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 the 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.

Waterfowl Hunting With Kids

November 24, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by Dave Mull

Waterfowl hunters are a passionate bunch. That passion can be instilled early for young hunters, but only with care for details and safety.

Golden retriever Gabe and Andrea watch expectantly as father Kevin Essenburg attempts to coax a pair of mallards into the decoys.

Golden retriever Gabe and Andrea watch expectantly as father Kevin Essenburg attempts to coax a pair of mallards into the decoys.

Some folks who know how much Kevin Essenburg likes hunting waterfowl are slightly surprised to learn that he has never owned a four-legged retriever.

When hunting over water, he usually jumps in his well-concealed 14-foot fishing boat or canoe and gets the duck, but when field hunting, his retriever has been of a two-legged variety. His towheaded daughter Andrea, now 12, started running out and picking up downed birds at age 5. This duty continued up until last year when she started toting her own shotgun. So now, some of the field-retrieving duties go to 9-year-old Lauren, the younger daughter of Kevin and wife Sarah.

Kevin, who lives in Holland, Michigan, has fostered a true passion for the outdoors in Andrea, and it appears that the same fire is starting to build in Lauren, who he said, began asking him about taking her hunting back in the summer months. The two girls also troll for salmon on Lake Michigan with their dad, and Kevin says a big key to kids enjoying hunting and fishing and wanting go back for more is to make sure they are a participant, not just an observer.

“Andrea has not just retrieved ducks and geese, but also has been involved in scouting, setting up and taking down decoys, the whole nine yards,” Kevin states.

I joined Kevin and Andrea in a marsh off Michigan’s Kalamazoo River on Andrea’s first ever day as a real hunter during the state’s Youth Waterfowl Hunt in September last year. Along with me was my own retriever, a gray-faced golden dog named Gabe, who rode stoically on the back of my Hobie kayak.

“We’ve had some opportunities but no downed ducks so far,” Kevin reported when I found the duo on a small island with scrubby trees that made a terrific natural blind.

More than a dozen decoys bobbed in the slow-moving marsh water in front, the sun already well above the horizon. Kevin and Andrea had paddled their canoe to the spot and set up in the predawn darkness after scouting the location together earlier in the week.

Kevin had introduced Andrea to a 12-gauge Beretta semi-auto early on in the summer, and it had proven a tad too heavy for Andrea to wield comfortably, so Kevin brought along shooting sticks to support the shotgun.

Giving kids roles in a hunting excursion, like gathering decoys, helps them feel like a participant and not just an observer, fostering the desire to learn and do more.

Giving kids roles in a hunting excursion, like gathering decoys, helps them feel like a participant and not just an observer, fostering the desire to learn and do more.

“The plan is to land them in the decoys this first time,” he said. “Andrea is a good shot—just not quite ready to shoot ducks on the wing. Landing ducks is not standard operating procedure, but I’d rather she harvested her first duck cleanly instead of possibly crippling it by trying to shoot it flying.”

To further the safety of the hunt, Andrea had just a single shotshell in the semi-auto, which Kevin loaded—and eventually unloaded—for her.

“She’s good shooting 3-inch shells, but you never know what can happen with the kick of a shotgun,” Kevin said. “Last thing we want is the kick to throw her off balance with another live round in the chamber and the safety off.”

Despite near bluebird conditions with a high, clear sky and bright sun, other hunting parties scattered through the marsh seemed to be having steady shooting, while our four sets of eyes scanned the sky. Finally a pair of mallards zipped by and circled when Kevin started calling. Tantalizing close to following the game plan and settling into the decoys, they ultimately headed off without offering a shot.

Soon, he and Andrea were in the canoe and collecting the decoys, ready to paddle back toward the ramp. But it was just the beginning of a waterfowl season in which father and daughter logged nearly 4,000 miles on the family Jeep, scouting and hunting throughout the state’s seven waterfowl management areas and other public hunting land. Andrea had her shotgun for every hunt and eventually did shoot a duck—a cripple in the decoys.

“The duck was right in front of her while my hunting partner’s dog was retrieving another duck,” Kevin recalled. “She looked around and made sure she knew where the dog was before shooting—I watched her do everything right, and I knew she was good to go as a duck hunter.”

Kevin is an engineer who designs exhaust systems for a number of different U.S.-made autos and has been an avid waterfowler since he was in high school, largely teaching himself while hunting with teenage friends. His immediate family had no avid hunters, and now he enjoys bringing his two older girls into the hunting lifestyle. Two-year-old Isabella will soon get her turn.

“Andrea started coming along when she was really young while we were scouting and just enjoyed tagging along. From there we got her her own layout blind, and she’s just become part of the whole program.”

Lauren is on course to have her own layout blind before long, too.

Kevin noted Andrea wanted to take Michigan’s Hunter Safety Certification course when she was 10, passing in flying colors with mother Sarah.

“Basic firearm handling and safety has never been an issue with her,” Kevin said.

The 2015 season was a bit more than week away from starting as this article was being written, with another September youth hunt scheduled.

Father and daughters were ready for another excellent season of togetherness in the great outdoors.

Keys to Teach Kids Hunting

 Kevin Essenburg offered some advice for parents:

  • Get them involved as participants, not just observers, letting them help set up and gather decoys and retrieve downed birds.
  • Going on a big trip can be cool, but it’s probably better to keep things short—and warm—for beginners. He notes hunting in a layout blind can be especially good with kids—bundled up they can stay warm and nap during lulls in the action.
  • Firearms safety and shooting should start long before the hunt. “Parents should spend all summer going over safety and gun handling with their kids.”
  • Finally, Kevin said, “If they’re not enjoying it because of mosquitoes or cold rain, quit and go get a burger. You don’t want to turn them off to hunting right as they’re starting their career.”

Youth Waterfowl Days

Imagine hunting even the best duck holes with little to no pressure from other hunters. Imagine being able to hunt before the regular waterfowl season, or in the southern states hunting after the regular season ends and more birds have migrated down. Special youth-only waterfowl seasons are added incentive to take a kid waterfowl hunting.

Most states offer a two-day youth-only waterfowl hunt, typically on a weekend before or after the regular season.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which regulates the hunting of migratory birds, first implemented youth-only waterfowl hunts in 1996. The idea was to provide young hunters with an opportunity to get out either before or after the regular season, offering a chance to hunt without all the competition for good hunting spots. The USFWS provides a flexible framework for these special hunts, so states can set their own youth dates as long as it is on a holiday, weekend or other day when school is out. Beyond that, the states can pick their own dates. Youth-only waterfowl dates can be 14 days before or after the regular season or during a split between the regular state seasons.

State-specific regulations apply, but the federal framework for youth hunts accommodates hunters age 16 and younger. A federal duck stamp isn’t needed for kids, and in many states a hunting license isn’t required.

 

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.

 

Transform Your Home With A Green Mini-Makeover

November 20, 2015 in Articles

By Kaitlin Krull

Going green at home can seem like an expensive, drawn-out process to many homeowners. Thankfully, transforming your home into an eco friendly space doesn’t necessarily mean splurging on solar panels and expensive sustainable gadgets. We at Modernize have come up with some smaller, budget friendly projects that will make your home greener in no time.

Programmable thermostats
With a straightforward installation process and a strong WiFi signal, you can change the way your home uses heating and air conditioning. A smart thermostat is a one-off investment that learns your heating preferences over a period of time and adjusts accordingly to save you energy and money. If this sounds like something that you can use in your home, the market is absolutely full of smart thermostat options. For a true American classic, choose the Honeywell Lyric, a nod to the traditional round thermostat they designed 60 years ago. Simply set up the thermostat, link it to an app on your smartphone or tablet, and monitor, adjust, and track your energy usage on the go.

lightAlternative lighting
If you haven’t already made the switch to energy saving light bulbs, you could be wasting more money and electricity than you think. LEDs and CFL light bulbs use far less energy than traditional halogen bulbs (and the latter are being phased out worldwide, so the switch will be easy to make at home). With minimum effort, you can maximize your energy savings throughout the house. If you want to take your green lighting solution even further, consider investing in smart light bulb systems that are linked via WiFi to each other and a clever home automation system. Like smart thermostats, smart lighting units can be monitored and adjusted online and will make your home more high tech and eco friendly at the same time.

Solar light tubes
Want to add a natural light source to your home but don’t have the budget for skylights and floor to ceiling windows? Consider installing solar light tubes to maximize daylight. This works perfectly in smaller rooms and for customers with smaller wallets. Although this process will require professional installation, the whole project only takes a few hours and requires no structural changes to your roof. The best part is that you will see the benefits of this renewable source of energy immediately: more light and lower energy bills.

Indoor gardens
For the green thumbed homeowners out there, an indoor kitchen garden is a simple way to decrease grocery costs and increase self-sufficiency at home. This project is entirely do-it-yourself and is as big as you make it. Start small with potted plants on a windowsill, in a raised bed, or hung vertically on your kitchen or dining room walls. Stock your indoor garden with the herbs, fruits, and vegetables you use most often at home, and you might just be able to skip your trip to the farm shop or supermarket produce aisles after your garden has developed and grown. At the very least, you will have a creative space in your home that you’ve cultivated entirely yourself.

furnitureUpcycled furniture and decor
Most people think that going green is all about solar power and reducing energy costs. While these parts of eco-friendly living are important, of course, there are other ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home. Repurposing and reusing furniture and decorative accessories, either that you used previously in your own home or picked up at garage sales and flea markets, is a fantastic way to recycle materials instead of throwing them away. Take your upcycling project one step further by sourcing reclaimed wood and other building materials to make your own furniture. Dining tables and beds are particularly popular among DIY savvy homeowners, so choose your materials and let your imagination go wild.

 

 

 

Rut Tricks For Big Bucks

November 12, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

By Beau Tallent

“When’s the rut?”

That has to be the most common question hunters ask when they’re planning a deer hunting trip or considering a new hunting lease. Hunters plan vacation time each season to make sure to spend as much time in the deer woods as possible during “The Rut.”

Terry Rohm turned a childhood passion for hunting into a lifetime career in the hunting industry. Rohm is a regular on outdoor television programs, and he has learned all the tricks that help bag mature bucks during the rut. Rohm shot this awesome white-tailed buck while bowhunting in Illinois.

Terry Rohm turned a childhood passion for hunting into a lifetime career in the hunting industry. Rohm has learned all the tricks that help bag mature bucks during the rut. He shot this awesome white-tailed buck while bowhunting in Illinois.

Another common question hunters ask is, “Do scents and calls really work?”

From a biologist’s perspective—and more importantly from a deer’s perspective—the rut is actually a drawn-out process that lasts for months and has three distinct phases. There’s the pre-rut phase, which is when mature bucks are laying down sign like scrapes and rubs, cruising more during daylight hours, and getting agitated at the sight of another buck. During the pre-rut, bucks have breeding on their minds, but few does have actually come into their 24- to 48-hour estrus-cycle window when they breed. The week or two when the majority of does are in estrus is the peak of the rut. That’s the period hunters think of when they ask, “When’s the rut?” The final phase is the post-rut, which is when the frenzy is over and few does are coming into estrus.

There are distinct differences in the effectiveness of products like scents, calls and decoys during the different phases of the rut. So when is the best time to use scents and mock scrapes, and when does rattling work best? For answers to those questions, we turned to a very experienced deer hunter.

Terry Rohm has worked in the hunting industry his entire life, getting his start after rising to the top as a competition turkey-calling and winning the U.S. Open. He’s a regular on outdoor television programs, and for the past 27 years has been the “resident hunter” for Tink’s, the industry leader in deer scents and related products. When asked about tricks and tips for hunting the different phases of the rut, Rohm said hunters should first assess the dynamics of their deer population.

“It’s been interesting to see how the whitetail world has changed,” Rohm said. “People are managing for whitetails these days, and managing specifically for older whitetails.”

Two factors will greatly increase the intensity of the rut and the effectiveness of calls, scents, and other products: the presence of older bucks on your property and a buck-to-ratio that is closer to 1:1 rather than tipping toward way more female deer than male deer.

“Every hunter has to evaluate their hunting area. Every state has different rules and regulations that result in different levels of hunting pressure. In the Midwest states where the firearms season is short and shotgun-only, the deer are older and there are more mature bucks,” Rohm said. “I try to tell hunters not to get frustrated. You can’t kill a big buck if there aren’t any, and you can’t use products successfully in areas where there are so many does a buck doesn’t have to work at all to find one.”

Calls and scents might help, but these products are going to be more effective on property where bucks have to compete for receptive does.

The peak of the rut is the period most hunters dream about, but the pre-rut may be an even better time to kill a mature buck. During that pre-rut, cruising phase, there are certain products and techniques deer hunters would wise to include in their bag of tricks.

“Mature bucks will start making scrapes during the pre-rut,” Rohm said. “It’s a sign-post marking for does and for other bucks. They’ll rub-urinate, lick and mouth that branch above the scrape.”

The pre-rut is the time when mock scrapes can be very effective. Look for big, fresh scrapes that are near feeding areas.

The pre-rut is the time when mock scrapes can be very effective. Look for big, fresh scrapes that are near feeding areas.

Rohm feels the pre-rut is the time when mock scrapes and products like Tink’s Power Scrape, a synthetic buck lure, can be very effective. Look for big, fresh scrapes—several close together—that are near feeding areas like hardwoods where white oak acorns are dropping. Small, random scrapes like you find along the edge of a field are not what you’re looking for.

To create a mock scrape, use a stick to brush away the leaves to expose the dirt, and spray the scent on the dirt. This is also where products that are hung above the scrape that slowly drip scent over a period of time can be effective.

Calls will attract the attention of buck during the pre-rut. Rattle bags or rattling antlers can bring a buck in from a great distance; however, Rohm again said the structure and health of your local deer herd is key.

“We’ve all seen the hunting shows in Texas where a guy rattles and literally these big bucks come running in. That really happens, but you have to realize those are ranches managed to have as many bucks as does,” Rohm said.

Personally, I never head to the woods without a grunt call lanyard around my neck. Especially during the peak of the rut, a grunt call can get a buck to stop in its tracks. If I’m bowhunting and need a buck standing still, a grunt call often does the trick.

According to Rohm, the peak of the rut is also when doe-in-heat scents and decoys are most effective. He recommends pure doe estrus scents like Tink’s 69. A mature buck that’s in a frenzy running and searching for a doe during the peak of the rut often can’t resist the visual of a doe decoy combined with the scent of a doe in heat.

Combining tactics like rattling while also using an attractant scent, especially doe urine, can increase a hunter’s odds of success.

Combining tactics like rattling while also using an attractant scent, especially doe urine, can increase a hunter’s odds of success.

The post-rut is a let-down phase, but more so for the bucks than deer hunters. Even mature bucks are still vulnerable, so hunters shouldn’t give up just because the peak of chasing is over. Bucks may be run down and tired, but they still want to breed. The post-rut is Hail Mary time. Try loud rattling and frequent grunt-call sequences combined with doe-in-heat scents and decoys. These aren’t just desperation tactics—post-rut calling and using scents can be deadly on mature bucks that just can’t give up hope of finding another doe.

Two products that Rohm recommends for hunters every time they go the woods, regardless of whether it’s one of the rut phases, are cover scents and safety devices.

“Human scent will ruin a hunt,” Rohm said. “We are a predator to those deer. If an older, mature buck starts smelling you, you’ll never see him. You really have to watch the wind, use cover scents, and use common sense.

“Nothing is more important than safety,” he added. “If you’re hunting from any kind of elevated stand, use one of the new harness systems like a Hunter Safety System. Invest the money and buy a harness that locks you in up there. Most accidents happen when you’re getting in and out of treestands. Be careful. And identify that target for heaven’s sake.”

 

Do’s And Don’ts For Hunting The Rut

  • Do create mock scrapes with deer-scent products during the pre-rut, but don’t bother hunting near random, small scrapes like you find on field edges.
  • Do hunt feeding areas with multiple big and fresh scrapes during all phases of the rut, but don’t pick a stand location upwind of the scrapes.
  • Do try rattling and grunt calls to attract bucks, but don’t expect results if your property isn’t managed to have a good buck-to-doe ratio.
  • Do spend the extra money for pure doe-in-heat estrus scents during the peak of the rut.
  • Don’t give up hope during the post-rut—some bucks haven’t given up hope…
  • Do use cover scents, and always be aware of wind direction.
  • Don’t ever hunt from an elevated stand without a safety strap, and do consider one of the modern harness systems.

 

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.

