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USA, Union Volunteers Tackle Hurricane Harvey Damage to Goose Island State Park

February 15, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Visitors to Texas’ Goose Island State Park will once again enjoy fresh water close at hand while camping and picnicking along the Gulf Coast, thanks to the efforts of hardworking union volunteers and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

Located on St. Charles and Aransas bays north of Corpus Christi, the popular park offers fishing, boating, camping and wildlife watching opportunities. It is also home to the iconic “Big Tree,” an ancient live oak estimated to be more than 1,000 years old.

Due to these attractions, Goose Island State Park attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually—drawing guests from local communities and across the continent.

Unfortunately, the park’s beachside shelters had been without water since Hurricane Harvey battered the coastline in 2017. To remedy the situation, a coalition of volunteers from local labor unions stepped up to make the necessary repairs to get the taps flowing again.

Thirty-nine volunteers donated a total of 265 hours of labor worth more than $12,300 to the project, which included replacing damaged water lines and fixtures at 44 beach shelters along the park’s scenic waterfront. The repairs were completed in two phases, the latest of which wrapped up February 9. Park officials provided the necessary materials while union members donated their time, skills and tools to make the project a reality.

Union volunteers donated 265 hours of labor to restore the water supply at 44 beachside shelters at Goose Island State Park.

Participating union members represented United Association Local 68, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 278, Communications Workers of America Local 6137, American Federation of Teachers Local 3456 and International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 22.

“The staff of Goose Island State Park was extremely grateful that a group of talented volunteers were willing to complete such a mission,” said TJ Hinojosa, interim park superintendent. “The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance members’ service to their state park system provided park staff the ability to focus on other projects and daily tasks.

“Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Goose Island had its most successful year with over 190,000 guests,” Hinojosa noted. “Partners like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance help us return to our potential a little more every day.”

Local organizers and volunteers were grateful for a chance to make a difference. “We are thankful for everything the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance does to help union members give back to their communities through projects like this,” said CWA Local 6137 president Kristie Veit. “The Texas AFL-CIO has also been a big supporter of this project and similar efforts that benefit our neighbors and neighborhoods.”

“The Goose Island State Park project exemplifies how union volunteers are benefiting their communities and outdoors enthusiasts around the country through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “These infrastructure repairs will benefit thousands of people who visit this scenic, historic and environmentally significant park every season.”

The project restored water supplies that had been disrupted since Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Volunteer Labor Donations Top Million Dollar Mark

February 12, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

USA volunteers building educational kiosks in Michigan recently pushed the total value of labor donated through the organization’s Work Boots on the Ground program over the $1,000,000 mark.

Fueled by a flurry of project completions and strategic partnerships, the value of volunteer labor donated by Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) members to community-based conservation projects through the Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program has topped the $1,000,000 mark.

The milestone was reached as a crew of union volunteers from the United Auto Workers (UAW) Ford Community Service Ramp Program put the final touches on five informational kiosks for the USA’s conservation partners at Pheasants Forever. The kiosks will be placed on game management areas around Michigan to educate the public on the benefits of habitat, conservation and hunting.

The project exemplifies the WBG program, which unites union workers to complete critical conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects in communities across the country.

The USA celebrated its 100th WBG project in late 2017 and to date has coordinated the completion of 156 projects in 30 states and the District of Columbia. USA volunteers have logged 29,937 hours on these efforts, which include 63 outreach campaigns, 85 infrastructure projects and eight support projects.

WBG kicked off in 2010 under the guidance of program manager Jim Klatt. The first project saw union volunteers craft supersize mesh-and-metal live traps for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) researchers to use in buck mortality and fawn recruitment studies. As has since been the case in many WBG projects, the work would not have been possible without union volunteers. The DNR had secured funding to purchase building materials for the live traps but lacked the skilled labor and workspace to build them.

The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program kicked off in 2010, when union volunteers created live traps like this prototype for Wisconsin DNR whitetail deer research.

“We are extremely proud of our volunteers for reaching this milestone,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “They are without a doubt our greatest asset. Their willingness to freely donate time and talents to benefit their neighbors and protect our outdoor heritage continually propels us to new heights in mission delivery and impact.

“Our volunteers are also what make us so unique as a non-profit conservation organization,” he added. “They are the most well-trained and skilled volunteers in the world because of their unique apprenticeship and trades experience. Providing skilled and trained volunteers who can do things that other volunteer groups cannot is clearly our unique niche among the conservation community.”

The USA already has plenty in the works for 2019, including projects and events in communities coast to coast. In what promises to be the largest project to date, the group rallied a coalition of public, private and union partners to construct a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida.

Part of the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), the marine-focused conservation education center serves more than 11,000 youth and adults annually. Union volunteers are expected to donate in excess of 1,000 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $50,000 to complete the pier and boardwalk, while the USA also contributed $20,000 and Southern States Millwright Council donated $50,000. National union contractor Ben Hur Construction is providing an additional $100,000 of in-kind donation to the project.

A large-scale enhancement project is also planned for the William Powers State Recreation Area in southeast Chicago, which includes construction of an ADA-compliant fishing pier. Additional projects range from the construction of a weigh station-pavilion on the shores of Smith Lake near Jasper, Alabama, to the refurbishment of a public pier at the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge just outside Liberty, Texas. Union volunteers are also gearing up to build a pedestrian walkway in Prineville, Oregon, that will open access to 70 acres of public property, and install a handicap accessible fishing pier in Harrison County, Mississippi.

The USA is also organizing a pair of Get Youth Outdoors Day events in concert with the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) First Shots program, which introduces first-time shooters to firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports. A number of youth fishing events are also on the docket. The USA’s 2019 Take Kids Fishing Day schedule kicked off in Minnesota in January, with additional events set for Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Partners Secure Funding for Suncoast Youth Conservation Center Project

January 28, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Construction of a new boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center will provide visitors of all ages and physical abilities with better access to the center’s hands-on recreational and educational programs.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to report that a multi-year, collaborative effort to give thousands of Florida youth and their families better firsthand access to the Gulf of Mexico’s inshore ecosystem has cleared its last financial hurdle.

The final funds needed to construct a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach have been secured, pushing total cash donations and in-kind commitments to the project to $600,000. 

A wide range of partners have made contributions, including the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida ($240,000), Southern States Millwright Regional Council ($50,000), The Saunders Foundation ($28,000), USA ($20,000) and Frank E. Duckwall Foundation ($10,000).

In addition, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is providing construction materials and Ben Hur Construction is contributing $100,000 in in-kind construction costs. The project is being organized as part of Work Boots on the Ground – the USA’s flagship conservation program. Through this program, union volunteers are expected to donate in excess of 1,000 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $50,000 to complete the pier and boardwalk, pushing the total project value even higher.

Part of the FWC’s Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), the SYCC is a marine-focused conservation education center on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay. The campus, which includes a 6,000-square-foot education facility with an outdoor classroom, hiking and kayak trails, a wildlife observation tower, and a Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center, was developed in partnership with TECO Energy and the Florida Aquarium. More than 11,000 youth and adults participate in SYCC programs annually. 

