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.”

Angry Catfish Of Spring

April 15, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Ron Kruger

Catfish can be caught all year, but the best time is when their reproductive urges overcome caution and good sense. This takes place when the water temperature reaches about 80 degrees in May or June, depending upon your latitude.

Catfish get very big! Here's guide Brian Barton with a monster catfish from the Tennessee River in Alabama.

Catfish get very big! Here’s guide Brian Barton with a monster catfish from the Tennessee River in Alabama.

Catfish become so aggressive during the spawn, in fact, that bass fishermen often catch them on crankbaits and other lures. This rarely happens at other times of the year, but I’ve had days as a bass fishing guide on Kentucky Lake during the spawn when I’ve caught as many channel catfish as bass on medium- and shallow-running crankbaits.

I’m not suggesting that you fish for catfish with crankbaits. My point is that during the spawn, catfish seem angry enough to eat or attack anything that comes near them.

To catch catfish most consistently; however, you have to get real, because a catfish is like a swimming tongue laced with super-powered taste buds. Their main tool for making a living is imbedded in their barbels, those whiskers that inspired their common name. Each barbel is loaded with taste buds, as are their outer lips, gill rakers and even some of the body. A young catfish just 6 inches in length has more than 1/4 million taste buds on its body. A catfish can saunter up to a meal and taste it before the fish actually opens its mouth.

In water, smell and taste molecules are the same thing. Sometimes you and I might get a whiff of something that smells so good we can almost taste it. But when a catfish gets a whiff of something, it literally tastes it, just as surely as if it were in its mouth. Avoid getting gasoline, sunscreen or insect repellent on your hands and inadvertently on your bait. Catfish hate those smells, and any distasteful smell will hinder your fish catching.

Usually, catfish take their time about eating something, but during the spawn, their territorial spawning instincts make them crazy and impulsive. Maybe all that hanky panky makes them hungry. At any rate, in the right spot, catfishing can be so fast that one pole is all an angler can handle.

For most of the year, catfish spend their time haunting deep places where the sun is shunned, moving shallow mostly under the secure cover of darkness. But reproductive urges reverse that, too. Catfish not only feed more aggressively during the spawn, they congregate in the shallows during the day, when most people like to fish for them.

Whether you favorite fishing holes contains channel catfish, flatheads, or “pretty” blue catfish like this, the late spring spawn is a prime time to find catfish shallow and feeding aggressively.

Whether you favorite fishing holes contains channel catfish, flatheads, or “pretty” blue catfish like this, the late spring spawn is a prime time to find catfish shallow and feeding aggressively.

Early morning, late evening and just before a storm are still the best times, but when catfish are preoccupied with the urge to make more catfish, they’ll inhabit the sunlit shallows even at mid-day. They line the rocky shores and rip-rap banks to perform their reproductive duty, and I believe they get angry or crazy enough to eat anything that can’t eat them.

Most catfishing is done with heavy weights cast far out into the lake to reach the deep water, but during the spawn, this method goes way over their heads. A lighter weight under a bobber fished relatively close to shore (4 to 6 feet deep) will best catch these whiskered Romeos.

Live worms are the most common bait. If you use them, don’t be stingy. Weave them on to create a wiggling glob. This is much more attractive than a single nightcrawler threaded onto the hook. Besides, threading a worm on the hook kills it quickly. Just secure the hook through the worm a few times and let the rest wiggle freely.

Some mistakenly think catfish are scavengers. They will devour the dead, as long as that dead something is not too long gone, but catfish not the slimy garbage disposal some believe. Keep your live bait alive, and keep your cut bait as fresh as possible.

Another tip for catfish anglers is to make your own “luck.”

Luck is something most catfishermen sit around waiting for, but it’s not much different than other types of fishing. The luckiest fishermen are those who increase their odds through their own efforts.

Luck is mostly about being in the right place at the right time, so don’t let any catfish bait sit in one place for more than 15 minutes. If there are catfish nearby, this swimming taste bud we call a catfish will find it within that time. If you don’t get a bite within 15 minutes, reel in a few yards or cast to a different spot. This method covers varying bottom types, searching for catfish, instead of just waiting, sometimes for hours, in the same spot for a catfish to come to you.

If a particular area does not produce after an hour or so, move. Pick up your cooler, all your gear, and try a completely different spot.

Don’t be afraid to cast near logs and stumps, either. The bigger ones like to stay near some type of cover, and they especially like to spawn in logjams, hollow logs, big rocks, and bluff banks where wave action or rocks create holes.

The old adage often used by crappie fishermen applies equally to catfishing: “If you aren’t getting hung up once in a while, you’re not fishing in the right place.”

The Art of Stealth… For Catfish?

A beautiful aspect of fishing for catfish is that this is generally a low-tech effort. It’s not like we are trying to fool a pressured trout on a tiny ribbon of mountain stream with a hand-tied fly, right?

The catfish of late spring move close to the bank, which is great because we can catch them from the bank. But anglers had better be quiet when bank fishing.

Catfish have a bunch of little bones along their backs that act like a high-intensity hearing aid. These modified vertebrae, which are unique to catfish and goldfish, pick up the pressure component of sounds—like an angler stomping along the bank—and transmit them directly to their inner ear. This modified series of vertebrae, called “Weberian ossicles,” act like an amplifier, which means catfish hear far better than most fish. Bass and many other fish, for example, hear up to about 800 Hz, while catfish hear up to 5,000 Hz¬or a little over six times better.

So be quiet when fishing from the shore. Keeping noise to a minimum in a boat is also recommended, particularly this time of year when catfish are shallow.

Even a foot tapping to a favorite tune might spook catfish.

The Catfish Cocktail

When the catfish are shallow, guide Malcolm Lane uses bobbers and a cocktail of live leeches and frozen shrimp.

When the catfish are shallow, guide Malcolm Lane uses bobbers and a cocktail of live leeches and frozen shrimp.

Malcolm Lane is one of the oldest guides on Kentucky Lake, and he is the only guide I know that specializes in catfish. When the catfish are shallow, Malcolm uses bobbers and a cocktail of live leeches and frozen shrimp. These are the large shrimp sold specifically for fishing (mostly in saltwater). The seasoned variety you get from the grocery store won’t work as well.

Malcolm peels the shrimp and threads them onto a single hook. Then he threads the hook through the head of the leech for about one-quarter of an inch, bringing it back out so that most of the leech is left to wiggle freely and vigorously below the shrimp.

“The shrimp provides the smell, and the leech provides the action. Catfish can’t resist the combination,” Malcolm says.

 

 

 

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.

Give Wildlife A Helping Hand

April 4, 2016 in General

by David Hart

Creating high-quality habitat is not always easy, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Timber thinning is a great way to boost the productivity of your land. Removing some trees allows sunlight to reach the ground, which stimulates new plant growth. Leave the mast-bearing trees like oaks and hickories.

Timber thinning is a great way to boost the productivity of your land. Removing some trees allows sunlight to reach the ground, which stimulates new plant growth. Leave the mast-bearing trees like oaks and hickories.

When Steve Dixon signed the papers on 165 acres in central Virginia, he figured he bought a piece of deer and turkey hunting heaven. The property consisted of a mix of mature trees and fields that were cut for hay, along with a small food plot tucked into a corner along a creek.

“I hardly saw any deer the first season I hunted it, and turkeys were scarce, too,” recalls the semi-retired financial planner. “I had no idea what was wrong.”

That was 10 years ago. As it turned out, the land was in poor shape. Since then, Dixon has worked on the land at every opportunity. He planted borders along the fields, he killed off the plants that provided no benefit to wildlife, and he managed the timber.

“The deer hunting has gotten much better. So has the turkey hunting,” he says.

“I’ve even seen some quail, and there are a lot more rabbits.”

Seek Help

Dixon’s first step was to call a state wildlife biologist. Although many biologists don’t have time to visit with every landowner looking for help, most will at least offer some technical guidance.

“We talked for about 30 minutes. He offered some general guidelines on how I could improve the land,” recalls Dixon. “I did most of the work myself. I also hired professionals to do the things I couldn’t.”

Hired help included a logger to conduct some timber management. A mature forest looks pretty, but it can be a wildlife desert. Aside from acorns dropped by oaks, there isn’t much food available growing beneath the closed canopy of a mature forest. Cutting some or all the trees in parts of the forest allows sunlight to reach the ground, which stimulates a flood of native grasses, shrubs and vines. This new growth not only provides a plethora of food, but it creates abundant cover for a variety of game and non-game species of animals and birds.

Dixon conducted a couple of small clear-cuts, where all the trees were removed, and he did a select cut, where only specific trees were taken out, on a large part of his forest. He made some money, and he increased the amount of wildlife he saw, as well.

“It took less than a year for all this new stuff to start growing. It was pretty amazing how fast the deer started using it,” he recalls. “A couple of years later, I had quail and turkeys nesting in the thick cover.”

Diversity Is Key

Dixon didn’t stop with timber management. He also put a lot of time and effort into improving his fields. An avid deer hunter, he knew the current state of his fields held little appeal to deer and other wildlife.

Controlled burning is a great way to stimulate new plant growth while clearing out accumulated dead plant matter. It’s an outstanding tool for quail habitat management and deer benefit from fire, too.

Controlled burning is a great way to stimulate new plant growth while clearing out accumulated dead plant matter. It’s an outstanding tool for quail habitat management and deer benefit from fire, too.

“They were mostly fescue, which doesn’t provide any benefit to deer, quail or turkeys. It’s just about useless,” he says.

He hired his local farmer’s cooperative to spray the field with a selective herbicide that killed the grass. It didn’t take long for an entire new plant community to grow. Ragweed, beggar’s lice, a host of wildflowers and some native grasses sprang up.

“I started seeing a lot more deer during hunting season, and there are turkeys nesting on the property, too,” he says. “I originally put all my money into a couple of food plots, but they only do so much.”

What really matters, says Dixon, is having a diversity of habitat, including everything from thick, brushy field edges to mature, mast-bearing trees in the forest.

“The more variety you have, the better your land will be for all types of wildlife,” says Dixon.

Think Small

You don’t have to own 165 acres or even 16 acres to give wildlife a helping hand. Anyone, even those with a postage stamp suburban lot, can do something. Dixon actually improved the habitat in his own suburban yard.

“I encouraged the back edge of my yard to grow up into weeds and vines. Basically, I didn’t mow it or otherwise try to control anything unless I knew it was a non-native plant. I know a lot of people don’t like seeing stuff like that, but I see all kinds of birds and other wildlife,” he says. “Most other yards are virtually void of any wildlife.”

He increased the appeal of his yard by planting flowers and fruit-bearing shrubs that not only look attractive, but that provide food for birds and pollinating insects.

None of it was easy, admits Dixon, and it isn’t necessarily inexpensive, either.

“Once I started seeing the results, I realized it was all worth it,” he says. “In hindsight, I didn’t do it so I would have better hunting. I did it because I wanted to help wildlife. Better hunting just happened to be a by-product of the work I did.” 

5 Wildlife Enhancers For The Yard

With just a minimum of effort, small-scale improvements around the house can lead to rewarding wildlife-viewing experiences, or just in knowing you are doing your part to help.

With just a minimum of effort, small-scale improvements around the house can lead to rewarding wildlife-viewing experiences, or just in knowing you are doing your part to help.

With just a minimum of effort, small-scale improvements around the house can lead to rewarding wildlife-viewing experiences, or just in knowing you are doing your part to help. Sportsmen have a weakness for wanting to help wildlife, and what better place to nurture our nurturing instincts than right in our own backyards?
Here are five tips for making the most of your backyard habitat:

  • Feed the Birds, Embrace the Squirrels: I was once a frustrated feeder of birds. I tried about every fancy “squirrel-proof” bird feeder and grandma trick I could find, but to no avail. I truly believe my backyard squirrels quite enjoyed the torture they delivered. Now I (almost) embrace the squirrels. I even fool myself into thanking them for the job they do of spreading the bird feed on the ground so more birds can enjoy. I like to feed the birds, and yes it feeds other animals (chiefly squirrels), too. Use a reputable brand of birdseed—I prefer Pennington mixes that include black oil sunflowers. And use a feeder that is covered to keep the feed dry. Moldy seed could harm or even kill birds.
  • Brushpiles Are Golden: It took all of my charm to convince my wife that the pile of limbs and shrubbery clippings along the back line of our yard was an example of my kind heart and not laziness. Brushpiles may be the easiest improvement a homeowner can make for backyard habitat, and brushpiles may also be the most beneficial. All kinds of critters and birds love my brushpiles.
  • Blooms Beget Berries: Flowering bushes, shrubs and trees are pretty. While your neighbors and houseguests will be duly impressed with the flowering displays of spring, your local animals and birds will love you in the late summer and fall when those blooms become berries. Some of these berries you’ll enjoy yourself—just save a few for the wildlife! Good choices for bushes are blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. Dogwood trees beautify any yard with spring blooms, and the red dogwood berries of fall are a favorite food for most birds and animals. Fruit trees are another great option. Pear trees are generally easier to grow, while apple trees are fantastic but can be a bit sensitive to soil types and climate.
  • Tiny Houses For Everyone: There are birdhouses, and there are specialized birdhouses for specific flavors of birds. I recommend placing some specific birdhouses around the edges of your yard. A wren nest box, a bluebird box, a chickadee next box, and a bat house (yes, a bat house!) are specific birdhouses to consider. And then maybe include a generic birdhouse—just don’t be surprised to raise a family of cowbirds.
  • Evergreens For Winter: The winter woods are bare, and likely so is the wildlife habitat in your yard. Consider adding some plantings that create important wintertime cover for birds and animals. Good choices (check with your local nursery about species that do well in your area) include rhododendron, eastern hemlocks, cedars and pines.

 

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.

IAMAW Member Experiences First Whitetail Hunt on Brotherhood Outdoors

March 29, 2016 in Articles, Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Hunting

Clayton Bolton arrives in Oklahoma for his first whitetail hunt.

Clayton Bolton arrives in Oklahoma for his first whitetail hunt.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV series will feature Clayton Bolton, a union machinist of IAMAW LL946/DL725 from Lincoln, California, on Sunday, April 3 at 11 a.m. ET on the Sportsman Channel.

A staple in Sportsman Channel’s ‘Red, Wild & Blue’ programming, Brotherhood Outdoors puts American workers in the spotlight as co-hosts Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen take viewers to the homes, communities and job sites of hardworking men and women and into the wild for heart pounding, gut wrenching, unforgettable hunting and fishing adventures across North America.

From a young age, both the outdoors and aeronautics have been an integral part of Bolton’s life. At age 13, Bolton was awarded the CNF Young American Award President’s Medallion by Dick Cheney, then a White House Staff Assistant under President Richard Nixon. He had his first solo flight in a 1946 Aeronca L-16 on his 16th birthday and became an Eagle Scout the next year. He received his A&P License in 1984 and FAA Inspection Authorization in 1987.

