” says Joseph Jones Ecological Center research scientist Dr. Mike Conner. “Random predator removal likely has little or no noticeable impact on fawn survival. Coyotes are highly mobile and immigration of neighboring animals becomes important. Removal of a resident opens up the area for a neighbor, which can fill the void very quickly. This happens much faster than many people realize, days or weeks, not months or years.”

Coyote removal can help if it is timed right. Biologists with the University of Georgia found that fawn survival can improve if a large number of coyotes are removed from the landscape in the weeks leading up to the fawning season. The problem, admits wildlife professor Dr. Karl Miller, is that coyotes can be difficult to kill.

“Trapping is the most effective way to remove coyotes,” he says, “but not many people have the skills necessary to catch them in high enough numbers to have an impact.”

Those studies that have shown a positive impact on fawn success have included the services of professional, full-time trappers who are getting paid for their efforts.

Better Habitat

The best way to help your spring fawn crop isn’t to take a few weeks off from work to run a trap line, it’s to provide them with suitable cover and high-quality food. The good news is that both can be created at the same time, and it can be done over an extended period. Be warned, though. New research has found that even the best fawn bedding cover won’t protect them from predation. Coyotes seem to find them, no matter where they are. Although research related to fawn predation and available bedding cover found that fawns are equally vulnerable in all types of habitat, Quality Deer Management Association outreach coordinator Kip Adams says any advantage you can give your fawns will benefit them.

Habitat improvements, including ridding your fields of non-native plants and cool-season grasses, can increase the available food, which leads to healthier does and more fawns.

Habitat improvements, including ridding your fields of non-native plants and cool-season grasses, can increase the available food, which leads to healthier does and more fawns.

“Any time you provide more food and better habitat, you give all deer a higher chance of survival,” says Adams. “Creating habitat diversity also increases the abundance and diversity of other wildlife, which gives coyotes alternative food sources.”

Food plots can help, but the ideal solution is to improve all the available habitat, including the fields and forests. A food plot doesn’t provide cover for much of anything, and it often doesn’t provide food all year.

One of the best things you can do is thin a stand of mature timber, says Adams. Removing some large trees allows sunlight to reach the forest floor, which creates a rapid growth of new, young plants that deer devour. That new growth also evolves into a jungle-thick tangle of young trees, vines and shrubs that provide high-quality bedding cover for deer and a variety of other game and non-game wildlife.

Killing non-native, cool-season grasses — tall fescue in particular — frees up more space for the good native foods deer eat in your fields, too.

What’s more, notes Adams, high-quality habitat helps the female deer increase the number of fawns they can bear. In the best habitat, that can be up to three fawns. Females in poor habitat often only have one.

“More fawns born now can mean more adult deer later,” he adds.

Shoot Fewer Does

Liberal antlerless harvest limits allow hunters to shoot lots of does, but that doesn't mean you have to. If you are seeing fewer fawns, it might be a good idea to shoot fewer does.

Liberal antlerless harvest limits allow hunters to shoot lots of does, but that doesn’t mean you have to. If you are seeing fewer fawns, it might be a good idea to shoot fewer does.

Flooding the landscape with fawns may be the best bet for keeping your deer population at an optimum level, but there’s only one realistic way to do that: Shoot fewer does. Many state wildlife agencies are attempting to do that through tighter restrictions and bag limits on antlerless harvests, thanks in part to increases in coyote numbers.

Remember, you don’t have to shoot all the does you legally can. If you are seeing fewer fawns on your trail cameras or fewer deer of all ages, practice trigger management.

Let more does walk so you can have more fawns now and more deer later.

 

 

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.

IBEW member and son receive VIP treatment at 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic

April 28, 2016 in General, Press Release

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Celebrity encounters, backstage passes, VIP treatment, exclusive access to the latest and greatest in bass fishing, weigh-in shows that were part-fish competition, part rock concert and a story-book finish made for an unforgettable trip.

Mark Duncan and his 16-year-old son, Patch, experienced the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic unlike any of the other 107,605 attendees at the 3-day event.

Mark, a longtime member of Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and IBEW Local 26 in Lanham, Maryland, won the Ultimate Bass Sweepstakes presented by USA and Carhartt. The prize included an all-expense-paid trip for him and Patch to attend the Bassmaster Classic, complete with VIP treatment and exclusive access.

