Get Hooked on These 5 Spring Break Fishing Destinations

March 15, 2018 in Articles, Fishing

Spring Break Fishing

When you start planning that next family vacation, you may want to include a day or two on the water. Nothing adds to a family vacation on the coast like taking everyone out for a day or two of spring break fishing. Fishing is a great way to bond with the spouse and kids, and being able to take home some delicious fish is an added benefit. Below are five great spring break fishing destinations to consider when planning a beach vacation if you want to include world-class fishing.

Cabo San LucasSpring Break Fishing

Cabo San Lucas has long been known as a top Spring Break tourist destination. This resort city on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula offers just about everything for the outdoor enthusiast, along with countless beachfront resorts and hotels. The area is known for its amazing beaches, water-based activities, fine restaurants and fun-filled nightlife. The area also offers incredible offshore spring break fishing, some of the best in the world. In fact, it is home to one of the largest billfishing tournaments in the world each year. To the north is the Sea of Cortez, which also offers action-packed offshore fishing plus incredible inshore fishing opportunities including tuna and roosterfish.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica should also make the short list when it comes to planning a spring break fishing vacation. This Central America country offers four-star resorts and miles of white sand beaches. Activities for everyone such as surfing, diving, snorkeling, white water rafting, eco tours, shopping and nightlife are all readily available. Costa Rica is also home to some incredible offshore fishing for blue and black marlin, Pacific sailfish and other pelagic species. The remote Caribbean side of the country, while more remote and undeveloped, is home to a myriad of freshwater jungle rivers that spill into the Atlantic. These waters are home to some of the best tarpon fishing in the world. Nothing is quite as thrilling as battling a 100-pound or larger silver king!

FloridaSpring Break Fishing

Florida is always a top vacation destination for those wanting to stay a little closer to home. Whether it’s the Florida Keys or the Atlantic or Gulf coast, there are plenty of locations and activities to choose from in the Sunshine State. For those looking to spend a day or two spring break fishing, the Keys are home to one of the largest migrations of tarpon in the spring and summer, while the Everglades running up the Gulf Coast offers incredible backcountry fishing for snook, redfish, tarpon and a host of other gamefish. Let’s not forget the freshwater fishing opportunities inland. Some of the best largemouth bass fishing anywhere is found on the many lakes just a short distance from Disney World.


The Bahamas are an easy hop from most major airports along the east coast. The capital city of Nassau on New Providence Island as well as Freeport on Grand Bahama offer incredible beachfront resorts and activities for all ages. However, it is some of the smaller “out islands” such as Abaco, Exuma, Andros and Long Island that can offer more of an intimate setting and vacation. If you’re seeking more of a private vacation, these smaller islands are a step back in time. Smaller boutique hotels and private houses and villas can often be rented on incredible beaches. The Bahamas is also home to some of the best bonefishing in the Caribbean. Do yourself a favor and take a day or two to explore with a local guide and pursue the “gray ghost” of the flats.

New OrleansSpring Break Fishing

New Orleans is another excellent choice for those looking to stay a little closer to home. With great weather and everything from Mardi Gras in February to Jazz Fest in April, Cajun eats, river cruises and historic tours, there’s always plenty to do in this culture-filled city. A little more than an hour south of Bourbon Street lies the redfish capital of the world. The Mississippi River Delta and vast marshes of southwest Louisiana is home to the finest fishing for trophy redfish anywhere, not to mention world-class offshore fishing for yellowfin tuna.

To learn more about one of these destinations, contact the experts at Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA), the preferred booking agent of Cabela’s and a proud partner of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. WTA’s professional staff can handle all aspects of your trip from initial consultation, detailed pre-trip planning, airline travel, trip cancellation insurance and much more. Plus, their services are free of charge. It costs you no more to book a trip through them than it does booking direct with the lodge or guide. In fact, they will save you time and money.

Learn more at or call 800-346-8747 to plan that family fishing vacation.

Written by Travis Baker

USA Celebrates Nichols Park Transformation + Hosts Family Fishing Event

March 15, 2018 in General, Oklahoma, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Nichols Park

Henryetta, Ok. — (March 10, 2018) The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Oklahoma AFL-CIO, Oklahoma State BCTC, and a crowd of more than 250 gathered at Nichols Park in Henryetta, Oklahoma, today to celebrate the park’s transformation through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program.

Prior to the dedication, volunteers completed one final project at Nichols Park, installing the new pavilion roof. The USA and local conservation partners then hosted a family fishing day full of educational activities and served a free lunch.

Nearly $13,000 was raised for the Nichols Park restoration project at the USA’s Oklahoma AFL-CIO Conservation Dinner held in Tulsa in October 2016. Using funds for materials and equipment, more than 100 volunteers from 23 Union locals and community groups donated approximately 1,325 hours to make major improvements to the park.

Projects included replacing the pavilion roof, improving lighting, replacing and fixing park benches and picnic tables, clearing overgrown areas, and replacing an unsafe fishing pier with an ADA compliant floating pier.

“What was done in a few hours by the Unions would have taken months for the city crews to complete or even begin to accomplish,” said Henryetta Mayor Jennifer Clason. “The fishing dock would have been years out, if even on the radar due to the dilapidated infrastructure our city faces.”

“The public should know that Unions unite for common goals and advocate for workers in both the public and private sector,” concluded Mayor Clason. “We will be forever thankful to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for making this project happen without cost to our city. It was truly amazing to see our park transformed from a work in progress to a fairy tale dream getaway.”

In an outstanding display of solidarity and community, more than 100 volunteers from the following Unions and groups donated their time and skills to this project: Oklahoma State AFL-CIO; Oklahoma BCTC; OPEIU Local 381; IAHFI Locals 94 and 64; TWU Local 514; UA Locals 344 and 430; IBEW Locals 584, 1002, 1141; NALC Local 442; GMP Local 48; SMART Locals 124 and 270; IUOE Local 627; BAC Local 5; IAMAW Local 850; Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma; LIUNA Local 107; USW; Roofers Local 143; and the city of Henryetta.

“Public parks are a resource that all Americans should cherish and be good stewards of,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance. “Parks provide a variety of benefits including creating safer neighborhoods, engaging local communities and promoting public health in the outdoors. This project is a prime example of what our community-based conservation projects should look like.”


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

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

SMART Union Member Wins Elk Hunt of a Lifetime

March 14, 2018 in Articles, Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Hunting

Elk Hunt

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) member Lindsay Lanning was flipping through her International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) magazine when the words “Stalking Your Dream Hunt?” caught her attention. It was a page about the USA and Carhartt Ultimate Elk Hunt Sweepstakes—a trip to honor the American worker by awarding one union member and a guest with a guided, five-day elk hunt in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, valued at approximately $22,000.

“You can’t win if you don’t play,” she thought as she entered.

As a member of SMART Transportation Division Local 1629, Lindsay’s job primarily consists of switching cars in the rail yard using a remote control box to control the locomotives, but she also loads and unloads an auto facility.

“Railroad unions are the oldest unions, and my union is very important to me,” Lindsay said. “The union is constantly negotiating and fighting for things like our pay, healthcare and laws to keep two-person crews. The union also protects us from unlawful termination due to injury, they guarantee due process and investigations before any discipline, and they fight for lost wages.”

Lindsay learned that her union benefits go well beyond the workplace when she was selected as the grand prize winner of the USA/Carhartt sweepstakes from nearly 5,000 entrants. The elk hunt was an amazing opportunity that got even better when Lindsay made an unexpected discovery about the outfitter.

Elk Hunt

Lindsay and her father Dana scouting for elk.

“When I won the elk hunt, I contacted long-time family friend, Danny Parker, who lives in Chino Valley, Arizona, to ask if he knew the guides with Big Chino Guide Service,” Lindsay said. “To my surprise, he said he knew them well; he grew up with the owner, JP, and watched JP’s boys, who are now the main guides, grow up.”

Lindsay chose to bring her father Dana Lanning of Phoenix, Arizona, on the elk hunt with her. Dana was a member of Operating Engineers Local 428 for more than 30 years and is currently a member of Electrical Workers Local 769.

When Lindsay learned Parker would be helping on the hunt, she asked if her brother, Dalton, could tag along too. Dalton is in the Air Force and, until recently, was stationed out of the country, causing him to miss many family hunts. With the help of Parker, that was made possible for the Lanning family.

During the five-day hunt, Lindsay’s father and brother took turns joining her in the field. Whoever wasn’t with her, the guide and the camera crew, glassed with Parker and the other guide on a different ridge.

“Ultimately, bringing home meat and enjoying quality family time outdoors are the most important things about hunting to our family, and we never expect to bring home a trophy,” Lindsay said. “This New Mexico hunt differed greatly in that we saw elk every day but could pass them up in hopes of finding a bigger bull.”

By luck of the draw, it was Lindsay’s brother’s turn to go with her and their guide to a blind overlooking a water hole where a nice bull had been spotted. It was the last evening of the hunt, and they were waiting as patiently as they could.

“We had one cameraman on the left end, a guide in the middle, and myself on the right end with the muzzleloader on a tripod in front of me,” Lindsay said. “We were all sitting on the ground in this small blind. My brother sat right behind us, leaning against a tree.”

