You are browsing for Articles - Union Sportsmen's Alliance.

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

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

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.

 

Big Smallies: Get Ahead of the Pre-Spawn

March 7, 2017 in Articles, Fishing, General

By: Chris Ellis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

-30-

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

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

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

From the Director’s Desk – Fall 2016

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General

THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO CHANGE THE FUTURE OF CONSERVATION

Alaskan Union Volunteers Build Public Use Cabins

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

ALASKAN UNION VOLUNTEERS BUILD PUBLIC USE CABINS

Put & Take: The Other Trout

November 14, 2016 in Articles, Fishing, General

PUT & TAKE

Mule Deer: A Classic American Hunt

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General, Hunting

MULE DEER: A classic American hunt

Union Leader Q&A: NFLPA

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General

Q&A WITH A UNION LEADER

Man vs. Ram

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

Man versus ram

Houdini’s Last Escape

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

HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE

Riprap For Fall Bass

August 24, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by John E. Phillips

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why the Bass Are There

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

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

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

How to Catch Riprap Bass

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Bowfishing For Fast-Action Fun

August 8, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Bob McNally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aim Low At Underwater Targets

Aiming lower than a fish appears is necessary when bowfishing.

Aiming lower than a fish appears is necessary when bowfishing.

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

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

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

 

Salty Side Of Bowfishing

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Going Hog Wild

July 23, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by Bob McNally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who could ask for more?

A Place To Hunt Hogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Chef Nick Melvin of Venkman’s, Atlanta

Chef Nick Melvin of Venkman’s, Atlanta

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

Corned Boar Shoulder

3/4 cup Kosher Salt

3/4 cup Brown Sugar

4 tsp Pink Salt

10 Cloves Garlic, smashed

5 TBSP Pickling Spice

1 Carrots, peeled and rough chopped

2 Yellow Onions, rough chopped

2 Celery Stalks, rough chopped

5 Pounds Wild Boar Shoulder

1 gallon water

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

Grits

1 Cup Yellow Anson Mill Grits

8 Cups Chicken/Pork Stock

1 Cup Cream Cheese

1 Stick of Butter

Salt and Pepper

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

Golden Raisin Vinaigrette

2 Cups Golden Raisins

2 Cups Warm Water

4 Cups Red Wine Vinegar

1 1/2 Cup Sugar

1 1/2 Red Onion Minced

2 TBSP Toasted Fennel Seed

2 Cups Seedless Red Grapes, Halved

1/2 Cup Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

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

Plating

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

 

Wild Boar Recipe: Wild Boar Bacon

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

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

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

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

For the Brine

5 quarts water

1 cup kosher salt

1 cup of granulated sugar

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

Spices

2 Tablespoons white pepper

1 Tablespoon garlic, powdered

1 Tablespoon Mace

1 Tablespoon Coriander ground

1 Tablespoon dry rosemary

1 teaspoon nutmeg

 

To Coat After Brining

1 cup of cracked black pepper

1 cup of coriander

1 cup of maple syrup

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

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

 

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

Survive A Night In The Wild

July 14, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mistake Number One

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Things First

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

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

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

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

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

Forget Food?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Schooled

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

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

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

Survival School Contacts

True North Wilderness Survival: www.exploretruenorth.com

Nantahala Outdoor Center: www.noc.com

Wilderness Awareness School: www.wildernessawareness.org

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

 

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

Trouble Shoot Boat And Motor Problems

June 23, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Bob McNally

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motor Won’t Start

This is a common problem, with many potential causes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dying Boat Battery

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

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

Dead Cranking Battery

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

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

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

Fouled Prop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engine Overheats

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

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

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

Steering Locked

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

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

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

 

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

 

Pull the Trigger on Your 2017 USA Calendar Order

June 16, 2016 in Articles, General

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

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

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

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

Brad Dutcher

Brad Dutcher

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

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

Click here to order your calendar today.

National Elk Refuge ‘Shed’ Shed Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Place to Hunt Hogs

June 14, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fly Fishing For All

June 12, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Beau Beasley

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

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

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

Think again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Former NFL Player, Proud USA Member

June 6, 2016 in Articles, General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Worm Tricks For Bass

May 26, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Bob McNally

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 1: The Carolina Option

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

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

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

No. 2: Wind Drifting With Worms

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

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

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

No. 3: Hole-Hopping Weeds With Worms

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 4: Bottom-Hopping Worms

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

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

No. 5: Wacky Worming

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

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

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

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

 

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

CUGA Vests: When Your Hardworking Dog Deserves the Best

May 20, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

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

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

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

Q&A with Mark Meyocks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much do they cost?
$125

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

Give Fawns A Chance

May 10, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

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

Newborn fawns are vulnerable, particularly to predators like coyotes.

Newborn fawns are vulnerable, particularly to predators like coyotes.

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

Shoot A Coyote, Save A Fawn?

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

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

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

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

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

Better Habitat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shoot Fewer Does

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

5 Spring Saltwater Destinations

April 26, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Bob McNally

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

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

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

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

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

Golden Isles, Southeast Georgia

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

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

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

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

Charlotte Harbor, Southwest Florida

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lake Calcasieu, Southwest Louisiana

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

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

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

Mobile Bay, South Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

Key West, Florida

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

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

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

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

USA Conservation Dinner March Madness

April 26, 2016 in Articles, General USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angry Catfish Of Spring

April 15, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Ron Kruger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Art of Stealth… For Catfish?

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

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

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

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

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

The Catfish Cocktail

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

IAMAW Member Experiences First Whitetail Hunt on Brotherhood Outdoors

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

Clayton Bolton arrives in Oklahoma for his first whitetail hunt.

Clayton Bolton arrives in Oklahoma for his first whitetail hunt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Your Gator

March 25, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by Beau Tallent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gator Hunting Techniques

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Grand Slam Turkeys

March 16, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Osceola: Florida Or Bust!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eastern: Take Your Pick

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

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

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

The Merriam’s Slam Dunk

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rios Are Grande

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

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

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

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

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

Seasons For A Grand Slam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunt Swappers Make Slams Obtainable

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

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

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

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

Swapping hunts is a great path toward completing your Slam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

IL Laborer to Appear on SD Turkey Hunt on Brotherhood Outdoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

keith_500

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

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

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

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

How About A Hike With Those Trout?

February 25, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

by Beau Beasley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Sqwincher Partners with USA to Tackle Dehydration

February 24, 2016 in Articles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IBEW Local 26 Member Lands Bass Sweepstakes

February 13, 2016 in Articles, Fishing, General

by Kate Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pick A Pup For Hunting

February 13, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing A Breed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does Color Matter?

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

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

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

Male Or Female?