Anticipation & Apprehension of a Nationally Televised Hunt

November 9, 2015 in Hunting

by Clayton Bolton, IAMAW DC 725, LL 946

Ever wonder what it would be like to win a hunting of fishing trip of a lifetime – and to have it filmed? USA member Clayton Bolton provides an inside look at his excitement and reservations about having his very first whitetail hunt filmed and aired on USA’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV show.

clayton275My mind has been wildly running different directions ever since I received the call. Shock, excitement, joy, anticipation and fear. Yes, fear.  It’s not a heavy fear, but fear just the same. Not a fear of death or being dismembered by some rogue animal during the hunt, but a fear of failure and embarrassment.

I’ve been hunting over forty-five years. I’ve chased after most every furry thing legal to hunt in California, from grey squirrel to black bear, plus a lot of feathers with a fair number of successful hunts. But this will be my first time on a guided hunt. This will be my first hunt out of state. This will be my first white tail hunt. And somebody is actually going to video this adventure and put it out there for the world to see. So, what if I choke and miss an easy shot? I’ve missed before. It’s part of hunting. I’ve endured ribbing from my brother and hunting partners for missing. I do the same when they miss too. No big deal right? That’s where “camp stories” get their beginnings, only to be embellished upon as time goes on. Ok, I really do have confidence I will be up to the challenge. Now if I can only get some sleep…

I’m a “low budget” hunter. Most of my outings don’t involve much expense. Gas, ammo, food, cheap beer and maybe a cigar are all I need. Of course appropriate license, stamps or tags are required, but since they cover the season(s), I don’t consider them part of my hunting budget. I’ve never really seen the need to buy up all the new gadgets or fancy camo that hit the hunter’s market each year. A lot of my gear, including most of my guns, are almost as old (some of my guns are older) as I am. I admit I will buy new waders periodically because I get tired of putting band aids on an old pair. The patchwork does make for a unique camo pattern though.

I’m an old Eagle Scout and like to be prepared for anything the outdoors may throw at me. So what should I (or can I) take with me? Since I’ll be traveling by air and won’t have my Jeep packed full of everything I need (or think I need), I’ll have to limit what I take. Gun, ammo and clothes for cold and or wet. That should be it. Oh, and something orange. I will need a minimum of 144 square inches of the stuff according to Oklahoma game laws. I don’t own anything orange except for an old hat. It was required attire by a pheasant club I hunted over 20 some odd years ago. I should take a good knife. Then I’ll need a stone to refresh the edge. And I have a really nice pair of binos, compliments of The Union Sportsmen Alliance, they will have to come along too. And hunting boots, which pair, or all? And I always feel naked without a side arm while in the wilds. I wonder if my .44 mag Super Blackhawk can be shoe horned into my “airline approved” long gun case with my rifle, ammo, knife…

Since I need orange to satisfy the Oklahoma hunting regs and a TSA approved lock for my gun case, it’s off to the hunting paraphernalia store I go. Bass Pro opened a new store less than 10 miles from my house a couple of months ago. I’ve been waiting for some of the shiny to wear off before visiting. I drive by it on my way home from work and the place always looks packed since it opened. It is a sacrifice I just have to make.

I said, I’m not much into all the fancy huntin’ fixins flooding the market today. But after reading up a little on a breed I’ve never hunted before, I get the idea they’ll wind ya quicker than catching the smell from your own farts. I know (and my wife knows) what I can smell like after just a day in the woods. While shopping, I came across an isle of store shelves loaded with more choices and brands of stink reducing products than bullets for any one caliber of the guns I shoot. Deodorants, bar soaps, body washes, toothpastes, laundry detergents, shampoos, clothes sprays, mouth sprays, foot sprays, boot sprays, scent sprays, no scent sprays… where does it end?  I decided a bottle of no scent laundry detergent, scent killer bath bar soap, un-scented deodorant and un-scented shampoo will do. Don’t want to get too carried away.

The big day is still 4 weeks out at this time and I’m already starting to pack and assemble my gear.  I’m not much for being a last minute guy if I can help it. Plus I need to know if the gear I need (or think I need) is going to fit in my checked bag. Part of preparation will include washing all my camo stuff using the miracle clothes wash and then vacuum bagging them. I just wonder if the specialized laundry detergent will actually work. It must, or they wouldn’t sell it right? But I can’t get too far ahead yet because I need some of my stuff for local hunts before the trip.

Less than 4 weeks now.  Anticipation is pretty heavy. Dreams (at least I can sleep some now) are filled with big racks and easy shots surrounded by perfect WX. It could happen. Kate sent me an e-mail about the airing date set for my episode (maybe escapade could be a better description) as April 03 at 11:00 am ET. That would make it 08:00 local time on a Sunday. That’s six months away!  Talk about anticipation, especially since I haven’t even gone yet. I don’t get the Sportsmen’s channel on my TV. All the episodes I’ve watched are right off the USA website. Gonna need to find a way to watch the virgin broadcast. Sounds like I’ll have a little time to figure something out.

UA Father and Son Share Wyoming Dream Hunt

October 29, 2015 in Hunting

by Kate Nation

Howard Thomas followed his father’s footsteps both as a union man and a sportsman.  He has been a member of the UA Local 502 Plumbers, Pipefitters and Service Techs since 1997, where his dad, Donald Thomas, was an active member for 37 years before retiring. His dad also introduced him to hunting, and they continue to share a passion for the sport today, primarily hunting whitetail in their home state of Indiana.

Howard Thomas with his antelope buck measuring 14.25 inches.

Howard Thomas with his antelope buck measuring 14.25 inches.

This fall, Howard got to pay his dad back in a big way thanks to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) 2014 Remington Wyoming Dream Hunt Sweepstakes.  After learning he was drawn as the grand prize winner of an all-expenses-paid Wyoming antelope hunt at The Ranch at Ucross, Howard chose his dad as the lucky guest to join him on the trip.

After a long year of anticipation, father and son headed out on Sept. 30 for their first Western hunt.  Not knowing what to expect, they quickly discovered that spot and stalk hunting on 36,000 acres of land is very different from hunting 15 acres from treestands in Indiana.

“I had never stalk hunted before.  It was just an all-around good time,” Howard said.  “We saw many animals you wouldn’t see around here [Indiana] – mule deer, badger, jack rabbits, prairie dogs.”

Accustomed to hunting with shotguns in Indiana, Howard and Donald had been shooting rifles, including the Remington Model 700 CDL SF in 7mm Mag Howard received as part of his prize package, twice a week for a month and a half leading up to their trip.  Donald had also been walking to get in shape for all the walking hey would be doing.

And their efforts paid off.  Led by a knowledgeable guide, Howard and Donald covered nine miles walking, climbing and belly crawling to get within 245 yards of a nice antelope, and Howard dropped it where it stood with one shot.  Its horns measured 14.25 inches and had a nice curl.  When they checked the buck in, they found that it was the second biggest to be checked in that day – opening day of antelope season.

Donald Thomas with his nice antelope buck.

Donald Thomas with his nice antelope buck.

The group fought rain all morning of day two, but they were able to put on a long stalk in the afternoon.  They finally spotted a good size antelope at 600 yards and were able to get within 235 yards before the buck bedded down in a valley facing the hunters.  After waiting for an hour, Howard backtracked up a creek and began moving toward the antelope from above.  When the buck caught wind of Howard, it stood, and that was all Donald needed to drop it in its tracks.

“The look on my father’s face made the hunt for me, and I think the same for him,” Howard said.  “Winning this hunt was really a life event for myself and my father.  I would like to thank the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Remington for the trip and the very accurate 7mm.”

IL | Canoe & Kayak Trail

October 29, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

USA, Illinois American Water Cut Ribbon for Illinois River Canoe & Kayak Trail

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Illinois American Water and Greater Peoria Economic Development Council held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 29, at 11 a.m., to mark the completion of a new Illinois River Canoe & Kayak Trail completed by union volunteers.  The project is the result of 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, which awarded the USA a $25,000 grant to support three 2015 conservation projects that improve public access to water-based recreation activities in Tennessee, Illinois and West Virginia.

USAPekin-66“Our partnership with American Water is unique and beneficial to everyone involved,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Fred Myers. “By pairing the grant with Work Boots on the Ground, project funding makes a greater impact because superior work from skilled union members is performed on a volunteer basis. This allows grant funds to cover materials, equipment and other project expenses.”

The project came to USA and Illinois American Water via award-winning storyteller and author Brian “Fox” Ellis through his work on Greater Peoria Economic Development Council’s Water Resource Team’s Tourism and Recreation committee.  According to Ellis, “The Water Resource Team’s vision for the Illinois River is to raise awareness that this rich wildlife corridor is like a grand Central Park for the entire Midwest to enjoy. By linking the towns along the river via a canoe trail we are creating tourist activities and recreation opportunities. This collaboration is an important step toward realizing our vision of getting people out on the water so they can connect with the inherent value of this gorgeous river.”

The Illinois River Road Canoe Trail project provides 12 scenic stations for paddlers to use as launch points or rest stops, featuring flood-resistant benches and commemorative signs with attached eyelets for tethering small watercraft. The ability to stop and rest will help people tackle longer, safer voyages and make it easier for young paddlers to enjoy the river.

With funding and support from American Water Charitable Foundation and Illinois American Water, the USA organized a group of skilled union volunteers from the West Central Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) to complete Ellis’ vision.

“Partnering with Illinois American Water, the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to complete the water trail was a great experience,” said West Central Illinois BCTC Executive Director Marty Helfers. “The Carpenters Apprenticeship School built the benches, and union members from nearly every trade donated their time to install the benches and signs along our amazing river, which will showcase the union building trades’ commitment to the community and put our value on display every day!”

The project will be celebrated with a ribbon cutting on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015 at 11 a.m. at the Pekin Park District’s Riverfront Park.  Parking is located behind Seico Security at 132 Court Street in Pekin.  Illinois American Water will host a lunch after the ribbon cutting for volunteers and partners.

Illinois American Water President Bruce Hauk commended the collaboration, “We are blessed with the best of the best when it comes to skilled labor.  Our teams are committed not only to providing excellent water service, but protecting our precious resources for everyone to enjoy.  This unique project created by Brian Ellis, coupled with the partnership with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and made possible by the invaluable sweat equity of skilled union workers ensures a wonderful resource for our community.”

Leigh Ann Brown, City of Pekin Economic Development/Tourism Coordinator agreed, “The Illinois River is a huge asset to our area, as are organizations like Illinois American Water and Union Sportsmen’s Alliance who give back and collaborate on behalf of our community.”

The USA’s mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage goes hand-in-hand with American Water Charitable Foundation’s ongoing commitment to being a good neighbor in the communities it serves. This sort of alignment makes the partnership successful and paves the way for more collaborative projects ahead.

“Our employees in union-represented jobs are among the most talented and skilled professionals in the nation, and we are very excited to provide support to Work Boots on the Ground projects that will enhance the outdoor experience of our customers, our employees and their families,” said American Water Charitable Foundation President Darlene Williams.

For picture of the project, click here. For pictures of the ceremony, click here.

Fly Fishing For False Albacore

October 26, 2015 in Articles, Fishing

by Beau Beasley

The harbor at Beaufort, North Carolina overlooked water as slick calm as a sheet of glass on the day I arrived to do some fishing with my father-in-law.

False albacore, also known as Little Tunny, may be the hardest fighting fish a fly angler will ever battle.

False albacore, also known as Little Tunny, may be the hardest fighting fish a fly angler will ever battle.

I hadn’t been fly fishing for false albacore fishing in more than a decade, but I well remembered how much fun it was the first time around. My beloved father-in-law John Johnson—JJ to those of us in the family—has long been my fishing buddy, and he and my mother-in-law Joan were in town visiting from the Pacific Northwest.

When we’re in JJ’s neck of the woods, we search for steelhead, so I was eager to introduce him to the sheer adrenaline rush of fishing for false albacore. I’d regaled him with stories of these hard fighters during our drive down from Virginia the day before.

“These fish are like nothing you’ve ever seen, John. Steelhead are tough, of course, but trust me when I tell you that this is the strongest fighting fish you’ll ever catch on a fly rod,” I said.

A mountain of a man, JJ is a retired forest ranger with 30 years of faithful service to his credit. Much of his service time was spent in places like Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. So having fought numerous wild land fires and seen more than his fair share of grizzly bears, JJ doesn’t impress easily. He seemed a bit skeptical and confidently replied, “You know, Beau, our steelhead are pretty hard to beat.”

I decided to let the false albacore do the talking for me.

The author (pictured on the left) touts the sheer adrenaline rush of fishing for false albacore.

The author (pictured on the left) touts the sheer adrenaline rush of fishing for false albacore.

Through the morning mist, Captain Gary Dubiel, of Spec Fever Guide Service, quietly motored up to the dock in his boat.

“Sorry you guys had to come all this way out to meet me,” he said, suppressing a smile.

“Yeah, it was rough,” I agreed.

“I don’t think I could have walked much further,” added JJ, turning to gaze at our hotel, the Inlet Inn, approximately 100 yards from the dock.

Situated in the historic district of Beaufort, the Inlet Inn is ideal for visiting tourists who want to walk around town, eat at the local seafood restaurants, and do a little shopping. The Inlet Inn overlooks the harbor, and its spacious rooms are often a jumping-off point for anglers looking for quick access to fishing haunts. In fact, the only way we could have gotten any closer to the water is if we’d slept on the beach. As we loaded our gear in the boat, I reflected that I’d rolled out of bed at 7 a.m., walked across the street for breakfast, and met my guide by a leisurely 7:45. Location is indeed everything.

False albacore—or “albies”—are more properly called Little Tunny. They can grow to 35 pounds, and make no mistake, they’ll tear your saltwater gear up if you’re not careful. How hard do these fish fight? Some marine biologists claim that albies can reach speeds of up to 40 miles an hour! They swim so quickly in part because they need saltwater to rush across their gills to breathe. Anglers who return false albacore to the sea usually thrust them back into the ocean like they’re throwing a spear.

Albies aren’t great eating fish—I don’t know anyone who eats them, in fact—but they sure can fight. Blistering runs of 100 yards in less than a minute are not uncommon. In fact, rookie anglers who wait for their first false albacore to slow down before trying get them under control have often seen their fly lines—and sometimes their rods—go overboard and never return. This much I can promise you: When you get into false albacore, you’d better be prepared to get up close and personal with your backing.

False albacore are fast swimmers that require movement of saltwater over their gills. Anglers release Little Tunny by "torpedoing" them back into the water.

False albacore are fast swimmers that require movement of saltwater over their gills. Anglers release Little Tunny by “thrusting” them back into the water as if throwing a spear.

We motored out of the harbor and into an area just east of Beaufort and a few miles south of Cape Lookout National Seashore. In the distance I could make out a few wild ponies off of Shackleford Banks, an uninhabited island that used to be a major fishing village but now is home only to seagulls and wild horses. These horses are direct decedents of those brought over from Europe during the colonial period. Many of the ships sent over to colonize the New World sank not far from shore as a result of storms and hidden shoals. During low tide the horses often walk back and forth between the islands nibbling scrub grass.

“OK, boys, here they come. Stay focused and stay calm,” said Captain Dubiel, snapping me out of my reverie.

About 50 yards away I could see fish breaking the water and baitfish literally jumping for their lives. It actually looked like it was raining fish, except that the small baitfish were coming up from the ocean instead of down from the sky.

“Remember what I told you. I don’t give a hoot how far you can cast,” Captain Dubiel said. “Just be accurate, and when the fish hits your fly, don’t force him too much. Let him run for a while. Remember that these are very strong fish.”

The albies were barreling down on us; several broke the surface as they thrashed at the helpless baitfish. I looked over my shoulder to see Captain Dubiel placidly surveying the scene of ensuing pandemonium. This chaos was just another day at the office for him! My heart beat a little faster in anticipation.

The slashing fish churned the water before us into pearly white foam. Overhead the seagulls were screeching and diving to catch the hapless and stunned baitfish pushed to the surface by the marauding false albacore. The boat pitched in the wind and the deck moved beneath our feet—and all the while, JJ and I both cast as fast as we could. After making a few unsuccessful casts, I looked over my shoulder at JJ and saw that he was hooked up. His rod bent over and nearly touch the water, his reel screaming as the line played out. JJ’s mouth was closed, and I could tell that his teeth were clenched in his effort to keep his balance in the pitching seas and simultaneously keep pressure on his fish.

He looked up and gasped, “Wow, Beau, you weren’t kidding! These are super strong fish.”