The new boardwalk and fishing pier will flank a 2.5-acre saltwater pond and marsh adjacent to the educational complex. By design, the new structure will allow visitors to study coastal marine habitats and learn to fish with minimal impact to the environment.

More than 11,000 youth and adults participate in SYCC programs annually and will benefit from the new pier.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, their partners and union volunteers have demonstrated a deep commitment to inspiring people to care about conservation and the outdoors through their support of the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network,” said FYCCN Director Rae Waddell. “Their generosity and expertise is allowing the FWC to provide youth and families greater access to the pond for fishing, wildlife viewing and learning about conservation.”

“Getting children out into nature has become a national priority, and the boardwalk and fishing pier add significantly to the educational and recreational programs at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center,” said Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida (FWFF) President and CEO Andrew Walker.

USA national partner Pure Fishing, the country’s largest manufacturer of fishing gear, also participated in the process, donating time and product to the project’s development. “We are thrilled that ground will be broken soon on the boardwalk and pier,” said Pure Fishing Stewardship and Government Relations Director Connie Parker, who also serves on the FWFF board of directors. “This addition to Suncoast’s campus will ensure that outdoor activities and learning are accessible to all children.”

“This is not your conventional conservation project with one or two partners,” noted USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker. “This is a union-led, private-public partnership that involves multiple non-profits, labor unions, union volunteers, a state agency, state wildlife foundation and industry partners. We are thankful for everyone’s persistence and support through two years of collaboration, strategic planning and old-fashioned hard work to make it all come together.”

Wayne Jennings, Southern States Millwright Regional Council executive secretary treasurer, said the effort was all about serving the community. “Unions were created for the greater good—not just in the workplace but also the surrounding community,” he explained. “The SSMRC embraces this ideal. By partnering with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and everyone involved with this project, we hope to demonstrate that through unity, anything can become reality. When we all pull in the same direction, we can accomplish extraordinary things. We are investing in the community and hope everyone enjoys the opportunities that this project provides.”

Construction is slated to begin in February, with completion in the summer of 2019.

Union Volunteers Introduce Twin Cities Youth to Ice Fishing

January 22, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Temperatures hovering around zero didn’t stop more than 100 budding young anglers and their families from participating in the Minneapolis Area Take Kids Ice Fishing Day at scenic Coon Lake on Saturday, January 19.

A joint effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 9 and a coalition of other supporters, the free event was aimed at introducing the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of ice fishing.

Much to their delight, the youngsters received a free ice fishing rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing and game calls from Plano Synergy—all while making great memories with their families and union mentors.

“The kids had fun and the event went really well,” said local project leader Dave Morin, a member of IUEC Local 9.

More than 100 budding anglers and their families enjoyed a great time on ice at Minnesota’s Coon Lake during the Take Kids Ice Fishing Day event.

Morin reported that 25 volunteers from the local community and various unions including IUEC Local 9, area building trades and International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 209 donated 152 hours toward planning and holding the event at no cost to the participants or their families. Volunteers provided instruction and assistance, including drilling holes, rigging the participants’ new fishing poles, and offering sage advice on how to hook the big one.

After fishing, the young hardwater warriors and their families were treated to a picnic-style lunch, plus raffle prizes from hats to heaters and a brand-new Vexilar FL-8 fish locator.

“Seeing how excited the kids are getting out on the ice and the looks on their faces when they catch fish make it all worthwhile,” said Morin, a lifelong outdoorsman who was chosen to appear on a 2018 episode of the USA’s Brotherhood Outdoors television series based on his union work ethic and commitment to sharing the outdoor experience with others.

“I can’t thank the volunteers, local sponsors, union supporters and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance enough,” he added. “Without all of their help, this event wouldn’t have happened.”

Morin also noted that holding such events helps build relationships between unions and the general public, by reminding community members that union workers are friends and neighbors who enjoy giving back to our hometowns.

The event was led by IUEC Local 9 with support from other unions in the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, along with Pure Fishing, Plano Synergy, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Thorne Bros. Custom Rod and Tackle, Clam Outdoors and Vados Bait and Tackle.

“Our first-ever youth ice fishing event was a big success,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “Thanks to a diehard crew of volunteers from various local unions and the local community, participants were treated to good food, lots of prizes, free fishing gear and heated fishing shelters with holes pre-drilled and ready for them to wet their lines. The fish were fickle, but some participants managed to land a few yellow perch and a couple northern pike were caught on tip-ups. The day was filled with smiles and new friendships, and provided plenty of incentives for holding similar winter events in the future.”

Besides fishing, participants were treated to a picnic lunch, plenty of door prizes and free fishing gear.

The Minneapolis-area event was the latest in series of free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day activities held as part of Work Boots on the Ground – the USA’s flagship conservation program. In 2018, open-water fishing events were held in Marietta, Ohio, Barboursville, West Virginia, and Eau Claire, Janesville, La Crosse and Madison, Wisconsin, and collectively drew more than 800 participants. Additional events are planned for 2019.

“With more than 40 million anglers generating $35 billion in retail sales and $600 million for fisheries conservation and public water access through special excise taxes each year, it’s critical to continue recruiting new anglers,” Stroede added. “Plus, research has shown that outdoor-related activities such as fishing create participatory pathways for children to experience nature and help kindle a lifelong interest in environmental conservation.”

To view more event images on the USA’s Facebook page, CLICK HERE.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Names UAW, IUPAT and IUE-CWA Conservation Stewards of the Year

January 17, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to announce the recipients of the organization’s prestigious 2018 Conservation Steward of the Year Awards for the United Auto Workers (UAW), International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) and Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA).

UAW member Steve Cochran, IUPAT member Robert Gilmore and IUE-CWA member Jeanette Mauk were selected to receive the award on behalf of their unions for exemplary commitment to conservation and community service.

The award recognizes volunteers from each of the USA’s charter unions who have made exceptional contributions to the USA’s efforts to organize union volunteers to donate their time and unique trade skills in the preservation of North America’s outdoor heritage.

Steve Cochran

Cochran, of Ooltewah, Tennessee, is president of UAW Local 42 and has spearheaded the local’s USA Conservation Dinner fundraiser the past two years. Cochran also led a major overhaul of the Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp on Lake Chickamauga just outside of Chattanooga, in which union volunteers donated labor and $10,000 raised at the dinner to replace a dilapidated dock with a brand-new, 104-foot-long, handicap-accessible floating pier.

“It’s an honor to receive this award and represent the entire UAW as we collectively give back to conservation and our communities,” said Cochran. “We are driven to take on projects that benefit everyone and strengthen the connection between union workers and their neighbors.”

Gilmore, of Dawson, Iowa, is a member of IUPAT Local 246 and serves as business manager and secretary-treasurer of District Council 81. He has led USA fundraising dinners in Des Moines since 2015, raising more than $500,000 in the process and organized conservation projects in the area including the large-scale restoration of a handicap-accessible fishing pier and fishing house at Lake Ahquabi State Park, and construction of a large public shelter at Fort Des Moines State Park. Gilmore also launched an annual shooting event for local union members which benefits USA conservation efforts.