“I’d watched the Classic on TV in years past, but I’d never seen an event like this before,” Mark said. “The lights, the music, the people there – it was all insane.”

The Duncans witnessed a historical comeback at the Classic. Jason Christie, the two-day leader, started day three six pounds ahead. But the tournament wasn’t over for Edwin Evers, who caught 20 bass that morning, making a last-minute play for the title.

Father and son arrived at the Classic Expo at the Cox Business Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on March 4 and met with representatives of USA and Carhartt who served as host for the weekend. They also met legendary angler and TV host Bill Dance before taking a group photo with the Classic’s soon-to-be-awarded trophy.

The Duncans’ Carhartt hosts ushered them around the Expo, taking them backstage with one of the Classic’s producers. They got to see it all, from the press room to the hole in the stage where the fish are dropped into a livewell that takes them back to the Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.

“We got our pictures taken on stage, saw where they weigh the fish and how the boats and trucks get in and out,” Mark said. “It was an incredible experience getting to see every part of the show.”

Both Mark and Patch’s favorite moment came during the last day. More than anything, Patch wanted to meet Kevin VanDam, the all-time money winner in professional bass fishing and his idol. The Duncans were sitting in Carhartt’s sponsor room, and Patch knew his chances were growing slim. Then, VanDam walked into the room. They got a photo with the legend – a moment both father and son will cherish for a lifetime.

“It was my favorite part because it was what [Patch] had wanted all weekend,” Mark said. “My son got to meet his idol. Just goes to show that the decision I made to become a union member almost 30 years ago is still paying dividends today.”

It was a sweet end to the Duncan’s trip. Back home, the experience continued to pay off, helping kick start a project. Before the trip, Mark and Patch had talked about converting their john boat into a “poor man’s bass boat.” The Classic gave them some ideas and resources, along with a little inspiration, and their project is now underway.

The trip also provided Mark with another opportunity to speak highly of his membership to both his union and the USA.

“Here is a situation in which I now get to discuss my union and why I’m a member of the USA with other people,” Duncan said. “All I have to do is mention the trip and they ask, ‘How did you win that?’”

It was the final weigh-in, and Evers stood in his boat as it was pulled into the Expo. “Dynamite” by Taeo Cruz blared over the speakers as Evers reached into his live well and pulled out his two biggest fish for the crowd to see.

His bag was taken to the stage for weighing. “Look at these big freaks of nature,” host Dave Mercer said of Evers fish, announcing he needed a 15 pound, 2 ounce bag to pull ahead.

“29 pounds, 3 ounces!” Mercer announced as the crowd erupted.

The Duncans cheered from the VIP sponsor suite as confetti rained down on the arena. “We are the Champions” blared through the speakers and Evers was crowned the 2016 Bassmaster Classic champion.

It was the perfect finale to the Duncan’s storybook experience, all thanks to Carhartt.

“We are grateful to Carhartt for their excellence, not only in their products, but in the way they serve others,” said USA Deputy Director Mike d’Oliveira.  “This trip is a perfect example of how Carhartt goes above and beyond to support and celebrate our members.”

5 Spring Saltwater Destinations

April 26, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Bob McNally

Wish you could find some warm temperatures, bright sun and world-class fishing fun?

Big tarpon are prime targets of anglers who fish Charlotte Harbor, Florida in Spring.

Big tarpon are prime targets of anglers who fish Charlotte Harbor, Florida in Spring.

You can set-up a spring trip of your fishing dreams a lot easier and cheaper than you may have thought possible.

Here are five outstanding saltwater fishing destinations for work-weary people who want to get away from it all, and who can’t wait until summer warms the rest of the country. Head south for some great late April and May saltwater action.

Golden Isles, Southeast Georgia

Everything from nearshore king mackerel weighing up to 40 pounds, giant cobia up to 60 pounds, Spanish mackerel, sharks, to barracuda, amberjacks, blackfin tuna and sailfish on offshore wrecks and reefs—it’s all available for saltwater anglers near the Golden Isles of Georgia.

Inshore fishing for seatrout, redfish, black drum, sheepshead and other species can be great, too.