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

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

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

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

Pick A Pup From The Litter

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Spicy Alligator Tenderloin Recipe

February 12, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

Provided by Beau Tallent

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Seasons for a Grand Slam

February 8, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone Can Hunt Coyotes

January 26, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by Ron Kruger

Coyotes are a complete wilderness survival package.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does Cramer finally get his shot at a bull elk?

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

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

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

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

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

Tristan Cole shooting at USA's 2014 Western Pennsylvania Shoot

Tristan Cole shooting at USA’s 2014 Western Pennsylvania Shoot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bricklayer Guides Brotherhood Outdoors Hosts for King Salmon

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

Co-host Daniel Lee Martin and Matt Eleazer

Co-host Daniel Lee Martin and Matt Eleazer

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

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

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

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

Matt Eleazer adn co-host Julie McQueen

Matt Eleazer adn co-host Julie McQueen

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

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

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

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

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

Blackpowder Squirrels

January 15, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

On The Range

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blue Ridge Afield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Fishing Florida’s 10,000 Islands

January 4, 2016 in Articles, Fishing

By Bob McNally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Venison From Field To Table

December 27, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

 

By Beau Tallent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gear Up For Self-Processing

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

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

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

FoodSaver

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

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

Plan For Success

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

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

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

Shoot The Right Deer

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

Have An Exit Plan

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

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

Field Dressing And Skinning Tips

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

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

 Recipes:

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

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

Ted’s Venison Sausage with Fennel and Golden Raisins:

Ingredients:

5 lb venison shoulder

1 lb pork fat

2 cups golden raisins

5 cl garlic; minced

3 TBS kosher salt

2 TBS fennel seed

1 TBS freshly ground black pepper

1 ts  ground nutmeg

1 ts dried oregano

1/2 c dry red wine

medium pork casings

Method:

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

 

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

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

Chef Jordan’s Venison Jerky Recipe:

Ingredients:

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

3 TBS red chili flake

3 TBS of chopped garlic

1 cup olive oil

1 cup soy sauce

1 cup worcestershire sauce

1 cup tupelo honey

4 TBS minced green onion

salt and pepper

2 TBS sriracha

3 TBS brown sugar

Method:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start Simple For Steelhead

December 17, 2015 in Articles, Fishing

By Dave Mull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reaction Strikes

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

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

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

Natural Finesse

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

Egg Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tackle

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

December 11, 2015 in Articles, Brotherhood Outdoors TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Kid’s First Deer Gun

December 7, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evaluate the Situation

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

Evaluate Your Child

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

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

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

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

Choose a Caliber

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

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

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

 

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

Waterfowl Hunting With Kids

November 24, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by Dave Mull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lauren is on course to have her own layout blind before long, too.

Kevin noted Andrea wanted to take Michigan’s Hunter Safety Certification course when she was 10, passing in flying colors with mother Sarah.

“Basic firearm handling and safety has never been an issue with her,” Kevin said.

The 2015 season was a bit more than week away from starting as this article was being written, with another September youth hunt scheduled.

Father and daughters were ready for another excellent season of togetherness in the great outdoors.

Keys to Teach Kids Hunting

 Kevin Essenburg offered some advice for parents:

  • Get them involved as participants, not just observers, letting them help set up and gather decoys and retrieve downed birds.
  • Going on a big trip can be cool, but it’s probably better to keep things short—and warm—for beginners. He notes hunting in a layout blind can be especially good with kids—bundled up they can stay warm and nap during lulls in the action.
  • Firearms safety and shooting should start long before the hunt. “Parents should spend all summer going over safety and gun handling with their kids.”
  • Finally, Kevin said, “If they’re not enjoying it because of mosquitoes or cold rain, quit and go get a burger. You don’t want to turn them off to hunting right as they’re starting their career.”

Youth Waterfowl Days

Imagine hunting even the best duck holes with little to no pressure from other hunters. Imagine being able to hunt before the regular waterfowl season, or in the southern states hunting after the regular season ends and more birds have migrated down. Special youth-only waterfowl seasons are added incentive to take a kid waterfowl hunting.

Most states offer a two-day youth-only waterfowl hunt, typically on a weekend before or after the regular season.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which regulates the hunting of migratory birds, first implemented youth-only waterfowl hunts in 1996. The idea was to provide young hunters with an opportunity to get out either before or after the regular season, offering a chance to hunt without all the competition for good hunting spots. The USFWS provides a flexible framework for these special hunts, so states can set their own youth dates as long as it is on a holiday, weekend or other day when school is out. Beyond that, the states can pick their own dates. Youth-only waterfowl dates can be 14 days before or after the regular season or during a split between the regular state seasons.

State-specific regulations apply, but the federal framework for youth hunts accommodates hunters age 16 and younger. A federal duck stamp isn’t needed for kids, and in many states a hunting license isn’t required.

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.

 

Transform Your Home With A Green Mini-Makeover

November 20, 2015 in Articles

By Kaitlin Krull

Going green at home can seem like an expensive, drawn-out process to many homeowners. Thankfully, transforming your home into an eco friendly space doesn’t necessarily mean splurging on solar panels and expensive sustainable gadgets. We at Modernize have come up with some smaller, budget friendly projects that will make your home greener in no time.

Programmable thermostats
With a straightforward installation process and a strong WiFi signal, you can change the way your home uses heating and air conditioning. A smart thermostat is a one-off investment that learns your heating preferences over a period of time and adjusts accordingly to save you energy and money. If this sounds like something that you can use in your home, the market is absolutely full of smart thermostat options. For a true American classic, choose the Honeywell Lyric, a nod to the traditional round thermostat they designed 60 years ago. Simply set up the thermostat, link it to an app on your smartphone or tablet, and monitor, adjust, and track your energy usage on the go.

lightAlternative lighting
If you haven’t already made the switch to energy saving light bulbs, you could be wasting more money and electricity than you think. LEDs and CFL light bulbs use far less energy than traditional halogen bulbs (and the latter are being phased out worldwide, so the switch will be easy to make at home). With minimum effort, you can maximize your energy savings throughout the house. If you want to take your green lighting solution even further, consider investing in smart light bulb systems that are linked via WiFi to each other and a clever home automation system. Like smart thermostats, smart lighting units can be monitored and adjusted online and will make your home more high tech and eco friendly at the same time.

Solar light tubes
Want to add a natural light source to your home but don’t have the budget for skylights and floor to ceiling windows? Consider installing solar light tubes to maximize daylight. This works perfectly in smaller rooms and for customers with smaller wallets. Although this process will require professional installation, the whole project only takes a few hours and requires no structural changes to your roof. The best part is that you will see the benefits of this renewable source of energy immediately: more light and lower energy bills.