That comment was all he could manage as he struggled to hold onto his rod. My reply was cut short by a solid jolt; my own line went tight. My reel spun, and the fight was on. In moments my rod was nearly bent to the water—and still JJ was doing all he could to land his own fish. Eventually, with the help of Captain Dubiel, JJ managed to land his first false albacore, and I put mine on the boat as well. We went on to battle more albies that day, but from the moment I saw his teeth clenched I knew, I wouldn’t be hearing anymore about JJ’s hard-fighting steelhead that day.

West Coast anglers tout their steelhead fishery and their big trout waters—both of which are fantastic, I admit—but for my money, nothing beats a school of hungry false albacore. If you’d like to try your hand at landing some of these street brawlers of the sea this fall, then make your plans now. And remember that albies are great sport on a fly rod—but visiting anglers to North Carolina can also prospect for red drum, flounder, stripers, and of course speckled trout. If you do manage to find a school of fast-moving albies, take my advice, humbly given: Clench teeth and hold on.

Fishing for false albacore can be a great deal of fun but requires some planning on your end to ensure a successful trip. Thrill-seeking fly anglers interested in pursuing albies, stripers, redfish, or speckled trout should contact Captain Gary Dubiel of Spec Fever Guide Service (www.specfever.com; (252) 249-1520). Visitors who plan to stay in Beaufort for any length of time should consider making The Inlet Inn their home base (www.inlet-inn.com; (800) 554-5466). The inn is located within easy walking distance of Beaufort’s historic district and many fine restaurants.

Beau Beasley (www.beaubeasley.com) is the author of Fly Fishing Virginia and Fly Fishing the Mid-Atlantic. He’s a retired Captain from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue and is a current member of Local 2068. Beau lives with his wife and children in Warrenton, Virginia.        

 

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.

Laborers Join the USA as 15th Charter Union Partner

October 16, 2015 in Articles

Head to a USA shoot, conservation dinner or Work Boots on the Ground conservation project, and there’s a good chance you’ll run into a proud member of the Laborers International Union of America (LIUNA).  Flip on the USA’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV show, and you might catch an episode featuring a LIUNA member.

liuna

Members of LIUNA Local 477 achieved the High Over All team award at USA’s 2015 IAMAW St. Louis Sporting Clays Shoot when they busted 430 out of 500 clays.

Many LIUNA members love to hunt, fish, shoot and support conservation, so it’s no surprise we have Laborers among our USA family.  Recognizing that so many of its members enjoy spending time outdoors, the Laborers International has joined the USA as its 15th charter union partner.

Charter unions provide valuable support and resources to help the USA fulfill its mission.  They also, through their sponsorship, provide their members with the added benefit of a no-cost USA membership, which means active and retired LIUNA members can now join the USA for free and get access to the USA’s digital magazine, members-only discounts and contests and more.

“We’re thrilled to have the support of the LIUNA International and encourage all LIUNA members to take advantage of the benefit their union is providing them and join their many brothers and sisters, who are already members of this union-dedicated, outdoor community,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Fred Myers.

(L-R) Larry Lucco and Dustin Ramage of LUINA Local 100 were featured on a Brotherhood Outdoors Illinois waterfowl hunt in 2013.

(L-R) Larry Lucco and Dustin Ramage of LUINA Local 100 were featured on a Brotherhood Outdoors Illinois waterfowl hunt in 2013.

Deer Hunt The Dominant Doe

October 16, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by Bill Cooper

The sunshine of a late October afternoon had faded away. Now, cool air settled into the hillside flat where my ground blind was situated. I pulled on a heavy shirt to combat the chill.

Removing the dominant doe from a herd renders the remaining deer easier to hunt. They are not accustomed to making decisions that are typically dictated by the dominant female.

Removing the dominant doe from a deer herd renders the remaining deer easier to hunt. They are not accustomed to making decisions that are typically dictated by the dominant female.

Suddenly, a “whew, whew!” sound loudly echoed through the woods. The dominant doe of a small group of deer that regularly used my food plot had busted me and was blowing that white-tailed deer alarm call all hunters hate to hear.

Experience had taught me to sit tight. The deer had not been badly spooked and would most likely return.

Less than 20 minutes later, I heard the unmistakable sounds of deer walking in the dry oak leaves east of my blind. Sounds of acorns crunching assured me that the band of does had calmed down and once again felt safe, and they were feeding my way.

With the aide of my binoculars, I caught movement. The dominant doe lead the pack, as usual. She stepped into the food plot first, 35 yards away.

Two more does fed into the far end of the food plot. All of the does fed behind a 5-point buck, making it impossible for me to get a shot with my crossbow. The big doe closest to my blind obviously served as the boss doe of the herd. Her blocky body supported a long, strong neck and a “mule head” with a Roman nose. She portrayed the perfect example of a dominant doe.

The dominant doe kept snapping her head to the alert position and staring at my blind. The other deer never looked my direction. I knew it would only be a short period of time before the big doe would bust me again.

Their blocky heads, long faces, Roman nose and vigilant alertness distinguish a dominant doe from younger female deer in a group.

Their blocky heads, long faces, Roman nose and vigilant alertness distinguish a dominant doe from younger female deer in a group.

Her nervous demeanor intensified as she fed across the food plot. Ten minutes after entering the plot, her rump hairs began to flare. She curled her lip and licked her nostrils, testing the air for any telltale signs of danger. She slowly raised her long flag to full mast, and it tick-tocked as she slowly headed back across the food plot. All of her subordinates followed suit. Busted again.

I still sat tight, hoping for one more reprieve from the curse of the old doe before nightfall enveloped the food plot. With 10 minutes of daylight left, boss doe returned for the third time. The 5-pointer returned as well. It stared to the south. Soon, a respectable 11-point buck sauntered across the far end of the food plot and turned into the brushy area with the other deer. I recognized the big buck from trail camera photos.

The light slowly faded away. I enjoyed an especially smug feeling at having enjoyed an afternoon in a ground blind with deer very nearby. I also laid a plan for the next day. I would set up another blind closer to the point where the dominant doe entered the food plot, and she was on my hit list. Taking that dominant doe would make future hunts on that food plot much more productive, maybe even giving me a better chance at the 11-point buck.

Rifle hunters with multiple anterless deer tags can often make multiple kills by shooting the dominant doe first. Subordinate does often will freeze because they are not accustomed to making decisions. The extra seconds allow for a second shot. Even if the subordinates deer run, stay prepared. They may not go far.

If you hunt the dominate doe in a given area, I believe you also greatly improve your chances of seeing the dominant buck in the area. Watch where the dominant doe enters and leaves feeding areas. Follow trails to her bedding area, which will usually be much thicker vegetation. Next, determine how the buck travels from his security area to that of the dominant doe. Look for weedy ditches, saddles, brushy draws, light rub lines and dark timber.

I set my second ground blind early the next afternoon and entered it around 5 p.m. The dominant doe came from the east like clock work. However, she spotted the new blind and busted me again. Fifteen minutes later I heard her leading her troupe around the new blind to the north.

Within 10 minutes the old boss female fed within 30 yards of my new blind, but I did not have a shot. Curiosity finally got the best of her. She circled and hooked into the brush-screened spot at the east end of the food plot. She paused, broadside, at 20 yards to inspect the blind closer.

By removing the dominate doe from the herd, I had accomplished several goals we had for this particular property. First, this area was overpopulated with deer, and taking the dominant doe helped that situation by taking out the most reproductive doe. Second, I took out the leader, leaving the other deer more vulnerable until they learned the ropes. Third, I eliminated the most cautious deer of the herd. There’s no doubt that without that dominant doe around, my chances for taking another deer, maybe even a big buck, were greater on subsequent hunts. Fourth, I put tenderloins and many pounds of meat in the freezer. And finally, I had a great time outdoors executing my well laid plans.

Pay attention, and you’ll be able to spot and identify the dominant doe. If you have any of the same goals listed above, taking that dominant doe may be your best option when deciding which deer to shoot.

 

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.

Flood Waters Couldn’t Dampen Volunteers’ Spirits in Texas

October 15, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

As they say, when it rains, it pours. That was no cliché in Texas this year. No sooner had a group of Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) volunteers completed the first day of work on an elevated boardwalk at the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in March than Mother Nature began to make up for a four year drought.  The Refuge quickly began to flood and remained in high water or flood stage for more than 100 days, burying many parking areas and hiking trails under 10 feet of water.

Click image above to watch this IBEW HourPower video (produced by Oswego Creative) about the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground project at the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge.

Located approximately 40 miles northeast of Houston, the 25,000 acre Trinity River NWR lies within the largest floodplain basin in Texas and is host to bayous, sloughs, oxbow lakes and mysterious ponds and home to a diversity of wildlife including deer, alligators, bobcats and many waterfowl and songbirds.  Still fairly primitive, the Refuge is a place where visitors can find serenity in nature whether hiking, paddling, birdwatching, hunting or fishing.

The elevated boardwalk was the first project initiated through a joint partnership between the Department of Interior and the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program. Once complete, it will be an intrinsic piece of the From Crosswalks to Boardwalks project, which will connect the city of Liberty, Texas, with the Refuge, allowing hikers to traverse more than 500 feet of wetlands, access 13 miles of trails and have a more intimate view of the bayou.

“There is such an industrious environment beneath our feet in the water – fish lounging, crawfish picking along, bugs mining for food,” said Laurie Gonzales, a wildlife biologist at Trinity River NWR.  “It’s a whole other world.  There’s something magical to children when they get to experience nature like that.  This boardwalk will make those experiences possible.”
Trinity River NWR and partner groups secured building permits for the structure and received funding for materials through a Recreational Trails Grant from the state of Texas, but they did not get funding for the manpower to build it.  That’s where the Gulf Coast Building Trades volunteers came in.

“There is so much skill that goes into building a structure,” Gonzales said. “This crew has to plan out the work zone, bring in heavy materials, use machinery…and brave the heat and mosquitoes, all while balancing themselves in the mud and muck.  Skilled union volunteers will be put to the test…but I know they can handle it because they are one tough bunch.”

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Heat, mud, mosquitoes, spiders and sore muscles couldn’t stop the dedicated volunteers.

All the flood waters couldn’t dampen the spirits of the diehard volunteers. Once the water receded, they headed back to the Refuge in September to use their planning, layout, carpentry, structural, concrete, fabrication and public relations skills to begin building the 520 foot bridge with an 18’ x 18’ observation deck over a bayou on federal land.

Giving up overtime pay on the weekends in the midst of a Gulf Coast construction boom, the volunteers will devote countless hours to the massive project through the fall. Because the site was under water so long, the volunteers have to manually carry nearly $80,000 worth of concrete piers and construction materials through the swamp to the work area because vehicles get stuck in the mud.  As the boardwalk construction progresses, so does the trek in.  Once they reach the bayou, volunteers will use a flat bottom boat to complete the last several hundred feet.

“We only had to dispatch one cottonmouth snake thus far and will probably have an alligator story to tell when we get to the bayou,” said Mike Cramer, financial secretary-treasurer of UA Plumbers Local 68 and the project coordinator.

When asked why he gave up so much time and energy to such a mentally and physically draining project, Cramer responded, “We all volunteer ourselves to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance because we feel better…knowing we are giving something back to the organization we are dedicated to and the great outdoors.  Union members do so many community projects…with little or no recognition.  The USA provides a forum for these conservation projects to be recognized on a local and national level, while educating the general public about us and some of the wonderful unselfish things we accomplish on behalf of everyone.”

Click here to see more project photos.

Unions Put USA Calendar Funds to Work for Communities

October 14, 2015 in General

USA’s Gun-A-Week calendar is back by popular demand for 2016. Not only does it feature union member photos and provide an opportunity to win a gun every week; it can be used to raise money for worthy union causes.

Exactly how does it do that? Simple. When unions donate $2,000 to support the USA and its conservation mission, they receive 100 USA calendars. Unions can sell the calendars for a reasonable $30 each (if you’re into math, that’s $0.58 per chance to win a gun) to make their donation back plus an additional $1,000. Not only that, they receive a Remington 870 Express shotgun, which can be raffled to raise additional funds.

Last year, the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus (EWMC) of IBEW LU 716 raffled the 870 shotgun they received through their USA calendar donation to raise more than $1,600 to help send delegates to that National EWMC conference and support community service projects.

EWMC members are typically community service project leaders in the Houston area. One project they recently completed was building a handicap ramp to the front porch for an elderly woman living on social security income. The EWMC also partnered with IBEW LU 716, Rebuild Houston and Channel 11 to refurbish the home of an elderly grandmother who had been on a waiting list for nearly two years. Thirty volunteers came together over two days to replace rotten siding, paint the house and trim, build steps to a side door, build hand rails for both the front and side doors and much more. Check it out at www.ibew716.net/rebuild-together

The EWMC partnered with IBEW LU 716, Rebuild Houston and Channel 11 to refurbish the home of an elderly grandmother.

The EWMC partnered with IBEW LU 716, Rebuild Houston and Channel 11 to refurbish the home of an elderly grandmother.

“We are proud to be members of USA and allow the EWMC and IBEW LU 716 to be a positive force in our community,” said Fred Ellis, IBEW LU 716 assistant business manager.

Like the EWMC, the Atomic Trades and Labor Council in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, used the money it earned through the USA’s calendar program to better its community. They put both the money they earned through calendar sales and by raffling the shotguns they received into their Community Action Fund, which makes donations to various local charities.

“We have found this to be an excellent fundraising tool for our Council,” said Steve Jones, Atomic Trades and Labor Council president.

Learn more about USA’s 2016 calendar program at http://52guns.unionsportsmen.org.

Protect Hunting & Fishing TV Programming

October 13, 2015 in General

Do you enjoy hunting, fishing and shooting TV shows?

If you’re answer is yes, this is something you need to hear.

Verizon—the cable, mobile and internet provider—has dropped Sportsman Channel, the official network of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s union-dedicated TV show Brotherhood Outdoors, along with Outdoor Channel from its television carriage service.

Verizon notified subscribers via email and encouraged them to explore similar content on History Channel, Destination America, Nat Geo Wild and Discovery Channel—all channels that carry no hunting, fishing or shooting programming. Clearly Verizon doesn’t understand this category.

These actions against the Outdoor Sportsman Group Networks – the world’s largest aggregator and content provider for outdoor lifestyle programming – has angered outdoor enthusiasts across the country, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. More than 130 million Americans engage in some form of outdoor lifestyle activity and response to these actions does not sit well within this passionate and loyal group.

“We have more than six and a half million members who make the outdoors an important part of their lives,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “We are disappointed that Verizon has chosen to take these actions against Outdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel. Working people can’t be silenced by big corporate interests, and will stand up to fight back against this unfair move by Verizon.”

We need your help to fight back to let Verizon and other TV providers know they can’t simply ignore the interests of millions of Americans.

How you can help:
1. If you’re a Verizon customer (whether Fios, cell phone or broadband), call Verizon and question their drops. Demand they bring Sportsman Channel and Outdoor Channel back. If they refuse, tell them you will be taking your business elsewhere.
2. If you’re not a Verizon customer, still contact Verizon and express your dissatisfaction with their removal of the two networks.
3. Post your disapproval of their drops on the Verizon Fios Facebook page
4. Spread the word to your friends, family, co-workers, union brothers and sisters who enjoy hunting/fishing TV shows like Brotherhood Outdoors.

Learn more at www.KeepMyOutdoorTV.com

Upland Bird Hunting Bucket-List Trips

October 5, 2015 in General, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson

Sure, every hunter who has been around a season or two has heard about giant Iowa whitetails and Rio Grande gobblers from Texas. They know about the incredible goose hunting in Saskatchewan, archery elk in Colorado, and black bears in Maine.

Upland bird hunting may not be as popular among hunters as it was a few decades ago, but hunters who don't at least try challenging bird hunting are missing out.

Upland bird hunting may not be as popular among hunters as it was a few decades ago, but hunters who don’t at least try challenging bird hunting are missing out.

However, there are many hunters, and it’s unfortunate, who don’t know of the fantastic upland bird hunting to be had throughout much of this great country of ours. A goodly portion of this upland bird hunting can be enjoyed — free of charge — on state and federal land.

So grab your vest, shoulder that lightweight Over/Under, and kennel the black lab, Springer or Brittany. Here are some great options for getting out and enjoying some of the best bird hunting in the United States.

SOUTH DAKOTA PHEASANTS

Season: Oct. 17, 2015 – Jan. 3, 2016; Agency websitegfp.sd.gov

To be perfectly honest, I absolutely love South Dakota. The people are wonderful, the beef is second to none — and I do like a good steak — and the walleye fishing within eyesight of the capitol building in Pierre is top-notch. But it’s the pheasant hunting that brings outdoorsmen from around the country to the uplands of The Sunflower State, and believe you me, the pheasant hunting well worth the trip to South Dakota.