Robert Gilmore

Along with this year’s conservation dinner and shoot, he is planning a public shelter/log cabin project at Yellow Banks County Park and a Get Youth Outdoors event for 2019.

“I am extremely honored to be considered for this award,” said Gilmore. “The success of our local efforts is due to a great group of building trades members working together, and reflects the commitment union members have to giving back to their community. The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance makes it easy for us to join forces for the greater cause of conservation, youth outreach and promoting outdoor recreation.”

Mauk, of Dayton, Ohio, serves as the state’s AFL-CIO Field Director. She is a vested member of the IUE-CWA, which is a USA charter union, and is also a member of the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 98. Mauk has shepherded and grown the USA’s Ohio State Conservation Dinner in Columbus for seven years. She has also organized multiple projects including the installation of a new public fishing pier at Dayton’s Lakeside Lake and Ohio’s first Take Kid’s Fishing Day in Marietta. She is currently planning a youth fishing event to be held in Dayton this May.

“This is awesome,” Mauk said of receiving the award. “It means a lot. But the real rewards of being involved in the labor movement and working with the USA include giving back to our communities, fostering solidarity among union members and building bridges between unions and the public. When you see what can be accomplished when everyone pulls together, it just makes you want to do more.”

Jeanette Mauk

“Steve, Robert and Jeanette are dedicated volunteers whose leadership and fundraising efforts help us execute impactful conservation projects and safeguard the future of our outdoor traditions in their local communities and across the country,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance.

The Conservation Steward of the Year selection process begins with the nomination of potential recipients by peers or union leadership. From this pool of nominees, USA staff select individuals who have had the greatest impact on the USA’s mission, represented their unions in the most exemplary fashion and made the biggest difference in their local community.

Previous USA Conservation Steward of the Year Award recipients include: Brent Beasley and Mark Conroy, United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers; Dave Branson and Michael Cramer, United Association; Josh Craig, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; George Hogan, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; and Anthony Nicholson, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators.

USA, Union Volunteers Complete John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge Improvements

January 3, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release

The public will enjoy better access to the great outdoors at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge thanks to the completion of a series of refuge-enhancement projects supported by a coalition of partners including the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and local union workers.

Through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program (WBG), union volunteers with Insulators Local 14, Painters District Council 21 and Operating Engineers Local 542 donated 691 hours of skilled labor valued at more than $36,000 on a kayak launch dock, observation tower improvements and road repairs. Machinery usage valued at $20,000 pushed the total project value over $56,000.

Located in Philadelphia, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is America’s first urban refuge. Given its accessibility and visibility to over 1.7 million people living within 10 miles of the refuge and more than 35 million Americans living within a two-hour drive, the refuge serves as a prominent ambassador of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Due to a shortage of staff and funding, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of deferred maintenance projects stands at more than $1.3 billion, including necessary repairs to roads, trails, dams, docks and levees. Adequately supporting maintenance requirements to keep the Service’s infrastructure in good condition is necessary to ensure safe and reliable outdoor recreational access for the American public on their public lands.

Organizations like the USA, aided by union volunteers who donate their time, talents and funding raised at local conservation shoots and dinners, are working to reduce this backlog, restore America’s refuge system and improve public access to these national treasures.

“It is truly heartwarming to see how volunteers from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance have mobilized to help improve the visitor experience for everyone at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. I greatly appreciate their efforts, which are symbolic of how much the refuge is part of the local community,” said Margaret Everson, Acting Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This exemplifies the kinds of public-private partnerships that are critical for conservation in the 21st century. I look forward to seeing more volunteers back at the refuge in the spring.”

Union volunteers donated more than $56,000 in time and machinery use to complete a series of improvement projects at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

On-site refuge staff were equally appreciative. “The team from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance was a great group of professional and joyful guys that obviously love their work,” said John Heinz refuge manager Lamar Gore. “I’d love to work with them in the future, as they allowed us to improve visitor access and experience to one of the most activated public lands in the refuge system.”

USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker said the John Heinz project, like similar efforts the USA has organized across the continent, was a labor of love.

“We are honored to support the national wildlife refuge system’s efforts to protect a network of lands and waters for conservation for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans,” said Parker. “And we are very proud of the many union volunteers who donate their time and skills to complete projects on refuges and elsewhere in their local communities that impact the future of conservation and our shared outdoor heritage.” 

Parker noted that earlier last fall, the USA and Department of the Interior (DOI) gathered at John Heinz NWR to celebrate Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day and commemorate the kick-off of the refuge-enhancement projects. The event recognized the importance of such efforts, along with the important role urban national wildlife refuges play in protecting wildlife habitat and providing outdoor recreational opportunities for all Americans.

A coalition of partners including fishing industry powerhouse Pure Fishing, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Plano Synergy supported the event.


Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Applauds Farm Bill Conservation Funding

December 18, 2018 in Articles, Conservation News, Fishing, Hunting, Press Release

Flush with funding, habitat protection measures and public access incentives, the 2018 Farm Bill is being praised as a boon to wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation including hunting and fishing.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) hails passage of the 2018 Farm Bill as a major victory for conservation, wildlife and public access.

The $867 billion legislation, which passed the House and Senate last week with strong bipartisan support and veto-proof majorities, provides more than $5 billion for conservation efforts on private land and offers a number of provisions that bode well for the future of the nation’s fish and wildlife.

The good news includes a 3-million-acre increase for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), bringing the total to 27 million acres. The voluntary program offers landowners incentives to remove highly erodible and environmentally sensitive lands from production, benefiting upland wildlife habitat and water quality improvement.

Added CRP gains include language directing the secretary of Agriculture to conduct routinely scheduled signups with targeted state-to-state allocations—a critical step toward adding new acres into the program each year—while enrolling 30 percent of all CRP acreage for continuous protection. Plus, a new program called CLEAR 30 creates a pilot program for a 30-year contract option on the most highly sensitive lands such as buffers, wetlands and riparian areas.

Other conservation highlights include added funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), more Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds for wildlife, stronger “Sodsaver” grasslands protection and the retention of “Swampbuster” safeguards.

The Farm Bill also includes an expansion of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), which supports access to nearly 1 million acres of private land for hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits. 

USA conservation allies including Pheasants Forever and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership praised the new legislation, calling it a win for sportsmen, landowners, wildlife, water quality, and the nation’s economy. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue also commended Congress for bringing the Farm Bill “across the finish line” and has encouraged President Trump to sign it into law.

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance was likewise supportive of the legislation and optimistic about its implications. “The new Farm Bill’s funding and provisions are critical to preserving and enhancing our shared natural resources and treasured outdoor heritage,” he said. “They also offer landowners, agencies, non-profits and other partners expanded opportunities to join forces with the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program, which connects union volunteers with local, hands-on conservation projects that would otherwise go undone.”

To date, the USA has organized and executed more than 150 conservation, public access, outreach, education and mentoring projects across the nation through WBG, including more than 50 projects in 2018.