Indoor gardens
For the green thumbed homeowners out there, an indoor kitchen garden is a simple way to decrease grocery costs and increase self-sufficiency at home. This project is entirely do-it-yourself and is as big as you make it. Start small with potted plants on a windowsill, in a raised bed, or hung vertically on your kitchen or dining room walls. Stock your indoor garden with the herbs, fruits, and vegetables you use most often at home, and you might just be able to skip your trip to the farm shop or supermarket produce aisles after your garden has developed and grown. At the very least, you will have a creative space in your home that you’ve cultivated entirely yourself.

furnitureUpcycled furniture and decor
Most people think that going green is all about solar power and reducing energy costs. While these parts of eco-friendly living are important, of course, there are other ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home. Repurposing and reusing furniture and decorative accessories, either that you used previously in your own home or picked up at garage sales and flea markets, is a fantastic way to recycle materials instead of throwing them away. Take your upcycling project one step further by sourcing reclaimed wood and other building materials to make your own furniture. Dining tables and beds are particularly popular among DIY savvy homeowners, so choose your materials and let your imagination go wild.

 

 

 

Rut Tricks For Big Bucks

November 12, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

By Beau Tallent

“When’s the rut?”

That has to be the most common question hunters ask when they’re planning a deer hunting trip or considering a new hunting lease. Hunters plan vacation time each season to make sure to spend as much time in the deer woods as possible during “The Rut.”

Terry Rohm turned a childhood passion for hunting into a lifetime career in the hunting industry. Rohm is a regular on outdoor television programs, and he has learned all the tricks that help bag mature bucks during the rut. Rohm shot this awesome white-tailed buck while bowhunting in Illinois.

Terry Rohm turned a childhood passion for hunting into a lifetime career in the hunting industry. Rohm has learned all the tricks that help bag mature bucks during the rut. He shot this awesome white-tailed buck while bowhunting in Illinois.

Another common question hunters ask is, “Do scents and calls really work?”

From a biologist’s perspective—and more importantly from a deer’s perspective—the rut is actually a drawn-out process that lasts for months and has three distinct phases. There’s the pre-rut phase, which is when mature bucks are laying down sign like scrapes and rubs, cruising more during daylight hours, and getting agitated at the sight of another buck. During the pre-rut, bucks have breeding on their minds, but few does have actually come into their 24- to 48-hour estrus-cycle window when they breed. The week or two when the majority of does are in estrus is the peak of the rut. That’s the period hunters think of when they ask, “When’s the rut?” The final phase is the post-rut, which is when the frenzy is over and few does are coming into estrus.

There are distinct differences in the effectiveness of products like scents, calls and decoys during the different phases of the rut. So when is the best time to use scents and mock scrapes, and when does rattling work best? For answers to those questions, we turned to a very experienced deer hunter.

Terry Rohm has worked in the hunting industry his entire life, getting his start after rising to the top as a competition turkey-calling and winning the U.S. Open. He’s a regular on outdoor television programs, and for the past 27 years has been the “resident hunter” for Tink’s, the industry leader in deer scents and related products. When asked about tricks and tips for hunting the different phases of the rut, Rohm said hunters should first assess the dynamics of their deer population.

“It’s been interesting to see how the whitetail world has changed,” Rohm said. “People are managing for whitetails these days, and managing specifically for older whitetails.”

Two factors will greatly increase the intensity of the rut and the effectiveness of calls, scents, and other products: the presence of older bucks on your property and a buck-to-ratio that is closer to 1:1 rather than tipping toward way more female deer than male deer.

“Every hunter has to evaluate their hunting area. Every state has different rules and regulations that result in different levels of hunting pressure. In the Midwest states where the firearms season is short and shotgun-only, the deer are older and there are more mature bucks,” Rohm said. “I try to tell hunters not to get frustrated. You can’t kill a big buck if there aren’t any, and you can’t use products successfully in areas where there are so many does a buck doesn’t have to work at all to find one.”

Calls and scents might help, but these products are going to be more effective on property where bucks have to compete for receptive does.

The peak of the rut is the period most hunters dream about, but the pre-rut may be an even better time to kill a mature buck. During that pre-rut, cruising phase, there are certain products and techniques deer hunters would wise to include in their bag of tricks.

“Mature bucks will start making scrapes during the pre-rut,” Rohm said. “It’s a sign-post marking for does and for other bucks. They’ll rub-urinate, lick and mouth that branch above the scrape.”

The pre-rut is the time when mock scrapes can be very effective. Look for big, fresh scrapes that are near feeding areas.

The pre-rut is the time when mock scrapes can be very effective. Look for big, fresh scrapes that are near feeding areas.

Rohm feels the pre-rut is the time when mock scrapes and products like Tink’s Power Scrape, a synthetic buck lure, can be very effective. Look for big, fresh scrapes—several close together—that are near feeding areas like hardwoods where white oak acorns are dropping. Small, random scrapes like you find along the edge of a field are not what you’re looking for.

To create a mock scrape, use a stick to brush away the leaves to expose the dirt, and spray the scent on the dirt. This is also where products that are hung above the scrape that slowly drip scent over a period of time can be effective.

Calls will attract the attention of buck during the pre-rut. Rattle bags or rattling antlers can bring a buck in from a great distance; however, Rohm again said the structure and health of your local deer herd is key.

“We’ve all seen the hunting shows in Texas where a guy rattles and literally these big bucks come running in. That really happens, but you have to realize those are ranches managed to have as many bucks as does,” Rohm said.

Personally, I never head to the woods without a grunt call lanyard around my neck. Especially during the peak of the rut, a grunt call can get a buck to stop in its tracks. If I’m bowhunting and need a buck standing still, a grunt call often does the trick.

According to Rohm, the peak of the rut is also when doe-in-heat scents and decoys are most effective. He recommends pure doe estrus scents like Tink’s 69. A mature buck that’s in a frenzy running and searching for a doe during the peak of the rut often can’t resist the visual of a doe decoy combined with the scent of a doe in heat.

Combining tactics like rattling while also using an attractant scent, especially doe urine, can increase a hunter’s odds of success.

Combining tactics like rattling while also using an attractant scent, especially doe urine, can increase a hunter’s odds of success.

The post-rut is a let-down phase, but more so for the bucks than deer hunters. Even mature bucks are still vulnerable, so hunters shouldn’t give up just because the peak of chasing is over. Bucks may be run down and tired, but they still want to breed. The post-rut is Hail Mary time. Try loud rattling and frequent grunt-call sequences combined with doe-in-heat scents and decoys. These aren’t just desperation tactics—post-rut calling and using scents can be deadly on mature bucks that just can’t give up hope of finding another doe.

Two products that Rohm recommends for hunters every time they go the woods, regardless of whether it’s one of the rut phases, are cover scents and safety devices.

“Human scent will ruin a hunt,” Rohm said. “We are a predator to those deer. If an older, mature buck starts smelling you, you’ll never see him. You really have to watch the wind, use cover scents, and use common sense.