Roughly speaking, the best pheasant hunting in South Dakota can be found in the eastern half of the state. And while some will argue, that best half can be downsized even further into the northeastern third. Here, both excellent pheasant cover, much in the form of marshy cattail-studded wetlands known as Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA), and acres upon acres of public access provides more-than-ample opportunity for groups and soloists alike. A word of warning. These WPAs can be thick and rough going, especially during the late season when snow often complicates even the simplest things, like walking. Now, a strong brush-busting black lab can prove a tremendous asset, both in finding birds and then persuading these long-legged runners into the air.

The city of Aberdeen caters to tens of thousands of pheasant hunters each fall, as do most of the cities, towns, and villages in eastern South Dakota come late October. Essentially, it’s tough to find a place that’s not hunter-friendly — and that’s what’s great about South Dakota.

 

MAINE RUFFED GROUSE AND WOODCOCK

Season: Oct. 1, 2015 – Dec. 31, 2015; Agency website: maine.gov/ifw

In early November, southern Maine, or the area to which the natives refer to as Down East, is like something out of an Ansel Adams photography. Only this image, in brilliant contrast to Adams’ namesake monochromatic portrayal of Mother Nature, is all about colors. Southern Maine is yellows and reds, orange with a tinge of fading green.

Hunting ruffed grouse in Maine is a bucket-list trip every upland bird hunter should consider.

Hunting ruffed grouse in Maine is a bucket-list trip every upland bird hunter should consider.

There’s brown there, too. A deep cocoa color, mottled with blacks and whites, feathered garb that can speak of only one creature — the king of upland game birds, the ruffed grouse. And let’s not forget the ruff’s frequent companion, the mysterious timberdoodle, perhaps better known traditionally as the woodcock. Ruffs and ‘doodles will often share the same forested upland habitat, a wonderfully scenic albeit shot-challenging mix of young alders, pines, and other timbers sprinkled liberally among reverting pastures, forgotten frontier homesteads, and soggy marshlands.

Fortunately for avid bird hunters, there’s plenty of such habitat available and much open to the general hunting public. The last time I was Down East, I spent three very enjoyable days with Doug Teel, owner of Northridge Outfitters (northridgeoutfitters.com), hunting ruffs and woodcock, all on well-managed and quite productive state land. In addition to upland birds, Teel also offers snowshoe hare hunts over beagles. If you haven’t done it, you most certainly should try it.

 

NEBRASKA PRAIRIE CHICKENS

Season: Sept. 1, 2015 – Jan. 31, 2016; Agency website: outdoornebraska.ne.gov/hunting

When I first looked out over the Sandhills in northern Nebraska, my thought was, “How could anything live out here in all this…well, nothingness?” It’s wasn’t long before I discovered the ‘Hills are full, and quite literally, with an incredible array of wildlife, including, among other things, one of my personal favorite upland birds, the prairie chicken.

Chickens, like their cousin, the sharptail grouse, scratch out a comfortable living in what appears to be an extremely inhospitable place. Covering roughly 20,000 square miles in the northern and western portions of Nebraska, the Sandhills is a mix of dunes, cottonwoods, small ponds and lakes, and miles upon miles of native grasses. Used today primarily for grazing cattle, the Sandhills offer some of the most exciting — and challenging — hunting to be found in the U.S.

Hunting prairie chickens isn’t for the weak of leg or lung. Flushed, prairie chickens have a tendency to fly out of sight, making follow-up opportunities more often than not a “way over there” sort of proposition. As there’s often a lot of walking involved. Lightweight 12-bores filled with 1-1/4- to 1-1/2-ounce loads of  No. 5 or  No. 6 shot are preferred; so, too, are physically fit canine assistants capable of working close. For a true taste of the still-wild West, complete with some fantastic prairie chicken hunting, the Rhoades Family at Uncle Buck’s Lodge in Brewster (unclebuckslodge.com) certainly know how to set a table.

 

KANSAS BOBWHITE QUAIL

Season: Nov. 14, 2015 – Jan. 31, 2016; Agency websiteksoutdoors.com/hunting

Bobwhite quail

Bobwhite quail and good bird dog make for a special upland bird hunting experience.

Few things in the upland birder’s world say tradition as perfectly does the handsome bobwhite quail. Unfortunately, bobwhite numbers are taken a turn for the not-so-good over much of their original range in recent decades. However, ‘gunners can still find plenty of opportunity in Kansas.

Although Mister Bobwhite can be found throughout Kansas, much of the best hunting takes place in the eastern third of the state. Here, hunters will find thousands of acres open to the outdoor public, all enrolled in Kansas’ innovative Walk-In Hunting Access (WIHA) program.

Under this program, the state fish and game agency works in conjunction with private landowners to make those privately held properties accessible to hunters during certain times of the year and with specific, albeit few restrictions.

For more information and complete maps of the WIHA holdings, visit the agency’s website and search “2015 Fall Hunting Atlas.”

 

 

MONTANA SHARPTAILS

Season – Sept. 1, 2015 – Jan. 1, 2016; Agency website: fwp.mt.gov/hunting

For something really exciting, pack the pointer in the truck, throw a couple sets of well-worn hunting boots in the duffle, and turn the headlights toward eastern Montana and a date with some Big Sky Country sharptail grouse. A second cousin to the prairie chicken, sharptails are strong-flying, often-fickle creatures, exploding from underfoot one moment, and flushing hundreds of yards off the next. The frustration, however, is worth it once birds are brought to hand. Sharptail, at least to me, is some of the finest table fare in the avian world.

Eastern Montana offers plenty of public access in the form of state and federal (Bureau of Land Management/BLM) properties. Similar to Kansas’ WIHA Program, Montana boasts its own version known as Block Management Areas, where hunters can find private lands under agreement with the state, which provide hunting opportunities for not only upland birds, but big game, turkeys, and waterfowl as well. A complete listing of BMA properties can be found on the agency’s website.

 

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.

Hunt Resident Canada Geese

October 1, 2015 in General, Hunting

by David Hart

America has a love-hate relationship with Canada geese.

Geese will feed in fields in the morning and then fly to water to loaf throughout the middle of the day. Find a pond or lake shore the birds are using and set out a handful of floater decoys.

Geese will feed in fields in the morning and then fly to water to loaf throughout the middle of the day. Find a pond or lake shore the birds are using, and set out a handful of floater decoys.

They are big, beautiful and graceful birds, and their migration symbolized the coming of autumn. At least that’s how it once was. These days, resident geese are like the unwelcome visitor that refuses to leave. They leave droppings everywhere they go, and their waste can foul ponds and fields alike. In many places, they are little more than 10-pound flying rats.

Hunters, however, have every reason to love what the rest of the world considers a pest.

Why not?

Resident Canada geese now live in nearly every state, and they provide abundant and accessible hunting opportunities.

Seasons in some states begin as early as mid-August. And because they are an unwelcome pest in so many places, many landowners are grateful someone is willing to rid their land of the messy birds.

Scout First

All that opportunity doesn’t mean killing a few geese is as simple as throwing out a few decoys.

Early season geese often feed in pastures, so don’t overlook large grass fields. Hiding can be difficult, but with a little effort, you can blend in well enough to fool the birds.

Early season geese often feed in pastures, so don’t overlook large grass fields. Hiding can be difficult, but with a little effort, you can blend in well enough to fool the birds.

You have to find them first. In fact, scouting is critical for early season resident geese for a simple reason, says Minnesota resident and Avery Outdoors territory manager Mark Brendemuehl.

“They have fewer options this time of year. There isn’t as much corn cut, and the grain fields that have been harvested early often grow up in thick grass, so geese won’t use them,” he explains. “They are also creatures of habit, especially if they haven’t been hunted. They roost on the same water and loaf on the same ponds day after day. You have to find those spots they are using, otherwise you may be wasting your time.”

A Different Bird

Unlike late-season geese, resident Canadas often stay in family flocks of anywhere from just a few birds up to a dozen or so. They certainly can gather in large groups when they feed and loaf, but there’s no need to set out a massive decoy spread. In fact, big spreads can actually intimidate resident birds.

Brendemuehl has used as few as a half-dozen, but he tends to use up to two dozen, depending on what he sees during scouting trips. It’s important to mimic what the real birds are doing, he says.

“I think they are more willing to land among a dozen or so decoys than three dozen because it’s what they are used to,” he says.

Fields or Water

Because resident geese can be suckers for decoys, they are a great way to introduce young hunters to the thrill of waterfowling. Let the kids call. It probably won’t hurt anything.

Because resident geese can be suckers for decoys, they are a great way to introduce young hunters to the thrill of waterfowling. Let the kids call. It probably won’t hurt anything.

The best place to hunt resident geese depends entirely on where they are feeding. Fields are always good, but this time of year, tossing out a handful of floating decoys on a farm pond can be deadly. Late-summer rains can rejuvenate pastures and Canada geese will flock to green grass. It’s one of their preferred foods and they’ll eat it well into the fall and early winter. That’s why ponds surrounded by grass can draw geese like few other places. The best ponds have low banks and no or little cover around the shoreline. That gives the birds a sense of security and it gives them the freedom to move onto to dry land at will.

“I hunted a pond that had nowhere to hide, but it was one of the best places I hunted. We just dug holes next to the water,” recalls Brendemuehl.

Because geese like to land on water and walk up on shore if given the opportunity, it’s a good idea to put some floating decoys in the water and some full-bodies on the shore. If there is no wind to bring the floating decoys to life, consider rigging some sort of jerk cord to coax wary geese into range.

The good news is that it often takes little coaxing to pull resident birds in close. Unless they’ve been hunted a few times, they are suckers for a decoy spread in the right place. Be patient, though, and choose your shots carefully.

“If you can, pick out the largest bird in the flock and shoot it first. It may be the adult in the group. If the rest are juveniles, there’s a good chance they’ll come back even after you knocked down a few on the first pass,” says Brendemuehl. “Sometimes it can seem too easy, but that makes up for all the hunts that aren’t.”

 

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.

Best Tech Gadgets for Your Hunting Dog

September 28, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

Man’s best friend can also be a hunter’s most valuable tool. A hunting dog enhances your skill and elevates the artistry of your hunting. There are a number of dog breeds that can be trained into wonderful hunting companions. With the help of the following tools, you can train, monitor and utilize your hunting dog to its full potential:

dogs

Garmin Astro

The Garmin Astro dog training and tracking systems are compact, lightweight and perfect for extended hunting trips. The system allows you to track your hunting dog within a nine-mile range and also train with a tone and pulse stimulation. The non-harmful pulse and tone notifies your dog when he should obediently return to you. The system also has a bark sensor, so your dog won’t scare away any game if he becomes excited. The waterproof, handheld device accurately maps your dog’s location on a full color, 2.6-inch display.

GoPro Fetch

The GoPro camera system is ideal for capturing your adventurous outings. The GoPro Fetch dog harness enables your dog to record the hunting excursion from a unique view. The machine-washable, water-friendly harness secures the camera to either your dog’s back or underbelly. The material is soft and thoroughly padded at all adjustment points, so your pet remains comfortable. The harness is adjustable and can fit dogs from 15 to 120 pounds.

FitBark

FitBark is a new health monitoring technology for your dog. The system is controlled by an app on your iPhone, which provides a variety of charts that help you understand your dog’s health and explain his behavior. The waterproof activity monitor fastens to your dog’s collar and collects data from his physical activity and rest levels. The activity monitor can recharge via a USB port and lasts for 10 to 14 days before power depletion. The app helps you calculate and view your dog’s activity levels, so you can adjust his exercise regimen accordingly. This app allows you to train your dog to have optimal physical stamina for your hunting excursions.

GeoDog

GEODOG is a GPS-tracking device for your four-legged friend. The system comes with a collar and software that works on your PC or Android phone. The collar is lightweight at 150 grams and adjustable in either a small (41cm to 47cm) or large (46cm to 52cm) size. The software keeps track of your dog and alerts you when he has strayed from the designated zones. The collar is perfect for backcountry hunting trips as it can locate your dog within any range with its powerful GPS-tracking technology.

PetSafe Wireless Containment

Set up a boundary for your dog while on your hunt with a wireless containment system. The wireless transmitter creates a circular containment area for your dog with an adjustable boundary control area. The transmitter works anywhere there is an electrical outlet, so it is ideal for hunters who RV camp. The battery-operated dog collar emits a light static correction pulse whenever your dog breaches the boundary, which helps you keep track of your dog and makes sure he has a secure area for outdoor play.

Autumn Muskie On Swimbaits

September 17, 2015 in Articles, Fishing

by Bob McNally

Muskies are caught on a wide variety of lures and even natural baits throughout the north country in autumn, which arguably is the best time of year to catch the biggest of big fish. But in recent years the remarkable lifelike qualities of high-end swimbaits designed specifically for heavyweight, rugged and hard-fighting muskies have made these lures favorites of muskie men almost everywhere.

Swimbaits have taken the fishing world by storm, and muskie anglers aren't immune to the craze. Swimbaits are hot baits for autumn muskie fishing.

Swimbaits have taken the fishing world by storm, and muskie anglers aren’t immune to the craze. Swimbaits are hot baits for autumn muskie fishing.

While there is likely no wrong way to work a swimbait, the following tactics are proven fish-getters wherever muskies roam.

Warm Weather and Weed Beds

During warm, overcast “Indian summer” weather of early autumn, great action from huge muskies often can be had with swimbaits when cast across and around the edges of still-green weed beds, especially very large weed beds.

Usually it’s best to start shallow, tapping the inside edges of weeds first. One angler should work shallow swimbaits right on a weed edge, while a second fisherman fan casts swimbaits to deeper-water weeds.

Sometimes muskies prowl open pockets in big weed beds. They may hold on key ambush turns and breaklines in the cover. Anglers should be sure to wear high-quality polarized sunglasses to locate such key weed bed spots. Then make accurate, careful casts with swimbaits to prime fish-holding locations.

Match The Hatch

The old fishing rule of “match the hatch” has a definite place in muskie angling with swimbaits, and few other lures can so readily duplicate the primary forage on any body of water.

Paddle tail swimbaits like the Berkley HollowBelly are deadly on fall muskie.

Paddle tail swimbaits like the Berkley HollowBelly are deadly on fall muskie.

While color, sink rate, lure action and other qualities can make a difference in the effectiveness of swimbaits on muskies, no other factor is more important than lure size. The size swimbait should most closely resemble the size baitfish in the water on which muskie are feeding.

Typically in fall, resident forage is larger than that found in spring. Thus swimbaits in the 5- to 6-inch range work well. Many anglers also prefer paddle-tail swimbaits that shimmy, shake and give off a lot of vibration that muskies seem to target. The Yum Money Minnow and Berkley Hollow-Belly Swimbait are two good ones for fall muskie fishing.

Rock Flats

On rocky lakes, muskie often migrate up to feed on big rock flats bordering deep water. Best tactic is to motor upwind of such spots, making controlled drifts over the hard bottom, while anglers cast diving and slow-sinking swimbaits downwind.

Low-light conditions often are best when working rock flats, so dawn and dusk fishing commonly are most productive. Overcast weather can be good, too, though at times fish can be active erratically through a gray day, rather than just a short time window of early morning or late afternoon.

The Dingo Swimbait is an 8.5-inch double-jointed lure with a fantastic swimming action. This is a slow-sinking swimbait.

The Dingo Swimbait is an 8.5-inch double-jointed lure with a fantastic swimming action. This is a slow-sinking swimbait.

Windy weather also can be productive when casting swimbaits on rock flats, as waves push plankton into such areas, which draws baitfish and in turn attracts feeding fall muskies.

In windy conditions, boat control is critical to success. So deft use of electric fishing motors and wind socks are great aids in keeping a boat perfect for best swimbait lure presentations.

Trolling Isolated Islands

Trolling is not allowed everywhere for muskies, but where it’s lawful, pulling swimbaits with a boat around small islands, humps and isolated patches of structure can be deadly.

Often the best islands are sunken ones, not shown on most hydrographic maps. Some are very small (just the size of a modest home or even a living room), with boulders, gravel and chunk rock, and these often hold the biggest of autumn fish. Rocks with still-green weeds can be best, with their tops just a few feet underwater.

Deep water surrounding an island is important, with 15 to 50 foot levels ideal. Some islands are related to shoreline points, particularly on river systems and lakes that have fluctuating water levels.

The best island trolling is had after shoreline weeds have died out, and baitfish, with muskie following, head to rocky islands for cover and protection from predators.