The “Golden Isles” include St. Simons, Little St. Simons and Jekyll islands. They’re right on the Atlantic, with easy ocean access from several sounds and inlets. Creeks and rivers abound, providing outstanding inshore fishing opportunities, and easy access for anglers bringing their own boats.

Charter captain Tim Cutting stays on top of the best action according to the seasons. Top hotels, motels, resorts and restaurants can be found on Sea, St. Simons and Jekyll islands. The nearby towns of Darien and Brunswick are good places to headquarter, too. 

Charlotte Harbor, Southwest Florida

Charlotte Harbor and its nearby southwest Florida waters have phenomenal saltwater fishing for a wide variety of species.

Hot seatrout action is available year-round in Charlotte Harbor and nearby Pine Island Sound. Trout fishing for 1- to 3-pounders is available around grass flats in big bays and in deep sloughs adjacent to islands and channels. Heavy roe-laden females begin to show in March, and 5-pound class fish are caught by anglers working live baits and grub jigs in and around Gulf passes and channels.

Redfish also offer hot fishing action, and they can be found almost anywhere, especially near oyster bars and mangrove points.

Tripletail, flounder, sharks, Spanish mackerel and bluefish are other sportfish regularly caught by Charlotte Harbor light-tackle anglers. Charlotte Harbor and it’s opening to the Gulf of Mexico at Boca Grande Pass offer some of the world’s best tarpon fishing in May and June.

Hiring a guide like Paul Hobby is wise, as it takes time to understand this vast, island-studded and shallow area.

Resorts, motels and restaurants abound in this area. One of the most unique and beautiful places to headquarter is Cabbage Key, which is accessible only by boat and is minutes from great fishing on Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound. For information, call (239) 283-2278.

Lake Calcasieu, Southwest Louisiana

Lake Calcasieu is a huge inland saltwater “lake” off the Gulf of Mexico that offers some of America’s best fishing for heavyweight spotted seatrout and red drum. When it’s right, several anglers working from a boat can expect to catch up to 100 stout seatrout and redfish per day. Trout average 2 to 3 pounds, and bruisers over 5 pounds are taken regularly. Plus, lots of big trout in the 8- to 10-pound class have been recorded.

Redfish schools are commonly encountered by trout fishermen, and these hard-fighting spottail bass weigh 4 to 10 pounds—outstanding light-tackle targets. Visiting anglers typically using the same basic bass and walleye gear they employ back home.

The best approach for visitors is to work out of the Hackberry Rod and Gun Club, run by the Stansel brothers, Kirk, Guy and Bobby, who were raised fishing and guiding on the lake. The club offers great package deals with guides, boats, waterfront accommodations and meals.

Mobile Bay, South Alabama

Oil-rig platforms are great fishing spots in the Mobile Bay area of coastal Alabama.

Oil-rig platforms are great fishing spots in the Mobile Bay area of coastal Alabama.

Oil rig platforms start right in Mobile Bay, and these fish-holding structures are where you can catch inshore fish like flounder, spotted seatrout, tripletail, redfish, bluefish, sheepshead, white trout and other species.

Other oil rigs can be found offshore from Mobile Bay extending out 50 or 60 miles. All kinds of marine fish inhabit that deep, clear water, including dolphin, wahoo, tuna and billfish. Good offshore rigs can be found within 4 miles of Mobile Bay; however, offering choice fishing in 60 to 70 feet of water for king and Spanish mackerel, snapper, grouper, cobia, bluefish, jacks and many other species. Deeper rigs in 300 feet of water hold pelagic species.

Timely Mobile area fishing information is available from J&M Bait and Tackle. 

Key West, Florida

At the southern tip of the Florida Keys, anglers have one of the great angling destinations of the world at their fingertips. Everything is available, from world class tarpon and permit fishing, to wreck cobia, grouper and snapper fishing, to offshore trolling for billfish, kingfish, tuna, wahoo and other species, too.

Even in the nastiest weather, great fishing can be found somewhere nearby, like in Key West harbor for tarpon and permit. If the wind blows from the east, anglers head to the west into Florida bay or the lee side of the Keys. They fish just the opposite when the wind is from the West.