Bolton worked as a self-employed aviation maintenance mechanic and inspector until eight years ago when he joined Aerojet as a test and assembly technician, the same company that brought his family to California in 1960 when his father accepted a position as a rocket engineer. Bolton has since been an active member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, currently serving his second term as Union Negotiator.

Bolton considers his greatest achievement in life as having – along with his wife, Donna – raised caring, spiritual, patriotic and outdoor-loving twin daughters, Cara and Cody.
In recognition of his commitment to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, the USA selected Bolton to be a guest star on its award-winning TV series, Brotherhood Outdoors.

In early December, Bolton travelled with Martin, McQueen and the rest of the Brotherhood Outdoors crew to Eldorado, Oklahoma, where they met up with Western Oklahoma Trophy Outfitters. Bolton was ready for the hunt of his life.

Bolton sat in the blind for more than 17 hours over two days seeing only doe. Finally, a young buck appeared. He peered through his scope but didn’t shoot, knowing this one wasn’t up to par for this trip. He worried he’d missed his only shot.  Finally, a big buck follows a doe into range, but Bolton must combat the sun’s glare and buck fever to get the shot.

Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sportsman Channel on Sunday, April 3, 2016 at 11 a.m. ET to find out if this dedicated family man and proud union member is able to put his first whitetail on the ground.

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, Sqwincher and United Association/International Training Fund.

Get Your Gator

March 25, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by Beau Tallent

The pursuit of wild animals in wild places is a deep-rooted instinct for hunters. Every hunt holds a hint of adventure. For some, the wilder the animal and the wilder the place, the greater the passion for the hunt.

Taking an alligator can be a harrowing task. These prehistoric beasts can be huge, and even the smaller gators are powerfully strong. The big gators can give hunters much more of a battle than they expect—or want.

Taking an alligator can be a harrowing task. These prehistoric beasts can be huge, and even the smaller gators are powerfully strong. The big gators can give hunters much more of a battle than they expect—or want.

In North America, it doesn’t get any wilder than spending a night in a southern swamp hunting an enormous, powerful alligator, with the ultimate goal of bringing that prehistoric beast—very much alive and secured only by a line—right up beside the boat.

Conservation and habitat protection brought the American alligator back in the last century from the brink of extinction. Removed from the Endangered Species list in 1987, alligator populations in the South are robust and growing in 10 states, enough so that several southern states offer recreation hunting for alligators.

“There’s certainly an element of adventure—and a hint of danger,” said Daryl Kirby, an editor and outdoor writer from Georgia. “When I drew a permit, it was a surprise. I didn’t know anything about alligator hunting, and a coworker and I pretty much winged it. We camped at a WMA and hunted the Savannah River.

“I’ll never forget that feeling as darkness began to fall and the realization hit—we were about to try to shoot an alligator with a bow and arrow. You can imagine the anticipation we were feeling, but in the end there was way more excitement and adrenalin than we could have ever imagined. We ended up taking a 10-footer than weighed more than 450 pounds. It was an all-night ordeal, full of highs and lows. It was crazy.”

States that offer recreational hunting opportunities for alligators include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. For recreational hunting, all of the states have a common regulation—hunters must first attach a restraining line to the alligator before it can be killed, either with a firearm or bang stick. Here’s a snapshot of alligator hunting opportunities, listed in my order of your best bets, with an emphasis on non-resident opportunity. As always, do your own research on each state’s application process, regulations and season dates.

Florida: When most people think of alligators, they think of Florida, and for good reason. It seems like every lake, river and canal in the Sunshine State is home to alligators. Florida offers lots of opportunity, issuing about 5,000 permits per season, and each permit holder can take two alligators. Permits are issued to specific areas. Approximately 10,000 hunters apply for those Florida permits—not bad odds compared to other states where fewer permits are issued. A drawback to Florida is the cost. For residents, the Alligator Trapping License costs $272. For nonresidents, the cost is a hefty $1,022. Guided hunts are popular for nonresidents, and a list of outfitters and guides can be found at MyFWC.com.

For info on seasons, regulations and the quota process, visit http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/alligator/harvest.

Georgia: Alligator hunting in Georgia is through a permit process, and preference points are awarded. Since this popular draw has been going on for more than a decade, hunters will need at least three preference points to draw a permit, and up to five or six preference points for the better areas. The number of permits issued has gradually increased since the hunts began, and now more than 900 gator permits are issued per season in Georgia. While you won’t draw a permit until you build preference points, unlike other states, there is no application fee for the Georgia system. You have nothing to lose, so start building your points. The process is all done online, and while you are at it, you can start building points for some excellent turkey and deer hunting on public lands—again with no application fee.

For more information, visit www.georgiawildlife.org/hunting/quota.

Hunting alligators should be done only after plenty of preparation. An alligator’s jaws have a biting force that generates about 3,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.

Hunting alligators should be done only after plenty of preparation. An alligator’s jaws have a biting force that generates about 3,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.

South Carolina: South Carolina held the state’s first alligator hunts in 2008, and the South Carolina program has developed into one of the best options for non-residents. The cost is reasonable—about $350 for all of the fees and tags for a non-resident—and there are lots of big gators in areas with public access. Applicants will need to build preference points, and there is a $10 fee for the online application process, whether you are drawn or not. The number of permits issued each season is subject to vary, but expect more than 1,000 permits to be issued for 2016.

For more information, visit http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/alligator.

Texas: Alligator hunting in Texas differs from other states in that Texas allows hunting during daylight hours and limb-line sets are allowed. Texas has two areas with different season dates. For the 22 core counties in east Texas, the season is in the fall. In non-core counties, there is a three-month spring season. Private landowners receive tags from the wildlife department, but there are also tags available for six hunting public areas through a drawing. There is a $3 application fee for the public-land hunts, and then those selected have to pay an additional $80 permit fee. Preference points are awarded to those not selected.

To download a 32-page guide to Texas alligator hunting that includes regulations, seasons and contact information for guides, go to http://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_bk_w7000_1011.pdf.

Alabama: Hunting alligators in Alabama made headlines when a 1,011-pound world-record gator was taken in August 2014 by permit-holder Mandy Stokes and her team of hunters. Pictures of the 15-foot-long beast went viral on social media. There are good populations of big alligators in the specific regions of the state where hunting is allowed, and obviously there are some monster gators in Alabama. Alabama went to a preference-point system beginning with the 2015 season. Before that, there was no limit to the number of applications a hunter could submit, but each submission cost $10. Those willing to spend big bucks could significantly increase their odds of getting a permit. The new system is more fair, and it means each year that a hunter is not selected, the preference points increase the odds for a future selection. The bad news—if you don’t live in Alabama—is that only residents can apply for the permit. Licensed nonresidents can hunt with a permit holder as assistants, but nonresidents are eligible for the quota drawing.

For more information, visit www.outdooralabama.com/alligator-hunting-season-alabama.

Mississippi: Mississippi alligator hunting on public waters is open only to residents, who may apply for one of 920 permits. For non-residents, your only option for alligator hunting in Mississippi is as an “assistant” to a resident who drew a permit. Like most states, training seminars are mandatory. Hunting assistants over 16 years of age must possess an alligator-hunting license and a Mississippi all-game license.

For more information, visit www.mdwfp.com/wildlife-hunting/alligator-program.aspx.

Arkansas: There is some limited alligator hunting opportunity in southern Arkansas, but less than 100 permits are issued annually, and they’re available only to residents or non-residents who apply with a resident. Biologists determine the number of permits issued each year for the alligator management zones. For more information, visit www.agfc.com/licenses/Pages/PermitsSpecialAlligator.aspx.

Gator Hunting Techniques

If your gator-hunting primer course comes from watching “Swamp People” on television, it’s time for a crash course on the realities of gator hunting. “Fishing” for gators—using limb lines and giant hooks with large baits, like a whole chicken—is only allowed in Louisiana and Texas. Other states don’t allow shooting free-swimming gators from across the bayou with a deer rifle, either. For recreational alligator hunting, you will need to attach a sturdy line to the alligator, bring it up beside your boat, and dispatch the close-up beast with a shot to the base of the skull.

Hunting alligators should be done only after plenty of preparation. An alligator’s jaws have a biting force that generates about 3,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.

Hunting alligators should be done only after plenty of preparation. An alligator’s jaws have a biting force that generates about 3,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.

Here’s are the methods allowed in all states that are the most popular and most effective at securing a line to an alligator so it can then be shot.

  • Archery: The method most newcomers to alligator hunting will be familiar with is using their deer-hunting bow or crossbow. The setup can be as simple as a bowfishing arrow attached to heavy-duty line that is coiled at the shooter’s feet, with a buoy or large float tied to the end. However, specialized gear is recommended. Muzzy produces a Gator Getter Kit for both bow and crossbow setups. The kit includes a float, specialized arrow, a hand-wind reel spooled with 500-pound test line, and mounting brackets. Once shot with an arrow, the alligator typically submerges. The hunters go to the float, and one pulls the gator up, and the other hunter is ready to dispatch with a firearm as it comes up next to the boat. Nothing will prepare you for the sight of an alligator rising to the surface right next to the boat, and there’s no way to get job done from a distance.
  • Harpoon: Hit an alligator with a harpoon, and you have the most-secure line possible among the methods allowed for gator hunting in most states. The problem is that a hunter has to be very close to effectively drive a harpoon through the tough hide of an alligator. A harpoon is a great secondary tool to use when a gator is brought to the side of the boat. Getting a second or even third line in an alligator is recommended, which makes the harpoon a great tool for alligator hunters.

• Snatch Hook: Some of the biggest alligators taken by hunters were “caught” using super-sized, weighted treble hooks. These snatch hooks are either attached to a rope and tossed by hand or tied to the end of strong fishing line cast on sturdy saltwater-style rods. A standard size for hand lining is a 14/0 treble hook, while a lighter 12/0 works better for casting. Snatch hooks work very well for alligators that spook and dive to the bottom and in waters that are more open and deeper. Once an alligator is hooked with a treble, using a harpoon to secure a secondary line is good idea.

 

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.

Grand Slam Turkeys

March 16, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

It’s called a Grand Slam, but for many turkey hunters who dream of killing all four major wild turkey subspecies found in the United States, it’s more about the journey than pulling the trigger.

A hunt for an Osceola gobbler means an experience in some of the most beautiful land in the country—central and south Florida. These are tough birds, though, especially those on public land.

A hunt for an Osceola gobbler means an experience in some of the most beautiful land in the country—central and south Florida. These are tough birds, though, especially those on public land.

There are actually a multitude of “Slams” recognized by the National Wildlife Turkey Federation (NWTF) and by die-hard turkey hunters.

The Grand Slam is the accomplishment most recognized and sought after by hunters. It involves taking the Eastern, Rio Grande, Florida and Merriam’s subspecies—those found in the United States.

There’s also a Royal Slam, which includes the Gould’s subspecies. Gould’s are found only in Arizona, New Mexico and northern Mexico, and they just aren’t as common as the other subspecies. Throw in a sixth subspecies, an Ocellated, and your accomplishment just became a World Slam. However, Ocellated gobblers are only in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, northern Belize and northern Guatemala. Needless to say, a World Slam is not for everyone. A Grand Slam.. now that’s a dream most of us can realize.

Yes, the journey toward a Grand Slam is a major part of the adventure. Completing a Grand Slam is about seeing new country and hunting birds in places you’ve never been before. Of course, pulling the trigger is the ultimate goal.

Take a couple weeks off work this spring, load up your truck and hit the road. There are abundant opportunities ahead. And remember, the NWTF doesn’t require that an official Grand Slam be completed in one season.

Osceola: Florida Or Bust!

There’s only one state where you can fill your Osceola subspecies tag, and that’s in Florida. Within Florida, the Eastern subspecies inhabits the northern part of the state, while Osceolas are found in central and south Florida.

What better way to spend part of your spring than chasing birds among palmetto thickets, palm trees and stately live oaks draped with Spanish moss? Yeah, it’s that cool.

The bad news? Much of the state is private, and access to the best public land is limited through a lottery system. That’s the good news, too. By restricting access, you’ll have plenty of room to roam and abundant gobblers that haven’t been pressured into silence. Don’t assume you have to hunt a limited-entry wildlife management area, though. Plenty have unrestricted access, and hunters willing to walk a good distance can find unpressured birds. There are 43 public areas in Florida where hunters can “walk on” to hunt spring turkeys without winning a quota drawing. Check out the 2016 Florida Spring Turkey Hunting Guide at http://myfwc.com/hunting/by-species/turkey/hunt-without-quota-permit/

For information on turkey hunting in Florida, visit the website for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at http://myfwc.com.

Osceolas can be pretty quiet. Don’t assume there are no gobblers in the area if you aren’t hearing any. Find a good spot, sit down, call a little and be patient. What’s your hurry? You’re in Florida.

Completing a turkey slam is a noble goal, but don’t lose sight that tagging any bird in any location is a feat to be cherished. Savor every moment in turkey country, and savor the journey of a Slam as much as the harvests.

Completing a turkey slam is a noble goal, but don’t lose sight that tagging any bird in any location is a feat to be cherished. Savor every moment in turkey country, and savor the journey of a Slam as much as the harvests.

Eastern: Take Your Pick

The Eastern subspecies is the most abundant and the most widespread of the big four, so choosing a specific location is as simple as throwing a dart at a map of the eastern half of the United States. The birds thrive from eastern Oklahoma and Kansas all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, north to New England and south to the Gulf states. Maine even has a good population.

Those southeastern states, Mississippi in particular, offer some of the best public opportunities and populations of Easterns. Many other states, including Georgia, Virginia, Alabama and Missouri, have enough public opportunities to make it them great choices, as well.

Access to hunt an Eastern is the easy part. Killing an Eastern is whole other ballgame. Give this subspecies plenty of time. There is no tougher bird to kill than a public-lands Eastern. They are as fickle as they are wary, often hanging up out of sight or simply walking away as they continue to gobble. Eastern gobblers just don’t make any sense sometimes— but man, they are fun to hunt.

The Merriam’s Slam Dunk

Is there more beautiful country than Merriam’s habitat? Wide-open prairies, rugged mountains and tree-lined creek bottoms have drawn hunters for decades. Go once, and it’s easy to see why.

One of the most popular do-it-yourself hunts is in the Black Hills National Forest in southwestern South Dakota. Other states like Nebraska, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have public hunting opportunities, as well, and they can be exceptional. Be warned: Many western states limit gobbler tags through a drawing. Do you Internet research.

The trick to tagging a Merriam’s is finding them. Much of their range consists of wide-open prairies interrupted by wooded creek bottoms, so they tend to be bunched up in the best habitat. Think trees in a vast expanse of prairie.

The author, David Hart, is most proud of his first Merriam’s gobbler, taken in northern Nebraska. The landscape is stunning, the birds are abundant, and a Merriam’s gobbler can be easy to call into gun range compared to other subspecies.

The author, David Hart, is most proud of his first Merriam’s gobbler, taken in northern Nebraska. The landscape is stunning, the birds are abundant, and a Merriam’s gobbler can be easy to call into gun range compared to other subspecies.