“Nothing is more important than safety,” he added. “If you’re hunting from any kind of elevated stand, use one of the new harness systems like a Hunter Safety System. Invest the money and buy a harness that locks you in up there. Most accidents happen when you’re getting in and out of treestands. Be careful. And identify that target for heaven’s sake.”

 

Do’s And Don’ts For Hunting The Rut

  • Do create mock scrapes with deer-scent products during the pre-rut, but don’t bother hunting near random, small scrapes like you find on field edges.
  • Do hunt feeding areas with multiple big and fresh scrapes during all phases of the rut, but don’t pick a stand location upwind of the scrapes.
  • Do try rattling and grunt calls to attract bucks, but don’t expect results if your property isn’t managed to have a good buck-to-doe ratio.
  • Do spend the extra money for pure doe-in-heat estrus scents during the peak of the rut.
  • Don’t give up hope during the post-rut—some bucks haven’t given up hope…
  • Do use cover scents, and always be aware of wind direction.
  • Don’t ever hunt from an elevated stand without a safety strap, and do consider one of the modern harness systems.

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.

Anticipation & Apprehension of a Nationally Televised Hunt

November 9, 2015 in Hunting

by Clayton Bolton, IAMAW DC 725, LL 946

Ever wonder what it would be like to win a hunting of fishing trip of a lifetime – and to have it filmed? USA member Clayton Bolton provides an inside look at his excitement and reservations about having his very first whitetail hunt filmed and aired on USA’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV show.

clayton275My mind has been wildly running different directions ever since I received the call. Shock, excitement, joy, anticipation and fear. Yes, fear.  It’s not a heavy fear, but fear just the same. Not a fear of death or being dismembered by some rogue animal during the hunt, but a fear of failure and embarrassment.

I’ve been hunting over forty-five years. I’ve chased after most every furry thing legal to hunt in California, from grey squirrel to black bear, plus a lot of feathers with a fair number of successful hunts. But this will be my first time on a guided hunt. This will be my first hunt out of state. This will be my first white tail hunt. And somebody is actually going to video this adventure and put it out there for the world to see. So, what if I choke and miss an easy shot? I’ve missed before. It’s part of hunting. I’ve endured ribbing from my brother and hunting partners for missing. I do the same when they miss too. No big deal right? That’s where “camp stories” get their beginnings, only to be embellished upon as time goes on. Ok, I really do have confidence I will be up to the challenge. Now if I can only get some sleep…

I’m a “low budget” hunter. Most of my outings don’t involve much expense. Gas, ammo, food, cheap beer and maybe a cigar are all I need. Of course appropriate license, stamps or tags are required, but since they cover the season(s), I don’t consider them part of my hunting budget. I’ve never really seen the need to buy up all the new gadgets or fancy camo that hit the hunter’s market each year. A lot of my gear, including most of my guns, are almost as old (some of my guns are older) as I am. I admit I will buy new waders periodically because I get tired of putting band aids on an old pair. The patchwork does make for a unique camo pattern though.

I’m an old Eagle Scout and like to be prepared for anything the outdoors may throw at me. So what should I (or can I) take with me? Since I’ll be traveling by air and won’t have my Jeep packed full of everything I need (or think I need), I’ll have to limit what I take. Gun, ammo and clothes for cold and or wet. That should be it. Oh, and something orange. I will need a minimum of 144 square inches of the stuff according to Oklahoma game laws. I don’t own anything orange except for an old hat. It was required attire by a pheasant club I hunted over 20 some odd years ago. I should take a good knife. Then I’ll need a stone to refresh the edge. And I have a really nice pair of binos, compliments of The Union Sportsmen Alliance, they will have to come along too. And hunting boots, which pair, or all? And I always feel naked without a side arm while in the wilds. I wonder if my .44 mag Super Blackhawk can be shoe horned into my “airline approved” long gun case with my rifle, ammo, knife…

Since I need orange to satisfy the Oklahoma hunting regs and a TSA approved lock for my gun case, it’s off to the hunting paraphernalia store I go. Bass Pro opened a new store less than 10 miles from my house a couple of months ago. I’ve been waiting for some of the shiny to wear off before visiting. I drive by it on my way home from work and the place always looks packed since it opened. It is a sacrifice I just have to make.

I said, I’m not much into all the fancy huntin’ fixins flooding the market today. But after reading up a little on a breed I’ve never hunted before, I get the idea they’ll wind ya quicker than catching the smell from your own farts. I know (and my wife knows) what I can smell like after just a day in the woods. While shopping, I came across an isle of store shelves loaded with more choices and brands of stink reducing products than bullets for any one caliber of the guns I shoot. Deodorants, bar soaps, body washes, toothpastes, laundry detergents, shampoos, clothes sprays, mouth sprays, foot sprays, boot sprays, scent sprays, no scent sprays… where does it end?  I decided a bottle of no scent laundry detergent, scent killer bath bar soap, un-scented deodorant and un-scented shampoo will do. Don’t want to get too carried away.

The big day is still 4 weeks out at this time and I’m already starting to pack and assemble my gear.  I’m not much for being a last minute guy if I can help it. Plus I need to know if the gear I need (or think I need) is going to fit in my checked bag. Part of preparation will include washing all my camo stuff using the miracle clothes wash and then vacuum bagging them. I just wonder if the specialized laundry detergent will actually work. It must, or they wouldn’t sell it right? But I can’t get too far ahead yet because I need some of my stuff for local hunts before the trip.

Less than 4 weeks now.  Anticipation is pretty heavy. Dreams (at least I can sleep some now) are filled with big racks and easy shots surrounded by perfect WX. It could happen. Kate sent me an e-mail about the airing date set for my episode (maybe escapade could be a better description) as April 03 at 11:00 am ET. That would make it 08:00 local time on a Sunday. That’s six months away!  Talk about anticipation, especially since I haven’t even gone yet. I don’t get the Sportsmen’s channel on my TV. All the episodes I’ve watched are right off the USA website. Gonna need to find a way to watch the virgin broadcast. Sounds like I’ll have a little time to figure something out.

UA Father and Son Share Wyoming Dream Hunt

October 29, 2015 in Hunting

by Kate Nation

Howard Thomas followed his father’s footsteps both as a union man and a sportsman.  He has been a member of the UA Local 502 Plumbers, Pipefitters and Service Techs since 1997, where his dad, Donald Thomas, was an active member for 37 years before retiring. His dad also introduced him to hunting, and they continue to share a passion for the sport today, primarily hunting whitetail in their home state of Indiana.

Howard Thomas with his antelope buck measuring 14.25 inches.

Howard Thomas with his antelope buck measuring 14.25 inches.