Phipps Joins Union Sportsmen’s Alliance as Strategic Accounts Manager

November 21, 2018 in Articles, Press Release

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has expanded its union relations department with the addition of U.S. Army combat veteran, union pipefitter and lifelong outdoorsman Sam Phipps as the organization’s new strategic accounts manager.

The USA is stepping up its union relations efforts to keep pace with a record-setting increase in projects and events aimed at protecting North America’s outdoor heritage by uniting union members for conservation, outreach and community service.

Under the guidance of Union Relations Director Walt Ingram, Phipps will manage the USA’s strategic endemic partnerships and help launch the organization’s new Partner Local Program—which provides local unions with greater opportunities to benefit their communities. He will also serve as the USA’s liaison with the Union Veteran’s Council and grassroots contact with United Association (UA) members.

A lifelong resident of Elsberry, Missouri, Phipps grew up hunting and fishing on the Mississippi River. He served his country as a U.S. Army Infantryman in Afghanistan 2011 and 2012. Upon returning home, he entered the UA’s Veterans in Piping (VIP) program, and is currently a 5th-year apprentice with UA Local 562 out of St. Louis, Missouri.

Phipps remains a diehard sportsman, and has dedicated himself to helping youth and U.S. Armed Forces veterans enjoy the outdoors by volunteering with the Union Veterans Council, The Fallen Outdoors, the USA and various mentorship efforts.

“Sam has exemplified leadership and service to his country, to the Union Veteran’s Council, as a fundraiser and organizer for The Fallen Outdoors, as a mentor to both youth and veterans, and he continues to demonstrate that commitment daily as he works as a UA fitter and a devoted husband and father,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “Sam has a proven track record of developing strong partnerships both inside and outside of the union community, and he’s demonstrated that he can grow those partnerships into something meaningful for the outdoor passions that he loves.”

Phipps is eager to tackle his new responsibilities. “I am extremely grateful to begin working for an organization whose mission means so much to me,” said Phipps. “To work in the name of conservation, community, youth, veterans and my union brothers and sisters is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Welcomes Provost Umphrey as Platinum Conservation Sponsor

November 20, 2018 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to welcome the Provost Umphrey Law Firm—a national leader in the fight for justice and workers’ rights for nearly 50 years—as a Platinum Level Conservation Sponsor. 

Texas-based Provost Umphrey has pledged $1 million over the next five years to support Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), the USA’s flagship conservation program, and conservation outreach programs benefiting the preservation of North America’s outdoor heritage.

“Members of the USA are hard workers, the type of workers that we represent every day,” says Joe Fisher, managing partner at Provost Umphrey. “As fellow outdoorsmen, we recognize the importance of supporting WBG to ensure these hard workers are able to continue their conservational and educational efforts.”

“We feel honored and blessed to have Provost Umphrey as our partner as we expand our conservation and outreach programs nationwide,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “They are hunters, anglers, shooters and conservationists who believe in our mission and strongly support our outdoor heritage. They live the lifestyle we support through our conservation efforts and they believe deeply in our mission.”

Provost Umphrey’s support will help the USA substantially increase its mission delivery. The USA is dedicated to uniting union workers to complete critical conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects in communities across the country. The organization celebrated its 100th WBG project last fall and has already coordinated the completion of more than 50 projects in 2018.

“Like the relationships with our charter unions and other allies, financial support like the Provost Umphrey sponsorship helps the USA maintain its record-setting growth as we harness the passion, power and skills of union volunteers to impact the future of conservation and our shared outdoor heritage,” Vance added.

The Provost Umphrey sponsorship follows USA partnerships with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Pure Fishing, Pheasants Forever and the National Wild Turkey Federation. The USA also recently partnered with industry leading product sales group Outtech and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting and restoring the nation’s aquatic resources by increasing participation in fishing and boating.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Celebrates Grand Opening of New Spring Hill Headquarters

November 16, 2018 in Articles, Conservation News, Press Release

Labor, community and conservation leaders gathered Nov. 16 to help the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) celebrate the grand opening of its new state-of-the-art, union-built world headquarters in Spring Hill, Tennessee. 

The festivities included an official ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house reception attended by representatives from international labor unions, the outdoor industry and the local community.

Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson (holding scissors) led the official ribbon cutting.

“We can all be proud of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s new permanent home in Spring Hill,” said Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson, a current and founding member of the USA board of directors. “This grand opening celebration marks the latest of many milestones and accomplishments too numerous to address today.”

“Watching the USA grow from a small group of dedicated union sportsmen to more than 260,000 members in 11 years is a source of great satisfaction for me, and demonstrates the importance of this organization in the lives of union members—many of whom share a love of fishing, hunting and the outdoors,” Robinson continued. “We are grateful to the USA for transforming the collective power of unions into a potent force for the protection of our natural resources and outdoor traditions for future generations to enjoy.”

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance said the new headquarters will help the organization continue expanding its mission impact. “This new permanent home is the perfect base of operations from which to increase the number and scope of our projects nationwide, as we harness the passion, power and skills of union volunteers to impact the future of conservation and our shared outdoor heritage,” he said.

USA Strategic Accounts Manager Sam Phipps, a U.S. Army combat veteran, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Located at 4800 Northfield Lane adjacent to the GM Spring Hill Manufacturing site, the new USA headquarters offers 6,100 square feet of office space and a 4,600-square-foot warehouse.

The facility is housed in the former Saturn Bank building, which the USA purchased in April of 2018—kicking off an intensive, six-month renovation campaign. Throughout the project, the organization relied heavily on skilled union labor to transform the facility into a private campus designed to foster the USA’s efforts to unite union members in community-based conservation, public access and outreach projects.

“We are also excited to be neighbors to United Auto Workers Local 1853,” Vance added. “They have been very supportive of the USA and we look forward to working with them on a variety of activities and partnerships going forward.”

Local businesses and unions involved in the project include: Anderson Piping – UA Local  572, Besco – IBEW Local 429, Bricklayers Local 8 Southeast, Going Signs – SMART Local 137, International Masonry Training and Education Foundation Local 17101, Johnson Contractors – UBC Local 1209 & Local 223, Music City Glass – DC91 Local 456, Nashville Sheet Metal – SMART Local 177, Roofing Services & Solutions – SMART Local 177, Skyline Painters – IUAP Local 456 & Local 80, Tecta America Commercial Roofing – Roofers Local 2, Terrazzo & Concrete Equipment – BAC Local 21 and War Paint Fab – IAMAW Grand Lodge.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Celebrates 200th Fundraising Shoot

November 9, 2018 in Articles, General, Press Release

USA shooting events including the Annual IBEW Southern California Sporting Clays Shoot have collectively engaged more than 17,000 participants and raised more than $9 million to protect North America’s outdoor heritage.

After providing union members and other shooting sports enthusiasts with camaraderie and exciting competition for nearly a decade, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Shooting Tour celebrated its 200th fundraising shoot November 3, 2018 with the 9th Annual IBEW Southern California Sporting Clays Shoot in Corona, California.