Merriam’s gobblers often shift their ranges throughout the year, abandoning one area for another for months at a time. If you aren’t finding fresh sign, keep moving. Eventually, you’ll find the mother lode.

Rios Are Grande

Rio Grande turkeys aren’t especially difficult to call into shotgun range, comparatively speaking. Simply finding a good place to hunt can be difficult. The range of Rio Grande wild turkeys is limited to Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, as well as transplanted populations in California, Washington and Oregon.

Public land is limited in Texas. Kansas has a good walk-in hunting program, and Oklahoma has decent enough public opportunities. The best Rio ground in the western United States lies on private property, but some public hunting is available. Some tags are available only through a limited drawing.

Rios are like Merriam’s in many ways. They often gather in huge flocks in the winter, and large areas of the landscape can be void of birds during the spring season. Keep moving until you find fresh sign, and then hunt hard.

The degree of difficulty to obtain your Slam can depend on your resources. Public-land access can be a limiting factor to getting your birds, particularly an Osceola or Rio Grande gobbler. With research and recommendations, you can find reputable outfitters. Paying a guide is often a good avenue when access is holding a hunter back.

You may not complete your Grand Slam in a single season, but it sure will be fun trying.

Seasons For A Grand Slam

The Grand Slam entails taking the four turkey subspecies found in the United States. With a little planning, you can hunt all four U.S. subspecies in a single season.

Here’s a look at some of the better states for each subspecies and their turkey-season frameworks.

Of course, check all state regulations before planning your Grand Slam adventures.

Osceola: Florida State Road 70 runs east-to-west from St. Lucie County to Manatee County, and it splits the Florida turkey season. South of State Road 70, the 2016 Florida spring turkey season is March 5 – April 10. North of State Road 70, the 2016 spring season is March 19 – April 24.

Eastern: This subspecies is found in good populations in many states. Seasons for some of the better states include: Mississippi from March 15 to May 1; Missouri from April 20 to May 10; Tennessee from April 2 to May 15; New York from May 1 to May 31; and Georgia from March 26 to May 15.

Rio Grande: The Rio Grande is found primarily in Oklahoma, with a spring season from April 6 to May 6; in Kansas, with a spring season from April 13 to May 31; and California, with a spring gobbler season from March 26 to May 1

Merriam’s: Prime states and their seasons to bag a Merriam’s gobbler include South Dakota, April 9 to May 22; Wyoming, April 1 to May 20; Idaho, April 15 to May 25.

Hunt Swappers Make Slams Obtainable

USA Conservation Manager Ty Brown completed his Grand Slam with this beautiful Merriam’s killed in South Dakota. Ty swapped his guiding skills for the chance to hunt.

USA Conservation Manager Ty Brown completed his Grand Slam with this beautiful Merriam’s killed in South Dakota. Ty swapped his guiding skills for the chance to hunt.

Let’s be honest. Many hunters who complete a turkey Slam do so because they have the financial or circumstantial means to do so. One hunter I know, who completed not just a Grand Slam but also a World Slam and a Royal Slam, worked for an airline. She got free plane tickets—that sure helps!

Most of us don’t work for Delta or have a trust fund. However, all turkey hunters have one thing—access to local birds. If you live in Missouri, killing an Eastern subspecies gobbler isn’t a problem. The problem is killing the Osceloa, or the Rio Grande, or the Merriam’s. Obviously, there are hunters who have access to those birds, and some will be very interested in going after an Eastern.

Swapping hunts is a great path toward completing your Slam.

Ty Brown, Conservation Manager for the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, found that finding other hunters to swap turkey hunts with was not difficult. It doesn’t have to be a turkey-for-turkey swap, either. You might have a great duck-hunting hole or a good whitetail hunting, something that a Florida turkey hunter would love to experience.

“Just with friends and family and contacts that you make over the years, someone is always looking to do some hunting,” Ty said. “I also have swapped hunts with outfitters that I have hunted with in the past. A lot of times there are certain game animals that some people just don’t have the opportunity to hunt. And by having that connection or finding that connection, it gets you in on a hunt that you are really excited about going on.”

In addition, Ty recommends utilizing the power of the Internet.

“The Internet is a great place to start. With social media and hunting forums as popular as they are now, it’s just a matter of logging on and putting the word out,” he said.

Start with your own forum at the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website (http://unionsportsmen.org/forums).

“To sum up the whole hunt-swapping thing, it’s about being efficient with your connections and making the opportunity good for both parties involved. That way everyone wins,” Ty said.

 

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.

Western WI AFL-CIO Take Kids Fishing Day Wins State Award

March 10, 2016 in Conservation News, Press Release

LA CROSSE, WI (March 9, 2016) – The Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO is pleased to announce that the council will be awarded the “Wisconsin AFL-CIO Community Service Event Award” on March 11 for its annual “Take Kids Fishing Day” events.

2014-6-02 Bill Brockmiller, president of the Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO, will accept the award on behalf of the council at 8:45 a.m. during the annual Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Community Services Conference.  This year, the conference will be at the Radisson Hotel on Second Street in La Crosse.

Back in 2012, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program teamed up with the Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO to host a Take Kids Fishing Day at Pettibone Lagoon in La Crosse.  The West Central AFL-CIO started a similar event in Eau Claire in 2013, and the South Central Building & Trades Council added its own event last year in Madison. The fifth annual Take Kids Fishing Day in La Crosse is scheduled for June 4.

“Take Kids Fishing Day is the perfect opportunity to educate our youth on the benefits of fishing and spark a lifelong interest in the sport,” said USA Conservation Manager Ty Brown. “It’s also a great way to show families the abundance of public access opportunities available in their communities.”

This unique event is free and open to the public – especially under-privileged kids and handicapped adults who might not otherwise have a chance to learn about fishing.

Fishing poles, bait, lunch and a picnic style lunch are provided free of charge to all attendees. To ensure that no child leaves empty-handed, all kids participating in the La Crosse event get a door prize such as fishing rods and reels, lures or tackle items.

“Those who won fishing poles, of course, wanted to use them, so we had volunteers busy rigging them up,” said Terry Hayden, president of the Western Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council and business manager of UA Local 434. “Being connected with nature as a youth helps build a healthy respect for the world we live in.”

For children less inclined to fish, face painting and temporary tattoos are provided free of charge by members of OPEIU Local 277.

Since the first La Crosse event in 2012, union volunteers have mentored more than 420 kids, more than 100 attendees are expected this year.

In La Crosse, members of the following locals have been seen pitching in and helping make the event a success; OPEIU Local 277, LIUNA Local 268, IAMAW Locals 21 & 1115, IAMAW District Lodge 66, AFTW Local 3605, UA Local 434, AFSCME Locals 1449, 1914, 1449, 2484 and 2748, ATU Local 519, AFSCME Retirees Chapter 7-Subchapter 101, BLET Local 13, IBEW Local 14, IAFF Local 127, BMWE Local 1965, OPCMIA Local 599 BCT&GM Local 22.

“Not only do kids love to fish, but it’s satisfying for grown-ups to watch a kid who’s all smiles while catching a fish,” said Brockmiller. “There’s no better time than now to get a kid hooked on fishing.”

Dave Branson, executive director, Building & Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin agreed:  “For me, the best part of the event was seeing the smiles on all the kids’ faces. I loved being able to interact with everyone there. Not only was it successful, it was fun. Everybody had a great time.”

IL Laborer to Appear on SD Turkey Hunt on Brotherhood Outdoors

March 3, 2016 in Articles, Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Hunting

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV series will feature Mark Kezler, a union laborer with LIUNA Local 5 from Lansing, Illinois, on his first Merriam’s turkey hunt in South Dakota on Sportsman Channel.

A staple in Sportsman Channel’s ‘Red, Wild & Blue’ programming, Brotherhood Outdoors puts American workers in the spotlight as co-hosts Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen take viewers to the homes, communities and job sites of hardworking men and women and into the wild for heart pounding, gut wrenching, unforgettable hunting and fishing adventures across North America.

As a passionate hunter since childhood, Kezler applied to be a guest on Brotherhood Outdoors when he saw the show on Sportsman Channel, though he never thought he had a chance of being chosen.

“I would love to hunt turkey anywhere and anytime,” Kezler wrote in his application. “I think I am one of the best turkey callers in Central Illinois.”

Kezler got the opportunity to put his calling skills to the test when he was invited on his first Merriam’s turkey hunt in the Black Hills of South Dakota with Brotherhood Outdoors co-hosts Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen.

Mark Kezler (center) with Brotherhood Outdoors co-hosts Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen

Mark Kezler (center) with Brotherhood Outdoors co-hosts Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen

After landing in Rapid City and driving to High Prairie Lodge and Outfitters, Kezler and the Brotherhood Outdoors crew headed into the field to get familiar with the terrain and search for signs and sounds of gobblers.

An experienced hunter, Kezler was humbled by the nature of the hunt, which entailed early-morning stream crossings in frigid water and challenging climbs up steep, pine needle-covered hills.  After leaving the lodge at 3:30 a.m. on the second day, Kezler was in position when the excitement began just after 6:00 a.m.

“We had three Toms come drumming, spitting and gobbling as if they had read the script,” Kezler said.  “Their drumming was so loud you could feel the vibration in your eardrums and chest.”

When the dominate turkey came out in full strut, Kezler got tunnel vision as he lined up his front sight with the bird’s neck and waited for the other gobblers to show up and give Martin a shot, so they could get a combo.

Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sportsman Channel to see if the gobblers play into the hunters’ plan.

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, Sqwincher and United Association/International Training Fund.

Sheet Metal Worker Holds Out for First Montana Mule Deer on Brotherhood Outdoors

February 25, 2016 in Articles, Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Hunting

Going on a Western mule deer hunt would be a trip of a lifetime for many hunters.  For Keith Gilmer, a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 from Bethel, PA, it was even more of a dream come true because 12 years ago, he didn’t know how many more chances he would have to hunt.

“In 2004, I found out that I was headed towards renal failure; my kidneys were shutting down,” Gilmer said.  “I wasn’t sure how many more times I would be in my treestand.”

Luckily, Gilmer met a woman through his community volunteer work who offered to be tested as a potential donor and was a match.  She donated a kidney, Gilmer recovered and the two were married in 2013.  Now Gilmer treats each day and all those special moments in the woods as a gift.

An avid hunter for the past 45 years, Gilmer has harvested many whitetails with his bow, crossbow, rifle and handgun in Pennsylvania, but family commitments prevented him from going on a Western big game hunt.  He finally got that chance when he saw an ad for the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV series in his union magazine and applied to be a guest.

On November 20, 2015, Gilmer flew to Billings, Montana, and met up with Brotherhood Outdoors co-hosts Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen along with his guide, Dale Denny of BearPaw Outfitters.  The hunt kicked off exceptionally well the next day when the group spotted a very nice whitetail buck at first light.  Gilmer’s hunting tag provided the option for a whitetail or mule deer, so although it took a lot of willpower, he decided to pass on the shot and hold out for a muley.  Gilmer and the crew saw more than 100 deer that day, and about 40 percent were bucks, but Gilmer continued to be patient.

keith_500

“The second day, we again saw plenty of deer, and just as we were going back to take a lunch break, we spotted some bedded mule deer – five does and one buck.  That’s what I was hoping for,” Gilmer said.

When the buck and his does got up and headed over the next ridge, the hunters followed.  They caught up with the deer just before they crossed over yet another ridge and headed into a canyon, and Gilmer got in position for a 120-yard shot on his first mule deer.

Does Gilmer get to give thanks for harvesting a mule deer buck just days before Thanksgiving or simply for the beautiful scenery and incredible opportunity?

Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on Sportsman Channel. Visit www.BrotherhoodOutdoors.tv for full season schedule, photos, video clips and more.  

How About A Hike With Those Trout?

February 25, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Beau Beasley

Fly angling, particularly for trout, allows me to lose myself in the experience.

When comes to the quality of a trout fishing experience, often true is that the greater the hike, the better the fishing.

When comes to the quality of a trout fishing experience, often true is that the greater the hike, the better the fishing.

I try to forget about everything besides outsmarting the trout I’m after. I’ve a few more years and (more than) a few unwanted pounds on me now, and hiking in to my fishing destination allows me to pretend that I’m exercising and not just recreating.

Let’s look at three locations where you can fish for trout, and get in some good exercise there and back.

Bath County, Virginia: A series of waterfalls called The Cascades, located on property owned by the Omni Homestead Resort, is ideal for fly anglers, with both a solid population of fish. The lower end of the stream offers easier access is stocked with large Kamloops rainbows. This lower area allows for fairly long casts and room for the feisty fish to run. Anglers can wade out here and attempt to cast into some of the deeper pools or try their hand at very technical casts near downed trees and other structure. The slow, clear waters give the trout a distinct advantage here, so move carefully and avoid too many false casts.

As fly anglers hike to the top of the stream, they are rewarded with a rich view of moss-covered rocks and one beautiful waterfall after another. Best of all, visiting anglers can cast small flies and test their skills against wild, naturally reproducing rainbows, which seem to inhabit the bottom of every waterfall.

Guests of the Omni Homestead Resort can fish the area for free; outside guests can fish for a nominal fee. Even non-angling hotel guests can enjoy the scenery, thanks to a wooden catwalk that flanks the side of the stream and provides a bird’s-eye view of the cascading waterfalls. Don’t miss the exceptional daily, botanist-led tours of the surrounding flora and fauna.

For more information about this fishery or accommodations in the area, contact Matt Thomas at (540) 839-1766 or (330) 205-2014, or visit http://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/homestead-virginia/things-to-do/resort-activities/fly-fishing.

Carter County, Tennessee:  Hampton Creek, a public fishery in the eastern end of the Volunteer State, is ideal for hiking and small-stream fishing. This creek borders a hiking trail, which in turn links up to the famed Appalachian Trail. The trail was used by colonial soldiers who rallied to support General Washington during the Revolutionary War. These early patriots were nicknamed the “Over the Mountain Men” because of their travels in the area.

Hampton Creek is a wild brook trout stream with significant canopy cover and lots of moss-covered rocks. Though you’ll wish you were part billy goat by the time you reach the creek, the natural beauty and the fishing will make the trek worthwhile. Be sure to bring plenty of flies because the canopy cover is tight.

For more information on Hampton Creek, contact Mike Adams at Eastern Fly Outfitters (www.easternflyoutfitters.com) at (423) 538-3007.

Hiking higher often leads a trout angler to small headwaters, where tight, technical casts are required.

Hiking higher often leads a trout angler to small headwaters, where tight, technical casts are required.

Pocahontas County, West Virginia: I often focus on both the Williams and Cherry rivers when fishing in West Virginia. Camping is also available at designated areas near both rivers should you wish to take along your tent.

Large, in-stream boulders characterize both rivers. Fishing all the nooks and crannies that these two rivers provide could easily take the methodical angler a couple of weeks. While climbing in and around the banks of the rivers is a challenge, a great little hike is just around the corner.