The wind was in their favor as they quietly watched the water hole. And then it happened. Dalton caught sight of giant antlers coming from behind the left side of the blind.Elk Hunt

“My heart immediately began pounding out of my ears, and I was certain the elk could hear it,” Lindsay said. “We all sat perfectly still, frozen in awe of this magnificent creature, cautiously making his way to the water hole in front of us.”

The elk made it far enough for a 45-degree angle shot to Lindsay’s left, but she couldn’t move the gun in his direction or he would see it.

“Whether the elk winded us, saw us or just got nervous, he turned and bolted straight back to where he came from, completely opposite of where I was positioned,” Lindsay said.

The guide jumped up and whistled in an attempt to stop the bull, while simultaneously grabbing the gun and re-positioning it straight left through the blind.

“Miraculously, the bull stopped, and I was able to get down in the scope and take a shot—right between the guide and the camera guy!” Lindsay said.

The bull took off, but only a few seconds later, Lindsay’s brother said he heard him crash.

“Had Dalton not spotted the bull out of the corner of his eye and alerted us early, we could have easily blown our cover,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay had never seen her brother so excited before. Her dad and the rest of the crew arrived within 10 minutes to join in the celebrating.

Aside from going home with elk meat for the freezer, Lindsay and her family were treated to free gear from several companies including Carhartt, Burris Optics, Flambeau Outdoors, Buck Knives and Thompson/Center Arms.

Elk HuntWhile this may have been Lindsay’s first time hunting with a muzzleloader, it was not her first time big game hunting. She began putting in for junior elk hunts when she was around 12-years-old, and got her first cow tag at age 15. Lindsay has two cow elk to her name from previous hunts, and now can proudly add a bull to the list.

“I owe my hunting background to my dad,” Lindsay said. “As far back as I can remember, my dad would go hunting with his brothers or friends, and I was always so excited to see what was in the back of the truck when he came home!”

In their earliest hunting experiences, Lindsay and her brother played the role of bird dogs. Their dad would hunt dove and quail while they ran around picking up the birds and shotgun shells.

Being the grand prize winner of the USA and Carhartt Ultimate Elk Hunt Sweepstakes provided the perfect opportunity for Lindsay to experience an amazing elk hunt with two of the most important people in her life.

“This elk hunt was a once in a lifetime opportunity and something we never would have treated ourselves to, at least not without winning the lottery,” Lindsay said. “We owe the biggest thanks to Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Carhartt for organizing this elk hunt and to Big Chino Outfitters. Without their extensive knowledge and sense of dedication to my father, brother and I, we wouldn’t have brought down this awesome bull elk.”

You Could Be a Guest on Brotherhood Outdoors! Apply HERE.

Lyme Disease Facts & Myths You NEED to Know

March 10, 2018 in Articles, General


Until a few years ago, people probably thought Lyme disease was something that happened when you had too many “bottomless cup” margaritas at the local watering hole. But Lyme disease is no laughing matter. Educating yourself on Lyme disease facts and myths can be the difference between you continuing to enjoy a life full of the outdoors, and battling a chronic illness.

According to the Center for Disease Control, Lyme disease is the fastest growing and most prevalent bug-borne disease in the nation with more than 300,000 people diagnosed each year. Many experts estimate less than 25% of new cases are being accurately diagnosed, and only a fraction of chronic Lyme cases are positively identified.

Lyme is one of the most misunderstood, misdiagnosed and, unfortunately, mistreated diseases in the U.S. It is caused by a bizarre organism called Borrelia burgdorferiBorrelia is a corkscrew-shaped bacterium referred to as a spirochete. Because of its unique shape and properties, this bacterium can bore itself into muscles, bones and even nervous system tissues and wreak havoc on its host (you and me).

Lyme is often called “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms mimic many other diseases. It can affect any organ of the body, including the brain and nervous system, muscles, joints and heart. Patients with Lyme disease are frequently misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, crippling arthritis and various psychiatric and mental illnesses, including severe depression.

I spent the last 20 years of my life experiencing the long list of Lyme symptoms. I was misdiagnosed dozens of times and had two “falsely” negative tests that delayed my diagnosis for nearly 15 years. Educating yourself on Lyme disease facts can prevent you from ending up in a situation like mine.

Most people get Lyme from the bite of the nymphal, or immature, form of the tick. Nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed. Because they are so tiny and their bite is painless, many people don’t even realize they have been bitten. Once attached, an undisturbed tick may feed for several days. The longer it stays attached, the more likely it will transmit Lyme and other pathogens into your bloodstream.

9 Lyme Disease Facts:

  1. According to the CDC, Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector-borne, infectious disease in the U.S.
  2. The number of cases reported annually has increased nearly 25-fold since National Surveillance began in 1982.
  3. There are five subspecies of Borrelia burgdorferi, over 100 strains in the U.S., and 300 strains worldwide.
  4. CDC estimated cases: 25,000 cases per week, 5,770 cases per day, 822 cases per hour (many experts believe less than 10% of Lyme cases are reported)
  5. There are no tests available to prove that the organism is eradicated or the patient is cured.
  6. Fewer than 50% or patients with Lyme disease recall a tick bite.
  7. Forty percent of Lyme patients end up with long-term health problems.
  8. Fewer than 50% of patients with Lyme disease recall a rash.
  9. Up to 70% of ticks in Lyme-endemic areas are infected.

Find more Lyme Disease facts HERE.

3 Lyme Disease Myths:

MYTH: Everyone with Lyme disease gets a telltale bull’s-eye rash.

Actually, many never develop a skin rash and those that do may not get a bull’s-eye rash.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that only 70% develop a skin rash (erythema migrans), but this can vary by region. For example, a 2010 study showed that in the state of Maine only 43% of Lyme patients exhibited this particular type of rash. There are a range of symptoms and it is critical that you are alert to all of them.

MYTH: Antibiotics cure everyone.

While an estimated 329,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, statistics show that as many as 20% of patients continue to exhibit symptoms even after antibiotic treatment. While there is controversy about the cause of this symptom persistence (e.g., residual bacteria or auto-immune response), for these patients, the suffering continues.  As many as a million Americans are estimated to be suffering with this condition, referred to as post-treatment Lyme disease (PTLD).

MYTH: If the test is negative, you don’t have Lyme. 

Not so fast … The current “gold standard” diagnostic for Lyme disease is a two-tiered blood test requiring a positive ELISA result. The ELISA measures infection-fighting or memory antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi, and it misses up to 60% of acute cases of Lyme when antibodies may not be high enough to detect.

Myths courtesy of Bay Area Lyme Foundation

Think you may have Lyme disease? Check your symptoms HERE.


Written by Scott Vance, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance – CEO

A Tackle Box Full of Tips for Spring Crappie Fishing With Kids

March 8, 2018 in Articles, Fishing

Crappie Fishing

The slip cork had just hit the surface. With a popping sound and a rush of fishing line through the water, it was gone. There wasn’t even time for the bobber to stand up straight before it disappeared into the tea-colored lake, stained by warm spring rains.

I didn’t have to tell the 10-year-old holding the rod to set the hook. The fish had done that work when it hungrily inhaled the minnow. With a bent rod and squeals of delight, another 1-pound crappie was on its way to the ice chest.

Nothing is more exciting for me than to see a young person catch fish. After many years of taking kids fishing—and many lessons in trial and error—springtime crappie fishing is my first choice for almost guaranteed fun and fishing success. Two or three consecutive warm days in the early spring draw crappie from the deeper river and creek channels to the shallow flats. These prespawn crappie are hungry. A slip-cork with a live minnow will produce easy hook-ups.

When crappie fishing with kids, I prefer the slip cork rig over a clip-on bobber because the slip cork is easier to cast, especially if crappie are holding in water five feet deep or more. A slip cork has a hole through it that the line runs through. When casting, the cork—or float or bobber—is against the sinker near the hook. It’s a nice, tight package that is much easier to cast than a bobber clipped five feet above your hook.

A knot tied above the cork controls the depth you dangle your minnow or jig. Dental floss works well for the knot, or you can use a strand of fishing line. The bead goes below the knot, and the bead protects the knot from wear by the cork after repeated casts. The knot is big enough to stop the bead but not too large, so it easily passes through the rod guides. Below the bead, the cork is slid onto the line. Finally, a small split shot a few inches above a No. 6 long-shank, thin-wire hook completes your rig. When the slip cork rig hits the water, the line passes through the cork until it reaches the bead and knot, which control the depth. The knot can be quickly adjusted up or down if the fish are not at the depth you expected.

Crappie Fishing

A springtime trip for crappie, when they are shallow and biting, can provide a memory of a lifetime.

The Kid Kit

The goal for a trip to the lake with a child should be to instill a love of crappie fishing, so make sure the day is fun and comfortable. I will never forget my grandfather taking me on one of my first fishing trips. The preparation began weeks before with casting practice in the yard, and then he gave me my own little tackle box. I didn’t even notice there were no lures with hooks in the box—the plastic worms, stringer and a pair of pliers might as well have been made of gold. I felt so proud carrying my own tackle box.