The roar of more than 100 shotguns marked the occasion, joined by the cheers, laughter and applause of attendees. Title sponsored by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and National Electrical Contractors Association, the Corona shoot drew 125 participants, support from over 30 local unions, union councils and vendors, and raised more than $65,000.

The event was a perfect tribute to the many successful shoots before it. Launched in 2009, the USA shooting program has to date engaged more than 17,000 participants and raised more than $9 million to protect North America’s outdoor heritage by uniting union members to volunteer in community-based conservation, public access and outreach projects.


Participants test their shooting skills while enjoying camaraderie and the thrill of competition.

USA shooting event attendees enjoy friendly competition and union fellowship while raising funds to support USA-organized efforts including the renovation of public parks, fishing piers and other facilities, wildlife habitat restoration, youth activities and mentorship campaigns.

“Our 200th shoot is a huge milestone for the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, and there are many engaged members, locals, councils, partners and volunteers that we need to thank for helping to achieve it,” said USA Director of Special Events Heather Tazelaar. “Our program has grown from three shooting events in 2009 to achieving our 200th shoot only nine short years later.”

Tazelaar noted the first shots of the USA Shooting Tour were fired under leaden skies at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Maryland. Undaunted by looming thunderstorms, 152 union members and other shooting enthusiasts gathered on June 18, 2009 for the inaugural AFL-CIO Capital Area Sporting Clays Shoot. On October 23rd of that same year, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers hosted its first USA shooting event, the Boilermakers Kansas City Sporting Clays Shoot. Both events flourished over the years and celebrated 10th annual shoots in 2018. In fact, the 2018 Boilermakers shoot set an all-time USA event record with a gross revenue of more than $201,000.


The 2018 10th Annual Boilermakers Kansas City Sporting Clays Shoot broke the $200,000 mark to set an all-time USA event fundraising record.

“Along with raising critical funds for conservation and providing participants with a great experience, one of our proudest accomplishments is hosting military shooters at no charge,” Tazelaar added. “We have been blessed over the years to host hundreds of active duty military servicemen and women, and partner with groups like the Wounded Warrior Foundation, Freedom Alliance, Fishing for Freedom and the Union Veterans Council. This year, we rolled out a new process of pinning all veterans at shoots with a USA logo veteran’s lapel pin to honor our guests who have proudly served in the U.S. Armed Forces.”

Tazelaar, who has worked with the tour since its creation, also noted the events’ strong focus on the next generation of shooters and conservationists. “Our leadership is committed to introducing youths to the outdoors and the shooting sports, so if you attend a USA shooting event, you’ll likely see youngsters on the shooting course,” she said. “Each event offers discounted youth pricing and awards a high overall youth trophy.”

Tazelaar also predicts the USA shooting program has a bright future. “The tour has united thousands of union brothers and sisters in the outdoors since 2009 and raised millions of dollars to help preserve our shared outdoor heritage,” she said. “Our 200th shoot is a wonderful milestone, but I believe it is only the first chapter in a long and successful story of union brotherhood and conservation. We are already planning to expand the tour to additional locations in 2019 and beyond.”


Spirits were high among participants at the USA’s 200th shoot in Corona, California.

USA Sponsors Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge First Shot Mentored Deer Hunt

November 2, 2018 in Articles, Hunting, Press Release

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Mentee Nasr Majid (left) pictured with his first harvest, thanks to the dedicated mentoring of Insulators Local 24 member Brian Cavey (right).

Twenty-three aspiring hunters gathered to learn how to pursue big game and provide food for themselves and their families at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Oct. 26-27 during the refuge’s inaugural First Shots deer hunt. 

The hunt was sponsored by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Maryland Department of Natural Resources and National Wild Turkey Federation. More than 60 applications were received for the 23 available opportunities to be mentored by an experienced hunter and learn hunting basics including scouting, stand placement, biology and field care. The individuals selected were all new adult hunters who did not have a support network to help them develop a new lifelong passion.

Applicants were also eager to harvest their first deer, and at press time the apprentice hunters had harvested a total of 17 deer, with additional hunting opportunities set for later in the week.

Mentee Nasr Majid (left) was introduced to the joys of hunting and taught lifelong skills by Insulators Local 24 member Brian Cavey (right).

In September of 2017, the USA partnered with the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge to conduct a sika and white-tailed deer population survey using infrared imaging technology. The long-term goal was to provide necessary population data to the refuge—allowing for more opportunities for sustainable deer hunting.

USA put out a call to local members asking them to consider volunteering as a mentor. International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 24 Apprentice Coordinator Brian Cavey wasted no time applying to be a mentor.

“I was honored and privileged to take part in Maryland’s Mentored Deer Hunting Program,” said Cavey. “What a way to introduce new hunters to the wonderful world of the outdoors and hunting.”

Cavey, of Pasadena, Maryland, is a third generation insulator—having followed in the footsteps of his retired father and grandfather. His father was also responsible for introducing him to hunting and the shooting sports—which became a lifelong bond they shared.

Cavey’s mentee, Nasr Majid, of Ellicott City, Maryland, explained that no one in his immediate family hunted—therefore he had no one to learn from but was still determined to pursue the sport. When he saw the ad for the mentored deer hunt on the Maryland DNR’s website, he was hopeful for a learning opportunity and applied.

“My driving intent in wanting to hunt is passing along a lifelong outdoor skill to my three young kids, and to be able to enjoy the most local, organic food I harvested myself,” said Majid. “With all these natural resources around us, I’ve realized that hunting and conservation go together and being involved not only benefits the individual, but provides resources for local conservation as well.”

Cavey and Majid were all smiles after their deer hunt—having successfully harvested a hind (female sika) on the last day of the hunt.

“Lo and behold we were successful in the last hour of the last day of the hunt,” said Cavey. “If you ever get the chance to take part in a new hunter mentoring program, do it! You won’t be disappointed.”

Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex Project Leader Marcia Pradines highlighted the importance of partnering on these mentoring programs.

“Helping new hunters gain confidence and experience through the First Shot mentored program not only helps grow the hunting community but also supports conservation,” said Pradines. “We at Blackwater NWR appreciate the partnership with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. The Millennium tree stands USA donated allowed our 23 mentors to safely and effectively learn to hunt.”

The USA donated $3,700 worth of Millennium Treestands for the mentored hunt—one for every hunter. Other top brands and USA partners including Carhartt, Buck Knives, Plano Synergy, Outtech and Burris also donated a variety of products for mentors and mentees to enjoy.

More photos from this event can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.

USA, Partners Host Veterans’ Fishing Event to Celebrate New Griffin Reservoir Fishing Pier

October 31, 2018 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release

Griffin Reservoir

Project partners gathered for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony dedicating the new community fishing pier.

U.S. Armed Forces veterans were honored with a fishing event Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018 at Griffin Reservoir near Scranton, Pennsylvania, to celebrate the dedication of a new public fishing pier that gives community members of all ages and physical abilities improved access to the popular impoundment.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Pennsylvania American Water, American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF) and a consortium of local labor unions hosted the event. Union volunteers assisted the veterans, each of whom received a free rod, reel and tackle courtesy of Pure Fishing, plus additional items courtesy of Carhartt. Prior to the dedication ceremony, a catered lunch was provided to all veterans and other participants.