This fall, Howard got to pay his dad back in a big way thanks to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) 2014 Remington Wyoming Dream Hunt Sweepstakes.  After learning he was drawn as the grand prize winner of an all-expenses-paid Wyoming antelope hunt at The Ranch at Ucross, Howard chose his dad as the lucky guest to join him on the trip.

After a long year of anticipation, father and son headed out on Sept. 30 for their first Western hunt.  Not knowing what to expect, they quickly discovered that spot and stalk hunting on 36,000 acres of land is very different from hunting 15 acres from treestands in Indiana.

“I had never stalk hunted before.  It was just an all-around good time,” Howard said.  “We saw many animals you wouldn’t see around here [Indiana] – mule deer, badger, jack rabbits, prairie dogs.”

Accustomed to hunting with shotguns in Indiana, Howard and Donald had been shooting rifles, including the Remington Model 700 CDL SF in 7mm Mag Howard received as part of his prize package, twice a week for a month and a half leading up to their trip.  Donald had also been walking to get in shape for all the walking hey would be doing.

And their efforts paid off.  Led by a knowledgeable guide, Howard and Donald covered nine miles walking, climbing and belly crawling to get within 245 yards of a nice antelope, and Howard dropped it where it stood with one shot.  Its horns measured 14.25 inches and had a nice curl.  When they checked the buck in, they found that it was the second biggest to be checked in that day – opening day of antelope season.

Donald Thomas with his nice antelope buck.

Donald Thomas with his nice antelope buck.

The group fought rain all morning of day two, but they were able to put on a long stalk in the afternoon.  They finally spotted a good size antelope at 600 yards and were able to get within 235 yards before the buck bedded down in a valley facing the hunters.  After waiting for an hour, Howard backtracked up a creek and began moving toward the antelope from above.  When the buck caught wind of Howard, it stood, and that was all Donald needed to drop it in its tracks.

“The look on my father’s face made the hunt for me, and I think the same for him,” Howard said.  “Winning this hunt was really a life event for myself and my father.  I would like to thank the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Remington for the trip and the very accurate 7mm.”

Fly Fishing For False Albacore

October 26, 2015 in Articles, Fishing

by Beau Beasley

The harbor at Beaufort, North Carolina overlooked water as slick calm as a sheet of glass on the day I arrived to do some fishing with my father-in-law.

False albacore, also known as Little Tunny, may be the hardest fighting fish a fly angler will ever battle.

False albacore, also known as Little Tunny, may be the hardest fighting fish a fly angler will ever battle.

I hadn’t been fly fishing for false albacore fishing in more than a decade, but I well remembered how much fun it was the first time around. My beloved father-in-law John Johnson—JJ to those of us in the family—has long been my fishing buddy, and he and my mother-in-law Joan were in town visiting from the Pacific Northwest.

When we’re in JJ’s neck of the woods, we search for steelhead, so I was eager to introduce him to the sheer adrenaline rush of fishing for false albacore. I’d regaled him with stories of these hard fighters during our drive down from Virginia the day before.

“These fish are like nothing you’ve ever seen, John. Steelhead are tough, of course, but trust me when I tell you that this is the strongest fighting fish you’ll ever catch on a fly rod,” I said.

A mountain of a man, JJ is a retired forest ranger with 30 years of faithful service to his credit. Much of his service time was spent in places like Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. So having fought numerous wild land fires and seen more than his fair share of grizzly bears, JJ doesn’t impress easily. He seemed a bit skeptical and confidently replied, “You know, Beau, our steelhead are pretty hard to beat.”

I decided to let the false albacore do the talking for me.

The author (pictured on the left) touts the sheer adrenaline rush of fishing for false albacore.

The author (pictured on the left) touts the sheer adrenaline rush of fishing for false albacore.

Through the morning mist, Captain Gary Dubiel, of Spec Fever Guide Service, quietly motored up to the dock in his boat.

“Sorry you guys had to come all this way out to meet me,” he said, suppressing a smile.

“Yeah, it was rough,” I agreed.

“I don’t think I could have walked much further,” added JJ, turning to gaze at our hotel, the Inlet Inn, approximately 100 yards from the dock.

Situated in the historic district of Beaufort, the Inlet Inn is ideal for visiting tourists who want to walk around town, eat at the local seafood restaurants, and do a little shopping. The Inlet Inn overlooks the harbor, and its spacious rooms are often a jumping-off point for anglers looking for quick access to fishing haunts. In fact, the only way we could have gotten any closer to the water is if we’d slept on the beach. As we loaded our gear in the boat, I reflected that I’d rolled out of bed at 7 a.m., walked across the street for breakfast, and met my guide by a leisurely 7:45. Location is indeed everything.

False albacore—or “albies”—are more properly called Little Tunny. They can grow to 35 pounds, and make no mistake, they’ll tear your saltwater gear up if you’re not careful. How hard do these fish fight? Some marine biologists claim that albies can reach speeds of up to 40 miles an hour! They swim so quickly in part because they need saltwater to rush across their gills to breathe. Anglers who return false albacore to the sea usually thrust them back into the ocean like they’re throwing a spear.

Albies aren’t great eating fish—I don’t know anyone who eats them, in fact—but they sure can fight. Blistering runs of 100 yards in less than a minute are not uncommon. In fact, rookie anglers who wait for their first false albacore to slow down before trying get them under control have often seen their fly lines—and sometimes their rods—go overboard and never return. This much I can promise you: When you get into false albacore, you’d better be prepared to get up close and personal with your backing.

False albacore are fast swimmers that require movement of saltwater over their gills. Anglers release Little Tunny by "torpedoing" them back into the water.

False albacore are fast swimmers that require movement of saltwater over their gills. Anglers release Little Tunny by “thrusting” them back into the water as if throwing a spear.

We motored out of the harbor and into an area just east of Beaufort and a few miles south of Cape Lookout National Seashore. In the distance I could make out a few wild ponies off of Shackleford Banks, an uninhabited island that used to be a major fishing village but now is home only to seagulls and wild horses. These horses are direct decedents of those brought over from Europe during the colonial period. Many of the ships sent over to colonize the New World sank not far from shore as a result of storms and hidden shoals. During low tide the horses often walk back and forth between the islands nibbling scrub grass.

“OK, boys, here they come. Stay focused and stay calm,” said Captain Dubiel, snapping me out of my reverie.

About 50 yards away I could see fish breaking the water and baitfish literally jumping for their lives. It actually looked like it was raining fish, except that the small baitfish were coming up from the ocean instead of down from the sky.

“Remember what I told you. I don’t give a hoot how far you can cast,” Captain Dubiel said. “Just be accurate, and when the fish hits your fly, don’t force him too much. Let him run for a while. Remember that these are very strong fish.”

The albies were barreling down on us; several broke the surface as they thrashed at the helpless baitfish. I looked over my shoulder to see Captain Dubiel placidly surveying the scene of ensuing pandemonium. This chaos was just another day at the office for him! My heart beat a little faster in anticipation.