When taking children fishing, take plenty of snacks, particularly snacks you might not let them eat at home. Make their trip to the lake a special treat.

You’ll also need sunscreen, hats, a light jacket for the morning boat ride, wipes to clean their hands before they dive into the snacks, and water. Try to leave the video games and smart phones in the car.

Refrain from too much instruction during those first fishing trips with a child. An 8-year-old doesn’t want a lesson on how to tie a palomar knot. There will be plenty of time for instruction later, once a love of fishing has taken root.

Crappie Fishing

Guide Sonny Sipes loves to take families fishing for crappie, and he particularly loves to see the kids catch their first crappie.

Consider a Guide for the Kids

One of the most important keys to a successful fishing trip with kids is to make sure they catch fish, and the quickest, most consistent way to ensure success is to hire a guide. Most guides are on the water almost every day. They know where the crappie are holding, and they have boats, depth finders, rods and reels, bait and ice chests. All you have to do is climb in the boat and enjoy catching crappie, while your guide helps teach your child or grandchild how to catch fish.

Tony Adams is a full-time guide on Lake Eufaula, a fantastic fishing reservoir located along the Alabama-Georgia border on the Chattahoochee River.

“Before every trip, I go out the day before on the lake, locate the crappie and identify the best place for my customers to catch the most and biggest crappie in the shortest time,” Adams said.

Adams, like most full-time guides, is confident he can put clients on crappie any time of the year, but springtime is special.

“The temperature of the water dictates where the crappie will be,” Adams said. “If the water temperature is 50 to 56 degrees, the crappie probably will be holding in six to 10 feet of water, indicating they are in the prespawn mode. If the water temp is 57 to 69 degrees, the crappie will be in spawning mode and holding close to the bank. To fish for crappie, you need to know the water temperature, the water depth, where the crappie are, and the site where you’ll have the best chance to catch crappie.”

A good crappie fishing guide should have all that information before you arrive at the lake. If crappie are spawning in the spring, then you’ll fish from three inches to three feet deep. Regardless of the stage of spawn the crappie are in, a guide can put you and your youngster in the right place with the right equipment to catch fish.

“When the crappie come into the banks to spawn, they’ll usually be around some type of structure like grass, stumps or rocks,” Adams said.

Over the years, Adams has learned that for mom and dad to have a good time crappie fishing and for the youngster to catch lots of crappie quickly, the guide generally keeps the child close by to teach and coach.

Crappie Fishing

Crappie have paper-thin mouths, hence the nickname “papermouths.” Bring a net to boat those big slabs.

Hire The Right Fishing Guide

There are some standards by which to judge a fishing guide. A guide should have good equipment, a clean and well-kept boat with the trolling motor and outboard in good repair. The guide should know the lake and the most productive crappie locations and be able to put you where you can catch fish.

The Internet is a great resource for information on fishing guides. A guide with poor equipment or a bad attitude—or inability to put clients on fish—will leave a trail of comments on fishing message boards. Don’t base your decision on one bad comment, but if you see quite a few, know that anglers spent their hard-earned money and didn’t like the results.

Steve McCadams, a guide on Kentucky Lake and Barkley Lake on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, said a lot of work and preparation goes into giving his clients the best chance to catch fish. He has built and placed more than 100 fishing reefs where his clients can catch fish.

“I don’t fish my spots every day. I do let them rest,” McCadams said. “When people hire a guide, they expect to catch fish. My job is to do all in my power to ensure they do.”

A guide should have a pleasant attitude and make the trip fun and enjoyable for his clients. A guide also should be willing to patiently teach youngsters and novices how to catch fish.

Crappie Fishing

Make sure to take plenty of pictures during your fishing outings this spring.

Questions to Ask Before a Guided Trip

Problems arise when you don’t know what to expect from your guide. Ask these questions before you book:

* How much will the trip cost?

* What is a reasonable tip if we have a good day?

* What equipment is furnished on the trip, and what do clients need to bring?

* What time does the day of fishing begin and end?

* Who cleans the fish, and is there an extra charge for fish-cleaning?

* How many people are allowed to fish from your boat, and how does that affect the price?

* Do you fish with children, and are you willing to help teach children to fish?

* What are the chances of catching a limit of crappie or of catching big crappie?

Crappie Fishing Tips

Crappie Fishing

A crappie fishing trip helps create a special bond between parents and children.

When the crappie are biting really well in the spring, you don’t need to bother with minnows. A 1/16- to 1/32-oz. crappie jig like a Hal-Fly can be very effective. To make the jig easier to cast for a youngster, clip on a very small bobber about 18 inches above the jig. Cast the jig and bobber into the shallow spawning area, and reel it very slowly, pausing often.

“To increase our odds of catching crappie, I usually put a scent attractant like a Magic Bait Crappie Bite or Berkley’s PowerBait Crappie Nibble on the bend of the hook,” Adams said. “These not only cause the crappie to bite better, but they also tend to make the fish hold onto the jig longer, allowing more time for my fisherman to set the hook.”

“If the youngster can’t cast a spinning rod, I pull the line off the reel on a jig pole, add a cork to the line two to three feet above the hook, and teach the youngster how to swing the line with the jig and the cork on it. Before long, most kids will be able to drop it in next to the structure,” Adams added.

Crappie are a great tasting fish, and the meal your kids helped provide will be a life lesson about the bounty available through the wise use of our outdoor resources. A crappie fishing trip with a good guide can provide limits of crappie for everyone in the boat. After a fun day of crappie fishing, the work begins when the fish are prepared for the skillet or the freezer.

Although Adams schedules his trips for four hours, generally two children with two adults can catch their limits of crappie in two to three hours. No time is wasted looking for crappie when you fish with a good guide, since the guide will already have them pinpointed.

During March and April when crappie are moving into the shallows to spawn across much of the U.S., head to your local river or lake with your favorite young angler. A little Internet research will point you toward the best waters for crappie fishing, or you can hire a guide to help ensure the kids catch plenty of fish and have a great time.

Don’t forget to read our article on getting kids interested in hunting HERE.

Written by John E. Phillips

5 Tips for Buying a Used Boat You Won’t Regret

March 8, 2018 in Articles, Fishing, Tips

used boat

This 1988 Astro Glass was our first used boat. We purchased it from a dealer in 2010 for $4500 and sold it in 2014 for $5500 to upgrade. It was a great investment.

As we rounded the bend into the wide open water, I eased the throttle forward on the 20-year-old fiberglass boat. We cruised quickly and smoothly across the flat water on our way to our favorite fishing hole. The whole family was enjoying the simple trill of a boat ride, and we were soon enjoying a warm summer evening catching a few fish and spending quality time together. In that moment, I proudly reflected on our decision to buy a used boat.

Since that first fiberglass boat, I have bought and sold several used boats, each one a small step up on the bigger, nicer, newer scale. By doing my research, being patient and using some basic negotiation tactics, I managed to sell each of those boats for more than what I paid for them. Now, I’m happy to share some lessons I learned along the way when it comes to buying a good used boat.

  1. Get the Family Involved

    used boat

    Kids don’t care about how new or modern the boat is. They just love to spend time on the water with you.

By getting input from the whole family, you can narrow down the type of boat you want to focus on. My family wanted a boat we could fish out of but also use for tubing or water skiing. It needed to be rated for at least 6 occupants, so we could fit lots of kids on board.

  1. Research

Picking the best style of boat can be the toughest decision. Take your time and choose a type of boat that will best meet your family’s expectations. The options seem endless: fiberglass or aluminum, bass boat, Deep-V full windshield, single console, double console, inboard, outboard or a tiller model. Once you hone in on the style you want, spend lots of time researching the different models available.

  1. Set a Budget

A good used boat can be found in everyone’s price range. One of my son’s friends recently found a small boat, motor and trailer for $500. With a little work to fix it up, he is now the captain of his own vessel. Of course, the more you can spend, the bigger and better quality you will find, but there is no need to spend an excessive amount. When calculating your budget, take into account the taxes, registration and any equipment needed, such as life vests, anchors, electronics and more.

used boat

Single console models like this provide ease of operation and lots of space to fish.

  1. Start the Search

Looking for your new, used boat has never been easier. Dealer webpages, Craigslist,, Facebook Market Place and even EBay are excellent resources. While I have purchased some excellent boats through Craigslist, I prefer to buy used boats from dealers when possible. Many dealers sell used boats at very reasonable prices because they would rather spend their time selling new inventory at a higher profit margin. Dealers also ensure the boat operates as it should or disclose problems before the sale. Many even offer short warranties.

  1. Prepare to Purchase

    used boat

    When well cared for, older outboard motors have lots of life left. Be sure to fully inspect the outboard and watch it run.

When you are ready to buy a boat, prepare yourself with as much information about the boat before looking at it. Many manufactures have old catalogs posted on their websites that provide specific details. Search similar models to see what prices they are selling for. Always take a buddy—ideally someone who knows something about boats. Having two sets of eyes on the inspection really helps. It also gives you someone to lean on during negotiations.