Heavy-test braided line like 100-pound test Power Pro is preferred by many muskie trollers, using steel leaders. Make deep structure passes with varying colors and styles of swimbaits around the deeper edges of islands. Work lures so they just tick the bottom.

Few lures have captured the attention of muskie hounds the way swimbaits have, quite simply because few lures work better during the prime autumn muskie season.

 

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.

USA and American Water Complete Boat Shed at Harrison Bay State Park

September 9, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Tennessee American Water held a public ribbon cutting ceremony at Harrison Bay State Park Sept. 3, to mark the completion of a new 63-by-18-ft. boat shed built by union volunteers over the summer.

harrisonBay01Chattanooga area Building Trades volunteers from Iron Workers Local 704, Utility Workers Local 121, Carpenters Local 74, Insulators Local 46 and Electrical Workers Local 175, as well as volunteers from Communication Workers Local 3802, constructed the shed. Volunteers from the Friends of Harrison Bay put the finishing touches on the project with a little help from a family that visits the park so often, they decided to lend a hand.

“My kids have been using these boats all summer, so we felt it was right to volunteer to help finish the shed,” said local resident and mother of eight, Stephenie Pyles. “Me and the kids helped stain (the exterior of the shed) and spread gravel.”

The project is the result of 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, which awarded the USA a $25,000 grant to support three 2015 conservation projects that improve public access to water-based recreation activities in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Peoria, Illinois; and Charleston, West Virginia.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the completion of our first joint project with American Water,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Fred Myers. “This is our first charitable foundation grant, and it is instrumental in helping us take our conservation efforts to the next level. I’m certain this partnership will continue to grow and, together, we will tackle many more community projects.”

harrisonBay02The importance of the project and partnership between the USA and American Water was evident: “This endeavor brought together folks from all across the community, including young children and skilled union trades members,” said Tennessee American Water President Deron Allen. “Both American Water and the USA encourage and support outdoor activities as well as the proper use and protection of the environment for future generations.”

After the ribbon cutting, Myers and Tennessee American Water Director of Operations Kevin Rogers fixed a commemorative plaque to the shed’s wall before no less than five Pyles children, assisted by park rangers, took to the water in kayaks, canoes and on paddle boards.

For more photos, click here.

Tap Into Public Land Hunting

September 6, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

By Bill Cooper

It is no secret that access is one of the major deterrents to participation in hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation pursuits.

Blocks of public lands range in size from an acre or two big enough for a duck hunt to millions of acres large enough to hunt bear, elk and most any species on your hunting bucket list.

Blocks of public lands range in size from an acre or two big enough for a duck hunt to millions of acres large enough to hunt bear, elk and most any species on your hunting bucket list.

If you fall into that category, or know someone who does, public lands are the answer to the dilemma. As a taxpayer, you are a stakeholder in large quantities of wild lands. Millions of acres across the nation are available to public hunting, fishing, hiking and general enjoyment.

Hunters are among the top land users in the nation who raise their voices about the lack of available access to hunting grounds. Private lands become more difficult to access by the day. Hunters must expect to pay large trespass fees to gain access to the best private land hunting areas. However, public hunting lands are plentiful in our great country and access, in most cases, is free. Doing one’s homework and applying a little on the ground reconnaissance can partially make up what one lacks in dollars. Finding public lands to hunt on are not as difficult as you might think. Here are some tips to help you get started.

State Lands – Every state in the nation has park and wildlife lands that individuals can utilize for outdoor pursuits, including hunting. Quantities and varieties of these lands vary from state to state. Some are open to the public for specific uses, while some areas are open to many types of recreation activities.

One of the best places to start your search for public lands is with your state conservation agency. If you do not know your state conservation agency’s website, simply search Google for state conservation agencies.

My home state of Missouri has over 1,000 parcels of lands owned by the Missouri Department of Conservation. These range from parcels of only a few acres to vast areas comprising 30,000 acres or more. Dozens of them lie within a 100-mile radius of my Ozark home. Many are very near urban areas as well.

We are very fortunate in the state of Missouri. Citizens pay a 1/8 of 1 percent sales tax to support conservation. Generated monies help support programs and properties for a vast array of hunting opportunities. Numerous Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) exist in every county of the state. Hunting opportunities abound and special managed hunts provide extra opportunities on WMAs and state parks as well.

County Properties – Often overlooked by outdoor enthusiasts, county parks offer some outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities, including fishing and specially regulated hunting seasons, in some cases. Simply get on the Internet and use Google to find the county parks and recreation department for your county, or for the counties in which you are interested. Many counties in Missouri that surround urban areas offer special deer control hunts.

A trip to your county courthouse can provide an invaluable tool in a county plat book. The plat book lists every piece of property in the county and the owner. You may be surprised to find out how many pieces of property that your county owns. Many are open to hunting and are often very under utilized because of lack of public knowledge about the areas. Counties with up-to-date computer systems offer plat books online.

Federal Lands – Federal lands comprise the largest acreages of lands available to the general public. There are federally owned lands in every state with federal ownership in the states ranging to 0.3 percent to 84 percent in Nevada. These holdings amount to millions of acres of land, which offer outstanding hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, canoeing and boating opportunities.

Hunters willing to do the research, will find millions of public acres held in public trust by counties, states, private conservation agencies and the federal government.

Hunters willing to do the research, will find millions of public acres held in public trust by counties, states, private conservation agencies and the federal government.

The four main land management agencies administer vast areas. The Bureau of Land Management controls 248 million acres, the U.S. Forest Service 193 million acres, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 89 million acres and the National Park Service manages 80 million acres. While federal parks are as of yet generally off limits to recreation hunting, the conservation concept that hunters play a beneficial role in land management is spreading. Millions more acres are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers     and the Department of defense.

Use Your Computer Recreation.gov provides information on hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation opportunities at federal recreation areas. Mytopo.com offers maps for practically every public land area in each of the states. Too, private companies offer maps and programs associated with public lands. In today’s computer age, information about public lands and hunting opportunities are only a click away. Hunting forums, communities where sportsmen to tell stories, ask questions and enjoy online fellowship, are another great source of info.

There is no reason for any American citizen to be deprived of hunting opportunities. Millions of acres are available, and they belong to our citizens. Too, many conservation and park agencies offer outdoor recreation programs to get the public involved in utilizing public hunting lands, as do many conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation. Finding both programs and available public lands are only a few clicks away. Use your computer to open up a lifetime of new hunting adventures.

Last Note – Hunters are crowded because they choose to be crowded by default. They simply do not do their homework. There are 12.5 million hunters in the United States, 7 percent of the population. The U.S. Forest Service alone administers 192 million acres, all open to public hunting. That amounts to just over 15 acres per hunter. Toss in all the other public lands and you discover you have a mind-boggling abundance of public lands to hunt. Additionally, 60 percent of the nation’s wildlife lives on your public lands.

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.

Camp Story Contest | We Have a Winner!

September 2, 2015 in Articles

 

litefighterYesterday marked the submission deadline for our Camp Story Contest, and boy, did we get some great stories sent to us! Your stories had it all – suspense, comedy, romance, family fun and important safety lessons. After carefully combing through all of the submissions, we have selected Robert Struckman as the winner of a new Litefighter 1 camouflage tent valued at $300. We would to thank everyone who made us laugh, cry and reflect with stories, and for taking the time share your experiences with us. Here is Robert’s story:

 A Grizzly Night in Grizzly Basin

by Robert Struckman

When my son was 5 years old, we backpacked into the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana with the plan of camping the first night in a valley known as Grizzly Basin. Anywhere else, a name like that would be poetical exaggeration, but in the Bob Marshall it’s essentially descriptive. No matter, I told myself. I had bear spray and experience.

We hiked in, explored, ate a great dinner and zipped ourselves into our tent in that tight valley among pines and under an extravagant dome of stars. The air was sharp with mountain cold, but we comfortably talked and told stories in our bags until we dropped off to sleep.
And then, sometime in the deep black of the darkest part of night, something slapped the wall of the dome tent. I snapped alert and waited, half-sitting, motionless, breathless, listening. Nothing happened, yet something had definitely hit the tent wall! In my imagination, a curious bear had happened upon our campsite and maybe pawed the tent to see what it was. Nothing more disturbed the stillness. In my mind’s eye, the bear looked expectantly at the tent. After what felt like 15 minutes, I settled down, but kept a protective arm over my son.

Somehow, sleep crept up on me, but when something hit the tent wall again, I jerked to my knees, terrified and furious. The bear spray was in my hand, but then indecision paralyzed me. Obviously, I couldn’t pepper spray the bear from inside the tent. And if the bear collapsed the tent onto us, the spray would be equally useless. Nor could I quickly unzip the tent and spray the bear. The bear, I thought, would hear me, see the tent moving and attack. Meanwhile, my son slept peacefully. What would happen to him if I climbed out the tent, only to be torn apart and mauled by the bear? My boy was 5!

That’s when the stupidity of the trip began to sink in. What kind of dad takes such risks? Why did I choose Grizzly Basin? And what about my wife? She could lose both of her guys in one tragic night!

In the end, I decided to simply protect my son as best I could – to shield him with my body.

At that point, my little boy, overheated under my defensive arm, rolled over to cool off. His arm swung and hit the tent wall.
Suddenly I laughed. The vision of the bear faded. It had only been my son tossing and turning in his sleep. My fear ebbed. After all, I had heard no other sounds – just my son’s arm on the tent wall. No huffing breath. No snapping branches under heavy feet. No ursine grunts of curiosity.

This time I fell asleep peacefully, when we woke up, we packed up camp. Instead of heading farther into the wilderness, we went back down the trail. I drove home, thankful that it had been only a scare.

 

Learn more about American-made, veteran-owned Litefighter.

All-American Big Game Hunts

August 26, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

By Beau Tallent

Planning a hunt is half the fun. Every hunter has dreams of taking a big trip, hunting new terrain, and possibly even tackling the challenge of pursing a new species.

To harvest a big buck, a hunter has to target areas not only where big bucks are common, but also where they are killable. The Midwest farm region is renowned for big-racked white-tailed bucks and great results for hunters.

To harvest a big buck, a hunter has to target areas not only where big bucks are common, but also where they are killable. The Midwest farm region is renowned for big-racked white-tailed bucks and great results for hunters.

A lineup of the most coveted American big game is complete only when trophy white-tailed deer, Rocky Mountain elk, and wild boar are included. Fortunately, a hunt for any or all of the Big Three is within relatively easy reach.

Hunters can always go the guided route for a catered trip. However, a great hunt also awaits the adventurous do-it-yourself hunter. It just takes a little research, preparation, and planning. We’ve put together information on doable hunts for big Midwest bucks, Rocky Mountain elk, and wild boar in the Deep South.

Midwest Whitetails

Deer are everywhere these days. Trophy bucks are not. The first step in killing a big buck is quite simple; you have to hunt where they are. Watch one of those all-hunting-all-the-time television stations, and it won’t be long before you’re seeing a hunt for trophy white-tailed bucks somewhere in the Midwest.

A variety of factors combine to make our “Fly-Over States” prime for producing big bucks. There’s the fertile soil and nutritious farm fields. Another significant factor for growing big bucks is old age. Midwest states have very short firearms deer seasons, so more bucks make it to older age classes.

I learned of the other reason the Midwest has the go-to states for big bucks when my Alabama hunting buddies began to desert me and our long-time lease. We had big bucks, but the big bucks on our place are tougher to kill than those farm-belt bucks of the Midwest. It’s the habitat. In the South, there are expansive tracts of woods, thickets, and swamps. In the Midwest, there are ribbons of woods that form the edges of farm fields where deer feed. Those narrow bands of woods are much easier to hunt. It’s not shooting fish in a barrel, by no means, but the giant bucks in Midwest farm territory are killable.

Technically, the Midwest region is comprised of 12 states. We will focus on two of the best for big farm-country whitetails, Illinois and Kansas. Because of their popularity with hunters, nonresidents must apply for a deer-hunting permit in these states.

In Kansas, applicants must apply in April each year at https://www.ks.wildlifelicense.com/start.php or by phone (620) 672-0728. Paper applications and mail-in forms are no longer allowed for Kansas permit applications. A Kansas nonresident white-tailed deer permit costs $346.96 if you’re 16 or older. It’s $116.34 for youth 15 and younger. The bag limit is two, only one of which can be a buck or fawn. In Kansas, a hunter applies in one unit and selects one adjacent unit in which to also hunt, as well as the season choice (archery, muzzleloader, or firearm) at the time of application. Online research on available public land and full-service outfitters will narrow your unit choice. The success rates for drawing a Kansas bowhunting deer permit are very good in most units.

A good option for the Kansas do-it-yourself hunter is Fort Riley, which lies in Deer Unit 8. To see the type of bucks harvested at Fort Riley last season and in past years, visit https://fortriley.isportsman.net/Hunting-2014-images.aspx. Just be prepared to spend some time browsing the galleries and drooling over pictures of some fantastic public-land bucks. For more information on Fort Riley deer hunting, contact the Environmental Division Office at (785) 239-6211, or visit https://fortriley.isportsman.net.

Illinois also has a lottery for deer permits. For archery deer permits, the application period is in June. To apply, visit the Illinois DNR website at www.dnr.illinois.gov. The number of nonresident archery tags was increased several years ago, making it very likely a nonresident will draw an archery tag each year. An Illinois nonresident deer archery permit is $411. To do some detailed homework, check out the harvest and hunter-effort numbers from past seasons at www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/Documents/IllinoisPublicHuntingAreasReport.pdf. For more information, contact the Illinois Department of Conservation at (618) 435-8138.

A public-land option in southern Illinois is the massive Shawnee National Forest, with more than 250,000 acres of terrain that varies from rugged ridges and ravines to rolling fields. While huge in terms of acres, the Shawnee isn’t one giant tract of land. It is very fragmented, with private land interspersed throughout. A savvy hunter can use the private land as an advantage. Look for isolated, hard-to-access national forest tracts that border agriculture fields. Traditional areas with trophy-buck potential are Jackson, Pope and Union counties. Alexander County is home to the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, where hunters can access remote areas by jonboat (there’s a 10 hp motor limit).

Bowhunting pressure is generally not heavy on the Shawnee National Forest, although shotgun season sees fairly heavy hunting pressure. With a little homework, you can find a less crowded hunting spot. For maps, call the U.S. Forest Service at (618) 253-7114.

Elk In The Colorado Rockies

A hunt for Rocky Mountain elk may seem like just a pipe dream for many, but I know first-hand this is one dream hunt you can make a reality. After reading about elk hunting and seeing the exciting hunting shows for years, I finally loaded up my truck and steered it west. After a night in Amarillo, the next day I was standing in camo, with bow in hand, at 6,000 feet in southwest Colorado, about to begin the best week of my hunting career.

For days, I hiked and hunted hard. Some days I ventured far from the nearest road, carrying a sleeping bag, food, and water on my back. In some areas, I found little sign that elk even lived on that mountain. Finally, on the fourth day, I found fresh tracks around a big, muddy wallow. As darkness fell, I unrolled my sleeping bag and tried to sleep. The excitement of looking up at the stars from an elevation of 7,500 feet was enough to keep me awake… if it were not for the bugling bull that bellowed constantly all night long.

Daylight couldn’t come soon enough. I simply eased through a 200-yard-wide stand of aspen to overlook a narrow, very steep meadow that would pass for a black diamond ski-run if it had snow covering it. I heard the bull again, very close, and then watched as he herded more than 20 cows into the steep meadow. While waiting for the bull, a modest 5×4, to present a shot, I heard something right in front of me and noticed movement. Five yards away, the mouth of a huge cow elk pulled at a leaf and began to chew. When she took a step, I saw a vitals area that looked as big as my truck hood, and I heart-shot her at point blank range. She fell in the meadow, and I was able to video the bull and the herd of cow elk as they stood for a moment before piling out of the steep shoot.

The Colorado archery season for elk this year is Aug. 29 through Sept. 27. A nonresident Colorado either-sex/fishing combo license is $616. If you just want elk meat—a lot of it—you can purchase the nonresident cow (female elk only) combo license for $461. A nonresident youth/fishing combo is $100.75. Also required is an annual $10 Habitat Stamp for any hunter 18 to 64 years old.

There are better trophy bull states, for sure. But this poor boy picked Colorado because archery elk hunters can get a tag over-the-counter without a quota. I hunted the Uncompahgre National Forest in southwest Colorado, but the available public land is seemingly endless. A good online researcher can narrow a search by studying elk harvest results in each Game Management Unit (GMU). There’s a wealth of info and maps on the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website at http://cpw.state.co.us. A great resource for info is the Colorado Hunting Atlas, available online at http://ndismaps.nrel.colostate.edu/huntingatlas.