The Falls of Hill Creek Trail lies directly between the Williams and the Cherry, and this trail offers a beautiful diversion surrounded by lush canopy cover—and no fewer than three waterfalls. The middle falls on this hike spans an impressive 70 feet and is one of the highest in West Virginia. Though the first 1,700 feet or so of the hiking trail is paved, the rest isn’t. A boardwalk combined with a series of metal stairways leads you down and around a mountain stream.

Visitors can secure accommodations and fly fishing guide services in this area by contacting Gil Willis at www.elkriverinnandrestaurant.com, or call (304) 572-3771.

Like I said, I’ve got a few more pounds on me than when I was younger man. Still, I’ve found fishing for trout in elevated areas is a great way to find less-pressured waters. After all, if I can find a few places to trout fish, while shedding a few pounds what’s not to like?

 

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.

Sqwincher Partners with USA to Tackle Dehydration

February 24, 2016 in Articles

Every day, an average adult loses about 10 cups of water simply by breathing, sweating and eliminating waste, according to the Mayo Clinic. Yet data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys shows that the average American drinks a little more than 4 cups of water per day. So it’s no wonder dehydration is the number one cause of afternoon fatigue and the source of $5.5 billion in annual health care costs.

Dehydration is a serious matter, especially for those in labor-intensive and potentially dangerous jobs. In fact, losing just 1-2% of body weight in water can reduce the ability to concentrate and perform physically. Industrial work is much harder on the body and mind, and workers need something extra to keep them on their feet. That something extra is exactly what Sqwincher Corporation provides.

Sqwincher_275Sqwincher got its start in 1975 when founder Mack Howard sought to develop a healthier alternative to Gatorade with more potassium and less sodium. Today, the Sqwincher formula goes beyond quenching thirst to deliver rehydration for the toughest working conditions through innovative dispensing methods including premixed cans or bottles, powder packs for water coolers, liquid concentrate, electrolyte chews and even frozen Sqweeze pops in a variety of flavors. Sqwincher is specially designed for the athletes of industry with special formulas for workers who suffer from hypertension, diabetes and similar health issues.

It was a shared focus on America’s hardworking union men and women that lead Sqwincher to partner with the USA in 2015.

“When we learned about the USA, it was a natural fit – a very easy decision,” said Bubba Wolford, Sqwincher director of corporate accounts. “Your members are our customers. About 95% of our business is done through the industrial construction sector; we do not sell product retail. We want unions to know that we support them. … Our number one goal is to have every man and woman on the jobsite get home to their families.”

Work isn’t the only situation when staying hydrated and alert is important. Many union members spend their free time hunting, fishing or busting clays on the shooting course, and drinking enough quality liquid to stay fueled is not always top of mind. That’s why you will now see Sqwincher hydration stations dotting the course at USA sporting clays shoots and other events.

Sqwincher_275_2“Sqwincher Corporation isn’t a company that just produces products. They offer hydration programs designed to keep industrial workers – our members – safe, and that’s why we are so proud of this partnership,” said USA Deputy Director Mike d’Oliveira. “From their support of our union-dedicated TV show, Brotherhood Outdoors, to our shoots, dinners and conservation program, Sqwincher’s level of commitment to the USA and its members is apparent. Wherever we are, they are.”

IBEW Local 26 Member Lands Bass Sweepstakes

February 13, 2016 in Articles, Fishing, General

by Kate Nation

Mark and Patch Duncan will attend the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic this March, compliments of the USA and Carhartt.

Mark and Patch Duncan will attend the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic this March, compliments of the USA and Carhartt.

When Mark Duncan, longtime member of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Electrical Workers Local 26 in Lanham, Maryland, learned he won the Ultimate Bass Sweepstakes presented by the USA and Carhartt, he didn’t have to think twice about who to take as his special guest to the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic.

His 15-year-old son, Patch, is crazy about fishing.  According to Duncan, Patch joined Mystery Tackle Box to receive a box of new lures every month and, just before he got the exciting news from the USA, Patch came to him to show off the new fishing gear he would get to try this summer.

“I have watched the Bassmaster Classic on TV before, but I’m sure it will be a much different perspective seeing it live,” said Duncan, an avid fisherman himself.  “My son is a jitter with all the experience and knowledge he is going to get.”

When Duncan and his son head to Tulsa, Oklahoma, March 4-6, they will get VIP treatment as they cheer alongside more than a hundred thousand fellow bass fishing fans as pro anglers weigh their catch in hopes of making history.  In addition to airfare, lodging, ground transportation and passes to event activities, Duncan will receive $1,000 in spending money and a Carhartt U.S. made camouflage jacket.  Since he had to retire his old Carhartt jacket after trying to dry it a little too close to the fire, he looks forward to putting the new one to good use.

IBEW Local 26 has been very active with the USA through the years, and Duncan became a USA member early on.

“I thought it was pretty cool – the fact that it’s union and sportsmen,” he said.  “I’m totally into hunting and fishing, so it was right up my alley.”

In addition to attending the USA’s Capital Area conservation dinner, which is strongly supported by IBEW Local 26, Duncan receives the USA’s emails and has entered most of the member contests over the years.

“I was pretty amazed.  I never win anything, so the last thing I thought I’d win is something like this – I mean maybe a door prize or something,” Duncan said.  “I was pretty ecstatic.”

Check back for photos and Duncan’s inside scoop on the Bassmaster Classic in late March.

Pick A Pup For Hunting

February 13, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson

You roll the dice and take your chances. Life’s like that, and so too can be the process of picking a pup to become your next hunting dog.

Picking a pup to become your next hunting buddy should not be a snap decision. That pup will be with you a long time, both in the field and as part of the family.

Picking a pup to become your next hunting buddy should not be a snap decision. That pup will be with you a long time, both in the field and as part of the family.

However, while luck certainly plays a role in your pup turning into a great hunting companion, there are ways to ensure the cards fall in your favor when it comes to the pick of the litter.

Breeds of dogs are better suited for different types of hunting—pointers for upland birds, beagles and hounds for trailing and running game, and retrievers for waterfowl hunting. We will focus on retrievers, but much of the expert advice on picking a pup applies to dogs used for other hunting situations—and even for pup that’s going to be strictly a pet.

Nick Hall, owner of Hall Kennels in Defiance, Missouri, has been training dogs professionally since 2005, and he has come to know a thing or two about making those oh-so-important decisions on picking a pup.

So, too, has Tony Vandemore, co-owner of Habitat Flats in Sumner, Missouri. Tony is one of the most recognizable waterfowlers in the country. Vandemore’s current go-to retriever is “Ruff and Tough Grandpa Ki.” Ki was trained by Hall, and is living up to his father, Ruff’s, legendary reputation as a top retriever and hunting companion.

Choosing A Breed

Hall said where you hunt can be a determining factor in the breed of dog a prospective owner might consider.

“In the past,” he said, “I’ve trained some very nice poodles. If you’re hunting shallow flooded fields in a moderate climate like southern Arkansas, a poodle might be perfect. You might not need a Chesapeake in a situation like this. And if you’re going to keep a dog inside, poodles don’t shed,” he continued. “A lot depends on the environments being hunted regularly.”

Does color matter when choosing a Lab as your hunting companion? There are strong opinions on all Lab varieties.

Does color matter when choosing a Lab as your hunting companion? There are strong opinions on all Lab varieties.

Always to the point, Vandemore’s reply was monosyllabic. “Labs.”

Without a doubt, Labrador retrievers are the most popular breed for waterfowl hunters, and they’re also a great breed as a family pet. For most, a hunting Lab will become both a working dog and a beloved part of the family.

Does Color Matter?

Labs come in three varieties—black, yellow and chocolate. Lab lovers have strong opinions on which is the best.

“From a mind-stability standpoint,” said Hall, “I believe that black and yellow Labs are more stable. Chocolates—it’s been my experience—sometimes have some small aggression issues. Don’t get me wrong,” he cautioned, “I’ve seen some great chocolates over the years. I just haven’t seen trainability differences between black and yellow as I have, at times, with the chocolates.”

On the subject of retriever color, Vandemore was again succinct. “Black,” he said without hesitation. That’s all, just black. 

Male Or Female?

A pup that's going to turn into a hunting dog will hopefully have the drive it takes to retrieve in tough conditions, yet an "off" switch when it's not the dog's time to hunt.

A pup that’s going to turn into a hunting dog will hopefully have the drive it takes to retrieve in tough conditions, yet have an “off” switch when it’s not the dog’s time to hunt.

Hall said, “With a male, it’s been my experience that you have a better chance of a dog turning out. You can have an exceptional female, but it’s harder to find an excellent female. Females do,” he continued, “seem a bit easier to handle. They can be a bit more compliant, which is always good. And if they display all the drive and get-up-and-go of a male, and are more compliant—well, there you go.”

“I prefer males,” said Vandemore, “always have. You hear that males are stronger and a little tougher physically, but I’ve had the pleasure of hunting over some awfully good females over the years—females that were tough as nails. It’s really personal preference. For me, though, it’s males. I don’t want to have to worry about a dog being in heat during hunting season.” 

Pick A Pup From The Litter

“At the end of the day,” Hall said, “picking a puppy is still just an educated guess. A lot of times, I’ll actually pick the dog for the person based on what I know of the dog and what I know about the person. A personality match, so to speak. If the dog has drive and ambition, they can be trained. But what are you, the hunter, looking to live with all the time? Is it going to be in the kennel all the time? Or is it going to be around you all the time? Is it a high energy dog, and, if so, is that high energy level going to get annoying in time? It doesn’t always work,” Hall continued, “but my goal is to try to find that dog for that person. It’s kind of like Match.com for hunters and their new dogs.”

On picking a pup, Vandemore said, “Again, it’s a matter of personal preference. It’s what you want in a dog. For me, I want one that has a ‘switch.’ When it’s time for him to retrieve, he’s 110 percent in the game. But he has an off switch when he’s not in the field, and it isn’t his turn. A good dog is always ready to go but quiet off the field. I don’t care for a retriever that’s wound up all the time—he can’t sit still, whines, or is breaking all the time.

“And it’s often a fine line,” Vandemore continued. “When looking at a litter of pups, I want to see one that’s curious—not afraid to go off on his own, and doesn’t get pushed around by the other pups. When I picked Ki, Nick threw a duck wing into the puppy pile. Ki immediately grabbed it and took off. Eventually, the other pups started chasing him and trying to take the wing away, but he didn’t give it up. Ki wasn’t the biggest pup in the litter, but he was agile and quick.”

Weight is a consideration if you’re hunting a lot from boats or difficult blind situations. There’s been a trend to breed for bigger Labs, but many die-hard hunters don’t want a huge dog in the field.

“Ultimately, I prefer a dog that weighs about 60 pounds when he’s at his hunting weight,” Vandemore said.

 

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.

Spicy Alligator Tenderloin Recipe

February 12, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

Provided by Beau Tallent

Harvest an alligator, and you are about to have lots of meat. The tenderloins of an alligator are the prime cut. Here’s a great recipe from Louisiana Seafood that’s a spicy twist for part of your alligator tenderloin meat.

Ingredients
•    4 lbs. alligator tenderloin, 1-inch cubes
•    2 qt. Canola oil
•    1 1/2 cups onions, diced small
•    1/4 cup jalapeños, diced small
•    32 oz. can tomatoes, diced
•    1 Tbsp. Original TABASCO brand pepper sauce
•    1/3 cup basil, chopped
•    Salt to taste
•    Pepper to taste
•    2 Tbsp. Creole seasoning
•    6 cups flour
•    6 cups buttermilk

Directions
1.) Heat canola oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and jalapeños and cook until onions are tender and translucent. Add tomatoes and cook additional 20 minutes. Add TABASCO and basil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve sauce warm.
2.) Combine Creole seasoning and flour. Reserve.
3.) Coat alligator tenderloin with seasoned flour and shake off any excess. Coat each piece with buttermilk and toss in seasoned flour a second time. Shake off excess.
4.) Fry until golden brown and drain on paper towels. Season to taste with salt. Serve with spicy tomato sauce on the side.

Enjoy!

Seasons for a Grand Slam

February 8, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

1The Grand Slam entails taking the four turkey subspecies found in the United States. With a little planning, you can hunt all four in a single season. Here’s a look at some of the better states for each subspecies and their turkey-season frameworks.  Of course, check all state regulations before planning your Grand Slam adventures.

Osceola: Florida State Road 70 runs east-to-west from St. Lucie County to Manatee County, and it splits the Florida turkey season. South of State Road 70, the 2016 Florida spring turkey season is March 5  – April 10. North of State Road 70, the 2016 spring season is March 19 – April 24.

Eastern: This subspecies is found in good populations in many states. Seasons for some of the better states include: Mississippi from March 15 to May 1; Missouri from April 20 to May 10; Tennessee from April 2 to May 15; New York from May 1 to May 31; and Georgia from March 26 to May 15.

Rio Grande: The Rio Grande is found primarily in Oklahoma with a spring season from April 6 to May 6, in Kansas with a spring season from April 13 to May 31, and California with a spring gobbler season from March 26 to May 1

Merriam’s: Prime states and their seasons to bag a Merriam’s gobbler include South Dakota, April 9 to May 22; Wyoming, April 1 to May 20; Idaho, April 15 to May 25.

WI | Chimney Swift Bird Tower

January 28, 2016 in Conservation News, Wisconsin, Work Boots On The Ground

Wisconsin Union Volunteers Build Home for Displaced Birds

As dusk’s grey subtly mutes day’s blues and golds, and shadows from behind assume the foreground, a plume of earth and ash colored birds ascends from a chimney like a rush of smoke from an evening fireplace – hundreds of them. Flittering and fluttering, twisting and turning, they stalk and eat all they flying insects they can before descending back into their rooftop home for a good night’s rest of vertically-perched slumber.

Building & Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin volunteers built and installed a chimney swift roosting tower at Cherokee Park in Madison, Wisconsin.

Left to right: Building & Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin Steve Ketelboeter, Elevator Constructors Local 132; Dave Branson BCTC of South Central Wisconsin executive director; Andy Shultis, Iron Workers Local 383 (retired); Antony Anastasi, Iron Worker Local 383; Spencer Statz, Plumbers Local 75; and Lisa Goodman, Electrical Workers Local 159 stand in front of the completed chimney swift bird tower at Cherokee Park in Madison, Wisconsin.

The chimney swift is a species that had to adjust to dwindling habitats. Their natural roosting places were hollow trees, but as civilization expanded, these modest birds began to take refuge in chimneys. With advanced heating methods becoming more prominent, many structures aren’t built with chimneys, and numerous existing chimneys are being capped off, creating another housing crisis for the chimney swift.

As part of Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) flagship conservation program, union volunteers from the Building & Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin constructed and installed an 18-foot-tall chimney swift tower at Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park in Madison, Wisconsin, on Oct. 17, 2015.

“Enhancing wildlife habitats is a key component of the Work Boots on the Ground program,” said USA Conservation Manager Ty Brown. “The chimney swift tower falls perfectly in line with our mission, so it was easy to say yes to this project.”