Thoroughly inspect the boat, systematically, bow to stern and bottom to top. Pay special attention to the bottom of the hull. Crawl under the boat and look for dents, scratches, gouges, loose rivets, cracked welds and signs of previous repair. Closely inspect the motor, lower unit, prop and skag as they are the most likely locations to have damage. Always insist on listening to the motor run. They make attachments for a garden hose, so the outboard motor can be run properly. If possible, ask to do a test run with the boat at a nearby lake or other body of water.

Go prepared to take the boat home that day. Nothing kills a deal faster than asking the seller to wait. If you are considerate of the seller’s schedule by being prepared to pay cash that day and take the boat home, the seller will be more inclined to accept a lower price. Be polite but make your first offer low. Point out defects and your tight budget as the reason for the low offer. Be willing to negotiate but also be willing to walk away; there are lots of boats out there, so wait for the right boat for a great low price. Take enough to cash to cover the amount you are willing to spend and no more. Once the price is set, ensure the title work is in proper order before making the payment.

used boat

Fishing and tubing are the most popular family boating activities.

Last summer, I took my 14-year-old daughter with me to look at a 2000 Lund Angler that a large dealer was selling. Her job was to find any dirt, filth or problems in the boat, while I inspected the hull, motor and trailer. She did a great job and found lots of things that were overlooked, which soon had the salesman rambling about how he had not taken the time to detail the boat because he was only selling it on consignment for someone who bought a new one. It was obvious to us that he was more interested in selling new boats and this older used boat. In the end, we scored a great boat at an unbelievably low price, basically, because we were willing to buy a dirty boat. A few hours of elbow grease in the driveway and we have a beautiful “new-to-us” boat. The next day, I took my daughter and her cousins tubing, and we went fishing that evening. The kids could care less about how old the boat is or if it has the newest gadgets; they just want to get on the water and have fun. With spring here, this could be the perfect time to promote yourself to Captain and buy a good used boat for the family.

Don’t forget to check out our article on 5 WORM TRICKS FOR BASS.

Written By Bob Barteck— IAFF Local 425 Alumni

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to Dedicate Newly Restored Nichols Park & Host Family Fishing Day

March 6, 2018 in Oklahoma, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Henryetta, Oklahoma — Union volunteers in the Henryetta Area will volunteer their time and trade skills through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program to complete one final project at Nichols Park in Henryetta, Oklahoma, that will increase public access to the park and lake. To celebrate the newly restored park, the USA will host a family fishing day and a formal dedication following the completion of the project.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance volunteers from the Oklahoma AFL-CIO and Oklahoma State Building and Construction Trades will complete the installation of the new pavilion roof. The completion of this project will increase overall use of this resource, promote conservation and the outdoors, encourage participation in fishing, and unite the community through volunteerism. The restoration of Nichols Park will be celebrated with fishing, a free lunch and a formal dedication. View the work day flier here.

Saturday, March 10
Work begins: 9:00 a.m.
Fishing begins: 10:30 a.m.
Lunch served: 11:30 a.m.
Project dedication: 12:00 p.m.

Nichols Park
New Lake Road
Henryetta, OK 74437

Jennifer Clason, Mayor of Henryetta, OK
Jimmy Fish, Project Leader
Jimmy Curry, OK AFL-CIO President
Forrest Parker, USA Director of Conservation & Community Outreach


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

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

5 Ways to Prevent Nasty Tick Bites + How to Remove Them

March 1, 2018 in Articles, General


The news hit me like a sucker punch in the gut. As I worked to overcome the shock, the words of the person on the phone began to sink in. One of the toughest, most enigmatic men I’d ever known was dead. My eyes filled with stinging anger as the murderer’s name was articulated. Tick Fever. That was nearly four years ago. A man whose life had led him down many paths filled with tales of dogged stamina, perseverance and extreme risk was killed by a tiny arachnid not much larger than a poppy seed. Tick borne diseases are a very serious threat to people who enjoy the outdoors and, quite honestly, anyone who spends time outside. Avoiding tick bites is relatively simple and are worth the extra time and effort

Ticks can even hitch a ride into your home on your pets. According to the most current information, tick bites in the United States can transmit more than 20 different bacterial and viral diseases to the people bitten. While these diseases are rarely fatal, they pose a significant health implication to those of us who love to hunt, fish and be outside. You’ve heard the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and that could not be more true when it applies to avoiding tick bites. Taking a few simple precautions before you go into the field can significantly lower your vulnerability to lurking ticks.tick_bites

SPRAY DOWN – One of the most effective ways to avoid tick bites is to “pre” treat your clothes and boots with a permethrin based spray like Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent. Avoid direct contact with your skin by allowing the product to dry on your clothes several days before your outdoor trip. The spray will last for months on your boots and for several weeks on your outer garments. I spray every piece of my outerwear, including my boots, gloves and hat, prior to spring turkey season, and I have not been bitten by a tick or a chigger in more than 10 years. You can even spray it on your dogs. NOTE: This product is extremely toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms, as well as cats, when wet. Read application instructions carefully before use.

COVER UP – Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants that are light colored and lightweight to cover exposed skin. Tuck your pants into your boots, and thoroughly spray the tops of your boots with a permethrin spray to avoid tick bites.

STEER CLEAR – Avoid areas with high grass and stay in the sun when possible. Ticks love high thick grass and tend to congregate in shady areas.

SUIT UP – Several companies now make “tick proof” clothing and, by all accounts, it is extremely effective. Some of this clothing has permethrin bonded into its fibers, which repels ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers and also maintains its insect barrier through dozens of wash cycles. Other clothing types create a tight, tick-proof barrier next to your skin that does not allow ticks to crawl under it.

BE DILIGENT – If you don’t like the idea of special clothes or insect repelling sprays, then be extremely diligent. Wear light colored clothing (this allows you to see tiny ticks crawling on your clothes) and cover all bare skin. Tuck your pants into your boots and socks, and tape the sleeves of your long-sleeve shirts tight around your wrists. Shower and search for ticks immediately after returning indoors, and throw all your clothes in a high heat dryer to kill ticks that may have hitched a ride. These precautions are relatively simple and are worth the extra time and effort. Take it from someone who is still fighting Chronic Lyme disease and alpha gal red meat allergies, do whatever you can to protect yourself and your family from tick bites. Don’t let these nasty little suckers ruin your outdoor experiences or, worse, take your life.

Think you may have Lyme disease? Check your symptoms HERE.


Written by Scott Vance, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance – CEO

USA Signs Strategic Agreement With OUTTECH at Archery Trade Association show

January 11, 2018 in Press Release

(L-R) Brian Dowler, USA Dr. of Membership, Marketing & Communications; Jay Scholes, OUTTECH founder & president; Tom Stuckey, OUTTECH Director of Coalitions; Walt Ingram, USA Dr. of Union Relations; & Mike d’Oliveira, USA Deputy Director.

Franklin, Tenn.—(January 11, 2018) The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and OUTTECH INC. announced a strategic partnership between the two groups last night during the Innovations party at the Archery Trade Association show in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding in front of hundreds of archery and outdoor industry executives, manufacturers and retailers.

The basis of the partnership is a new concept to the industry. The USA is a nonprofit conservation organization, and OUTTECH is an industry leading product sales group. The USA doesn’t have a “product” to sell. How could a partnership possibly work?

“Each of the industry nonprofit organizations have hundreds of thousands of members who love to hunt and fish,” said Jay Scholes, OUTTECH founder and president. “The face of outdoor retail is changing; it’s important to us to strategically partner with an organization like the USA. We want to bring benefit to their members and keep them engaged in the outdoors. Our ability to introduce new and innovative products helps retain and introduce new hunters, anglers and shooters to products, which is important to all of us.”

The USA is a nonprofit conservation group created for union members and their families. In only a decade, the USA has amassed more than 230,000 members from more than 25 different international labor unions. A little more than a month ago, USA’s leadership celebrated its 100th Work Boots on the Ground project by dedicating a restored fishing pier in Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia. Jones Point Park is a National Park Service property.

The project is a great example of how private and public partnership can help restore and maintain our treasured parks when money and resources are not available through traditional sources. Since 2012, the USA has provided more than 21,000 hours and nearly $800,000 in skilled volunteer labor to restore and maintain public access across our nation.

What makes the USA truly unique is its ability to harness the power of skilled union volunteers who put their professional knowledge to use by tackling projects that create or improve public access to the outdoors, improve wildlife habitats, mentor youth in the outdoors and restore America’s parks, which are in disrepair. The USA also raises funds that cover materials and equipment through local conservation dinners, sporting clays and trap shoots.

“Partnerships will play a vitally important role in our industry, and we are always open to combining forces for conservation with a great partner like OUTTECH,” said Scott Vance, CEO and Executive Director for the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Our hardworking union members are very active in their communities. Fueling their efforts through partnerships with industry giants, such as OUTTECH, allows us to focus on, and increase, the great work that’s being done every day by union men and women across the United States.”


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

Brotherhood Outdoors Field Producer Wins Outdoor Sportsman Award

January 10, 2018 in General

Today Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) would like to thank and congratulate Brotherhood Outdoors’ lead field producer Lee VanDenBrink, who was just honored the 2018 Outdoor Sportsman Awards Production Crew MVP.