Griffin Reservoir

Union volunteers helped local veterans enjoy the new public pier.

The dedication recognized USA volunteers from Pennsylvania American Water, Utility Workers Local 537, Electrical Workers Local 81 and Carpenters Local 445 who donated more than 400 hours—a labor value of nearly $15,000—to clear the site and construct the 18 ft. x 25 ft. handicap-accessible pier.

The project was one of three funded by a $60,000 grant from the AWCF to the USA and organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program.

AWCF and Pennsylvania American Water provided additional support to complete the driveway and parking lot, further improving access to Griffin Reservoir. The project also received funds allocated from the USA’s United Mine Workers of America Conservation Dinner in Fairmont, West Virginia.

Located in Lackawanna County, the 110-acre Pennsylvania American Water reservoir is flush with a variety of gamefish, including above-average populations of largemouth bass, bluegills and black crappies. The reservoir was opened to public shore-fishing 2011, but access was limited until the new pier was completed.

“This project is the culmination of a unique partnership that benefits our community,” said Pennsylvania American Water President Jeffrey McIntyre. “Working with both our Charitable Foundation and USA, we brought a team of volunteers together to create this beautiful spot that we are now able to share with every member of our community. Pennsylvania American Water is proud to continue its commitment to our communities and our neighbors.”

Griffin Reservoir

U.S. Navy veteran Clifford Davies told media members he is looking forward to returning to the pier on future fishing expeditions.

“The American Water Charitable Foundation was proud to support the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance with funding for this outstanding project, which will enable greater interaction with and appreciation for our water resources among the local community served by Pennsylvania American Water,” added Aldie Warnock, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the American Water Charitable Foundation.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Richard Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder were also on hand. “We’re just so proud to be part of a movement that helps our skilled union workers give back their time, energy and talents to make everyone’s lives better by being able to come out and enjoy this beautiful reservoir,” said Bloomingdale.

“We are honored to work with Pennsylvania American Water, American Water Charitable Foundation and our many hardworking union volunteers, who joined forces through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program to complete the new fishing pier,” added USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker. “This project will benefit the local community for many years to come.”

While the veterans enjoyed their lakeside meal and fall fishing trip, they were also eager to return to the new pier on future fishing adventures. “This is great,” said Clifford Davies, a retired Navy veteran with 20 years of service. “I look forward to coming back here again next summer.”

Milwaukee Sheet Metal Workers Tackle Saltwater Fishing Adventure On USA Brotherhood Outdoors TV Series

October 30, 2018 in Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Fishing, General, Press Release

Brothers Andrew and Ben Norberg of Milwaukee enjoy a Mississippi Delta saltwater fishing adventure when they appear in an episode of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Brotherhood Outdoors television series airing the week of Oct. 29 on Sportsman Channel.

The Norbergs, members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 18—part of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART)—were chosen to appear on the show based on their passion for their profession, love of the great outdoors and pride in being part of the union brotherhood.

“Union membership means a lot to me,” Ben explains. “In my opinion, it’s the only way to work in the building trades because of our safety standards, training, quality of craftsmanship and comradery. Plus, I’m proud of being a union member because I’m third generation in the same local.”

Ben Norberg with a dandy bayou beauty.

“I am a third generation sheet metal worker as well, so the union way is in my blood,” Andrew adds. “Union membership has provided me with an awesome brotherhood and allows me to provide for my family. It means everything to us.”

Both brothers are also quick to donate their time and talents to benefit their local community and conservation. Andrew is a longtime supporter of Union Sportsmen’s Alliance fundraising events that benefit conservation projects and youth outreach, and is also involved in helping his union brothers and sisters overcome substance abuse and alcoholism. Benjamin has a history in wildlife habitat projects and is a member of Local 18’s volunteer organizing committee.

Together, the brothers have enjoyed many outdoor adventures over the years, and that tradition continued when the siblings sampled some of the South’s finest inshore fishing out of Venice Fishing Lodge near Buras, Louisiana. Catch all the exciting action when the Norbergs’ episode airs Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 4 p.m. Eastern, or when it re-airs Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., Saturday at 1:30 a.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern.

Award-winning Brotherhood Outdoors is currently in its 10th season of whisking hardworking union members away on action-packed hunting and fishing adventures.

Produced by creative powerhouse Rusted Rooster Media, the series puts the spotlight on union members who are as passionate about the outdoors as they are about keeping the country running. Each episode takes viewers to the homes, communities and jobsites of these tireless American workers for an inspirational glimpse at their backstories before heading onto the water or into the field.

Andrew Norberg with a bull red of his own; one of many great fish taken on the brothers’ trip.

The 2018 Brotherhood Outdoors season features union members in pursuit of New Mexico elk, Wyoming pronghorns, Mexican permit and bonefish, Saskatchewan waterfowl and black bears, Louisiana redfish and trophy whitetails in Illinois and Ohio. Along the way, the show also offers snapshots of the USA’s community-based conservation, public access, outreach and mentorship efforts, which are executed by an all-volunteer union labor force.

For a complete listing of upcoming episodes, CLICK HERE. To watch episodes online, visit

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

Union Pipefitter Tracks Down Trophy Whitetails On USA Brotherhood Outdoors TV Series

October 22, 2018 in Articles, Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Hunting, Press Release

UA pipefitter Trent Stavely sets his sights on a trophy buck on this week’s episode of Brotherhood Outdoors.

Union pipefitter Trent Stavely of Birch Run, Michigan, journeys to Illinois in pursuit of trophy whitetail bucks when he appears in an episode of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Brotherhood Outdoors television series airing the week of Oct. 22 on Sportsman Channel.

Stavely, a member of UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 85, was chosen to appear on the show based on his passion for his profession, his love of the great outdoors and his pride in carrying on a rich family tradition by being part of the union brotherhood. 

“Being union runs in my blood,” he says. “My father, uncle and grandfather were all pipefitters, and other family members belonged to unions as well. Being a union member means more to me than words can explain.”

A diehard whitetail hunter, Stavely jumped at the chance to travel to the legendary hunting grounds of Illinois to join South Fork Outfitting in search of a mature buck. And when the hunt takes an unexpected turn, he switches gears and heads out on Lake Michigan for an epic fishing expedition.

Catch all the exciting action when Stavely’s episode airs Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 4 p.m. Eastern, or when it re-airs Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., Saturday at 1:30 a.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern.

Watch as Stavely’s whitetail hunt takes an unexpected twist.

Award-winning Brotherhood Outdoors is currently in its 10th season of whisking hardworking union members away on action-packed hunting and fishing adventures. 

Produced by creative powerhouse Rusted Rooster Media, the series puts the spotlight on union members who are as passionate about the outdoors as they are about keeping the country running. Each episode takes viewers to the homes, communities and jobsites of these tireless American workers for an inspirational glimpse at their backstories before heading onto the water or into the field.