To complete the tower, 15 union members donated their expertise and more than 100 skilled man-hours on the project. First, they built the tower offsite, which included measuring, cutting and fastening wood materials together, staining the tower and building a stainless steel predator shroud for the top, according to Project Manager Spencer Statz, a member of Plumbers Local 75. Once constructed, the volunteers transported the tower to Cherokee Park on a trailer. They dug a 3-foot by 3-foot hole, 4 feet deep, placed rebar in the hole and erected the tower with a SkyTrak forklift donated by Ideal Crane Rentals, before pouring concrete for a secure base.

Project volunteers represented Plumbers Local 75, Elevators Constructors Local 132, Painters & Allied Trades Local 802, Steamfitters Local 601, Electricians Local 159, Iron Workers Local 383 and Operative Plasters & Cement Masons Local 599. Funds raised at the USA’s 2014 Madison Conservation Dinner covered project costs, and the idea came about when Statz approached a local conservation group called the Friends of Cherokee Marsh, who suggested the nesting tower.

“It all started when I was 6 years old,” said Statz. “My brother and I enjoyed fishing on the Yahara River, which runs through Cherokee Marsh. Over the next 30 years, I enjoyed rabbit, pheasant, waterfowl, turkey and deer hunting in the same area. When our (Building & Construction Trades Council) was looking for a project to do, it was a no-brainer for me; I wanted to give back to the wildlife area that brought me so many great memories growing up.”

Friends of Cherokee Marsh President Jan Axelson shared Statz’s enthusiasm for the project: “We were delighted when union workers came to us to volunteer,” she said. “We had wanted to build a swift tower, but we didn’t have the skills, materials or funding to pull it off, so having skilled union workers build it was a dream come true. They did a beautiful job, and we are totally pleased.”

Whether enhancing wildlife habitats, improving public access to the outdoors, restoring America’s parks or mentoring youth in the outdoors, the common denominator is community service, which is the heart of WBG.

“Our members live and work in this community,” said Statz. “So, I can’t think of a better way to give back to the places that made us who we are today.”

Everyone Can Hunt Coyotes

January 26, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by Ron Kruger

Coyotes are a complete wilderness survival package.

: Calling coyotes close enough for a shot is often easier for new hunters to accomplish in the deep woods than in the open fields. Coyotes seem to generally be less cautious in thick woods than in open areas.

Calling coyotes close enough for a shot is often easier for new hunters to accomplish in the deep woods than in open fields. Coyotes seem to generally be less cautious in thick woods.

Coyotes are cunning, have a better nose than a deer, better eyesight than a turkey and better hearing than probably any other wild creature.

That¹s why there are so many of coyotes, and why they have expanded their range across North America into states and regions where they are an invasive species doing great harm to native wildlife.

But coyotes do have a fatal weakness—they are suckers for the sounds of an animal in distress. That¹s why anyone can hunt them, because anyone can blow a distress call, or at least use an electronic caller.

Calling one in is exciting fun. Some say it is even more fun than calling in a gobbler during the spring. And even though you don¹t eat coyotes, each one you harvest saves countless rabbits, deer, wild turkey and other game and non-game species—maybe even someone’s poodle or cat.

The more open the area, the more cautious coyotes are, and the more they tend to circle downwind at great distances. That¹s where flat-shooting center-fire calibers, such as a .223, 22/250, .222, etc., matched with a good scope are best. If, however, someone already owns such varmint calibers, they likely already know about coyotes and how to hunt them.

Electronic calls with remote-control capability and decoys can be set at a distance to divert attention away from your coyote-hunting position.

Electronic calls with remote-control capability can be set at a distance to divert attention away from your coyote-hunting position.

For newer hunters, I suggest hunting in the woods. If you don¹t have a big woods nearby, a shelter belt or small stand of timber will work. In wooded areas, especially with hilly or mountainous topography, coyotes are naturally less cautious, and wind currents are less predictable. Their response to calls is more immediate and direct. In this tangled terrain, you¹re likely to get fast, close encounters, so the weapon of choice is a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot. The same gun you use for turkey hunting, duck hunting or even squirrel hunting will work fine. Shotguns are surprisingly effective for coyotes out to about 40 yards, and they generally do less damage to the pelt than center-fire rifles.

The most important aspect to successfully hunting coyotes, and the one most overlooked by new hunters, is scent control. Bathing before the hunt, wearing scent blocker suits and paying attention to wind direction when you set up to call is at least as important as it is for deer hunting.

Concealment and camouflage are also critical. Whether hunting in open fields or dense woods, you need to conceal yourself in some type of tangled structure to break your outline. Just as with hunting deer from the ground, I prefer a fallen tree for a natural blind, and if it still has some leaves on it, even better. Full camouflage is important, including face mask and gloves. Also be mindful of possible glints from glasses, guns or other equipment. Sit in shaded areas whenever possible. And don¹t fidget. Like turkeys, coyotes can see you blink from considerable distances.

If your patience is a little short for other types of hunting, coyote hunting is perfect. Rarely should you spend more than one-half hour in a spot. Move at least a few hundred yards and try again, or better yet, have several tracts of land lined up where you have permission to call coyotes. Most landowners welcome some pressure on the local coyote populations, recognizing the pressure coyotes are putting on wildlife.

Scent blocking clothing and scent-eliminating sprays help defeat a coyote¹s best defense, its nose.

Scent blocking clothing and scent-eliminating sprays help defeat a coyote¹s best defense, its nose.

A dying rabbit is a popular call for coyote hunters, but I believe the best calls are those that mimic the most common food sources for the particular area you are hunting. In the deep woods, this might be a fawn bleat during fawning season in the summertimes, or it may be an excited turkey call or a baby squirrel.

A Mr. Squirrel call, used in conjunction with a sapling branch beaten on the ground to mimic the wing flapping of an avian predator squeezing the life out of a baby squirrel, may be the best coyote call. It seems to bring coyotes on the run without caution, thinking they can quickly steal an already captured meal from a hawk or owl.

The most common mistake, and the one I made often during the first couple of years, was calling too loudly. One of the best coyote hunters I’ve meet did all his calling by sucking air through wet lips placed on the back of his hand to create a very soft squeaking noise, like a field mouse. Whether you’re using an electronic or mouth call, keep the volume low at first, then crank it up only after you’re sure you haven’t drawn the attention of a nearby coyotes.

Anyone can hunt coyotes, with most any weapon and most any call. However, don¹t expect to just walk into the woods somewhere, crank up an electronic call and pile up the pelts. It’s not that easy. But nothing this much fun is ever that easy.

 

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.

Proud Union Plumber, Devoted Volunteer Hunts Colorado Elk on Brotherhood Outdoors

January 25, 2016 in Articles, Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Hunting

Mike Cramer (2nd from right) and fellow volunteers at the Trinity River NWR

Mike Cramer (2nd from right) and fellow volunteers at the Trinity River NWR

Braving mud, Texas size mosquitoes, intense heat and frustrating delays thanks to Mother Nature’s watery assault on southern Texas, volunteers from the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council gave up countless weekends in 2015 to construct a 500 foot elevated boardwalk at the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge. Once complete, the boardwalk will connect the city of Liberty, Texas, with the Refuge, providing hikers with access to13 miles of trails and a more intimate view of the bayou.

The man leading the charge is Michael E. Cramer, a proud member of UA Plumbers Local 68 and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and one of the most community-minded individuals you will ever meet.

“My conservation efforts and passion to give back and preserve our habitat have been ignited with my association with the USA,” Cramer said.  “I have committee myself to help organize and guide to completion every function and project the USA has chosen to do in the Houston area.”

From USA dinners and conservation projects to the fishing tournament he has organized for fellow union members and their families for the past 18 years to the many volunteer positions he holds within his union, Cramer is always ready and willing to serve others.

In recognition of his many selfless efforts, the USA selected Cramer to be a guest star on its award-winning TV series, Brotherhood Outdoors – something Cramer said was “without a doubt, at the top of his [bucket] list.”

Late last October, Cramer caught a plane from Houston to Craig, Colorado, to hunt elk with Brotherhood Outdoors co-hosts Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen and Majestic Trophy Outfitters.  For Cramer, Craig held extra significance because it was the very area where he got lost for 3.5 days during a bow hunting trip in 1989, one month before the birth of the daughter he and his wife had been trying to conceive for 10 years.

This time around, the only thing that got lost was Cramer’s luggage.  Upon his arrival at the Denver airport, he discovered that his trunk filled with hunting clothes and equipment was missing.  Instead of letting that set back get him down, Cramer burnt off his anxiety with 20 one-armed pushups right there in baggage claim.

Cramer and his guide glassing the mountains for that big bull elk.

Cramer and his guide glassing the mountains for that big bull elk.

Luckily, Cramer’s trunk did show up in time for the hunt, but the challenges didn’t end there.  The plan for this post-rut hunt in late October was to take advantage of the elk migration as the cold weather pushed thousands of elk from high altitude to lower ground for food.  But Mother Nature had a different plan with unseasonably warm temperatures.  When a nice bull did show up on the first day of the hunt, it was past legal shooting light.

Despite the limited number of elk, Cramer maintained a positive outlook, dancing down the trails and taking in the gorgeous scenery.

“To harvest a game animal is always secondary to the total outdoor experience,” Cramer said.  “I spend many hours in the field each year as these are the times I am most at peace and able to relieve myself from the stress we all experience from our daily activities.  It’s hard to beat a beautiful sunrise or sunset, and I have witnessed many.”

On the final day of the hunt, the temperature dropped, and the snow began to fall just enough to get the elk moving around.  As the daylight hours waned, several cow elk came into view with a bull behind them.

Does Cramer finally get his shot at a bull elk?

Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on the Sportsman Channel.  Visit www.BrotherhoodOutdoors.tv for full season schedule, photos, video clips and more.

Father and Son Test Their Sporting Clays Skills on Fast-Flying Georgia Quail on Brotherhood Outdoors

January 18, 2016 in Articles, Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Hunting

Dave Cole, a member of Utility Workers Local 666, began letting his son, Tristan, tag along when he and his buddies got together to shoot sporting clays when Tristan was 7-years-old. Little did he know he would soon be clocking as many as 2,500 miles on the road in six days to watch Tristan shoot and rack up awards in skeet and sporting clays competitions, including Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) shoots.

A hunter, shooter and farmer from Waynesburg, PA, Dave believes in getting youth involved in outdoor activities. So when Tristan showed interested in shooting, Dave got him a gun suited to his size and connected him with the Hunting Hills Hawkeyes Sporting Clays Team, which Dave now coaches.

Tristan Cole shooting at USA's 2014 Western Pennsylvania Shoot

Tristan Cole shooting at USA’s 2014 Western Pennsylvania Shoot

At the USA’s 2014 Western Pennsylvania Sporting Clays Shoot, Dave and a buddy along with 12-year-old Tristan and two other youth shooters, representing UWUA Local 666, achieved the High Over All (HOA) team award, while Tristan also took home the HOA individual and youth awards. In 2015, their team once again earned the HOA team award, and Tristan claimed HOA youth award.

Over the last few years, Tristan has continued to improve in the shooting sports, thanks to the support of his dad, team and a lot of practice.

“I buy shotgun shells by the pallet, 96 cases at a time. It’s a pretty healthy bill,” Dave said. “I’m just really proud of him. To watch somebody come as far as he’s come in three years has been an amazing journey, and I don’t think we’re near the end of it yet. I think he still has a lot to show and prove to himself.”

In March 2015, Dave and Tristan got the chance to put their sporting clays skills to the test on fast-flying Georgia quail when they were chosen to be guests on an episode of the USA’s outdoor TV series, Brotherhood Outdoors.

Daniel Lee, Julie, Tristan and Dave at the Smoking Gun Plantation

Daniel Lee, Julie, Tristan and Dave at the Smoking Gun Plantation

After meeting up with Brotherhood Outdoors co-hosts Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen at the Smoking Gun Plantation, the father-son duo quickly proved they were up to the challenge as the birds began to fall. Applying the good work ethic his father taught him, Tristan even volunteered to wipe down all the guns each evening after the hunt.

Between two days of beautiful weather, well-trained bird dogs, delicious home cooked meals and a healthy population of birds, Dave and Tristan left Georgia with “memories that will last a lifetime,” according to Dave, and a cooler full of birds.

Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sportsman Channel on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. (ET) as a father and son create wonderful memories in the outdoors as both they and the talented dogs show off their skills.

For complete Brotherhood Outdoors schedule, visit www.BrotherhoodOutdoors.tv.

Bricklayer Guides Brotherhood Outdoors Hosts for King Salmon

January 18, 2016 in Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Fishing, General

Co-host Daniel Lee Martin and Matt Eleazer

Co-host Daniel Lee Martin and Matt Eleazer

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV series will feature Matt Eleazer, a union bricklayer with BAC Local 1 Oregon and owner of EastFork Outfitters, LLC, as he guides the show’s hosts on a Columbia River salmon fishing trip on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET on Sportsman Channel.

A staple in Sportsman Channel’s ‘Red, Wild & Blue’ programming, Brotherhood Outdoors puts American workers in the spotlight as co-hosts Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen take viewers to the homes, communities and job sites of hardworking men and women and into the wild for heart pounding, gut wrenching, unforgettable hunting and fishing adventures across North America.

Driven by his strong passion for his union and the outdoors, Eleazer stays busy as the president/financial secretary of his union local and a part-time fishing guide/outfitter owner.

“I have hunted and fished since I was old enough to go with my father,” Eleazer said.  “I’ve been a member [of BAC] since I was 18 years old.  Being the president of the union means everything.”

Matt Eleazer adn co-host Julie McQueen

Matt Eleazer adn co-host Julie McQueen

As a guide, Eleazer really enjoys taking people on their first fishing trip or clients who didn’t think they were capable of such a fishing trip due to health or mobility issues.

“I’ve had a wide variety of clients, all the way from little kids to people who are 90,” Eleazer said.  “I’ve taken some people with hospice out; I had a real good friend whose dad was on hospice.  I had another good friend with ALS who recently passed away.  He wanted to catch a fish before he passed, and that’s real gratifying for me.”

In this episode, Eleazer helps McQueen catch her very first king salmon within the first 10 minutes of the trip as he gives the Brotherhood Outdoors hosts a taste of fishing in one of the most beautiful places they have ever seen, according to McQueen, on the Columbia River near the quaint town of Astoria, Oregon.

Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sportsman Channel on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET to see the story of this avid fisherman and dedicated union man as he, Martin and McQueen hook up on chinook, the largest species of salmon in the Pacific.  Get the complete schedule at www.BrotherhoodOutdoors.tv

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, Sqwincher and United Association/International Training Fund.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Carhartt Renew Partnership Through 2018

January 15, 2016 in General, Press Release

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to announce that Carhartt – the nation’s leading brand manufacturer of rugged work wear produced in the United States – has agreed to a multi-year renewal of its corporate partnership lasting through 2018.

“Carhartt is pleased to continue its partnership, now entering its fourth year, with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance – an organization that aligns with our passion for hard work and love of the outdoors,” said Tony Ambroza, senior vice president of marketing, Carhartt. “The outdoor conservation efforts made by the USA’s union members are invaluable because they allow all of us to continue to enjoy hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities year round.”