Nearly a year ago, USA enlisted outdoor television powerhouse Rusted Rooster Media to take over production of Brotherhood Outdoors. Rusted Rooster, founded and operated by brothers Chris and Casey Keefer, is the production house behind TV shows Sheep Shape and Dropped. The group produced nine original episodes of Brotherhood Outdoors for the third and fourth quarters of 2017, and will produce nine episodes in 2018. Rusted Rooster also works with industry giants such as Buck Knives, PSE and Winchester.

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

“Lee has been the Brotherhood Road warrior and the man behind the lens on most of our shoots last year,” said Brad Walch, Strategic Account Manager for Rusted Rooster. “He captures the story and makes sure the guests are having a good time! Since we had such a late start last season he was able to accomplish a lot in a very short window. Still keeps in touch with all of our guests and has done a great job for Brotherhood Outdoors.”

Lee captures the inspiring stories shared by hardworking Union Sportsmen’s Alliance members across the nation. Thanks to Lee’s undeniable work ethic and passion for storytelling, Brotherhood Outdoors shines a well-deserved spotlight on the men and women who are the backbone of this great country.

Outdoor, Sportsman Channels Announce 18th Annual Outdoor Sportsman Award Winners

January 10, 2018 in Press Release

Best of Outdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel Receive
Coveted 18th Annual Outdoor Sportsman Awards


DENVER, COOutdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel, part of Outdoor Sportsman Group – Networks, presented their annual Outdoor Sportsman Awards for the outdoor lifestyle industry’s best producers, talent and production for the 18th consecutive year.

Twenty-nine Outdoor Sportsman Awards were presented in Best of and Fan Favorite categories.

The following were honored with Outdoor Sportsman Awards:

  • BEST BIG GAME: Jon Baker’s Guide 4 Adventure
  • BEST CONSERVATION: Nick’s Wild Ride
  • BEST SHOOTING: GunnyTime with R. Lee Ermey
  • BEST NEW SERIES: West of Texas
  • BEST OVERALL SERIES: The Obsession of Carter Andrews
  • BEST WINGSHOOTING: Benelli presents To Kill A King
  • BEST ORIGINAL: Hollywood Weapons
  • BEST OF MOTV: Bone Collector
  • BEST EDITING: Addicted to the Outdoors
  • BEST GRAPHICS: Heartland Waterfowl
  • BEST VIDEOGRAPHY: Driven with Pat & Nicole
  • BEST PRODUCTION CREW MVP: Lee Vandenbrink, Rusted Rooster/Brotherhood Outdoors

SPORTSMAN CHANNEL: Relentless Pursuit




SPORTSMAN CHANNEL: Tim Wells – Relentless Pursuit


OUTDOOR CHANNEL: Kip Campbell – Red Arrow



  • FAN FAVORITE COMEDY: Primos TRUTH About Hunting
  • FAN FAVORITE DEER: Crush with Lee & Tiffany
  • FAN FAVORITE TURKEY: Crush with Lee & Tiffany


  • FAN FAVORITE WATERFOWL: Small Town Hunting

The entire ceremony was live-streamed for the first time ever and seen on Outdoor Channel’s Facebook page on Tuesday, January 9.

About Outdoor Sportsman Group: Outdoor Sportsman Group is comprised of the world’s foremost media and entertainment brands for outdoor adventure enthusiasts. It includes three leading multichannel networks: Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel and World Fishing Network, as well as MOTV, the world’s leading outdoor television content platform. The Group also consists of a number of established publishing assets: 15 outdoor magazines including Guns & Ammo, Petersen’s Bowhunting and Florida Sportsman, and 19 top websites, including Additionally, Outdoor Sportsman Group includes television production operations, Winnercomm. For more information, visit #MyOutdoorTV


About Outdoor Channel: Outdoor Channel has been taking viewers across America and around the world on unparalleled adventures since 1993. Dedicated to the outdoor lifestyle and conservation, the independent cable network is a division of Outdoor Sportsman Group and provides a complete spectrum of riveting hunting, fishing, shooting and adventure entertainment. Outdoor Channel is the largest outdoor TV footprint in the country and is available in more than 50 countries internationally. Outdoor Channel can be viewed in HD and is accessible by broadband and mobile platforms. For program times and other information, visit Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.#WhatGetsYouOutdoors. #MyOutdoorTV

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

About Outdoor Sportsman Group Publishing: As a premier destination for the most avid outdoors enthusiasts, Outdoor Sportsman Group’s publishing division is widely recognized for its strong special-interest multichannel brands, includingPetersen’s Hunting, Guns & Ammo, In-Fisherman, North American Whitetail, Game & Fish/Sportsman and 10 other leading magazines that reach more than 28 million readers. Outdoor Sportsman Group’s network of websites,,, and, attracts more than 78 million annual unique visitors, and OSG TV produces hundreds of TV episodes of original branded hunting, sport shooting and fishing programming that airs on Outdoor Sportsman Group’s broadcast entities. Visit for more information. #MyOutdoorTV

About MOTV: The global, subscription-based, video-on-demand service provides the best outdoor programming, lifestyle content and access to favorite Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel and World Fishing Network television shows and is the pre-eminent voice for all outdoor enthusiasts. MOTV – powered by the three networks – accomplishes this with an expansive acquired library of the best hunting, fishing and shooting programming in long and short form, recipes, tips and tricks, how-to instructional videos, as well as educational and exclusive content focusing on improving success in the field and waterways. Along with the three networks, content is available from Outdoor Sportsman Group’s established publishing arm that includes 15 outdoor magazines, such as: Guns & Ammo, Game & Fish, In-Fisherman, Florida Sportsman and Wheels Afield and 19 top websites, including: Exclusive episodes, as well as live event coverage and behind-the-scenes footage will be added in the future.

Media Contact:
Tom Caraccioli | Outdoor Sportsman Group | 212.852.6646 |

Hints for Drawing the Tag of a Lifetime

December 19, 2017 in Articles, Hunting

Since 2003, I’ve been completely immersed in the world of trying to draw the tag of a lifetime– limited-entry, high quality big game tags. I consider myself an expert in this field… probably the only thing I’ve ever really reached expert level at. I’m often asked by friends and clients something like this: “Eric, how is it possible that the biggest names in the outdoor industry always seem to draw the very best tags?” There always seems to be a touch of sarcasm in their tones, as if there is some conspiracy between these specific high-profile sportsmen and the Game & Fish Departments across the country.

I completely understand how these thoughts arise. In fact, in my younger years, I had these same ridiculous suspicions. Year after year, people are inundated with images of “the pros” sitting behind giant elk, record-book antelope, magnificent bighorn sheep and completely insane mule deer. Many of these trophy shots are the direct result of drawing some super tag, in a dreamland GMU, with almost impossible drawing odds.

As the Director of the TAGS division at Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA TAGS) and handling the application portfolios for many of world’s most recognizable sportsmen, I can promise you without even the slightest shadow of a doubt – there is no backroom deal, conspiracy or intrigue going on.

Realtree’s David Blanton has been playing the application game for years. Patience paid off when he drew a Montana bighorn tag.

In late 2003, the executive management team of Cabela’s invited me to join their world-class organization to develop a big-game application service for their best customers. Then in January 2004, we released our first Cabela’s TAGS catalog (now WTA TAGS). I immediately signed up some of the biggest names in the industry. Long before I got to them, these devoted sportsmen already had multiple points in multiple states. When I write, “multiple points in multiple states,” I mean these guys have WTA TAGS application portfolios that span three pages or more. They apply for dozens of limited-entry tags. Most importantly, they renew their portfolios year in and year out. They never miss a year of trying to draw these primo tags. They are completely loyal to applying year after sometimes frustrating year. They do it exactly as it should be done—they follow the “helpful hints for drawing the tag of a lifetime,” below to a “T”.

In my early 30s, I made it a life goal to become a very serious North American big-game hunter. I decided to emulate the greats who came before me, so I ramped up my portfolio of Western big-game applications tenfold. Also, over these past 15 years, I have remained completely faithful to this process. I am “pointed up” in the majority of the Western states on multiple species. While I still have a long way to go in this wonderful world of North American big-game hunting, I definitely feel that I have a huge jump on my goal because of these critical decisions. If you have a similar life goal regarding big-game hunting in North America, I am positive that participating in the draws in the Western states and building valuable points will help, but you must get started now, and you must remain diligent. WTA TAGS would love to help you draw the tag of a lifetime.


Don’t make the mistake of only applying for one tag. These quality tags are extremely difficult to draw. For example, let’s say there is a certain game management unit in Arizona, where your odds of drawing a rifle elk tag are 1 in 10. This means statistically, if you applied every year for 10 years, you should only draw a tag 1 time in this area – not very good. Now take a similar unit in New Mexico with the same 1 in 10 odds of drawing. If you applied for rifle elk in both Arizona and New Mexico, your odds of drawing one tag slightly improve. Not bad. Now add a mule deer Nevada application at 1 in 10, and your odds of drawing one tag improve yet again. It’s these slight draw odd improvements, gained by applying for multiple species in multiple states, which separate the people who get to go hunting in an awesome limited entry area from the hunters who have to tough it out in an overcrowded public land unit, where tags are sold over the counter. Some people fear that by applying for multiple species in multiple states, they will draw multiple tags in the same calendar year. This is a very unlikely. Using the scenario above, your probability of drawing two tags in the same calendar year would be 1 in 100. Your probability of drawing all three tags would be 1 in 1,000.