The 2018 Brotherhood Outdoors season features union members in pursuit of New Mexico elk, Wyoming pronghorns, Mexican permit and bonefish, Saskatchewan waterfowl and black bears, Louisiana redfish and trophy whitetails in Illinois and Ohio. Along the way, the show also offers snapshots of the USA’s community-based conservation, public access, outreach and mentorship efforts, which are executed by an all-volunteer union labor force.

For a complete listing of upcoming episodes, visit To watch episodes online, visit

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

Ohio AFL-CIO, Union Volunteers Introduce Marietta Youths to Fishing

October 17, 2018 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

More than 100 local youngsters and their families participated in the Marietta Area Take Kids Fishing Day at scenic Buckeye Park in Marietta, Ohio, on Saturday, October 13. A joint effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Ohio AFL-CIO, Ohio Division of Wildlife and a consortium of other partners, the free community event was aimed at introducing the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of fishing.

Much to their delight, the youngsters received a free rod and reel courtesy of Pure Fishing and game calls from Plano Synergy. 

Ohio AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk reported that union volunteers representing IBEW Local 968 and Local 972, SMART Local 33, Southeastern Ohio CLC Laborers and Ohio AFL-CIO provided instruction and assistance, which included setting up and baiting the participants’ new fishing poles, plus offering sage advice on how to hook the big one.

After fishing, the budding anglers and their families were treated to a picnic-style lunch, which provided the perfect opportunity to swap fish stories with their mentors.

“Union members are quick to give back to their communities, especially when it involves conservation and youths,” Mauk said. “We were surprised how many local youngsters had never held a fishing pole. Hopefully now that they’ve experienced the sport and have their own fishing equipment, they’ll continue to enjoy the sport for years to come.”

Participants were eager to wet a line with their new rod-and-reel combos, donated by Pure Fishing.

“It was wonderful to have the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Ohio AFL-CIO and union volunteers come together with our local civic team and other partners to make this event a success,” added Susan Joyce, office manager for Marietta’s Public Facilities Department. “The kids loved it and a great time was had by all.”

Event sponsors included the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife, JD Waterproofing, Ohio AFL-CIO, Marietta Building Trades, Southeast Ohio Labor Council, the city of Marietta, Pure Fishing, Take Me Fishing and Plano-Synergy.

In preparation for the event, the USA leveraged an ODNR grant to stock the pond at Buckeye Park with trout to bolster already abundant populations of gamefish, including catfish, bluegills and bass. The USA also contracted aquatic vegetation-control services to combat excessive weedgrowth that made the water body difficult to fish.

“Take Kids Fishing Day events aim to educate a future generation of American anglers from diverse communities and backgrounds,” explained USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “As a bonus, Marietta residents will enjoy lasting benefits from the fish stocking and vegetation control efforts at Buckeye Park.”

The Marietta event was one of six free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day activities held in 2018 as part of Work Boots on the Ground – the USA’s flagship conservation program. The other events were held in Barboursville, West Virginia, and Eau Claire, Janesville, La Crosse and Madison, Wisconsin. In all, a total of 838 youths participated.

“With more than 40 million anglers generating $35 billion in retail sales and $600 million for fisheries conservation and public water access through special excise taxes each year, it’s critical to continue recruiting new anglers,” Stroede added. “Plus, research has shown that outdoor-related activities such as fishing create participatory pathways for children to experience nature and help kindle a lifelong interest in environmental conservation,” he said.

Collingdale Roofer, Community Volunteer Savors Saltwater Fishing Adventure On USA Brotherhood Outdoors TV Series

October 13, 2018 in Articles, Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Fishing, Press Release

Union roofer and tireless community volunteer George Matteson of Collingdale, Pennsylvania, sets his sights on saltwater fly-fishing adventure when he appears in an episode of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Brotherhood Outdoors television series airing the week of Oct. 14 on Sportsman Channel.

Matteson, a 38-year union roofer and member of Roofers and Waterproofers Local 30 of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, was chosen to appear on the show based on his lifelong commitment to his profession, the union brotherhood and community service.

Matteson is an active member of Tobyhanna Conservation Association, which promotes hunting, fishing, and improving community members’ access to the outdoors. He has also coached and mentored local youths in a variety of activities including fishing, shooting sports, football, baseball and basketball, and regularly umpires for the local Special Olympics.

An accomplished freshwater fly angler, Matteson has long dreamed of pursuing saltwater species. During this episode of Brotherhood Outdoors, these dreams are realized as Matteson travels to the legendary fishing grounds of Ascension Bay, Mexico, to tackle bonefish, permit and other gamefish out of the luxurious Palometa Club.

Matteson’s Ascension Bay adventure fulfilled his lifelong dream of pursuing saltwater gamefish on the fly.

Catch all the exciting action on the brine when Matteson’s episode airs Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 4 p.m. Eastern, or when it re-airs Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., Saturday at 1:30 a.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern.

Award-winning Brotherhood Outdoors is currently in its 10th season of whisking hardworking union members away on action-packed hunting and fishing adventures. Produced by creative powerhouse Rusted Rooster Media, the series puts the spotlight on union members who are as passionate about the outdoors as they are on keeping the country running. Each episode takes viewers to the homes, communities and jobsites of these tireless American workers for an inspirational glimpse at their backstories before heading onto the water or into the field.

The 2018 Brotherhood Outdoors season also features union members in pursuit of New Mexico elk, Wyoming pronghorns, Mexican permit and bonefish, Saskatchewan waterfowl and black bears, Louisiana redfish and trophy whitetails in Illinois and Ohio. Along the way, the show also offers snapshots of the USA’s community-based conservation, public access, outreach and mentorship efforts, which are executed by an all-volunteer union labor force.

For a complete listing of upcoming episodes, CLICK HERE. To watch episodes online, visit

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

Union Prison Inspector Pursues Big Buck Bowhunting Dreams On Brotherhood Outdoors TV Series

October 3, 2018 in Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Hunting, Press Release

Veteran prison inspector and longtime union member Stephen Noll of Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, sets his sights on trophy Ohio whitetail bucks when he appears in an episode of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Brotherhood Outdoors television series airing Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 through the week of Oct. 7 on Sportsman Channel.

Noll, a prison inspector for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and member of AFSCME Council 13, was chosen to appear on the show based on his commitment to his profession and local community during 17 years of service.

Noll was introduced to firearms hunting by his father at the age of 16, but didn’t take up archery deer hunting until 2011 while recovering from a series of surgeries. He quickly became a diehard archer in hot pursuit of his dream to put a big buck on lockdown.

During this episode of Brotherhood Outdoors, Noll travels to the legendary whitetail country outside Killbuck, Ohio, to hunt with Wolf Creek Outfitters. Deer are plentiful but mature bucks prove elusive as the clock winds down on Noll’s adventure.

Emotions are high and the waiting games are long until opportunity finally knocks. “This was the hunt of a lifetime,” Noll recalls. “The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance did it right and gave me an experience I’ll never forget—ever.”