According to USA Deputy Director Mike d’Oliveira, Carhartt’s established presence as an industry leader in work wear and its commitment to the American worker makes a continued partnership an easy choice. Between Carhartt’s Detroit-area headquarters and factories in Kentucky and Tennessee, the company employs more than 2,100 hard working men and women – including more than 900 United Food & Commercial Workers International Union members – who design, cut, sew, market and sell garments. Over the past 15 years, Carhartt has produced more than 80 million garments in its American factories and since its start in 1889, has never stopped crafting products domestically.

“Carhartt is a known, respected name in the world of hardworking men and women, and it’s easy to see why,” said d’Oliveira. “The standard of excellence is apparent, not just in Carhartt’s products, but in the way they support us as partners and value our members’ hard-earned dollars.”

Since Carhartt also produces American-made hunting and outdoors gear, USA members can truly depend on the quality brand for work and play, said d’Oliveira. Carhartt also sponsors the USA’s award-winning TV show Brotherhood Outdoors on the Sportsman Channel.

“Carhartt has never let us down,” said Brotherhood Outdoors co-host Julie McQueen. “We really put our clothing and gear to the test, especially during our long days in the backcountry. We know that if we need dependable clothing that’s meant for hard work, we choose Carhartt.”

The work wear giant also supports the USA and its members in the form of national promotional sweepstakes. The current promotion will send one USA member and a guest to the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic with VIP access, Carhartt gear and $1,000 cash. In 2015, Carhartt sponsored an all-expenses-paid trip to the CMA Music Festival in Nashville for Carl Betancourt, a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 67. The prize also included a Carhartt camouflaged jacket, bibs and pair of pants.

“Loyal, committed partners like Carhartt are a big reason our organization is successful in our mission to unite the union community for conservation,” said d’Oliveira. “From product donations to national sweepstakes, all the way down to shirts on our members’ backs, Carhartt truly does ‘outwork them all.’”

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

Blackpowder Squirrels

January 15, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson

Hunting squirrels with a blackpowder gun, what a great and novel idea! It seems fewer hunters enjoy the wonderful sport of squirrel hunting these days, but leave it to me to find another reason to chase bushytails.

Hunting squirrels with a small-caliber blackpowder rifle is like taking a step back in time, a time when squirrels meant important food for the table.

Hunting squirrels with a small-caliber blackpowder rifle is like taking a step back in time, back when squirrels meant important food for the table.

The truth is I really didn’t even know I wanted a small-caliber muzzleloading rifle until one day I came across a half-page ad for Cabela’s Blue Ridge series rifles. Made in Italy for Cabela’s by Davide Pedersoli, the Blue Ridge rifles run the gamut from .32 to .54 caliber. A quick conversation with the folks in Sidney, Nebraska, and the Pedersoli soon arrived.

As I suspected, the Blue Ridge, while aesthetically pleasing, arrived as a very simple piece. The hardwood stock is pretty, but plain. The elongated brass trigger guard appeals visually, but it is nothing fancy. Accustomed as I am to blued metal, I was somewhat surprised to see the .32 sporting a browned octagonal barrel. However, I wasn’t surprised to see the twin triggers—a forward set-trigger and a curved rear hammer-fall.

My plan was to use my new caliber blackpowder gun to hunt squirrels. Oh, how I love chasing bushytails, but before the field, there would have to be a visit to the range.

On The Range

The equipment I toted to the shooting range included my traditional range box containing cleaning accessories, loading and unloading tools, brass drifts for adjusting sights, and a complete gunsmithing screwdriver set. Because I was starting from scratch, I carried both Pyrodex and Triple Seven powders, lubed and unlubed .010-inch thick all-cotton patches, and a box of .310/45-grain pure lead round balls. I opted to use a #1075 Plus #11 cap manufactured by German ammunition maker, Rheinisch-Westfälischen Sprengstoff (RWS), a subsidiary of Dynamit Nobel.

The author always carries the proper tools for his .32 caliber muzzleloader, whether shooting at the range or in the woods chasing bushytails.

The author always carries the proper tools for his .32 caliber muzzleloader, whether shooting at the range or in the woods chasing bushytails.

After setting my target stand at 25 yards and popping three or four caps to clear the nipple and flash hole, I charged the Blue Ridge with 20 grains of Triple Seven. Atop this tiny charge, I carefully seated one of the pea-sized .310 diameter round balls wrapped in a thin and lightly lubricated cotton patch. With a cap astride the nipple, the rifle rested securely, and the set-trigger cocked rearward, I found myself peering down the 39-inch barrel at the black and chartreuse target 75 feet downrange.

To my surprise and great pleasure, this first shot printed just an inch right and an inch low. Grinning to myself, I swabbed the barrel, recharged the piece, and settled down for round two, and then was even more surprised when the second clover-leafed the first. Taking a small brass drift and hammer from my range box, I tapped the buckhorn rear sight ever so softly. Again, I swabbed the barrel, poured the powder, seated the ball, and readied the rifle. At the sharp CRACK!, a small yellow dot appeared just below center on the target. Quickly, I cleaned the bore, reloaded, and caressed the front trigger, and the result was a near report of the previous discharge.

The range time revealed several vital pieces of information. First, the rifle shot like a .22 rimfire, with instantaneous ignition. Second, a six o’clock low hold was necessary to put the ball precisely on the ‘X.’ Third, consistency, I surmised, was achieved in part due to swabbing the barrel clean between shots; thus, I would continue this practice into the field. And fourth, 20 grains of Triple Seven seemed to be plenty of propellant.

The Blue Ridge Afield

For my squirrel hunts, I take a muzzleloading shoulder bag. Inside the shoulder bag, I carry the following for charging the piece afield: short ball starter, brass powder measure, powder flask, speed-loader containing 15 round balls, lubed cotton patches, and a red plastic container of RWS #1075 caps.

While the gun's range may be farther, the author looks for shots at squirrels within 35 yards when hunting with his muzzleloader.

While the gun’s range may be farther, the author looks for shots at squirrels within 35 yards when hunting with his muzzleloader.

In a separate compartment of the bag, I have the following for cleaning and in-the-field maintenance: pre-cut seasoned/lubed cleaning patches, nipple wrench, nipple pick, Q-tip swabs, and ramrod accessories to include a breech plug scraper, patch puller, ball puller, and cleaning jag. I also carry an extra nipple, and two small screwdrivers—one flat and one Phillips head.

Equipped as such, I’ve never encountered a situation where I’ve been unable to strip, clean, and reassemble the .32 in the field during a squirrel hunt. The few times I have had a problem with misfires, the culprit was identified as a plugged nipple and/or flash hole. The remedy required little more than removing the nipple and clean-out screw on the drum. NOTE: The drum is the metal cylinder on the side of the barrel into which the nipple is threaded, and thoroughly reaming both with a nipple pick. Three caps and a 20-grain charge of powder, and I was ready to load and hunt once more.

The limitations I face while squirrel hunting with the percussion gun versus my Ruger 10/22 are two-fold. The first limitation is imposed both by the gun and by the man behind the trigger, and the second is a decision solely on the part of the man behind the trigger.

The first is a 30- to 35-yard maximum range for squirrels when hunting with the blackpowder piece. Yes, the firearm in more capable hands than mine is, I’m certain, is suitable for game such as squirrels and cottontails out to distances approaching 100 yards. Ballistically, my .310 diameter/45-grain round ball over 30 grains of FFFg practically mirrors the .22 rimfire projectile (40-grain bullet @ 1,255 fps muzzle velocity) at 300 feet. The task, as I see it, is putting that tiny lead ball under a squirrel’s ear a football field distant. I fear my eyes aren’t what they used to be, and I refuse to put glass optics on the little gun. Thus, I limit myself to 30 to 35 yards.

As for the second limitation afield with the Blue Ridge, this one is personal. A miss, and that bushytail gets a pass. In the time required to patch the .32 and recharge the piece, most squirrels have hightailed it for safety anyway. But on those occasions when that fat squirrel decides to hunker down and stand pat—well, I’ll likely see him on my next trip to the timber.

To me, hunting—and squirrel hunting with a blackpowder rifle in particular—is all about that special challenge. It is a one-on-one with our most traditional wild game species. And what better way of achieving this than the one shot at a squirrel offered by that little .32 caliber muzzleloader?

 

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.

Fishing Florida’s 10,000 Islands

January 4, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

By Bob McNally

Fishing Florida with light-tackle fishing for a wide variety of marine species, including glamour species like tarpon and snook, is available 12 months per year in the South Florida haven known as the 10,000 Islands.      

Tarpon can be found even in winter, and some big fish can be caught, though most are "baby" tarpon weighing up to about 40 pounds.

Tarpon can be found even in winter, and some big fish can be caught, though most are “baby” tarpon weighing up to about 40 pounds.

If there still is an “old Florida” that remains—a parcel spared the developer’s bulldozer and dredge—it surely must be South Florida’s 10,000 Islands.

This is an island fishing kingdom, a place you don’t drive to by chance, because there’s not much else around except fish and fishermen. There’s a great reason fishing Florida attracts anglers from across the globe, and this wild 10,000 Islands region of South Florida should be near the top of the fishing Florida bucket list.

This is gator, panther and bald eagle country, and it characterized by impenetrable mangrove swamps. This is a place where mosquitoes are the most abundant bird of prey. It’s a place so wild and remote that road signs don’t designate deer crossings, but warn of black bears and Florida panthers sharing the highway.

Chokoloskee is a famous Florida fishing village, smack in the middle of the fabled 10,000 Islands, at the north edge of Everglades National Park. It’s a place steeped in rich light-tackle fishing tradition. But the bulk of the attention the place receives is in winter and early spring is primarily from snook addicts.

While snook fishing is superb in the 10,000 Islands out of Chokoloskee, and winter and spring are choice times for them, the area has much more to offer anglers, with outstanding angling available every day of the calendar.

Snook are among the most prized target fish in the 10,000 islands, with great fishing winter through spring.

Snook are among the most prized target for anglers fishing Florida in the 10,000 Islands, with great fishing winter through spring.

Fishing Florida at 10,000 Islands from January through March is a slam dunk because the weather is comfortable, and the insects around mangroves are not bad. This is peak time for grass flats seatrout, which range from 1 to 3 pounds. Plus, 2- to 4-pound Spanish mackerel are seemingly everywhere “outside” of the mangrove swamps in the open Gulf of Mexico.

Lots of snook are available in the “back-country” maze of mangroves, as well as some snook near outside mangrove islands and river mouths.

April through June is the most prime period for back-country snook action. Lots of fish are available, and some big spawning females are around. The rivers hold some giant linesiders, which must be released, but there are 30 to 35 pound fish in June.

Guide Terry Shaughnessy once caught a 51 1/2-incher, weighing 37 pounds—a female that had already spawned. That giant snook was caught in June. On another legendary June trip, in two days of snook fishing another with clients, a guide boat caught 52 snook. Capt. Danny Mitchell produced 32 snook one day, and 28 fish the next day for his guided crew. The fish were caught on lures and live baits, weighing from 8 to 22 pounds.

Big “sleeping” tarpon (100 to 150 pounders) can be found in small pods in early winter mornings in back bays at Chokoloskee. Tarpon in the 50- to 100-pound range also are in great supply in June. Early in the mornings, tarpon roll at river mouths like the Houston, Turner and Chadham. During falling tides, they readily hit jigs, topwater plugs, streamer flies and live crabs.

Permit fishing has never been better in Florida than what’s available on the wrecks off Chokoloskee from March through June. Shaughnessy often begins a day of fishing working wrecks, then when the sun rises and the wind blows, he runs back inshore for snook, tarpon, redfish and other species.

Redfish are in good supply wherever there’s shell, and shell beds are easy to find at low tide. Sheepshead to 6 pounds also like the shell. Turtle, Joe Kemp and Rock Hole keys are hot spots for 4- to 10-pounders. Anglers running boats from fishing spot to spot should check boat wakes for “skipping” pompano, which apparently love to surf the waves. Spot a pompano, circle back, and cast the area with 1/4-ounce white or yellow nylon jigs, and 1- to 4-pound pompano are often the result.

Tripletail action is outstanding during January, February and March. They average 4 to 6 pounds and can be found holding under crab trap buoys, which are available by the hundreds. A soft-plastic D.O.A. Shrimp in natural or root beer color is rarely refused by tripletail. Dozen-fish days are not unusual, and some tripletail weighing double digits are caught by anglers fishing Florida in the 10,000 Islands region.

Cobia weighing 20 to 30 pounds are on the flats during the first three months of the year, feeding behind sting rays. Bigger cobia and grouper can be found on nearshore wrecks, some as close as 3 miles offshore. Such wrecks are found in 18 to 25 feet of water and are safe for even flats skiffs to reach, particularly in early mornings on a calm, sunny, warm, South Florida Gulf of Mexico day.

The chief place for visiting 10,000 Islands anglers to headquarter is Chokoloskee. The towns of Marco and Goodland on Marco Island are popular, too, but they are more upscale and expensive than Chokoloskee.

Guides Terry Shaughnessy, who can be reached at (239) 695-0687, and Danny Mitchell, who can be emailed at captaindan49@gmail.com, know the Chokoloskee area and can lead anglers to fish-filled days.

 

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.

Venison From Field To Table

December 27, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

 

By Beau Tallent

No organic meat is more natural and healthy than wild game. A single deer will provide a tasty centerpiece for countless meals.

Ground venison can become a stable for the family menu of a deer hunter. An investment in a quality grinder will allow a hunter to put up and freeze 10 to 15 pounds of ground venison from an average white-tailed deer once other standard cuts like loins and roasts are taken.

Ground venison can become a standard for the family menu of a deer hunter. An investment in a quality grinder will allow a hunter to put up and freeze 10 to 15 pounds of ground venison from an average white-tailed deer once other standard cuts like loins and roasts are taken.

Farm-to-table appears to be a food movement with some legs. Consumers can’t get enough locally grown, pesticide-free, non-GMO fruits and vegetables. They also want organic meat, which tempts the modern foodie with health-centric terms such as “free range” and “grass fed.” Meanwhile, popular diets harken back to the caveman days when humans ate only what they killed, and fruits and nuts were picked from their natural surroundings.

Isn’t it great to be a hunter? Hunters were rocking the Paleo diet long before the Dr. Oz Show convinced suburban parents they should feed their families organic meat.

Sportsmen have long valued the simple yet profound concept of being personally responsible for putting up our own meat. Hunters take ownership in killing the animal, we field dress the carcass, and with most small game animals, hunters also process the meat for the freezer or prepare it for a fresh meal. Big game animals like deer are often taken to a commercial processor, either out of convenience or because hunters feel they don’t have the expertise or means to process the deer themselves. That is changing, thanks in large part to the information age where anyone can learn just about anything from quality research on the Internet. This includes learning how to process your own deer. Online videos, articles and message boards where hunters can ask specific questions make it easy for anyone to tackle their own deer processing.

Books have been written on have to field dress a deer and process your own venison. We won’t attempt a how-to, step-by-step guide here. Instead, we will cover some important yet often overlooked aspects of getting your venison from field to table.