Drawing a tag of a lifetime may take a while. The sooner you start applying, the sooner you’ll be hunting in a quality area. This is the most critical advice to follow. Also, don’t give up if you’re unsuccessful the first few years. I cannot stress this enough. Be persistent, and incredible tags should come your way.

Many states reward the people who have been waiting to draw a tag the longest. In other words, every year you are unsuccessful in drawing your tag of a lifetime, your odds improve for the next year. Some states charge for this advantage. It is well worth the investment. Under certain scenarios, this investment is essential to drawing the tag.

Another way to increase your odds of drawing a tag of a lifetime is to apply muzzleloader or, better yet, bow. Muzzleloader and bow tags are typically easier to draw than rifle tags. If you feel comfortable hunting with a muzzleloader or bow, apply for that tag.

Applying for the most sought after, highest-quality tags in the country can definitely brighten your hunting career. Whether you decide to use a professional service like WTA TAGS or do the research and apply on your own, persistence is key. Building-up your bonus points is the name of the game, and good things come to those who wait. There is no better feeling than seeing the word SUCCESSFUL after your name the day a state posts its drawing results. I wish you all the best of luck in the draws and in the field. If you need any help with the application process, call our office in Sidney, Nebraska. We’re here to help! 1-800-755-TAGS (8247).

Written by Eric Pawlak, WTA TAGS – Director

Start Planning Your 2018 DIY Elk Hunt Now

December 18, 2017 in Articles, Hunting

DIY elk hunt

Quietly, we crawled to the edge of a tall ridge. Taking care not to reveal our silhouettes on the skyline, we set up to glass the magnificent country for the elusive wapiti. Daylight waned as we began to pick apart the meadows and timberlines. Slowly panning the spotting scope over a gap in the trees, I picked out an elk; closer inspection revealed a herd on the move. Soon we were watching 30 elk calmly grazing in a distant meadow. It was the night before Colorado’s second rifle season, and we were six miles deep into the Flat Tops Wilderness. The sight of two bulls in the herd only a mile from camp had us skipping down the mountain to our cozy camp to dream of what tomorrow would bring on our DIY elk hunt.

As a young boy, I consumed books and articles with tales of wilderness hunts and dreamed of hunting in truly wild and remote places. In 1995, I went on my first elk hunt and have been blessed to hunt in many wild places since. In 2016, I joined four friends for a hunt in Colorado’s third largest Wilderness, the famed Flat Tops Wilderness. We enjoyed a great hunt and filled two of four tags. I will carry the memories of hunting with great friends in that stunningly beautiful place for the rest of my days.

A DIY elk hunt in a Wilderness area should not be intimidating; with lots of planning and hard work, it is achievable. In fact, today it is easier than ever because of the technology, information sharing and equipment that has developed in recent years.

Here are the basics to help you plan your own DIY elk hunt:

DIY elk hunt

The Flat Tops Wilderness is big rugged country. With proper planning and a tenacious attitude hunting wilderness areas is an achievable dream.


Begin researching your DIY elk hunt at least 12 months in advance. Colorado is typical of most Western states in that you can find a great deal of valuable data on Fish and Game websites. If you are short on time, there are magazines like Huntin’ Fool and web-site memberships like that summarize much of the information. Start by looking for a unit in a Wilderness that has better than average success rates and good elk densities. However, these numbers should not be your only source of information while picking a unit.

Everyone will tell you to call the local biologist or warden, but I prefer to call the district Forest Ranger for the area. Rangers spend lots of time in the area you want to hunt and typically don’t get pestered by hunters. If you call them in the winter, they have a lighter workload and will happily take time to help you. Ask them about trailhead locations, trail conditions, recent fires and their advice on places to look for elk.

Reach out to hunting buddies or members of your local hunting club too. Keep relationships fresh and be willing to help others once you have a few years of experience to reflect on. Some units may require preference points to draw at tag, but there are many over-the-counter hunts as well. Several states have generous allotments of over-the-counter tags for Wilderness areas because not many hunters venture into them.

If you don’t live near your hunting destination, it might not be possible to visit the location prior to your hunt. If that’s the case, plan to arrive at least two or three days before your hunt. Use one day to pack in and one or two to scout ahead of the season opening. On-line scouting can be a tremendous help too. Google Earth, Colorado Hunting Atlas, onXmaps Hunt and similar technologies provide the ability to scout and hunt in a way never imagined a decade ago. From the comforts of home, you can pour over maps and satellite pictures of the exact locations you plan to hunt. You can even pre-program locations of interest into your GPS. Call me old school, but I still carry a compass and maps of my hunting areas. I like laying out the map to view the entire hunting area rather than just relying on the small screen of the GPS. I order the 7.5 degree quadrangle maps from the USGS. I lay them out and mark them up with notes at home. They are cheap and easy to use. Plus, if the GPS quits working, maps are a reliable back-up navigation device.

Logistics separate the amateurs from the seasoned veterans. The movement of hunters, water, food, gear and meat in and out of the Wilderness is never easy, but lots of options are available to suit your style of hunting. Wilderness areas have a strict no engines rule. No 4-wheelers, dirt bikes, generators or chainsaws. Everything you pack in must be on a horse, llama, or your back, and making firewood requires an ax and crosscut saw.

DIY elk hunt

A small, sturdy wall tent and wood stove made for comfortable DIY elk camp.

In 2016, we paid a local outfitter to rent three of his pack horses for the week with all the tack we needed. The horses allowed us to pack in our canvas wall tent and small wood stove. This provided us with a warm comfortable base camp in the middle of the Wilderness for our DIY elk hunt. Other options include renting llamas or going light-weight and backpacking in. I have backpacked on several hunts and like how that style forces you to downsize to just the basics. Backpacking gives the advantage of not being tied down. You can hunt with your camp on your back or move it closer to where you are hunting. If you kill an elk while backpack hunting, plan on four to five backpack loads of meat. Another option is to have a horse packer available on-call when you kill an elk. Some outfitters provide this option. You will have to carry a satellite phone or coordinate another way to communicate with the packer to make the request to get packed out. No matter which logistical options you choose, resist the urge to over-pack. Cut your gear down to the lowest safe level. Your back will thank you.

While it’s easy to imagine big bulls in every meadow of a remote Wilderness, the reality is that elk per square mile numbers do not increase at all. The advantage of hunting remote country is cutting the number of hunters you are competing with and increasing your enjoyment by having more real estate to yourself. My advice for any over-the-counter hunter is to kill the first legal animal you can. Two of my friends had cow tags on our hunt. They wasted no time and killed two cows the second day of the hunt. We were all excited with their success and quit hunting until we had those elk broke down, bagged and loaded on the horses. We shared the meat between everyone, so even though I struck out on finding a bull, my family enjoyed lots of delicious elk this past year.

Make the best of everything. It is a lot of work to hunt this way, so find enjoyment in all the details. While in camp, share the chores of making firewood, cooking meals, doing dishes, etc. Remember to have a contingency plan if someone gets hurt or sick. Talk about who will go for help, who will stay back and care for the one who is hurt.

For the best chance at killing a bull, plan on at least seven hunting days. Add two or three days on each end of that for 12-14 days total. Unfortunately, our hunt was cut short by bad weather. We used a weather band radio to get daily

DIY elk hunt

(L-R) Bob Barteck with brothers Ben and Brian Weideman.

weather reports. When the forecast turned to slushy, sleeting snow with accumulation building for several days, we knew we had to bug out.

While a DIY elk hunt in a Wilderness is challenging, it is also incredibly rewarding. From base camp, you can explore ever deeper into a place void of other humans. It is refreshing to spend time alone hunting—slipping through dark timber, having lunch on a high ridge and filling a water bottle from a thread of a cold mountain stream teaming with trout. A year later, I can picture every detail of being in the Flat Tops, and my heart yearns to return. In the end, a DIY elk hunt in the Wilderness isn’t about killing an elk. It’s about the journey that wild wapiti leads you on within the unbroken, savage landscape. It is in those places that man truly finds himself and his purpose on this earth.

This article was written by Bob Barteck, IAFF Local 425 Alumni

Looking for more info on elk hunting for beginners? Read our article “FIRST ELK HUNTING ADVENTURE IN THE ZIRKEL WILDERNESS”

Think Small for Hunting Heritage

December 14, 2017 in Articles, Hunting

Written by: Scott Vance

It was a gorgeous October afternoon, and the crisp fall air had moved in overnight. The leaves were turning brilliant hues of garnet and yellow and that “feel” was unmistakable for someone who had been deer hunting for over 30 years. It was time to deer hunt, and I was ready to go! Only one thing, I really wanted to spend time with my little guy that day.

“Hey Dman, let’s go sit in your new box blind this afternoon,” I said, as he rounded the corner with a toy sword. “Uh, well, yeah OK dad, can we take some snacks and games?”