The point here is keep your options open when fishing out of Key West. If you can’t get to a Gulf wreck for cobia, permit and snapper, try some of the other great fishing that will be available in the area.

Lots of great guides, marinas and tackle shops can be found in the Keys and in Key West. One of the many great Key West guides is Robert “RT” Trosset. If it swims near Key West, “RT” is on it.

USA Conservation Dinner March Madness

April 26, 2016 in Articles, General USA

March Madness isn’t just for basketball.  The overwhelming success of the USA’s conservation dinners last month ranks right up there with “madness” and has set the tone for what we hope to be another record-breaking year for the USA’s young dinner program.

ildinnerThe USA’s conservation dinners are building blocks to its Work Boots on the Ground conservation projects because a portion of the money raised at each dinner is designated for a local conservation project to benefit the community.  In 2015, our dinners raised more than one million dollars, and we had nearly 4,200 attendees.

Kicking off the month of March, the USA’s 4th Annual Illinois Conservation Dinner held its largest event to date on March 7th with 293 paid attendees and raised $96,000.

Five days later in Iowa, the USA’s 2nd Annual Des Moines Area Conservation Dinner set a new record for all USA conservation dinners since the program’s inception with an astonishing 663 paid attendees.  They raised an impressive $149,000.

Capping off the excitement, the 442 paid attendees at the USA’s 4th Annual Ohio State Conservation Dinner on March 18th raised more than $93,000.

We are so grateful to the many union leaders and members who dedicated so much of their time and effort to help make these events such a tremendous success year after year.  Thank you!

If you haven’t participated in a USA conservation dinner or shoot yet, don’t miss out.  Check out the USA’s 2016 event schedule and find an event near you.  We look forward to seeing you.

Dept. of the Interior Secretary Jewell and AFL-CIO President Trumka Cut Ribbon at Trinity River NWR Boardwalk

April 20, 2016 in Conservation News, Texas, Work Boots On The Ground

Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Chairman and AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service staff and members of the community joined together on March 17 to dedicate a new boardwalk connecting the city of Liberty, Texas, with the nearby Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) with a ribbon cutting ceremony and plaque unveiling.

trinityLocated approximately 40 miles northeast of Houston, the 30,000-acre Trinity River NWR lies within the largest floodplain basin in Texas. The boardwalk represents the culmination of the largest conservation effort thus far under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in July 2014 between the U.S. Department of the Interior, AFL-CIO and Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) that pairs the USA’s volunteer-based Work Boots on the Ground conservation program with shovel-ready projects on public lands that, due to budgetary constraints and cutbacks, lack critical resources.

Constructed by volunteers from the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council, the Palmer Bayou Boardwalk is an intrinsic piece of Trinity River NWR’s From Crosswalks to Boardwalks initiative and allows hikers to traverse more than 500 feet of wetlands, access 13 miles of trails and have a more intimate view of the bayou.

“The Palmer Bayou Boardwalk is a great example of the importance of volunteers to rebuild, renew and restore our country’s national parks and national wildlife refuges,” Secretary Jewell said. “I applaud the AFL-CIO and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for their collective effort and foresight in bringing together numerous volunteers whose invaluable contributions make a significant impact on important conservation projects nationwide. This boardwalk offers visitors, especially families, access to nature and some of America’s most unique wildlife.”

Weather conditions and more than 100 days of flooding at the refuge delayed the completion of the boardwalk and further complicated the already challenging project.  Once flood waters receded, volunteers carried nearly $60,000 worth of concrete piers and construction materials on foot through the swamp to prevent vehicles from getting stuck in the mud.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance brings a lot more muscle to the conservation movement,” Trumka said.  “The volunteers who built the boardwalk at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge gave up numerous weekends, planned out the work zone, brought in and operated machinery and heavy materials all in the face of intense heat, mosquitoes and a lot of mud and muck.  To every conservation project USA volunteers take on, they bring an unmatched work-ethic, superior trade skills and a desire to give back to their community.”

“This project is a success story about how partnerships among agencies, communities and volunteers working together can accomplish great things,” said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle. “I’m especially enthusiastic for schools to use the boardwalk as an outdoor classroom, directly connecting the next generation with nature and conservation.”