Go Wild For Georgia Hogs

The allure hunters have for stalking wild hogs is matched by the disdain from landowners for this often-destructive animal. The result is liberal seasons and few regulations. At Fort Stewart in southeast Georgia, wild hogs can be hunted year-round, except during spring turkey season.

The allure hunters have for stalking wild hogs is matched by the disdain from landowners for this often-destructive animal. The result is liberal seasons and few regulations. At Fort Stewart in southeast Georgia, wild hogs can be hunted year-round, except during spring turkey season.

Slipping through a South Georgia swamp while closing the distance on a group grunting, snorting, nasty-tempered wild hogs may seem like an odd desire. Not if you’re a die-hard big-game hunter. Wild hogs are fun to hunt. There’s a slight (although over-exaggerated and glamorized) hint of danger, and dang if wild hogs don’t provide some of the best wild meat you’ll ever bring home.

While many hunters love to hunt wild hogs, landowners hate these destructive critters that seem to breed more successfully than rabbits. Because wild hogs aren’t native to North America, and because they can destroy habitat and impact animal and plant species, state agencies continue to liberalize hunting regulations for wild hogs. On private land in Georgia, you can hunt wild hogs year-round, over bait, with no limit. An online search will reveal lots of outfitters for guided hunts on private land.

There’s plenty of public-land opportunity for wild hogs in Georgia, and Fort Stewart ranks near the top. Fort Stewart is a huge 279,000-acre military base about an hour south of Savannah, Ga.

More than half of Fort Stewart’s acreage is open for public hunting—about 120,000 acres are kept off-limits to the public for military training. Feral pigs can be hunted year-round on Fort Stewart except during turkey season, when only bowhunters can hunt hogs and only in archery-only areas. Turkey season in Georgia is late March to May 15, so you’re talking about more than nine months of wild hog hunting at Fort Stewart. There is no bag limit, and hunters kill between 500 and 1,000 hogs a year.

There are a wide variety of habitat types on Fort Stewart. If you go for a summertime hunt, concentrate on the bottomland swamps where the pigs will seek refuge from the heat. The Ogeechee and Canoochee rivers wind through the vast wilds of Fort Stewart. There are also numerous small creeks and swamps, along with larger creeks like Taylor’s Creek. If you hunt in the fall, find hardwood flats where acorns are dropping.

There are quite a few special restrictions on hunting at Fort Stewart. For details and information on how to get a hunting permit, call (912) 435-8061 or visit the website at http://www.stewart.army.mil/info/?id=448.

 

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.

Veterans Day Buck

August 19, 2015 in Articles, Hunting, Meet a Member

by Kate Nation

November 11, 2013, is a day Donna Shaver—a 17-year member of Steelworkers Local 3657—will never forget.  It was Veterans Day, and she had permission to hunt property in Stanly County, North Carolina, during muzzleloader season.

Shaver hails from a family of hunters.  Growing up, she spent weekends traveling with her parents to bow competitions throughout North Carolina, and by age 13, she achieved the state record.  Her parents started her hunting, but she didn’t catch the bug until she began dating an avid hunter and decided it was something she really needed to get into.

Since then, she has hunted bear, deer, turkey and doves, often with her family.  Whitetail is her favorite with turkey coming in for a close second.  Though she enjoys hunting with a bow, she prefers muzzleloader season with its cooler temperatures and bucks running around in the frenzy of the rut.

Shaver and that avid hunter, who became her husband, integrated their son, Jeremy, into the family tradition nearly from birth.

“We bought his lifetime hunting license before he was one year old,” Shaver said.  “He used to sit at the bottom of the tree with me.  We’d take a sleeping bag and snacks, and he’d tell me to wake him up when I saw a deer coming.”

Now an adult, Jeremy was serving as a Marine security guard at the Israel Embassy as Shaver was heading to her tree stand that Veterans Day morning, joined by her 72-year-old father, James Potts, who asked to sit with her.  Potts has had to wear a brace on his leg since he was run over by a logging skidder in 1995 and now has only 40% of feeling in his legs and less in his right foot and ankle.

“Walking up hill is a huge struggle for him, much less climbing into a box blind tree stand, but he was very determined,” Shaver said.  “I remember getting behind him and helping push him up the hill in the dark to get to the stand before daybreak.”

Once in the stand, they were elbow to elbow, but it was Potts who spotted a flash of white horns in the pines.  Shaver watched him through her binoculars as he came toward an opening and was impressed by the height of his horns, but she hesitated.  She knew, from trail cam photos, there was a drop tine in the area, and she only had permission to take one buck.

When she asked her dad what he thought, he responded, “I don’t know what you’re waiting on.  I would have already pulled the trigger.”

Her mind made up, she raised her 50 caliber Savage muzzleloader and fired on the buck at 126 yards.  It “donkey-kicked” and ran into the trees.  Unable to see through the smoke, Shaver asked her dad if he saw the buck, but he was shaking so badly he replied that he “couldn’t see a thing.”

As they laughed with excitement, Shaver pondered her shot and texted her husband and son to let them know she shot a nice buck, but it ran off.  Her husband told her to wait an hour to pursue it, but after 40-minutes, she couldn’t take it any longer and climbed down from the stand.

No blood.  Anxiety began to creep in as Shaver scoured the woods for any sign of a wound.  Then, there it was, 70 yards away—a 10 point with 2 stickers, weighing 197 lbs.  She shouted, and her father rushed over as fast as he could.

Donna Shaver with the biggest buck of her life.

Donna Shaver with the biggest buck of her life.

To Shaver’s surprise, Jeremy suddenly joined them in the woods thanks to FaceTime on her iPhone.  He checked out the buck, laughed, bragged on his mom and shared the moment from across the world.

“What a Veterans Day!  Celebrating with my Marine son stationed in Israel and my 72-year-old dad over the biggest buck I’ve ever taken,” Shaver said.  “Then my husband, mom and friend drove up, and the fun began all over again.  It was a very blessed lifetime experience that I’ll never forget!”

Scoring 155 7/8” with a 21 ½” inside spread, Shaver’s trophy earned her the title of Biggest Buck for Female Muzzleloader in the 2013 North Carolina Dixie Deer Classic.

To Catch A Tarpon

August 16, 2015 in Articles, Fishing

by Bob McNally

Every serious angler deserves to catch at least one tarpon in his or her life. One tarpon likely won’t be their last, however, because anglers will be hooked forever in chasing what many believe is the greatest light-tackle gamefish on earth.

To battle a tarpon is the dream of many anglers. These amazing, acrobatic fish put on a quite a show.

To battle a tarpon is the dream of many anglers. These amazing, acrobatic fish put on a quite a show.

The dream of many anglers is to battle a tarpon. Here’s why, how, where, and some professionals who can help make this dream a reality.

Prime time for a tarpon is late spring through summer. It’s a season when acre-size schools of 100-pound fish roll at the surface, reflecting sunlight helter-skelter off hundreds of fist-size silver scales. It’s when a 150-pound prehistoric-like fish inhales bass-size plugs and streamer flies, then explodes at the hook set. It’s when a 6-foot long, twisting and spinning mass of chrome muscle and bone soars in cartwheels 10 feet above the horizon.

Few gamefish grow as large, fight as strong, leap as high, and readily strike lures and baits as do tarpon. Commonly weighing 100 pounds, with fish caught annually over 200 pounds, the coastal-living tarpon is revered worldwide, and offers southeast coastal anglers exceptional fishing opportunities.

Tarpon are found in large numbers along both the Southeast Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, with the very best fishing found from middle Georgia to the Florida Keys, and up the Florida Gulf Coast to Alabama.

Tarpon fishing is mostly summer fishing, with peak action in June during the famed “migration” that starts in the Florida Keys, and spreads north and west as the weather and water warms.

Tarpon fishing is a catch-and-release sport. Even just having a tarpon hit, called a "jump,” is seen as success by die-hard tarpon hunters.

Tarpon fishing is a catch-and-release sport. Even just having a tarpon hit, called a “jump,” is seen as success by die-hard tarpon hunters.

Excellent summer-through-fall tarpon action is found throughout the coastal waters of Florida. However, tarpon numbers dwindle during summer on Keys flats. The big push of spring fish in famed places like Boca Grande Pass at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor near Fort Myers also diminishes by summer. But there still are tarpon about, and they suddenly can show almost anywhere—even in freshwater rivers feeding bays, sounds and estuaries. More than one coastal river largemouth bass fisherman has been shocked when he set the hook, only to see an 80-pound tarpon go airborne like a silver submarine-fired missile.

Many anglers measure success by the number of tarpon they “jump,” not necessarily land. Tarpon have rock-hard mouths, so setting a hook in one is difficult. Thus, to “jump” fish is tantamount to success, since on average one tarpon is caught per five or six “jumped.” Further, battling a 100-pound tarpon on even 30-pound test plug tackle is rough sport, often lasting an hour or more. Only the toughest angler can handle “catching” several such tarpon in a day.

Stu Apte is a tarpon fishing legend, who while in his 80s still fishes religiously for tarpon in his native Florida, especially in the Keys, where he lives.

“I’ve always liked strong spring tides for tarpon because it concentrates fish and makes them feed more on tidbits carried with current,” Stu said. “I like fishing the day before the new and full moon, and three days thereafter on each moon, which offers five choice days of strong tides, or 10 days of great tarpon fishing per month. I’ve kept a daily log of my tarpon fishing for many years, and there is no question these tide phases have been best for me.”

Clear-water tarpon fishing is a classic flats venue, especially casting to visible fish. But Stu Apte loves working slightly discolored water, so-called “trout” or “mullet muds,” because tarpon are not able to scrutinize a lure as well, and so they strike more readily. This, too, is one plus for night tarpon fishing, which is popular and productive in many areas, especially in metropolitan areas of south Florida around Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Fort Myers.

Stu prefers comparatively small tarpon lures, like streamers tied on 1/0 hooks and measuring just 1 1/2 inches long. Bigger flies and lures are best in murky or dark water, he says. Lure color is important, too, with very pale lures in pearl, white and yellow in clear water over light sand bottoms. Darker, larger lures are best in dark water and areas with grass or colored bottom.

“Lots of artificials account for tarpon,” he said. “Some of my favorites include MirrOlures, especially the 77M and 72M models; Bagley Finger Mullet and Pinfish also have accounted for plenty of tarpon, as have DOA Shrimp artificials.

“Don’t forget natural baits, they can be deadly for tarpon,” Stu said. “You should fish whatever tarpon are eating. It may be crabs or pinfish or mullet. Live big shrimp also are one of the best tarpon baits going.”

The industry that targets tarpon in Florida is worth nearly $2 billion per year. Regionally, from the Carolinas to Texas, where tarpon are also caught, it’s a $5 to 6 billion per year business.

Some of the best tarpon professionals fishing in some of the most choice Florida locations for this great fish include the following:

Capt. Phil Chapman, Homosassa, tarponfeathers@msn.com; 863-640-7461.

Capt. Kevin Faver, St. Augustine, www.outdoorsshow.com; 904-669-6251; kfaver@bellsouth.net.

Capt. Tommy Locke, Boca Grande, www.capttommylocke.com; 941-964-0083; tommylocke@embarqmail.com.

Capt. Dave Markett, Tampa, Dmarkett@aol.com; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it; 813-927-3474.

Capt. Bill Miller, 813-363-9926; www.billmiller.com; bill­_miller51@hotmail.com.

Capt. Phil O’Bannon, Boca Grande, www.obannonscharter.com; 941-964-0359; pobannon@comcast.net.

Capt. Bouncer Smith, Miami, www.captbouncer.com; 305-439-2475; CaptBouncer@bellsouth.net.

Capt. Earle Waters, Homosassa, www.homosassa-flyfishing.com; 352-302-0359; bccinfo@earthlink.net.

 

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: Salute to the American Worker & Great American Products

August 14, 2015 in Articles

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Sportsman Channel are teaming up to honor the American worker and showcase the great products still being made in the U.S.A. by hardworking Americans. Sportsman Channel’s Brotherhood Outdoors Labor Day Marathon, a salute to the American worker behind every great American product, airs exclusively on Monday, September 7 at 5–8 p.m. ET.

Through six back-to-back episodes of Brotherhood Outdoors, the marathon will give viewers an intimate glimpse into the lives of hardworking, blue-collar characters as they join co-hosts Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen for an exhilarating North American hunting and fishing trips.  Between episodes, Martin and McQueen will join viewers to salute some of America’s most historic and iconic outdoor products and the workers who help make the gear outdoorsmen and women have come to know and trust.

Click Image for a Sneak Preview

Click Image for a Sneak Preview

“Labor Day was, and is, a day set aside to honor all the hardworking Americans who help build this great country,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Fred Myers.  “We are excited to once again partner with Sportsman Channel to salute American workers and some of the tried and true products they are still making here in the U.S. through a Brotherhood Outdoors Labor Day Marathon.”

Schedule for September 7 (ET):

5:00 p.m.    Director of Apprenticeship and Training for the Painters (IUPAT DC 30), Stephen Lefaver travels from Illinois to Montana for the first time in hope of harvesting a whitetail or his very first mule deer. The ups and downs will have viewers on the edge of their seats.

5:30 p.m.    Electrical worker (IBEW Local 196), Eric Patrick is surprised with a fishing trip he could only dream of to Venice, Louisiana, where he casts for cobia, red snapper, redfish, trout and tuna both off-shore and from a kayak.

6:00 p.m.    Fire Fighter (IAFF Local 1312), Michael McShane travels from the Maine woods to the Arizona desert to put his bow to the test on mule deer and javelina and fulfill a long-time dream.  Join the excitement as he, the hosts and guide crawl – and even go barefoot at times – to put a sneak on wary deer.

6:30 p.m.    Steelworker (USW Local 449), Mike Higgins, and sheet metal worker (SMART Local 85),  Mike “Big Bird” Strickland, meet up for the first time after years of chatting on the USA forums for an unforgettable (and frigid) Pere Marquette steelhead fishing adventure.

7:00 p.m.    Machinist (IAMAW Local 2781), Gene Barnes and his 74-year-old father, Harlyn, confront Idaho’s steep terrain and high altitude during an emotional trip, as they set their sights on harvesting a bull elk in memory of their late brother and son.

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.

“The Brotherhood Outdoors marathon on Sportsman Channel will hammer home the connection of hard-working American union workers and their passion for the outdoors,” said Mitch Petrie, vice president of programming at Sportsman Channel. “Brotherhood Outdoors also shines a light on family life and the traditions of hunting and fishing in the United States that play a part in young people’s lives.”

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.

Shotgun Tips To Break More Clays

August 4, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

How can a flying disk escape a swarm of lead pellets 6 feet long and 3 feet wide?

Proper form is half the battle for effective shotgun shooting. Keep your head down on the stock, focus on the bird, and follow through after you pull the trigger.

Proper form is half the battle for effective shotgun shooting. Keep your head down on the stock, focus on the bird, and follow through after you pull the trigger.

It’s a question skeet, trap and sporting clays shooters ask each time they pull the trigger on their shotgun and miss.

The truth is, breaking clay pigeons consistently isn’t easy. Even veteran shotgun shooters miss. The “birds” fly at 40, 50 or even 60 miles per hour, and on some ranges they cross, rise, fall and otherwise travel at odd angles. You can break more, though, by correcting a few common mistakes.

Keep Your Head Down

First, says Dan O’Conner, the general manager and shooting instructor, keep your head down on the shotgun.

Many beginning shooters want to see the clay pigeon shatter before they pull the trigger, so they lift their cheek and look over the gun. That changes the sight picture, which results in a poor aim point.

“That can be corrected by starting with the gun mounted before you throw the bird,” says O’Connor, a shooting instructor for 20 years. “I’ll do that until the shooter keeps his head down on the stock, then I’ll have him start the gun under his arm.”

Focus On Your Target

Accomplished rifle shooters follow the axiom: Aim big, miss big; aim small, miss small. O’Connor says clay-target shooters can break more birds by doing the same. You don’t actually aim with a shotgun, of course, but you do need to focus on the target.

“A lot of people don’t concentrate on the target itself. They look at the general direction of the target,” he says.

Improved skills on the clays range translates to better shooting in the field.

Improved skills on the clays range translates to better shooting in the field.

More precisely, O’Connor recommends focusing on a particular part of the clay pigeon. Some instructors suggest looking at the leading edge, but O’Connor likes his shooters to focus on the rings of the target itself. Either way, the idea is to focus on a particular part of the clay target, just as hunters should focus on a real bird’s head when they pull the shotgun trigger.