My son Damon was 5 years old, and while he had a keen interest in being outside, I knew he was far from ready to shoot a firearm capable of killing a deer. However, I also know the take one, make one mantra when it comes to hunting, fishing and shooting. I wanted him to hunt with me to learn the ropes and, hopefully, witness his dad in action.

As we drove to our hunting property, Dman talked non-stop. He was excited, and by the time we got out of the truck, he was ready to burn off some energy. On the walk to the stand, we saw deer tracks and a big hawk that screamed his welcome in our direction. Once we got in the stand, it all started to unravel.

Damon’s grandpa built him what we call the Taj Mahal shooting house. It is a 4X10 fully enclosed, insulated, carpeted, sound proof shooting house complete with retractable Lexan windows. It was cozy as the fall sun cast a warm light, and I wondered how long Dman would be awake. We had been there 10 minutes when Dman looked at me and said, “dad, can we get out and walk around?”

“Well son, we can, but we are a lot more likely to see a deer if we just sit still over a nice food plot like this one,” I responded. “Ok dad.” Five minutes later, Dman asked again to walk around to try to see a deer. By this time, I’m was getting a little frustrated. “No son, if you want to kill a deer, we’ve got to sit here and wait.”

He looked down with sad eyes and zipped his jacket up. After 45 minutes, I was just starting to feel like a deer could walk out when Dman looked up and said, “Dad, I would really like to get out and walk some.”

This time, I felt pretty frustrated. I had given up most of the fall hunting season already coaching him in baseball and going to conferences for work. I really just wanted to enjoy a nice sunset and see some deer.

“Damon, don’t you want to kill a deer?” I asked. Why did you come with me if you didn’t want us to kill one?”

He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Daddy, I came because I wanted to spend time with you.”

As the tears streamed down my face, I gave him a big hug and told him I’d meet him at the bottom of the stand. As I watched him carefully climb down the steps, I thanked God for giving me a swift reality check and asked him to forgive me for being a selfish fool. I’m certain God was smiling as we spent the rest of the evening walking along the field edges and talking about baseball.

It was that day that I decided we needed a squirrel dog.

Start with Small Game

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of following my grandpa through the woods as we “hunted” for squirrels. Looking back, I realize he had little intention of actually finding and shooting a squirrel on those trips, but as a three or four-year-old boy, it was as if we were on a great African safari. We had a little feist dog who mostly just followed us around, but occasionally, would stumble on a squirrel. Those are memories I will treasure forever and a big part of why I became a hunter, angler and conservationist.

When I was young, the deer and wild turkey populations had not rebounded in the mountains and foothills of western North Carolina where I grew up. The majority of people still pursued squirrel and rabbit as their primary game. Simply knocking on the door and respecting a landowner’s property was usually enough to gain full permission for small game hunting.

Times have changed in terms of access and the game we pursue. Deer and wild turkey have both made unprecedented comebacks across our nation due largely to the efforts of hunters and wildlife agencies. At the same time, access for hunting is ever more difficult. The number of people pursuing small game has plummeted as they choose deer and wild turkey as their primary quarry.

Along with these changes comes the loss of a vitally important introduction for young and new hunters. Small game hunting affords the opportunity to learn so much about the outdoors, wildlife and hunting safely. Most young and new hunters are missing this introduction in today’s deer focused hunting community.

Don’t get me wrong; I love to deer hunt. It’s one of my favorite pursuits. However, I truly believe that squirrels and eventually rabbits are much more conducive to creating a lifelong, safe and ethical hunter. No one gets too upset about missing a squirrel, and nearly all public lands offer at least a decent opportunity for small game.

Squirrel hunting also requires very simple equipment and apparel. During the warm days of early fall, a good pair of tennis shoes, old jeans, a dark colored jacket, and a .22 caliber rimfire rifle or small gauge shotgun are all you need for most squirrel situations. I always recommend a blaze orange cap, just so other hunters clearly know your location. Squirrels are plentiful and, in most locations, you’ll find that they aren’t pursued by many people. Early mornings and late afternoons on days with little or no wind will be your highest activity times for bushytails, If you are lucky enough to bag a few, they are excellent table fare. Fried squirrel quarters with gravy ranks right up there with some of the best food you’ll ever consume.

This fall, make yourself a promise. Take your son, daughter, nephew or niece—or even the neighbor’s kid—squirrel “hunting” with you. As you watch them enjoy the woods without being particularly quiet, sitting stone or the pressure of harvesting a big buck, you’ll remember and appreciate what got you started in this great pursuit as well.

As I pass through the seasons of life, I realize that killing an animal or proving that I’m a great hunter is much less important to me. As a mentor and a role model, I recognize that the most precious things that I can provide are my time, full attention, knowledge and the deep love and respect I have for the resource and God‘s wonderful creation. My job as a mentor is not to ensure that someone harvests an animal. My job is to make sure they leave their experience with me in the outdoors with a deeper love, respect, admiration and knowledge for all that it offers and that they cherish the life they can lead by glorifying God’s creation.

5 Hot Winter Fishing Destinations

December 14, 2017 in Articles, Fishing, General

Written by: Travis Baker

This past February found me boarding a flight to Houston, escaping the cold northerly winds of western Nebraska en route to the “Sailfishing Capital of the World.” I was tired of hearing stories of 50 fish days, double and triple hook ups, “hot” sailfish lit up as they literally chase teasers to the back of the boat. It was time to experience it for myself.

As my two hour flight from Houston touched down in Guatemala City, to say I was anxious would be an understatement. As my driver met me at baggage claim, we escaped the congestion of the city and headed south for a 90-minute drive to the small beachfront community of Iztapa. Billfisherman have been fishing these waters for years, but only in the past 10 years or so, has Guatemala earned the enviable reputation as the premier sailfish destination.

After a freshly brewed cup of Guatemalan coffee and a five minute drive to the marina, I was greeted by Captain Chico and two mates. No time wasted. I stepped into the boat, and we were off. One of the highlights (besides the amazing fishing) of the trip is that fish are often found less than 20 miles from port, which means more time fishing, and the waters can be as calm as a lake.

The mates were always busy rigging baits and checking teasers, but I didn’t have to wait long to hear “pez vela, pez vela!” Our first sailfish was hot on the left teaser, and as the mate slowly pulled it away from the fish, a perfectly casted ballyhoo soon replaced the teaser and my first sailfish was on. A short while later, fish number one was safely released. I lost count of how many times we repeated that process, but it was well over 20 before noon. After an unbelievable lunch of freshly caught tuna ceviche and an ice cold Gallo, I got to thinking about all those stories I had heard about the obscene number of sailfish in Guatemalan waters. I realized they were not stories at all. The fishing here continues to amaze me, and I often find myself anxiously waiting for winter to roll around.

Fall is upon us and winter isn’t far behind. Before cabin fever sets in, start planning a warm weather fishing getaway like the one I experienced. Here are five hot destinations you should add to your fishing bucket list.

Belize – This English speaking country in Central America, tucked between Mexico and Guatemala, has always been a hot spot for some of the most diverse flats fishing in the Caribbean. Belize is known as the best place to land a “saltwater grand slam,” a bonefish, tarpon and permit in the same day. The gin clear waters offer perfect sight fishing opportunities for these elusive game fish. Offering convenient access from major cities such as Houston, Dallas, Miami, and Atlanta, Belize is a year round fishery and also a great destination for non-anglers. It has the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, making it one of the top dive and snorkeling destinations in the world. Accommodations consist of intimate waterfront resorts to the most comfortable fishing lodges. It’s a great destination for anglers and non-anglers alike.  Reduced rates are available during the summer and fall months.

Costa Rica – When it comes to combining fishing, adventure, and an assortment of non-fishing activities, Costa Rica is tough to beat. Costa Rica’s pacific coast is an excellent destination to combine a billfishing trip with a multitude of non-fishing and family activities, such as enjoying the beach, surfing, diving, snorkeling, white water rafting, and eco tours. Don’t forget Costa Rica’s Atlantic coast. The remote Caribbean side of the country is still pretty much undeveloped and home to a myriad of freshwater jungle rivers that spill into the Atlantic. This is home to some of the best tarpon fishing in the world.  Nothing is quite as thrilling as battling a 100 plus pound silver king!

Guatemala – Known as the “sailfishing capital of the world” Guatemala has produced more records for sailfish landed than any other place on the planet! Another location that is easily accessed from most major cities, Guatemala’s peak billfishing season runs from December – March with very good fishing year round.  Reports of landing upwards of 50-60 sails per boat in a day is not uncommon during peak season. Blue and striped marlin are also available. The ocean is relatively calm here, which makes for very enjoyable fishing conditions. The accommodations and lodges offered are very comfortable and located in a safe and friendly environment. Guatemala should be on every saltwater fisherman’s radar.

Argentina – Reminiscent of Wyoming, the Patagonia region of Argentina is a trout fisherman’s paradise.With a peak season of December – April, Argentina is a great excuse to escape the North American winter and cast a fly to rising trout in the South American summer. The fly fishing for rainbow and brown trout here is some of the best anywhere with an assortment of world-class rivers with the Andes Mountains as your back drop. Whether wade fishing a spring creek or floating a picturesque freestone river, Argentina offers everything for the freshwater fishing enthusiast. The accommodations here will rival that of any five-star fishing lodge with delicious meals and fine South American wines. It’s also a great destination to bring the non-fishing companion. A stop in Buenos Aires for some shopping and a tango show is a must.