Gear Up For Self-Processing

Don’t let a lack of equipment keep you from taking the self-processing leap. You can literally get by with nothing more than a skinning knife and another good blade for boning out your cuts of meat. However, there are items will make your job much easier.

First, have a cleaning and processing station ready to use that includes a decent gambrel to hoist and hang your deer. My workstation is in the backyard where I use a gambrel pulley rope slung over a tree. The backyard is convenient because I have easy access to water, and a garbage can lined with a trash bag. I set up a plastic table and use my pickup tailgate as addition workspace, and my kids are within yelling distance to come assist.

My family eats a lot of ground venison, so we need a meat grinder. I use the smallest LEM Big Bite Grinder made, the #5 .25 hp model. A larger grinder would certainly be a luxury that would make the work go more quickly, but the .25 hp grinder works fine for us. I like to debone a good bit of a deer, and running that meat through the grinder is the last step in processing a deer. It’s takes several hours as I run the meat through twice, stopping often to clean sinew from the grinding plates and gears. But it’s done in the living room, usually with a fire burning, a football game on TV, and with a sense of pride and satisfaction only a hunter filling his or her own freezer can know.

FoodSaver

A vacuum-seal, food-packaging device makes self-processing a deer easier. It prevents freezer burn, and cuts of meat like a delicious venison loin are quickly sealed, marked and dated.

The third item I recommend is a vacuum-seal, food-packaging device. It prevents freezer burn, and we can seal and put up cuts of meat quickly that are marked and dated. We purchased ours for processing deer and other wild game, but we now use it for lots of other situations when we want to save and freeze food.

Plan For Success

Hunters are great at going the extra mile when it comes to hunt prep, from showers with scent-free soap to yearlong scouting. When you’re hunting for meat that you intend to process yourself, planning for after the hunt is even more important than all the planning that goes into a successful hunt. Make sure the knives are sharp, the gambrel is ready to use, and that you have plenty of vacuum-seal bags.

Make sure you have a plan to age your deer. The venison will have a better taste. I’m blessed to have a buddy with a personal walk-in cooler made from the refrigerated part of an old food truck. I like to hang my deer at least a week. When I have a day set aside for processing, I get everything ready, and then simply go pick up my deer from the cooler, hoist it on the gambrel, and get to work. A commercial cooler will work, but expect to pay a daily fee to hang your deer.

If I didn’t have a buddy with a walk-in cooler, I would skin the deer, quarter it, and ice the quartered sections in coolers until I have a day to process the meat. Plan to drain the coolers daily and change the ice, which in addition to aging the deer will remove almost all of the blood. Your already tasty venison will be even more delicious, and if you have a family member who thinks venison tastes gamey, this will help.

Shoot The Right Deer

Some deer taste better, and it’s not the old gray-faced doe or giant buck. There are tough times in the woods when hunters need to jump at the first opportunity to harvest a deer. However, it you’re watching a green field with several potential targets, pick the younger deer and your taste buds will thank you later. 

Have An Exit Plan

Sure, that cavernous draw that requires rappelling gear to access might harbor the biggest buck you’ll ever see. I’ll never forget what a professional elk outfitter once said about a plan I concocted to kill a nice bull that had found a safe haven on a tabletop plateau surrounded by steep rock walls. “Take a knife and fork,” he said. It was his way of saying; you might get your bull, but we’ll never get the meat out and processed quickly enough before it spoils. Don’t shoot a deer you can’t field-dress and get out of the woods quickly to begin the cooling process, either with ice bags in the cavity, by hanging in a walk-in cooler, or by skinning, quartering and icing in coolers.

Processing your own deer is easier than ever with the wealth of how-to information available on the Internet. There is great satisfaction is knowing exactly how your meat was acquired and handled at every step—from selecting to pull the trigger, to proper field dressing, to processing and packaging.

Field Dressing And Skinning Tips

Field dressing is not difficult, but it can be messy, especially if you’re not careful or rush through the job. Here’s are some tips:

  • If you’re actually field dressing your deer in the field, as the name implies, position the deer on its back, take a deep breath, and resolve to take your time. Even being very patient, unzipping a deer and removing the entrails and internal parts shouldn’t take 10 minutes.
  • The first cut up the deer’s belly must be done carefully so your knife doesn’t puncture the stomach and intestines, which will be pushing out toward your blade at every opportunity. Use your fingers to guide the knife and keep the blade away from the stomach and intestines. Keep the knife at a low angle to cut only deep enough to slice through the skin and first layer of cartilage-like lining that holds in the guts.
  • If you hang your deer on a gambrel for field-dressing, hang it by the rack if it’s a buck or by the neck if it’s a doe. Hanging head first, the stomach cut will allow gravity to pull the insides out so they fall into a gut bucket on the ground below. You can easily cut away at the linings so everything comes out neatly.
  • Don’t forget the windpipe. Carefully reach as far up the cavity into the neck as possible with your knife and cut the windpipe, pulling it and attached organs from the deer. You’ll have to cut the windpipe by feel, so be careful of your fingers.
  • Hang the deer by the back legs for skinning. Make incisions on each leg to the abdomen. Peel the hide away from the legs, and use your knife to begin separating the hide from the carcass. Once you get a good opening, continue peeling away the hide while your other hand lightly slices through the connective tissue between the hide and the carcass. Gravity will help toward the end of the process. Keep your knife clean of deer hair! Hacking away through the hair when skinning a deer will leave your meat a hairy mess.

 Recipes:

CHEF TED LAHEY: Executive Chef of Table and Main and Osteria Mattone in Atlanta

Bio: Ted Lahey incorporates fresh local ingredients sourced from nearby Georgia farms, artisan bakers, creameries and purveyors while also calling on his travels and experiences for culinary inspiration. Lahey graduated from Johnson & Wales University’s culinary arts program in 2001 and began his career as a line cook where he refined his technique and palate at acclaimed Chef Michael White’s Fiamma Osteria in New York City. Chef Lahey later worked with nationally recognized chef Hugh Acheson at Five & Ten in Athens, Georgia, and was also featured on the Food Network’s hit show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” for his fried black-eyed peas.

Ted’s Venison Sausage with Fennel and Golden Raisins:

Ingredients:

5 lb venison shoulder

1 lb pork fat

2 cups golden raisins

5 cl garlic; minced

3 TBS kosher salt

2 TBS fennel seed

1 TBS freshly ground black pepper

1 ts  ground nutmeg

1 ts dried oregano

1/2 c dry red wine

medium pork casings

Method:

Grind the venison, raisins, and fat together in a food grinder with a 3/8 inch plate. Add garlic, salt, spices, and wine. Mix well with your hands. Shape into patties or stuff into casings with a sausage stuffer. Store for up to 5 days in the refrigerator

 

CHEF JORDAN WAKEFIELD: Owner and Executive Chef, 101 Concepts: Smoke Ring

Bio: Jordan Wakefield attended Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta, where he took a coveted three month externship at the exclusive Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Va. When Wakefield moved back to Atlanta, he began working as a lead line cook at the acclaimed Spice Market, under the tutelage of internationally heralded chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Ian Winslade. The owners of 101 Concepts quickly recognized Jordan’s talent and hired him as sous chef of Meehan’s Public House Sandy Springs. Wakefield’s talent for combining Southern food and sensibilities to create cutting edge cuisine became highly praised, and he was soon promoted to executive chef of Meehan’s Public House in Downtown Atlanta. Most recently, he embarked on his latest venture with 101 Concepts: Smoke Ring, a Georgia-style barbeque house in Atlanta’s Castleberry Hill community.

Chef Jordan’s Venison Jerky Recipe:

Ingredients:

2 lb. venison top round, or leg of lamb, boneless

3 TBS red chili flake

3 TBS of chopped garlic

1 cup olive oil

1 cup soy sauce

1 cup worcestershire sauce

1 cup tupelo honey

4 TBS minced green onion

salt and pepper

2 TBS sriracha

3 TBS brown sugar

Method:

Slice the venison, AGAINST THE GRAIN, into ¼-inch thick slices. Set aside. Combine all the other ingredients, and whisk together about 5 minutes until combined. Cover the venison, and mix with covered gloved hands. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit over night.

The next day, set the pieces in a single layer in your dehydrator. Repeat the stacking of shelves until all your venison is layered out. Set the temperature on the 145 degree timer, and let the unit dehydrate for the next 6 hours, rotating the shelves every house to ensure even consistency.

Remove from racks, and let air dry for 1 hour. Enjoy!

 

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.

Community-Minded IUPAT Member Treats Brotherhood Outdoors Hosts to Illinois Waterfowl Opener

December 18, 2015 in Articles, Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Hunting

Brotherhood Outdoors co-hosts Julie McQueen and Daniel Lee Martin with Ryan Anderson (center) after Mud Run

Brotherhood Outdoors co-hosts Julie McQueen and Daniel Lee Martin with Ryan Anderson (center) after Mud Run

Within the first few hours of meeting Ryan Anderson, Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen, co-hosts of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV series, were dripping wet, dog-tired and caked with mud from head to toe. This was at the Aurora, Illinois Heroes Mud Run, which Anderson helped establish to benefit military veterans and encourage youth to be active outdoors.

That was in May. Five months later, Anderson, a member of IUPAT District Council 30/Local 448 from Montgomery, Illinois, hosted the Brotherhood Outdoors team for two days of fellowship, fun and duck hunting on the mighty Mississippi River.

Anderson is known in his community as a giver and a contributor. Apart from his involvement with the 3.1-mile, 20-obstacle Heroes Mud Run, he sits on the board of directors for the Illinois Conservation Foundation, the Spectrios Institute for Low Vision and the Marmion Alumni Association. His dedication to his community is one of the things that immediately stuck out when he applied to be a guest of the show.

“The first thing I thought when I saw Ryan Anderson’s application come in to be on an episode of Brotherhood Outdoors was, ‘Wow! This guy does a lot for his community!’” said McQueen.

Anderson, a third-generation union painter, said his father is a tremendous influence in his life, personally and on a professional level.

“Union values were a major factor in my upbringing,” said Anderson. “Leading by example, my father taught me the value of an honest day’s work and the importance of collective bargaining. To me, union membership means an opportunity for our voices to be heard; to provide for one’s family; and to work hard and be rewarded for it through fair pay, great benefits and the promise of retirement.”

Throughout his childhood, Anderson spent time hunting rabbits and pheasants on northern Illinois farmland with his dad and brothers, and hunting remains integral to the fabric of his family life today. Waterfowl and upland bird hunting are favorites of Anderson, and he meticulously prepares for each season months in advance, making sure to include friends and family along the way.

“I most enjoy hunting while spending time with my son, daughter, family and friends,” said Anderson. “It’s also very important to me that we spend time educating youth on the safe practices of the sport and introducing youth to the wonder of the great outdoors.”

This passion for sportsmanship and education is what led Anderson to branch out in his community to volunteer and make a difference in any way he can.

Ryan Anderson in the duck blind on day one of the Brotherhood Outdoors hunt.

Ryan Anderson in the duck blind on day one of the Brotherhood Outdoors hunt.

“My love of the outdoors has led me to find new and creative ways to spend more time in nature,” said Anderson. “About five years ago, I started participating in obstacle course runs with a group of friends. Together, we’ve participated in multiple mud runs – including the Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and the Spartan Race – and even advanced to completing a few triathlons last year.”

After meeting him in person, competing in the Heroes Mud Run and seeing the mutual respect and passion he shares with his community, Martin and McQueen agreed that Anderson was a deserving, qualified candidate to appear on Brotherhood Outdoors. While the show’s hosts typically take guests on guided hunts and fishing trips, Anderson turned the tables and included Martin and McQueen in his annual duck season opening day hunting and camping trip with his close friends at Illinois’ Blanding Landing Recreation Area on the banks of the Mississippi.

Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sportsman Channel to see the story of a true community servant, dedicated family man and proud union member, along with waterfowl action on the mighty Mississippi.  For season schedule, previews, photos and more, visit www.BrotherhoodOutdoors.tv.

Start Simple For Steelhead

December 17, 2015 in Articles, Fishing

By Dave Mull

While, strong, acrobatic steelhead attract expert anglers using specialized techniques, knowing some simple basics will help an angler’s odds of success.

The author makes fall steelhead fishing a priority even during a season when there are so many great hunting and fishing options. He says a wiggling crankbait fished through a fish-holding section of river will often produce a memory like this.

The author makes fall steelhead fishing a priority even during a season when there are so many great hunting and fishing options. He says a wiggling crankbait fished through a fish-holding section of river will often produce a memory like this.

Many Great Lakes tributaries offer terrific fishing for steelhead from mid-summer, through winter and into spring, and many anglers who could be cashing in on the fun don’t realize what they’re missing.

Steelhead are Pacific ocean, sea-run rainbow trout that, through stocking and natural reproduction, have become permanent residents of all five Great Lakes. Born or stocked in streams, they eventually head to the big water to feed and grow before returning rivers to spawn. Unlike salmon, which die after they spawn, steelhead spawn and then return to the lake to feed. Steelhead then run the rivers to spawn again, repeating the cycle.

They are a beautiful, rainbow-trout-colored species that deliver a spectacular tussle that includes awe-inspiring jumps when hooked in any body of water, especially shallower streams and rivers, and they can grow up to 20 pounds and bigger.

Different strains of the species come into the rivers from mid-summer to late winter, but all spawn in the spring. Unfortunately, they have taken on an almost mythical reputation of needing specialized equipment and finely tuned presentations, but chances are, if you fish for bass and panfish, you have enough gear to hook and land some stream and river steelhead, too.

When targeting steelhead in moving water, success comes from one of two basic approaches: You put something big and (and usually colorful) in the fish’s faces and provoke a reaction strike. Or, you present a smaller, more natural bait that the steelhead wants to eat.

Reaction Strikes

Any bass angler who understands where smallmouth hang out of the current will be able to use that knowledge to hook up with steelies. They like staying in the same kinds of places out of the current.

Most Great Lakes steelhead are conditioned to eat long, slim baitfish such as shiners and alewives on the big water, and they will often hit slim, hard-plastic stickbaits cast while wading or from a boat. Lures such as Smithwick Rogues, Normark Floating Rapalas and Storm Thundersticks are all good choices. Simply cast them into little pockets of slack water behind logs and rocks, and in eddies along the shoreline.

Crankbaits such as Storm Wiggle Warts and Hot-N-Tots, the Yakima Mag Lip and Luhr-Jensen Kwikfish all can get a steelhead to strike, especially when trolled in the current, or let out from an anchored boat, allowed to wiggle slowly, backwards, downstream. These lures target fish that have found small depressions on the bottom where they don’t have to expend a lot of energy fighting currents. To perform the “anchored drop-back,” the angler simply stands at the back of the anchored boat and lets out line until the lure is ticking bottom. Then, either more line is let out from the reel, or more anchor rope is let out from the boat. The idea is to put a wiggling lure right in a fish that’s on the bottom, facing upstream.