The slashing fish churned the water before us into pearly white foam. Overhead the seagulls were screeching and diving to catch the hapless and stunned baitfish pushed to the surface by the marauding false albacore. The boat pitched in the wind and the deck moved beneath our feet—and all the while, JJ and I both cast as fast as we could. After making a few unsuccessful casts, I looked over my shoulder at JJ and saw that he was hooked up. His rod bent over and nearly touch the water, his reel screaming as the line played out. JJ’s mouth was closed, and I could tell that his teeth were clenched in his effort to keep his balance in the pitching seas and simultaneously keep pressure on his fish.

He looked up and gasped, “Wow, Beau, you weren’t kidding! These are super strong fish.”

That comment was all he could manage as he struggled to hold onto his rod. My reply was cut short by a solid jolt; my own line went tight. My reel spun, and the fight was on. In moments my rod was nearly bent to the water—and still JJ was doing all he could to land his own fish. Eventually, with the help of Captain Dubiel, JJ managed to land his first false albacore, and I put mine on the boat as well. We went on to battle more albies that day, but from the moment I saw his teeth clenched I knew, I wouldn’t be hearing anymore about JJ’s hard-fighting steelhead that day.

West Coast anglers tout their steelhead fishery and their big trout waters—both of which are fantastic, I admit—but for my money, nothing beats a school of hungry false albacore. If you’d like to try your hand at landing some of these street brawlers of the sea this fall, then make your plans now. And remember that albies are great sport on a fly rod—but visiting anglers to North Carolina can also prospect for red drum, flounder, stripers, and of course speckled trout. If you do manage to find a school of fast-moving albies, take my advice, humbly given: Clench teeth and hold on.

Fishing for false albacore can be a great deal of fun but requires some planning on your end to ensure a successful trip. Thrill-seeking fly anglers interested in pursuing albies, stripers, redfish, or speckled trout should contact Captain Gary Dubiel of Spec Fever Guide Service (www.specfever.com; (252) 249-1520). Visitors who plan to stay in Beaufort for any length of time should consider making The Inlet Inn their home base (www.inlet-inn.com; (800) 554-5466). The inn is located within easy walking distance of Beaufort’s historic district and many fine restaurants.

Beau Beasley (www.beaubeasley.com) is the author of Fly Fishing Virginia and Fly Fishing the Mid-Atlantic. He’s a retired Captain from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue and is a current member of Local 2068. Beau lives with his wife and children in Warrenton, Virginia.        

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.

Laborers Join the USA as 15th Charter Union Partner

October 16, 2015 in Articles

Head to a USA shoot, conservation dinner or Work Boots on the Ground conservation project, and there’s a good chance you’ll run into a proud member of the Laborers International Union of America (LIUNA).  Flip on the USA’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV show, and you might catch an episode featuring a LIUNA member.

liuna

Members of LIUNA Local 477 achieved the High Over All team award at USA’s 2015 IAMAW St. Louis Sporting Clays Shoot when they busted 430 out of 500 clays.

Many LIUNA members love to hunt, fish, shoot and support conservation, so it’s no surprise we have Laborers among our USA family.  Recognizing that so many of its members enjoy spending time outdoors, the Laborers International has joined the USA as its 15th charter union partner.

Charter unions provide valuable support and resources to help the USA fulfill its mission.  They also, through their sponsorship, provide their members with the added benefit of a no-cost USA membership, which means active and retired LIUNA members can now join the USA for free and get access to the USA’s digital magazine, members-only discounts and contests and more.

“We’re thrilled to have the support of the LIUNA International and encourage all LIUNA members to take advantage of the benefit their union is providing them and join their many brothers and sisters, who are already members of this union-dedicated, outdoor community,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Fred Myers.

(L-R) Larry Lucco and Dustin Ramage of LUINA Local 100 were featured on a Brotherhood Outdoors Illinois waterfowl hunt in 2013.

(L-R) Larry Lucco and Dustin Ramage of LUINA Local 100 were featured on a Brotherhood Outdoors Illinois waterfowl hunt in 2013.

Deer Hunt The Dominant Doe

October 16, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by Bill Cooper

The sunshine of a late October afternoon had faded away. Now, cool air settled into the hillside flat where my ground blind was situated. I pulled on a heavy shirt to combat the chill.

Removing the dominant doe from a herd renders the remaining deer easier to hunt. They are not accustomed to making decisions that are typically dictated by the dominant female.

Removing the dominant doe from a deer herd renders the remaining deer easier to hunt. They are not accustomed to making decisions that are typically dictated by the dominant female.

Suddenly, a “whew, whew!” sound loudly echoed through the woods. The dominant doe of a small group of deer that regularly used my food plot had busted me and was blowing that white-tailed deer alarm call all hunters hate to hear.

Experience had taught me to sit tight. The deer had not been badly spooked and would most likely return.

Less than 20 minutes later, I heard the unmistakable sounds of deer walking in the dry oak leaves east of my blind. Sounds of acorns crunching assured me that the band of does had calmed down and once again felt safe, and they were feeding my way.

With the aide of my binoculars, I caught movement. The dominant doe lead the pack, as usual. She stepped into the food plot first, 35 yards away.

Two more does fed into the far end of the food plot. All of the does fed behind a 5-point buck, making it impossible for me to get a shot with my crossbow. The big doe closest to my blind obviously served as the boss doe of the herd. Her blocky body supported a long, strong neck and a “mule head” with a Roman nose. She portrayed the perfect example of a dominant doe.

The dominant doe kept snapping her head to the alert position and staring at my blind. The other deer never looked my direction. I knew it would only be a short period of time before the big doe would bust me again.

Their blocky heads, long faces, Roman nose and vigilant alertness distinguish a dominant doe from younger female deer in a group.

Their blocky heads, long faces, Roman nose and vigilant alertness distinguish a dominant doe from younger female deer in a group.

Her nervous demeanor intensified as she fed across the food plot. Ten minutes after entering the plot, her rump hairs began to flare. She curled her lip and licked her nostrils, testing the air for any telltale signs of danger. She slowly raised her long flag to full mast, and it tick-tocked as she slowly headed back across the food plot. All of her subordinates followed suit. Busted again.

I still sat tight, hoping for one more reprieve from the curse of the old doe before nightfall enveloped the food plot. With 10 minutes of daylight left, boss doe returned for the third time. The 5-pointer returned as well. It stared to the south. Soon, a respectable 11-point buck sauntered across the far end of the food plot and turned into the brushy area with the other deer. I recognized the big buck from trail camera photos.

The light slowly faded away. I enjoyed an especially smug feeling at having enjoyed an afternoon in a ground blind with deer very nearby. I also laid a plan for the next day. I would set up another blind closer to the point where the dominant doe entered the food plot, and she was on my hit list. Taking that dominant doe would make future hunts on that food plot much more productive, maybe even giving me a better chance at the 11-point buck.