Mexico – If you’re a bass fisherman, you owe it to yourself to experience the trophy lakes of Mexico. No other area consistently produces more largemouth bass and the biggest largemouth bass than old Mexico.  While it’s a year round fishery, the winter months can produce some heart pounding top water action.  There’s nothing like the strike of an 8-pound plus largemouth on top water! Initially stocked with Florida-strain bass several decades ago, the fishing here seems to get better each year with many fish in the double digit class recorded each season. Accommodations are fantastic with four-star lakefront lodging and delicious meals served daily. Anglers are met at the dock with an ice cold margarita after a day on the water. Plus, Mexico is a terrific value and makes for an easy 3-4 day fishing getaway. This is the ultimate “bucket list” destination for largemouth bass.

The hardest part about planning one of these fantastic winter fishing getaways should be choosing between them. The rest of the planning can be a breeze with the help of the experts at Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA), the preferred booking agent of Cabela’s. WTA’s professional staff can handle all aspects of your trip from initial consultation, detailed pre-trip planning, airline travel, trip cancellation insurance, and much more.  Plus, their services are free of charge! It costs you no more to book a trip through them than it does booking direct with the lodge or outfitter. In fact, they will save you time and money.

Learn more at or call 800-346-8747 and leave that cabin fever behind.

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

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

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF) and a crowd of more than 200 union and community leaders, volunteers, park staff and youth gathered at a newly restored fishing pier at historic Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia, on November 3, 2017 to celebrate the USA’s 100th conservation project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USA Hosts Get Youth Outdoors Day in Pine Bluff, AR

October 29, 2017 in Conservation News, Press Release

Nearly 200 youth, plus guardians, participated in a day filled with outdoor activities at the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Get Youth Outdoors Day at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park Pond in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, on October 21.

The USA’s Get Youth Outdoors Day engaged both youth and adults in hands-on activities including learning how to fish and shooting archery and air guns. Volunteers from USA, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas AFL-CIO provided fishing instruction and conservation education. Participants also enjoyed lunch provided by Arkansas AFL-CIO, and youth received free fishing gear courtesy of Pure Fishing.

“Get Youth Outdoors Day is a great example of the efforts needed to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage through hands-on events that instill a love for the outdoors in today’s youth,” said Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Family and Community Fishing Program Coordinator Maurice Jackson. “We are proud to say we played a part in introducing so many kids to those opportunities.”

“The USA seeks to promote our outdoor heritage through mentoring the next generation of sportsmen and women,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “This event provided the perfect opportunity to interact with youth in the community who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience all that the outdoors have to offer.”

According to a recent survey conducted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife, released in September, the U.S. has experienced a net loss of 2 million hunters in just the last five years. Since 1980, hunter numbers have fallen from nearly 18 million to the current estimate of 11.5 million. Youth are growing more and more disconnected from the outdoors, America is losing wildlife habitat at an alarming rate, and access to quality outdoor experiences are becoming more difficult to find. Reconnecting youth with the outdoors is critical to preserving our heritage.

USA Partners with Worldwide Trophy Adventures

October 16, 2017 in Press Release

October 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Union Volunteers Revitalize Dayton, Ohio’s Lakeside Lake

October 15, 2017 in Conservation News, Ohio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hurricane Irma Relief Effort at Florida House on Capitol Hill

September 12, 2017 in General, Press Release

CONTACT: Jordan Pic/ Manager of Operations, Florida House on Capitol Hill
202-546-1555 or

Connie Parker/Director of Stewardship and Government Relations, Pure Fishing
703-624-1811 or

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

Union Volunteers Rebuild Boat Ramp Destroyed by Floods

September 6, 2017 in Conservation News, General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Project Photos HERE.

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

August 25, 2017 in Conservation News, Virginia

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

Jones Point Park fishing pier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A formal pier dedication is planned for November 2017.

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

August 25, 2017 in Press Release

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

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


Courtney Miller

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

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

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

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

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

Miller can be reached at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 4, 2017 in Articles, General

Richard Childress, NASCAR legend and honorary chair for NHF Day

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

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

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

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

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

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


Swagger Bipods 40% Discount (Limited Time)

July 21, 2017 in Deals & Discounts, Gear

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

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

Exclusive USA Member Discount Code: shootwithconfidence

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Grows Conservation Team

July 6, 2017 in Press Release

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

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

Robert Stroede

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

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

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

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

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

Stroede can be reached at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE for more photos.

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

June 7, 2017 in Press Release


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Competition & Camaraderie Through the Years

April 6, 2017 in General, Press Release

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

By: Kate Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Union Members Volunteer to Tackle Conservation Infrastructure Crisis

April 3, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flambeau Waterproof Thick-Wall Satchel

March 31, 2017 in Articles, Fishing

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

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

March 31, 2017 in General, Press Release


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

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

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

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

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

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

Raising an Organization – USA Celebrates 10 Years

March 31, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electrical Worker Wins Trophy Hunt

March 28, 2017 in General, Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USA Volunteers Renovate Oak Mountain Horse Barn

March 22, 2017 in General, Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 21, 2017 in Articles, General, Hunting

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

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

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

March 16, 2017 in General, Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 10, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Jess Levens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey Prep (not a recipe)

March 8, 2017 in Articles, General, Hunting

By: Chris Ellis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Adds to Leadership Team

March 8, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

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

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

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

Brian Dowler

Brian Dowler

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

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

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

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

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

Forrest Parker

Forrest Parker

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

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

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

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

Both Dowler and Parker have begun work at the USA and can be reached at and respectively.

Big Smallies: Get Ahead of the Pre-Spawn

March 7, 2017 in Articles, Fishing, General

By: Chris Ellis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 2, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Set in Stone: OPCMIA Cements Commitment to USA

March 1, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USA, Pure Fishing Hook Up with New MOU

February 22, 2017 in Fishing, General, Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

USA Taps Rusted Rooster to Produce Brotherhood Outdoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Active and retired union members can apply to be on the show by submitting the online application at

Additional episodes of Brotherhood Outdoors can be viewed at

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

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

From the Director’s Desk – Fall 2016

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General


Alaskan Union Volunteers Build Public Use Cabins

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


Put & Take: The Other Trout

November 14, 2016 in Articles, Fishing, General


Mule Deer: A Classic American Hunt

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General, Hunting

MULE DEER: A classic American hunt

Union Leader Q&A: NFLPA

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General


Man vs. Ram

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

Man versus ram

Houdini’s Last Escape

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


Union Sportsmen’s Alliance partners with Flambeau Outdoors

September 6, 2016 in Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riprap For Fall Bass

August 24, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by John E. Phillips

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why the Bass Are There

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

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

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

How to Catch Riprap Bass

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schedule for Sept. 3 (EST):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To find Sportsman Channel in your area click here.

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

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

USA appoints Scott Vance executive director

August 9, 2016 in General, Press Release

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

Scott Vance

Scott Vance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bowfishing For Fast-Action Fun

August 8, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Bob McNally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aim Low At Underwater Targets

Aiming lower than a fish appears is necessary when bowfishing.

Aiming lower than a fish appears is necessary when bowfishing.

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

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

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


Salty Side Of Bowfishing

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

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

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

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


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



Going Hog Wild

July 23, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by Bob McNally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who could ask for more?

A Place To Hunt Hogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kentucky ( wild hog hunting is best McCreary, Wayne and Whitley counties, but feral pigs are found in at least localized populations in every Commonwealth county. Hunting is allowed year-round.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Chef Nick Melvin of Venkman’s, Atlanta

Chef Nick Melvin of Venkman’s, Atlanta

Chef Nick Melvin, Venkman’s (, Atlanta

Corned Boar Shoulder

3/4 cup Kosher Salt

3/4 cup Brown Sugar

4 tsp Pink Salt

10 Cloves Garlic, smashed

5 TBSP Pickling Spice

1 Carrots, peeled and rough chopped

2 Yellow Onions, rough chopped

2 Celery Stalks, rough chopped

5 Pounds Wild Boar Shoulder

1 gallon water

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


1 Cup Yellow Anson Mill Grits

8 Cups Chicken/Pork Stock

1 Cup Cream Cheese

1 Stick of Butter

Salt and Pepper

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

Golden Raisin Vinaigrette

2 Cups Golden Raisins

2 Cups Warm Water

4 Cups Red Wine Vinegar

1 1/2 Cup Sugar

1 1/2 Red Onion Minced

2 TBSP Toasted Fennel Seed

2 Cups Seedless Red Grapes, Halved

1/2 Cup Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

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


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


Wild Boar Recipe: Wild Boar Bacon

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

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

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

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

For the Brine

5 quarts water

1 cup kosher salt

1 cup of granulated sugar

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


2 Tablespoons white pepper

1 Tablespoon garlic, powdered

1 Tablespoon Mace

1 Tablespoon Coriander ground

1 Tablespoon dry rosemary

1 teaspoon nutmeg


To Coat After Brining

1 cup of cracked black pepper

1 cup of coriander

1 cup of maple syrup

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

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


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