Natural Finesse

The other side of the steelhead coin is catching them with bait: mayfly nymphs (aka “wigglers”), waxworms, minnows and prepared salmon and steelhead eggs are among the natural baits with proven track records. Here, the object is to mimic natural foods that the current carries into the fish’s lair. The easiest way to do this is with a bobber, bait suspended below, that is allowed to drift close to the same speed as the current. A key is to peg the bobber just far enough above the bait to keep the presentation drifting within a few inches of the bottom, as the quarry will usually be hugging the streambed.

Egg Care

Possibly the most reliable bait for steelhead are steelhead eggs, and the best place to get eggs is from a hen steelhead that you harvest.

Steelhead eggs are a great steelhead bait, and the best place to get eggs is from a hen steelhead that you harvest. Be sure to cure the eggs properly.

Possibly the most reliable bait for steelhead are steelhead eggs, and the best place to get eggs is from a hen steelhead that you harvest.

To gather your own eggs, bleed the fish by cutting its gills—keep the fish in the water. This quickly dispatches the fish and removes excess blood from the eggs as blood can make them spoil more quickly and add a scent that steelhead don’t like.

Harvest the eggs and put them in a Ziploc bag, keeping them cold until you can treat them with one of the brine powders available on the market. Treating them is an easy, though slightly involved process. A good resource is scent and cure manufacturer Pro-Cure, which offers great advice on its pro-cure.com website.

Properly cured eggs stay on your hook better, they have added, fish-attracting scent, and they can last a month in your refrigerator and a year in your freezer.

Tackle

I caught my first steelhead one November afternoon more than three decades ago in a golf course creek, armed with my dad’s 7-foot fiberglass spinning rod that he favored for bass fishing. The bait was a spawn bag on a No. 4 hook, suspended below a wooden bobber that had seen use for bluegills the previous summer. The reel was my dad’s classic Garcia-Mitchell 300, spooled with inexpensive 10-pound test monofilament. That sort of set-up works fine for casting or trolling, too. It really doesn’t take much of anything fancy to get started.

Be forewarned, though: Steelhead can become a powerful obsession, and after you catch a few, you might find yourself—credit card next to your computer—on-line and browsing such things as center-pin reels and the outrageously expensive rods that go with them. Or, even worse for your savings account, you might end up in a boat dealership, shopping for jet-drive aluminum boats to ply some of magnificent rivers that steelhead make their winter homes.

That’s okay. Most anglers inducted into the society of steelhead fanatics agree: Steelhead are quite worth it.

 

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.

 

 

Communications Internship (unpaid)

December 14, 2015 in General

 

Job Title: Communications Intern (unpaid) Reports to: Communications & Marketing Manager
Department/Group: Communications Job Category: N/A
Location: Franklin, TN Travel Required: N/A
Status: Part Time
(Duration: 10-12 weeks, not to exceed 20 hours per week)
Revision Date: N/A
Creation Date: 12/10/2015 Revision Date: N/A
About the Organization
The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with the mission to unite the Union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. The USA is an exciting conservation organization with a membership base of over 200,000 and a membership universe of more than 10 million active and retired members of AFL-CIO affiliated unions who love to hunt, fish, shoot and recreate outdoors.

We engage, educate and organize union members, their families and like-minded individuals who share a passion for hunting, fishing, shooting and the great outdoors. Our members volunteer their time and unique trade skills to expand and improve public access to the outdoors, conserve and maintain critical wildlife habitats, restore our nation’s parks and provide mentoring programs that introduce youth to the outdoors.

Qualifications & Educational Requirements
To succeed in this role, Communications Intern applicants must meet the following requirements:

·      College junior or senior working toward a bachelor’s degree in mass communications, public relations, journalism, marketing or a related field.

·      Minimum GPA of 2.7

·      Ability to juggle multiple projects and meet deadlines in a fast-paced environment

·      Strong desire to experience multiple areas of communications field

·      Desire to improve professional and interpersonal skills while learning to both give and receive feedback

·      Passion for conservation and the outdoors is encouraged, but not required

Job Description & Physical Demands
Primary Function

The Communications Intern will report directly with the Communications & Marketing Manager and assist as needed in the communications department in all areas, receiving instruction and feedback along the way.

 

General Role and Responsibilities

·      Write press releases, feature articles, news articles

·      Assist in managing social media accounts, including running campaigns and contests

·      Assist in production of quarterly magazine, The Union Sportsmen’s Journal

·      Respond to media inquiries

·      Assist in marketing efforts with corporate partners

·      Assist with email marketing

·      Assist with speechwriting/presentation creation for executive staff

·      Assist with website management and content creation

·      Assist with special projects (Annual Report, new print collateral, etc.)

·      Provide input on projects, processes, methods as requested

·      Assist with mailings

Organization’s Responsibilities

·      Assign duties as outlined above

·      Provide constructive critiques and feedback on completed assignments

·      Provide instruction in multiple communications disciplines

·      Provide opportunities to work with executive leadership

·      Provide opportunities to work with third-party vendors and freelancers

·      Meet regularly to evaluate skills and progress, and also to receive feedback from Communications Intern on experience

·      Complete paperwork needed for academic credit

Physical Demands

Working conditions are primarily in an office setting with occasional travel to events within reasonable driving distance. This position may be required to sit or stand for the majority of the work day.

Salary Range:
This is an unpaid internship. Academic credit will be earned in lieu of pay.

Interested Applicants can apply be emailing a cover letter and resume to: jessl@unionsportsmen.org.

UAW member and his new bride trail NM black bear on Brotherhood Outdoors

December 11, 2015 in Articles, Brotherhood Outdoors TV

On November 5, 2010, Aaron Heying took his girlfriend, MaeLyn, hunting for the first time.  As they set up in two hang-on treestands, Heying gave his only safety harness to MaeLyn.  As Heying stood to get his grunt call, the strap of his stand snapped, dropping him 23 feet to the ground on his back and shoulders.  Panic set in when he regained his vision but realized he couldn’t move his legs.

Heying suffered a T12 burst fracture, compression fractures, broken ribs and a torn pancreas, which left him paralyzed.  A proud member of United Auto Workers Local 838 since he began working at John Deere, Heying is now working a non-traditional assignment in the safety department to help ensure a good work environment for his union brothers and sisters.

“The union is the only reason I am still working today.  My union reps fought hard for me to get back to work,” Heying said.  “My family and I are lucky to have the strong backing and support that we did.”

aarontBeing in a wheelchair hasn’t stopped Heying from continuing to hunt.  In fact, it only increased his passion for doing what he loves and gave him a deeper appreciation for the importance of family, friends and life.

“Hunting is much harder but once I get there and setup, I feel at peace.  For the time I’m out there, everything is normal in my life,” Heying said.

Always looking to experience new adventures in different places, Heying filled out an application for the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV show when a co-worker dropped by his desk and encouraged him to apply.

Not only was Heying chosen for a New Mexico bear hunt, which he never dreamed possible, MaeLyn—his wife of just a week and a half—was invited to join him.  On Sept. 30, 2015, the newlyweds flew from Waterloo, Iowa, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to meet up with Brotherhood Outdoors co-hosts Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen and their guide, Richard Baca of Antler Addiction Outfitters.

The hunt began early the next day as the crew loaded into a truck before sunrise and began driving the countryside while a team of well-trained dogs scoured the air for the scent of bear.
“The first time the dogs hit the scent trail, it was overwhelming to say the least,” Heying said.  “I was nervous, excited and almost in shock of what was going on.  The new type of hunting, not knowing what to expect and the environment we were in was amazing.  One of my favorite parts was that I got to share the experience with my wife.  This was our honeymoon trip.”

dogs_300x200Thanks to historical rains in New Mexico, the bears were staying low in the canyon, presenting both hunters and dogs with yet another challenge.  But on the last day of the hunt, the dogs treed a bear 600 yards downhill from the truck.  With Martin and the guide taking turns carrying Heying piggyback style, McQueen carrying his wheelchair and MaeLyn toting his bow, the group worked their way down the hill to get in range of the bear.

Suddenly, the weather took a turn for the worst, spitting rain and sleet.  To avoid getting stuck in the ravine, Martin, Heying and MaeLyn stayed where they were while McQueen and Baca continued down the hill in an effort to push the bear toward Heying.  For hours, they worked the bear as it jumped into five different trees, always closer to Heying’s range.

As the daylight wanes on the last day, does Heying finally get a shot at his first black bear?

Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on the Sportsman Channel.  Visit www.BrotherhoodOutdoors.tv for show schedule, photos, video clips and more.

A Kid’s First Deer Gun

December 7, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson,

I grew up in Ohio, which was in the early 1970s was a shotgun-only state for whitetail hunters who used modern firearms, as it is today. As such, I never actually had a “first deer rifle” until I moved to Washington at the age of 30.

A first deer rifle should be selected only after careful consideration that includes a young hunter's size.

A kid’s first deer rifle should be selected only after careful consideration that includes a young hunter’s size, the hunting situation, budget, and even your state’s firearm restrictions.

My first deer-specific firearm was a Remington Model 1100 16-gauge, complete with a smoothbore slug barrel and iron sights. It was a more-than-satisfactory rig, and the one with which I killed my inaugural whitetail. Conversely, my first true deer rifle, also made by the folks at Remington, was a Model 700 BDL in .243 Winchester. She was in ’93, and is to this day, one of the finest, most accurate rifles I’ve owned.

Personal history lesson behind us now, I begin this piece to make a point, and that being your child’s first deer rifle might not be a rifle at all; that is, if you live in a state like Ohio or Illinois.

Whether traditional centerfire rifle or shotgun, what goes into the decision-making process when it comes time to procure your young hunter’s first deer-specific firearm?

Here’s the short list of tips; things to consider before you run out and buy that new Christmas gift for your favorite young deer hunter.

Evaluate the Situation

The first question to answer is simple enough—centerfire rifle or shotgun? If you, like I did back in the day, live in a shotgun-only state, then it’s obviously wise to consider a shotgun deer firearm. Fortunately, manufacturers such as Remington and Mossberg offer combination packages that include both a rifled slug barrel and a traditional full-length vent rib shotgun barrel. Remington’s Model 870 Express 20-gauge combo, for example, features a 23-inch fully rifled slug barrel and a 26-inch vent rib with interchangeable choke tubes. This is an ideal package, not only for the young hunter, but it is a favorite among seasoned whitetail and turkey hunters, too—myself very much included.

Evaluate Your Child

Let’s assume you and your young hunter have laid the groundwork in terms of safe firearms handling practices. Now it’s time to truly evaluate your child as to what they can physically handle in regards to a deer-specific firearm of their own.

For you shotgunners, the choice is relatively simple—the 20-gauge. Although many of us started our hunting careers with a .410, the little sub-bore is really quite limiting, not to mention the fact finding ammunition can prove a challenge.

A 12-gauge might be a possibility, especially if (1) your child’s physical abilities can work with the recoil generated by a 12, and (2) your budget can work with a (recoil-reducing) autoloader. A light-recoiling 20-gauge offers immeasurable versatility above and beyond a .410, yet doesn’t present the weight and recoil issues a possibility with the 12-bore. Is the 20-gauge too small for whitetails, wild turkeys, or waterfowl? Absolutely not.

But does a centerfire rifle make more sense given your home state and hunting regulations? If so, let’s continue.

Choose a Caliber

Now it’s time to talk centerfire rifles and calibers. Like shotguns, rifles and recoil go hand-in-hand. Rifles—or rifle calibers to be precise—should be chosen based not only depending upon the task to be performed, but the young hunter performing said task.

Many—and I do mean many—will argue, but I’ll stand by this statement. A parent or guardian would be hard-pressed to purchase a better caliber centerfire for a young hunter than the .243 Winchester. True, there’s quite a bit to be said about the .270 and .25-06, attributes like bullet selection and species versatility. However, consider the .243 Winchester’s light recoil, which is roughly 50 percent that of a 2 3/4-inch 20-gauge shooting a 1-ounce charge at 1,200 FPS. Consider also today’s wide range of high-performance bullets—Winchester, Hornady, Barnes, and Sierra. Plus there’s the .243’s reputation for accuracy. It’s tough to disagree. Toss in the long list of manufacturers currently building quality production rifles in .243 caliber, and the choice for a first deer rifle almost becomes a no-brainer.

There are no absolutes when it comes time to decide on your young hunter’s first deer-specific firearm. Physical size, ability, hunting situation, and, of course, budget will all play parts in the final equation. However, there’s ample information available, including recommendations from the firearms manufacturers themselves. The bottom line? As you’ve so often said to your young charge—do your homework.

 

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.

WV | Coonskin Park Fishing Pier

December 2, 2015 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and West Virginia American Water Complete New Accessible Fishing Pier at Coonskin Park

A new fishing pier at Coonskin Park designed to accommodate individuals with physical disabilities was unveiled at a ribbon cutting today by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), West Virginia American Water and local union volunteers. The project, valued at $60,000, is a joint effort between the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground volunteer conservation program and the American Water Charitable Foundation’s Building Better Communities initiative.

CuttingImageThe completed project includes three handicap designated parking spots, concrete ramp from the parking lot to the pier, retaining wall alongside the new ramp and large wheelchair accessible floating dock with handrails. The American Water Charitable Foundation partially funded the project with a $25,000 grant, which was awarded to USA earlier this year. The Foundation supported three conservation projects that improve public access to water-based recreation activities in Tennessee, Illinois and West Virginia. West Virginia American Water contributed an additional $10,000 to the project, and a number of local businesses donated services and materials.

“This is the third project we have completed with funding from the American Water Charitable Foundation,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Fred Myers. “These projects allow us to give back to communities where American Water serves and where our members live and recreate.  West Virginia American Water went the extra mile by donating extra funds to ensure a successful endeavor. This partnership has been positive for everyone involved, and I hope to see it grow in the near future.”

USA organized a group of skilled union volunteers through the Charleston Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO to complete the project, located on the south side of Coonskin Lake near the Elk River Trail.

“More than half of West Virginia American Water’s 300 employees are represented by unions, and they are among the most talented and skilled professionals in the state,” said Jeffrey McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water. “We are proud to support this Work Boots on the Ground project, which will enhance the outdoor experience of our customers, our employees and their families.”

During the ribbon cutting, West Virginia AFL-CIO president Kenny Perdue stated how pleased his organization was to partner with West Virginia American Water in making Coonskin Park more accessible to everyone.

“So many of our members volunteer to work with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance because it combines their love of the outdoors and hunting with their desire to use their skills to give back to their communities,” Perdue said. “We are grateful to Paul Breedlove of the Charleston Building Trades for taking the lead on organizing the project, and to the many volunteers from the Carpenters, Finishers, Electrical Workers, Operating Engineers, Ironworkers, Laborers, Pipefitters, Roofers and Sheet Metal locals.

Jeff Hutchinson, director of the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission, applauded the project and stated that the park was honored to receive this generous gift. “The addition of the new fishing pier will allow the lake to be more accessible for citizens with disabilities and will increase usage of the lake by all Kanawha County citizens,” Hutchinson said.