Rifle hunters with multiple anterless deer tags can often make multiple kills by shooting the dominant doe first. Subordinate does often will freeze because they are not accustomed to making decisions. The extra seconds allow for a second shot. Even if the subordinates deer run, stay prepared. They may not go far.

If you hunt the dominate doe in a given area, I believe you also greatly improve your chances of seeing the dominant buck in the area. Watch where the dominant doe enters and leaves feeding areas. Follow trails to her bedding area, which will usually be much thicker vegetation. Next, determine how the buck travels from his security area to that of the dominant doe. Look for weedy ditches, saddles, brushy draws, light rub lines and dark timber.

I set my second ground blind early the next afternoon and entered it around 5 p.m. The dominant doe came from the east like clock work. However, she spotted the new blind and busted me again. Fifteen minutes later I heard her leading her troupe around the new blind to the north.

Within 10 minutes the old boss female fed within 30 yards of my new blind, but I did not have a shot. Curiosity finally got the best of her. She circled and hooked into the brush-screened spot at the east end of the food plot. She paused, broadside, at 20 yards to inspect the blind closer.

By removing the dominate doe from the herd, I had accomplished several goals we had for this particular property. First, this area was overpopulated with deer, and taking the dominant doe helped that situation by taking out the most reproductive doe. Second, I took out the leader, leaving the other deer more vulnerable until they learned the ropes. Third, I eliminated the most cautious deer of the herd. There’s no doubt that without that dominant doe around, my chances for taking another deer, maybe even a big buck, were greater on subsequent hunts. Fourth, I put tenderloins and many pounds of meat in the freezer. And finally, I had a great time outdoors executing my well laid plans.

Pay attention, and you’ll be able to spot and identify the dominant doe. If you have any of the same goals listed above, taking that dominant doe may be your best option when deciding which deer to shoot.

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.

Upland Bird Hunting Bucket-List Trips

October 5, 2015 in General, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson

Sure, every hunter who has been around a season or two has heard about giant Iowa whitetails and Rio Grande gobblers from Texas. They know about the incredible goose hunting in Saskatchewan, archery elk in Colorado, and black bears in Maine.

Upland bird hunting may not be as popular among hunters as it was a few decades ago, but hunters who don't at least try challenging bird hunting are missing out.

Upland bird hunting may not be as popular among hunters as it was a few decades ago, but hunters who don’t at least try challenging bird hunting are missing out.

However, there are many hunters, and it’s unfortunate, who don’t know of the fantastic upland bird hunting to be had throughout much of this great country of ours. A goodly portion of this upland bird hunting can be enjoyed — free of charge — on state and federal land.

So grab your vest, shoulder that lightweight Over/Under, and kennel the black lab, Springer or Brittany. Here are some great options for getting out and enjoying some of the best bird hunting in the United States.

SOUTH DAKOTA PHEASANTS

Season: Oct. 17, 2015 – Jan. 3, 2016; Agency websitegfp.sd.gov

To be perfectly honest, I absolutely love South Dakota. The people are wonderful, the beef is second to none — and I do like a good steak — and the walleye fishing within eyesight of the capitol building in Pierre is top-notch. But it’s the pheasant hunting that brings outdoorsmen from around the country to the uplands of The Sunflower State, and believe you me, the pheasant hunting well worth the trip to South Dakota.

Roughly speaking, the best pheasant hunting in South Dakota can be found in the eastern half of the state. And while some will argue, that best half can be downsized even further into the northeastern third. Here, both excellent pheasant cover, much in the form of marshy cattail-studded wetlands known as Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA), and acres upon acres of public access provides more-than-ample opportunity for groups and soloists alike. A word of warning. These WPAs can be thick and rough going, especially during the late season when snow often complicates even the simplest things, like walking. Now, a strong brush-busting black lab can prove a tremendous asset, both in finding birds and then persuading these long-legged runners into the air.

The city of Aberdeen caters to tens of thousands of pheasant hunters each fall, as do most of the cities, towns, and villages in eastern South Dakota come late October. Essentially, it’s tough to find a place that’s not hunter-friendly — and that’s what’s great about South Dakota.

 

MAINE RUFFED GROUSE AND WOODCOCK

Season: Oct. 1, 2015 – Dec. 31, 2015; Agency website: maine.gov/ifw

In early November, southern Maine, or the area to which the natives refer to as Down East, is like something out of an Ansel Adams photography. Only this image, in brilliant contrast to Adams’ namesake monochromatic portrayal of Mother Nature, is all about colors. Southern Maine is yellows and reds, orange with a tinge of fading green.

Hunting ruffed grouse in Maine is a bucket-list trip every upland bird hunter should consider.

Hunting ruffed grouse in Maine is a bucket-list trip every upland bird hunter should consider.

There’s brown there, too. A deep cocoa color, mottled with blacks and whites, feathered garb that can speak of only one creature — the king of upland game birds, the ruffed grouse. And let’s not forget the ruff’s frequent companion, the mysterious timberdoodle, perhaps better known traditionally as the woodcock. Ruffs and ‘doodles will often share the same forested upland habitat, a wonderfully scenic albeit shot-challenging mix of young alders, pines, and other timbers sprinkled liberally among reverting pastures, forgotten frontier homesteads, and soggy marshlands.

Fortunately for avid bird hunters, there’s plenty of such habitat available and much open to the general hunting public. The last time I was Down East, I spent three very enjoyable days with Doug Teel, owner of Northridge Outfitters (northridgeoutfitters.com), hunting ruffs and woodcock, all on well-managed and quite productive state land. In addition to upland birds, Teel also offers snowshoe hare hunts over beagles. If you haven’t done it, you most certainly should try it.

 

NEBRASKA PRAIRIE CHICKENS

Season: Sept. 1, 2015 – Jan. 31, 2016; Agency website: outdoornebraska.ne.gov/hunting

When I first looked out over the Sandhills in northern Nebraska, my thought was, “How could anything live out here in all this…well, nothingness?” It’s wasn’t long before I discovered the ‘Hills are full, and quite literally, with an incredible array of wildlife, including, among other things, one of my personal favorite upland birds, the prairie chicken.

Chickens, like their cousin, the sharptail grouse, scratch out a comfortable living in what appears to be an extremely inhospitable place. Covering roughly 20,000 square miles in the northern and western portions of Nebraska, the Sandhills is a mix of dunes, cottonwoods, small ponds and lakes, and miles upon miles of native grasses. Used today primarily for grazing cattle, the Sandhills offer some of the most exciting — and challenging — hunting to be found in the U.S.