That Clay’s Too Far

Don’t wait too long to pull the trigger. As the shotgun pattern moves downrange, it spreads. The farther it gets, the more holes there are between pellets. That can allow the clay target to escape unbroken.

A good rule of thumb is to shoot before the target gets beyond 30 yards, which is the accepted maximum range for an improved cylinder choke for a standard 12 gauge shotgun.

That’s not necessarily a problem on the skeet range, where clay pigeons are always within range, but it can be an issue on sporting clays and trap ranges. Some shotgun shooters use a tighter choke when they know the targets will be beyond 30 yards.

Follow Through On Your Shot

There’s no better way to break more skeet, trap or sporting clays than by doing it often. Practice may not make you perfect, but you’ll certainly get better.

There’s no better way to break more skeet, trap or sporting clays than by doing it often. Practice may not make you perfect, but you’ll certainly get better.

A good golfer doesn’t stop his swing after he makes contact with the ball, so a shooter shouldn’t stop swinging after he pulls the trigger. Many do, though.

O’Connor says that’s a common mistake, and one that results in a miss behind the bird. Few misses occur from shooting too far in front of the bird.

A good rule is to swing on the target, swing through it, and squeeze the trigger when you see daylight between the target and the muzzle of your shotgun. Of course, the distance and angle of the bird determines lead, but it’s critical to shoot where the target will be when the shot pattern reaches it, not where the bird is at the moment.

“Follow through even when you miss,” says O’Connor. “It’s good for muscle memory.”

It’s also important to understand that breaking clays consistently is just like anything else that requires skill… The more you do it, the better you will get. Shoot often, and you’ll break more clays.

 

 

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.

The Crushable Vault | $100 off

August 3, 2015 in Deals & Discounts, Gear

Our objective was to help sportsmen protect their guns while they are away from the safety of their home. To be effective, we had to offer a hassle-free experience.

At Stack Arms, we understand that people are very particular about their gun cases, and we see no reason to change what has been working well for them. A good gun case provides excellent protection from dents and scratches during travel – but what was needed was a better method of securing these gun cases during points of transit. At Stack Arms, we developed the Crushable Vault to secure your guns – from the time they leave your vault at home to the time you are ready to use them. That is the promise we make to our customers.

Our systems accommodate most existing gun cases but have been designed with the Americase and Negrini cases in mind. Our systems are flexible, crushable and, most important, easy to use. They can be configured to fit virtually any vehicle while offering an unsurpassed level of security. They can also be secured to any fixed point, including in your hotel room. Learn more at https://crushablevault.com/.

With an MSRP of $698, USA members can purchase the Crushable Vault for $598 – a savings of $100.

Giant Bass At Night

July 23, 2015 in Articles, Fishing

By Capt. Bert Deener

Present anglers with the question, “What time of year are most of the trophy bass caught?”

Those fortunate enough to share a fishing trip with legendary big-bass angler Pat Cullen couldn’t help but feel the anticipation as the sun began to set.

Those fortunate enough to share a fishing trip with legendary big-bass angler Pat Cullen couldn’t help but feel the anticipation as the sun began to set.

Almost all anglers would respond the pre-spawn period in the spring. While the extra weight of eggs and shallow, aggressive nature of bass that time of year make that an obvious answer, a small group of southeastern anglers would wryly smile and answer, “Mid-summer.”

One of those anglers was Pat Cullen.

Over four decades, Pat amassed the most impressive tally of huge largemouth bass caught that I have ever heard of, or could possibly imagine in my wildest dreams. When I first met Pat Cullen several years ago, he had caught 1,070 bass larger than 10 pounds. Then, during the all-too-brief period when I called him friend, Pat added almost 300 more 10-pound and better bass to the total.

His biggest largemouth was an 18-pound monster caught during mid-summer several decades ago. Pat’s trophy bass count has stopped since his passing last summer, but the knowledge he gained over years of concentrating on the details of fooling bass with eyes as “big as silver dollars” lives on in the anglers he taught his techniques. I am blessed to have been one of his mentees.

While the rest of the angling community basked in the air conditioning during the heat of summer, Pat turned nocturnal. His nighttime adventures resulted in phenomenal trophy bass fishing success. The simplicity of his approach was staggering. He actually carried a Tupperware container as his tackle box. In it was four different versions of black buzzbaits and a couple of black Jitterbugs.

Pat insisted that his approach targeted only the biggest bass in the lake, and it definitely took persistence. I fished with him several nights when we did not get a bite, but other nights we were rewarded with multiple hits that sounded like someone dropped a cinder block from a second-story window.

Pat Cullen was a master at catching giant largemouth bass. His simple yet effective approach targeted the biggest bass in a lake, and it worked.

Pat Cullen was a master at catching giant largemouth bass. His simple yet effective approach targeted the biggest bass in a lake, and it worked.

His tackle was equally simple; an Ugly Stik pistol-grip rod paired with an Ambassador 6500 baitcasting reel and spooled with 17-pound test Stren monofilament. A few years back, he asked me to install an additional cork grip between the first eye and the Foregrip, so he could get additional leverage on giant bass.

Pat often quipped, “Bert, this is trophy bass fishing that 95 percent of the anglers can do. I want to teach folks how to catch the biggest bass in the lake.”

His approach was stealthy from start to finish. Lights were out of the question— he simply would not allow one on his boat. You had to get your eyes adjusted enough to tie knots and handle fish in what little ambient light was available. Since he preferred fishing around new moon or cloudy nights, it was a challenge seeing what you were doing. In later years, he used a strong Duo-lock snap so that he could change buzzbait styles without having to tie a knot.

He did not fish from a bass boat as you would imagine, but a Gheenoe was his vessel of choice. Staying with the stealthy approach, that craft put him low and right above the water’s surface where he could get within casting distance of a big bass without spooking it.

His night-time presentation went something like this. Ease the Gheenoe forward very gently and quietly. After the boat stops drifting, make a cast to the 12 o’clock position, then 1, then 2, then 3. After that, switch to the left side of the boat and make casts to the 9 o’clock position, then 10, then 11. Then either switch lures and repeat the pattern, or move the boat forward and start the cadence over again.

On a small farm pond, this technique would literally cover every inch of water. On a larger lake, there are key structures and locations where giant bass are more likely to be caught during a nighttime outing during the summer. Humps and aquatic vegetation near the deepest water in the lake are hotspots to find a big largemouth at night. Stumps along a channel or drop-off are also likely to hold big bass at night that can’t resist a buzzbait or Jitterbug gurgling across the surface in the summer darkness.

Pat designed four styles of buzzbaits that produced his summertime lunkers. All were black 1/2-ounce versions with strong hooks. Two had quad-wing plastic blades, while two sported black metal blades. One detail he believed in was to cut all but seven or eight strands out of the skirt to give the bait a minimal silhouette.

Ponds and lakes all over south Georgia surrendered their biggest bass to Pat’s summertime tactics for decades. Many of his trophies are still living, remembered by a photo or just a quick snapshot in his mind, as he always released his quarry after a quick check of its weight with his digital scales. When the mercury soars this summer and bass are lethargic and suspend, use these night-time tactics to catch the biggest bass in your favorite lake.

Stay Comfortable While Summer Night Fishing

 Attention to a few details will make for a much more comfortable night of fishing this summer.

  • Wear long-sleeve shirts. The new fabrics of modern fishing shirts will keep you cool even during a hot summer night. You will like the extra material as the temperatures drop and if the bugs are out.
  • Remember a rain suit. A light-weight rain suit will keep you dry during a pop-up thunderstorm and will keep you from getting damp on nights when there is dew.
  • Bring bug spray. Most summer lakes will be home to lots of biting insects, especially at night. Remember to slide some insect repellent in the boat.
  • Safety glasses are a good idea. Eyesight is something to protect during the dark when topwater lures are flinging all over the place. I like the Light Night Fototec lens by Tifosi, as it is reduces glare but lightens to almost clear when in the dark.
  • Drinks and snacks are a must. Nothing ruins concentrating on your presentation as quickly as a growling stomach.

 

 

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 Volunteers Surmount Heat and Flies to Construct Boardwalk at Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp

July 21, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

Undeterred by flies, heat and muck, nine volunteers from the Young Brotherhood of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 80 volunteered their time and skills through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Work Boots on the Ground program to help construct a boardwalk through a cypress marsh at Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

A unique ecosystem of forested wetland, Great Dismal Swamp contains the greatest biodiversity in the state. The boardwalk will allow refuge visitors to get off the road and into the woods to better experience wildlife and habitat.  Once completed, it will be ADA and ABA compliant and include blinds for photography as well as hunting opportunities for those with disabilities.

swamp_300In fulfillment of its partnership with the Department of the Interior, the USA connected Refuge Manager Chris Lowie with the Young Brotherhood of IBEW Local 80, which was formed to educate the public about unions by engaging in community volunteer projects.  In one weekend and approximately 13 hours, the volunteers installed 150’ of footers, 120’ of cross beams, 50’ of strings and laid decking, in addition to cutting and hauling wood.

“They were very professional and hardworking.  I told them what to do. They divided themselves into teams, decided who would do what, and they went to town,” said Lowie.  “It would take us a month to get this much accomplished.”

The entire boardwalk, which is being built a section at a time solely by refuge staff and volunteers, would cost approximately $200,000 if a contractor was hired, according to Lowie.  “Without volunteers, this project would never have even gotten started, and it would not get done,” he added.

“Our Young Workers group actually had a lot of fun working that weekend in the swamp,” said Phil Fisher, IBEW Local 80 Membership Development Coordinator.  “We were told this boardwalk will be used to help disabled people gain access to a scenic outlook.  Knowing that we were able to have a hand in making that possible was a huge motivator for this group.  Also, we all got a kick out of a piece of 4×4 that a bear had taken a chunk out of overnight—definitely a reminder that we weren’t working on home turf.”

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Launched in 2010, Work Boots on the Ground brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to projects that conserve wildlife habitat, educate future generations of sportsmen and women, improve public access to the outdoors or restore America’s parks.

Camp Family Style

July 14, 2015 in Articles, Fishing

Ah, I remember those family adventures like they were yesterday, even though 40 years or so have passed. Sometimes, the small Airstream trailer got the nod for a camping trip. Other times, an old-school canvas tent from J.C. Higgins was home.

There’s countryside full of great outdoor adventures awaiting your family. Combine your trip with some hunting or fishing, and you are sure to have happy campers.

There’s countryside full of great outdoor adventures awaiting your family. Combine your trip with some hunting or fishing, and you are sure to have happy campers.

Pop would load the family in the truck and point the rig to… well, somewhere. I’d be squirming in the backseat about to burst with excitement, regardless of the destination. One weekend it would be a campsite on Lake Erie highlighted by fishing and cooking our fresh catch over the campfire. Another weekend would be spent exploring the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio. We might also head to Pymatuning Lake on the Pennsylvania border for a little added fishing before school started back.

Regardless of where we landed, an adventure was about to occur whenever the Old Man announced, “Load up. Let’s go camping!” When I think back, even after all these years, at the fond memories our family made together, I wonder why every family doesn’t take a camping trip every chance they get.

There’s no denying the fact camping is great fun. The only way to make it more enjoyable is to do it as a family. And, if you can throw in the option for a laid-back fishing trip or a little hunting, that’s all the better. A nice thing about family style camping in this modern day and age is that it’s comfortable and easy. Or rather, it’s as easy as you want it to be. Remember though, as a parent or guardian, it’s your position, first and foremost, to make certain your young charges are safe in the outdoors. Beyond that, all they need is a taste of Mother Nature’s fine entertainment, and a good hot meal cooked, with their help, over the fire. Provide those simple pleasures, and you’ll be batting a thousand.

Here are steps to help ensure your family adventure into the great outdoors is a success, whether it’s your first time afield or you’re simply out to add to your family’s camping memories.

Get The Right Gear

Some of you reading this already own and use a camp trailer. Or maybe you and the family have some well-worn primitive camping gear. The primitive camping basics include a tent, sleeping bags, lantern, and a Coleman double-burner cook stove. If either are the case, I applaud you. If I were there, I’d give the campers’ secret handshake. If you’re brand new to camping, do not despair. You need not break the bank in order to outfit yourself and the family for an outdoor journey.

Combine some fishing with a family camping trip, and you will have kids giddy with excitement and a trip sure to provide lifelong memories for everyone.

When some fishing is involved during a family camping trip, you will have kids giddy with excitement and a trip sure to provide lifelong memories for everyone.

Before you begin assembling gear, you’ll need to decide what type of camping you’d like to do. Maybe you wish for the conveniences of a recreational vehicle (RV). Perhaps a small easily towed camp trailer is more to your liking. Or, and my personal favorite, maybe it’s a tent your long for, a night spent under the stars, with only a small hardwood fire to chase off the chill. Fortunately, any and all of these can be obtained rather easily, and in many cases, inexpensively.

Many businesses across the country specialize in renting RVs to those looking to test the waters. Camp trailers, too, can be rented and tried before deciding whether or not a purchase is in order. Even camping equipment can be rented.

There are many rental options. I’ve used the folks at LowerGear Outdoor Rentals and Sales (lowergear.com; 480-348-8917). They make available a long list of very reasonably priced camp gear for rent, including tents, outdoor cooking supplies, backpacks, sleeping bags and even lanterns. Items can be shipped right to your door. It’s definitely worth a look-see, and without question this route is much less expensive than buying a pile of gear before you know whether camping is an activity your family will take to.

If you don’t want to rent and are frightened by the cost of buying new camping gear, there are many outlets for bargain shopping to find your camping gear. Garage sales, flea markets, and estate sales are excellent places to find quality outdoor items for pennies on the proverbial dollar. Websites like Craigslist.com and the Outdoor Marketplace at www.gon.com often have a treasure trove of softly used items at reasonable prices. Some good Google research will lead to other resources. As always, use common sense and a buyer’s caution when purchasing from unknown sellers.

Decide on a Destination

 The United States is unique is so many aspects, yet few are more amazing than our endless variety of breathtaking natural resources. It’s shame how many Americans fail to utilize our freedom to travel to any of those places whenever we choose. My advice when deciding where to go camping, and this is directed at you novice family campers, is to make that first journey close to home.

Pick a spot within 100 miles, or no more than a reasonable half-day drive from your door. There are two reasons. One, you don’t want your family cooped up in the vehicle for 10 hours before setting up camp. Trust me, it’s a recipe for collective crabbiness. And second, you want to arrive at your campsite with plenty of daylight left to get your new home away from home completely set up before nightfall.

Come dark, the only things left to do should be to poke at the campfire, eat S’mores, listen to the coyotes call, and brag about the huge fish you’re going to catch the next morning.

What location should you pick for your camping trip? Fortunately, the Internet is crawling with information. State parks, national parks, private campgrounds, and millions of acres overseen by the Bureau of Land Management exist in all corners of the country. Thanks to the web, it’s a matter only of going online and sorting through the search results.

Once you’ve narrowed your search to perhaps two or three possibilities, it can be quite helpful to call and speak with a ranger or other official on the property. Don’t be shy about asking questions. How’s the fishing nearby? What kind of fish? Is it child-friendly fishing? What type of restrooms or shower facilities, if any, is available? Do I need to make reservations? I’d also recommend searching for a local web forum where users post comments and reviews. Surf the web, and then make a few calls and ask plenty of questions.

Organize Activities, But Just a Little

Good meals lie at the heart of every good camping trip. This is especially true for families, particularly those with smaller children. Before leaving home, decide how long you’re going to stay in camp, and what meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner might work well. Keep the kids in mind always, and plan a menu that includes them not only as consumers, but as outdoor chefs as well. Hotdogs on a stick with baked beans? Perfect. Bacon, eggs, and pancakes on that double burner stove? Absolutely. When eaten outdoors, food doesn’t have to be fancy to be fantastic. Make preparing it fun, and it will taste even better.

As with the menu, plan activities to keep the family entertained, but don’t create an inflexible itinerary. It’s important to go with the flow, so to speak. A little fishing is always advisable. If you, say, decide on a camping trip to Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks in September, perhaps a little squirrel hunting in the morning followed by some crappie fishing in the afternoon. Make sure there’s a mid-day nap, of course. Oh, and that’s an essential part of every successful camping trip with the kids. Naps. Separate tents, naturally.

Five Great Family Camping Destinations

The potential destinations for a family camping trip are literally endless in this great country. Explore and find your own favorite, but also put our five favorites on your to-do list.

The Long Beach Peninsula – Long Beach, Washington

The arc at the entry means your family is about to experience one of the author’s favorite camping destinations—the Long Beach Peninsula on Washington State’s coast.

The arc at the entry means your family is about to experience one of the author’s favorite camping destinations—the Long Beach Peninsula on Washington State’s coast.

This truly is one of my favorite places on the planet! The Long Beach Peninsula on Washington State’s coast is 28 fun-filled miles of something to do all the time.

If it’s primitive camping you’re looking for, try Fort Canby State Park at the far south end of the peninsula. Here, you have five-minute access to superior salmon fishing, plus plenty of room to stretch your legs.

Charter boats for salmon, bottom fish, albacore tuna (in season), and sight-seeing can be hired at the nearby Chinook boat basin.

In the fall, there’s duck and goose hunting available, too. Oysters, steamer clams, go-carts, antique/curio shops, kite flying competitions, you will find all of it and more on the Long Beach Peninsula. For more information, visit http://funbeach.com. 

The Black Hills – Deadwood, South Dakota

The Black Hills actually ties the Long Beach Peninsula for the title of my favorite place on the globe. In the spring, Merriam’s turkeys shatter the dawn with their incredible gobbles. During the summer, this is trout angler’s paradise with a myriad streams and small lakes that dot the national forest. Don’t forget Custer State Park and Spearfish Creek, either. During the fall, the thoughts turn to hunting, whether with a weapon or a camera, for whitetail deer, elk, and yes, even mountain lions. The town of Deadwood offers something for all ages, including the wonderful Days of ’76 Campground located at the east end of town. Those wanting to rough it can camp in the Black Hills National Forest. For details on the area, visit www.deadwood.org. 

Pymatuning State Park – Linesville, Pennsylvania

As I was growing up in the northeast corner of Ohio, every spring my father would take me to Pymatuning Lake on the Ohio/Pennsylvania border for some of the country’s finest crappie and walleye fishing. Seldom, if ever to my memory, did the big lake disappoint. Three campgrounds offer outdoor opportunities. There is the Pymantuning area on the Ohio side, and the Linesville and Jamestown campgrounds on the Pennsylvania side. In addition to crappie and walleye, the big lake harbors excellent populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, yellow perch, and Pymatuning has been touted as one of the nation’s premier muskie lakes. Begin your research by visiting pymatuning-state-park.org.

Lake of the Ozarks – Missouri

I’m relatively certain a family could camp in a different site around Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks three times a week for two generations and never bed down in the same place twice. Whether you’re pulling an RV or long to spend the night feeling the cool night air in a tent, the Lake of the Ozarks has something for everything, and then some. Fishing? This is some of the best bass and crappie fishing in the nation. Hunting? There are turkeys in the spring, waterfowl in the fall and winter, and there’s more than one Boone & Crockett whitetail buck slipping through the hardwood ridges and hollows of the Ozark Mountains. Looking for room to roam? At 84 square miles, the Lake of the Ozarks has plenty. Visit funlake.com for plenty of info to plan a camping trip your family will never forget.

Pedernales Falls State Park – Johnson City, Texas

My wife and I had the opportunity to hunt turkeys several years ago along the Pedernales River in the Texas Hill Country region, and it’s a memory that has stayed with us ever since. We hunted private land, which was beautiful, but the beauty and wonder of Pedernales Falls State Park downstream was absolutely stunning. The Pedernales isn’t known as a great fishing destination, but anglers can catch bass, perch and carp, and the catfishing can be quite good after a rain event. Do keep an eye on the weather. The Texas Hill Country is prone to flash floods after extreme rain events.

If you enjoy swimming, hiking, birding, rock-climbing, fishing and outdoor photography, all as an aside to your camping experience, then Pedernales Fall definitely should have a spot on your bucket list. Pedernales Fall State Park is located approximately 35 miles west of Austin. Find details online at http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/pedernales-falls.

Organize To Eat Well

Maybe it’s the fresh air, but meals just taste better when prepared and eaten at the campsite.

Maybe it’s the fresh air, but meals just taste better when prepared and eaten at the campsite.

Decide whether you’re going to cook on an open fire or use a portable cook stove. Using a cook stove is easier, as you don’t have to continually maintain or start a suitable cooking fire. Propane heat is there immediately upon demand. While not as traditional as cooking on an open fire, the convenience of a small cook stove is recommended for a family new to camping.

Planning and organization will make preparation of camp meals easier. Pack everything needed for your mobile working kitchen in two milk crates. Our list includes a pair of cast-iron skillets and a flat lid to fit both; cooking utensils to include spatulas, tongs, long-handled fork, and large spoons; two Tupperware tubs hold eating utensils and spices; bowls, dish soap, aluminum foil, and several Ziplock bags of different sizes. Once the crates are unpacked at the campsite, turn them on their sides on a table and use them as functional cupboards while you cook.

Prepare many of your meals in advance of a camping trip. Soups, stews, and chili are made and packed in heavy Ziplock freezer bags and frozen for reheating afield.

Organization breeds efficiency. You don’t need a lot of stuff to make a great meal, especially outdoors.

 

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.

Union Volunteers Replace Storage Facilities Destroyed in Tornado at AR Game & Fish Commission’s Camp Robinson

July 9, 2015 in Conservation News, Work Boots On The Ground

Camp Robinson, located 30 minutes from Little Rock, Arkansas, and owned by Arkansas Game & Fish, now has storage for horse feed, field trial game bird feed and other supplies thanks to the 10 union volunteers who came together through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Work Boots on the Ground conservation program to build a secure 10’x20’ shed inside the horse barn.

“We offer many amenities for public use including a shooting range, campground, dog kennels, boating access and a horse barn,” said Matthew Mourot, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission Region 8 Assistant Regional Supervisor.  “We did not have funding for this project in our current FY budget, and the user groups were in need of storage following the April 2014 tornado that destroyed many of our facilities.”

Members of Electrical Workers Local 295, Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, Painters District Council 80, Ironworkers Local 321, Sprinklerfitters Local 669 and the Arkansas AFL-CIO donated their trade skills and more than 87 hours in May, June and July to construct and stain the shed and install the electrical system, wrapping up the project on July 7.

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“A lot of our members and volunteers shoot at the shooting range on Camp Robinson and use their archery range,” said David Stephens, project leader and IBEW Local 295 Assistant Business Manager.  “This project provided an avenue to give back to something they love and also show that Union members are part of the community.”

Launched in 2010, Work Boots on the Ground brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to projects that conserve wildlife habitat, educate future generations of sportsmen and women, improve public access to the outdoors or restore America’s parks.  Located in Faulkner County Arkansas, Camp Robinson encompasses 4,029 acres and is open to the public for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreational activities.

Kayaks Tricked Out For Fishing

July 8, 2015 in Articles, Fishing

By Dave Mull

If you haven’t been around the world of kayaks lately, you might be surprised to see today’s craft equipped for fishing with side-scanning sonar/GPS, electric motors, foot-pedal drives, rod holders and livewells. In short, they are excellent, go-almost-anywhere fishing craft.

Trolling and fighting fish is easier when you don’t have to paddle, as this angler in a Hobie kayak with pedal-powered Mirage Drive has learned.

Trolling and fighting fish is easier when you don’t have to paddle, as this angler in a Hobie kayak with pedal-powered Mirage Drive has learned.

Anglers use them for everything from river fishing for steelhead, to casting for bass, from trolling for walleyes, to cruising saltwater bays for redfish, snook and sea trout. As long as anglers use common sense and keep a weather eye, few things can be done in traditional fishing boats that can’t be done in a kayak.

This story will show how modern kayaks have become efficient fishing machines. But first, let’s get the most common misperceptions about fishing from a kayak out of the way.

Misperception 1: I’m too big, and kayaks are too unstable.

Reality: Modern kayaks have large payloads. For instance, my 14-foot Hobie Pro Angler has a 600-pound capacity, and at 58 years old and 250 pounds, I can stand and fish from it. I often take my 100-pound golden retriever fishing with me on kayak outings.

Misperception 2: Kayaks are uncomfortable.

Reality: Modern seat systems are as comfortable as seating in a boat can get. A friend who lives in a small apartment actually uses his removable kayak seat as an extra chair when friends are over to watch a sporting event on TV. It’s a sought-after seat.

Misperception 3: I could never take enough fishing gear with me on a kayak.

Reality: Certainly, a 21-foot bass boat can hold a lot more gear, but kayak anglers with modern boats sporting rod holders and storage systems commonly take along eight or more rods and enough stackable tackle boxes to hold more lures and tackle than they could go through in a season.

Perhaps those realities are why kayak fishing is one of the fastest-growing activities in the outdoors.

Big water can be successfully fished from kayaks as long as the operator keeps an eye on the weather.

Big water can be successfully fished from kayaks as long as the operator keeps an eye on the weather.

A few other realities that might add to their increasing popularity: Kayaks are among the most inexpensive ways to get on the water both in terms of initial investment—roughly $800 to $3,000. And every angler who has fished from a kayak loves the fuel consumption—ZERO!

Plus, almost any vehicle can be a kayak “tow vehicle.” And, finally, it’s downright fun to catch fish out of a kayak, whether you’re hooking tuna that take you for a wild ride toward the horizon, competing in a $20,000 kayak bass tournament, or just filling a cooler with panfish.

Most of today’s fishing kayaks are of the “Sit On Top” variety, meaning the seating area is molded in to the top of the kayak, opposed to the whitewater style craft that encloses the paddler from the waist down. The SOTs, as they’re called, give the angler freedom of movement and allow easy installation of fishing accessories such as electronic GPS/fish-finder units and their sonar transducers. Track systems that install flat on the boat’s topside accommodate rod holders to set rods and reels in for trolling and still fishing, as well as vertical holders to take extra combos along. The tracks allow easy removal of these and other accessories, and let the angler position them exactly where he wants them—easy to grab, but out of the way of paddling.

My friend Tim Percy has two fishing kayaks, a traditional paddle-style Ocean Kayak, Big Game II model as well as a Hobie Pro Angler 14, which is propelled with the pedal-power Mirage Drive. Percy gives insightful seminars and webinars on rigging kayaks for fishing. He recommends before installing anything, that you get in the ‘yak, take one rod, and go fishing. Determine where to place rod holders so they will be easy to reach, yet out of the way of paddle strokes or pedaling. Also, make sure your electronics are installed where they are out of the way, but easily reached so you can easily change the settings and get the most out of this helpful technology.

This 12-foot kayak has its rod holders removed while the angler casts for bass.

This 12-foot kayak has its rod holders removed while the angler casts for bass.

Most fishing kayaks you see on lakes these days have some sort of storage system behind the angler, ranging from a milk crate with rod holders zip-tied to it, to a repurposed tool box, to a box such as the YakAttack BlackPak (available in black or white) designed for holding flat tackle boxes and lots of rod holders and other accessories, such as the popular GoPro Hero and other types of video cameras.

To be certain, kayaks have their compromises. You can take many traditional fishing boats out in rougher water, but you might not be able to get that traditional watercraft into some of the smaller fishing holes with limited access like you can a kayak. Today’s modern fishing kayaks, properly accessorized are among the best fishing craft around. If you’re in the market for a new fishing boat, take a test ride in one of them. You might just decide that little boats are the way to go.

Kayak Safety Concerns

Most of today’s boats that advertise themselves as “fishing kayaks” are incredibly stable—you can go to YouTube and find segments showing daredevils standing and battling big sharks in kayaks. Still, they are kayaks, and they can be on the tippy side, so common sense is called for. Just as you should walk before you run, you should sit and fish before you stand!

All boating safety rules apply: Always wear your PFD. Have a whistle, horn or other noisemaker to alert oncoming boats. On bigger water, take along a handheld VHS ship-to-shore radio. Veteran yakkers advise removing all your fishing tackle and then practice capsizing and righting the craft. In cold water, kayakers often wear specialty dry suits that keep them dry and prevent hypothermia if they overturn.

Visibility to other, bigger boats is tantamount, too. Most yak anglers have an orange flag on a pole at the stern of their crafts to help other boaters see them. Many of these poles have lights, which should be turned on when out in the dark. Check your local boating regulations—proper lighting after dark is likely required.

Kayak angling is an inherently fun, comfortable and safe sport, but just like most other outdoor activities, it pays to be prepared for problems.

No Paddling Required

Although anglers in most kayaks propel themselves with a double-blade paddle, American ingenuity along with some German engineering has produced some kayaks that allow anglers to fish without paddling.

Hobie, best known for Hobie Cat sailboats, has produced several models of kayaks that use the company’s proprietary Mirage Drive. This consists of two flippers that move back and forth as the angler moves two pedals front and back with his or her feet. The company compares it to how a penguin “flies” through the water.

This angler in a Native Slayer 13 Propel kayak pedals as if in a bicycle to move ahead and pedals in reverse to back up.

This angler in a Native Slayer 13 Propel kayak pedals as if in a bicycle to move ahead and pedals in reverse to back up.

Native Watercraft has five models of kayaks featuring its Propel Drive. Instead of moving pedals front and back as in a Hobie, the angler in a Native pedals as if he or she were on a bicycle, the action spinning a propeller under the boat.

To go in reverse, the Native driver pedals backwards. In a Hobie, the angler simply pulls the Mirage Drive up, turns it around and clips it back in place to pedal in reverse.

Torqueedo, a German company that has manufactured electric outboards for a number of years, has brought the technology to kayak fishing with small motors that attach to the rear of a kayak and provide hours of quiet propulsion.

Some models attach right to a kayak’s rudder and there’s even one for Hobies that drops into the Mirage Drive holder.

 

 

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.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Founding Partner Buck Knives Renew Partnership

July 2, 2015 in Press Release

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to announce that Buck Knives, Inc., a founding partner, has agreed to a multi-year renewal of its corporate partnership.

Buck Compadre Series“Much of our company’s success has revolved around hunting and the outdoors,” said C.J. Buck, President, CEO and Chairman of Buck Knives. “It is a pleasure to partner with such a great organization like the USA, which understands the importance of conservation and strives toward educating future generations.”

According to USA Deputy Director Mike d’Oliveira, Buck’s presence as an industry giant and early partnership with the USA have been key ingredients in the USA’s success and growth. This type of partnership also helps the USA achieve its mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

“Buck was the USA’s very first outdoor industry partner, and this was due in larger part to the foresight and vision of their leadership team in C.J. Buck and Bob George,” said d’Oliveira. “They understood that our members are also their core customers, and they understood the potential for our organization to grow and thrive. Buck is such an iconic brand and a category leader, so it is easy to imagine how proud we are to have the opportunity to continue our longstanding partnership.”

Buck’s quality, made-in-the-U.S. cutlery has assisted the USA in many ways. Every single sporting clays shoot, conservation dinner and convention includes an array of Buck products. Buck is also the sponsor of the USA’s Photo of the Week contest, and winners receive the timeless 110 Folding Hunter, Buck’s industry-changing flagship knife. Hosts and guests of the USA’s award-winning television show, Brotherhood Outdoors, also use Buck knives.

“Buck Knives are all we use. We trust them,” said Brotherhood Outdoors co-host Julie McQueen. “We use the PakLite series for skinning and cleaning game animals. I even use a Buck knife for personal security when I’m not on the job.”

Buck continues to innovate and set industry standards with releases like the new Compadre series, which features brilliant red powder coated steel and a Heritage Walnut Dymondwood® handle. This stand-out set includes a camp knife, hatchet and froe.

Their longstanding heritage, their dedication to make quality, American products and their joy in swapping knife stories with customers are attributes that make Buck such a natural and perfect partner for the USA, said d’Oliveira. The Buck Knives team agrees.

“Our partnership with the USA has been a great fit from the start,” said Buck Knives Director of Sales and Marketing Bob George. “Growing up in a union household and being a former union member, I understand the strength and unity members possess. Through that strength and passion, they continue to be leaders in the conservation movement.”

On a more sombre note, the USA would like offer its condolences to the Buck family in the wake of Chuck Buck’s passing. He was a true friend to the organization, and he will be sorely missed by the USA’s staff, board of directors and members.

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

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ABOUT THE UNION SPORTSMEN’S ALLIANCE

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated outdoor organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the Union community to expand and improve hunting and fishing access and wildlife habitat throughout North America.

ABOUT BUCK KNIVES, INC.

Behind every Buck knife is over 100 years of experience and craftsmanship. The very best materials and state-of-the-art technology are used to create knives that meet the exacting demands expected of a high quality knife. Buck stands behind every knife made with their famous Forever Warranty. Learn more at www.buckknives.com.