Hunting prairie chickens isn’t for the weak of leg or lung. Flushed, prairie chickens have a tendency to fly out of sight, making follow-up opportunities more often than not a “way over there” sort of proposition. As there’s often a lot of walking involved. Lightweight 12-bores filled with 1-1/4- to 1-1/2-ounce loads of  No. 5 or  No. 6 shot are preferred; so, too, are physically fit canine assistants capable of working close. For a true taste of the still-wild West, complete with some fantastic prairie chicken hunting, the Rhoades Family at Uncle Buck’s Lodge in Brewster (unclebuckslodge.com) certainly know how to set a table.

 

KANSAS BOBWHITE QUAIL

Season: Nov. 14, 2015 – Jan. 31, 2016; Agency websiteksoutdoors.com/hunting

Bobwhite quail

Bobwhite quail and good bird dog make for a special upland bird hunting experience.

Few things in the upland birder’s world say tradition as perfectly does the handsome bobwhite quail. Unfortunately, bobwhite numbers are taken a turn for the not-so-good over much of their original range in recent decades. However, ‘gunners can still find plenty of opportunity in Kansas.

Although Mister Bobwhite can be found throughout Kansas, much of the best hunting takes place in the eastern third of the state. Here, hunters will find thousands of acres open to the outdoor public, all enrolled in Kansas’ innovative Walk-In Hunting Access (WIHA) program.

Under this program, the state fish and game agency works in conjunction with private landowners to make those privately held properties accessible to hunters during certain times of the year and with specific, albeit few restrictions.

For more information and complete maps of the WIHA holdings, visit the agency’s website and search “2015 Fall Hunting Atlas.”

 

 

MONTANA SHARPTAILS

Season – Sept. 1, 2015 – Jan. 1, 2016; Agency website: fwp.mt.gov/hunting

For something really exciting, pack the pointer in the truck, throw a couple sets of well-worn hunting boots in the duffle, and turn the headlights toward eastern Montana and a date with some Big Sky Country sharptail grouse. A second cousin to the prairie chicken, sharptails are strong-flying, often-fickle creatures, exploding from underfoot one moment, and flushing hundreds of yards off the next. The frustration, however, is worth it once birds are brought to hand. Sharptail, at least to me, is some of the finest table fare in the avian world.

Eastern Montana offers plenty of public access in the form of state and federal (Bureau of Land Management/BLM) properties. Similar to Kansas’ WIHA Program, Montana boasts its own version known as Block Management Areas, where hunters can find private lands under agreement with the state, which provide hunting opportunities for not only upland birds, but big game, turkeys, and waterfowl as well. A complete listing of BMA properties can be found on the agency’s website.

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.

Hunt Resident Canada Geese

October 1, 2015 in General, Hunting

by David Hart

America has a love-hate relationship with Canada geese.

Geese will feed in fields in the morning and then fly to water to loaf throughout the middle of the day. Find a pond or lake shore the birds are using and set out a handful of floater decoys.

Geese will feed in fields in the morning and then fly to water to loaf throughout the middle of the day. Find a pond or lake shore the birds are using, and set out a handful of floater decoys.

They are big, beautiful and graceful birds, and their migration symbolized the coming of autumn. At least that’s how it once was. These days, resident geese are like the unwelcome visitor that refuses to leave. They leave droppings everywhere they go, and their waste can foul ponds and fields alike. In many places, they are little more than 10-pound flying rats.

Hunters, however, have every reason to love what the rest of the world considers a pest.

Why not?

Resident Canada geese now live in nearly every state, and they provide abundant and accessible hunting opportunities.

Seasons in some states begin as early as mid-August. And because they are an unwelcome pest in so many places, many landowners are grateful someone is willing to rid their land of the messy birds.

Scout First

All that opportunity doesn’t mean killing a few geese is as simple as throwing out a few decoys.

Early season geese often feed in pastures, so don’t overlook large grass fields. Hiding can be difficult, but with a little effort, you can blend in well enough to fool the birds.

Early season geese often feed in pastures, so don’t overlook large grass fields. Hiding can be difficult, but with a little effort, you can blend in well enough to fool the birds.

You have to find them first. In fact, scouting is critical for early season resident geese for a simple reason, says Minnesota resident and Avery Outdoors territory manager Mark Brendemuehl.

“They have fewer options this time of year. There isn’t as much corn cut, and the grain fields that have been harvested early often grow up in thick grass, so geese won’t use them,” he explains. “They are also creatures of habit, especially if they haven’t been hunted. They roost on the same water and loaf on the same ponds day after day. You have to find those spots they are using, otherwise you may be wasting your time.”

A Different Bird

Unlike late-season geese, resident Canadas often stay in family flocks of anywhere from just a few birds up to a dozen or so. They certainly can gather in large groups when they feed and loaf, but there’s no need to set out a massive decoy spread. In fact, big spreads can actually intimidate resident birds.

Brendemuehl has used as few as a half-dozen, but he tends to use up to two dozen, depending on what he sees during scouting trips. It’s important to mimic what the real birds are doing, he says.

“I think they are more willing to land among a dozen or so decoys than three dozen because it’s what they are used to,” he says.

Fields or Water

Because resident geese can be suckers for decoys, they are a great way to introduce young hunters to the thrill of waterfowling. Let the kids call. It probably won’t hurt anything.

Because resident geese can be suckers for decoys, they are a great way to introduce young hunters to the thrill of waterfowling. Let the kids call. It probably won’t hurt anything.

The best place to hunt resident geese depends entirely on where they are feeding. Fields are always good, but this time of year, tossing out a handful of floating decoys on a farm pond can be deadly. Late-summer rains can rejuvenate pastures and Canada geese will flock to green grass. It’s one of their preferred foods and they’ll eat it well into the fall and early winter. That’s why ponds surrounded by grass can draw geese like few other places. The best ponds have low banks and no or little cover around the shoreline. That gives the birds a sense of security and it gives them the freedom to move onto to dry land at will.

“I hunted a pond that had nowhere to hide, but it was one of the best places I hunted. We just dug holes next to the water,” recalls Brendemuehl.

Because geese like to land on water and walk up on shore if given the opportunity, it’s a good idea to put some floating decoys in the water and some full-bodies on the shore. If there is no wind to bring the floating decoys to life, consider rigging some sort of jerk cord to coax wary geese into range.

The good news is that it often takes little coaxing to pull resident birds in close. Unless they’ve been hunted a few times, they are suckers for a decoy spread in the right place. Be patient, though, and choose your shots carefully.

“If you can, pick out the largest bird in the flock and shoot it first. It may be the adult in the group. If the rest are juveniles, there’s a good chance they’ll come back even after you knocked down a few on the first pass,” says Brendemuehl. “Sometimes it can seem too easy, but that makes up for all the hunts that aren’t.”

 

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at USAmembers@unionsportsmen.org.