Catch all the exciting action when Noll’s episode airs Saturday Oct. 6 at 6:30 p.m. as part of Sportsman Channel’s Buck Fever Marathon. It airs again Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 4 p.m. Eastern, then again Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., Saturday at 1:30 a.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern.

Award-winning Brotherhood Outdoors is currently in its 10th season of whisking hardworking union members away on action-packed hunting and fishing adventures. Produced by creative powerhouse Rusted Rooster Media, the series puts the spotlight on union members who are as passionate about the outdoors as they are about keeping the country running. Each episode takes viewers to the homes, communities and jobsites of these tireless American workers for an inspirational glimpse at their backstories before heading onto the water or into the field.

The 2018 Brotherhood Outdoors season also features union members in pursuit of New Mexico elk, Wyoming pronghorns, Mexican permit and bonefish, Saskatchewan waterfowl and black bears, Louisiana redfish and trophy whitetails in Illinois and Ohio. Along the way, the show also offers snapshots of the USA’s community-based conservation, public access, outreach and mentorship efforts, which are executed by an all-volunteer union labor force.

For a complete listing of upcoming episodes, CLICK HERE. To watch episodes online, visit

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

Jacksonville Firefighter Pursues Canadian Black Bears On Brotherhood Outdoors TV Series

September 27, 2018 in Brotherhood Outdoors TV, General, Hunting, Press Release

John Long takes aim at wilderness adventure and trophy bruins on Brotherhood Outdoors.

Firefighter John Long of Jacksonville, Florida, pursues trophy black bears in the Canadian wilderness when he appears in an episode of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Brotherhood Outdoors television series airing the week of Oct. 1 on Sportsman Channel.

Fire Captain Long, a longtime member of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and IAFF Firefighters Local 122, was chosen to appear on the show based on his unwavering commitment to his local community and citizens in need nationwide during 29 years of service.

A lifelong Jacksonville resident, Long has traveled the country responding to disasters with the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Team. In fact, at press time, Long was deployed in South Carolina with his K-9 partner Stone, working with FEMA as a canine search team in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Long also serves as Public Relations/Communications Director for Local 122 and Sergeant-At-Arms for the Florida Professional Firefighters.

“He honestly is my hero, because he will take the shirt off his back for you,” said his daughter, Jessica Anderson. “His passion is to make sure everyone is OK before he is.”

As this episode of Brotherhood Outdoors chronicles, Long travels to the Saskatchewan backcountry three hours north of Saskatoon twice in search of a trophy bruin. During his first dream bear hunt in the fall, Mother Nature throws a wrench in his plans. But a redemption hunt in the spring gives Long a fresh start and a different ending.

Catch all the exciting action when Long’s episode airs Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 4 p.m. Eastern, or when it re-airs Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., Saturday at 1:30 a.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern.

Award-winning Brotherhood Outdoors is currently in its 10th season of whisking hardworking union members away on action-packed hunting and fishing adventures. Produced by creative powerhouse Rusted Rooster Media, the series puts the spotlight on union members who are as passionate about the outdoors as they are on keeping the country running. Each episode takes viewers to the homes, communities and jobsites of these tireless American workers for an inspirational glimpse at their backstories before heading onto the water or into the field.

The 2018 Brotherhood Outdoors season also features union members in pursuit of New Mexico elk, Wyoming pronghorns, Mexican permit and bonefish, Saskatchewan waterfowl and black bears, Louisiana redfish and trophy whitetails in Illinois and Ohio. Along the way, the show also offers snapshots of the USA’s community-based conservation, public access, outreach and mentorship efforts, which are executed by an all-volunteer union labor force.

For a complete listing of upcoming episodes, CLICK HERE.

To watch episodes online, visit

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

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Dedicates Newly Renovated Vilas Park Fishing Pier 

September 19, 2018 in Conservation News, Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Union volunteers join together to celebrate the completion of the USA’s Vilas Park Work Boots on the Ground fishing pier project, improving access to the lake for all.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), volunteers from the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin (BTC) and a crowd of union and community leaders, volunteers, park staff and youths gathered at the newly renovated Vilas Park Fishing Pier in Madison, Wisconsin, on September 14, 2018 to celebrate better public access to popular Lake Wingra.

Using funds raised at the USA’s annual AFL-CIO, BTC Madison Area Conservation Dinner, more than 50 local union volunteers teamed up with the USA and the city of Madison to transform the park’s original floating fishing pier—which was languishing in disrepair in a city storage yard—into a safe structure fully accessible to residents of all physical abilities.

More than $28,000 in materials and nearly $10,000 in union volunteer labor were donated to the project, which was organized under through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program. Volunteers coordinated transportation of the pier to one of the local union shops where over the course of a cold Wisconsin winter, numerous repairs were made, including the installation of new decking and a sturdy railing system.

In preparation for installation of the renovated pier, volunteers and union contractors also designed and constructed a pier abutment as well as a new sidewalk and steps on the edge of Lake Wingra.

Four-year-old Natalie Paull of Madison caught her first fish while fishing with her father, Adam, within minutes of the dedication ceremony.

As a testament to the access the new pier provides community members to Wingra’s panfish, bass and other gamefish, the structure was in use within minutes of the dedication. As union representatives and volunteers packed up to leave, Adam Paull of Madison took his four-year-old daughter Natalie fishing on the new pier. Thanks to the abundant and hungry sunfish schooling a short cast from the dock, she quickly reeled in the first fish of her life.

Natalie was ecstatic, while her father was grateful to the union volunteers, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and other project partners for providing a place to create such priceless memories. “This is great,” he said. “The pier is in the perfect place for us to enjoy the lake together and catch fish.”

City officials were likewise grateful. “I’m deeply appreciative to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and all the trades for making this happen,” said Madison Parks Superintendent Eric Knepp. “The high quality of craftsmanship displayed by these union volunteers is a testament to their commitment to this project and to their community, and marks the continuation of a longstanding tradition of union workers giving back to the city of Madison.”

“The Building Trades Council has been working with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for six years to raise funds for conservation projects and Take Kids Fishing youth events,” said project leader BCT Executive Director Dave Branson. “We feel this fishing pier was a good project to give back to the community and make the lake accessible to everyone.”

“The Vilas Park pier project is an excellent example of how local unions are positively impacting their communities and the future of conservation through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program,” added USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “This pier provides improved and safer public access for all residents to enjoy the fishery and beauty of Lake Wingra.”

In an outstanding display of solidarity and community service, a coalition of volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and skills to this project: Ironworkers (IW) Local 383, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) Local 13, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) Local 314, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (IAHFIAW) Local 19, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 159, International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 132, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 7, Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Locals 113 and 330, Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 18, Badger Sheet Metal, Forse Consulting, Ideal Crane, Sullivan Design Build, Terra Engineering and Construction, and Wiedenbeck, Inc.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Expands Youth Events With Tennessee Dove Hunt

September 14, 2018 in Articles, Conservation News, Hunting, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Mentored hunts are one of many youth outreach events supported by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a perennial supporter of community-based efforts to introduce youths to hunting, conservation and the great outdoors, and the organization was proud to add Tennessee’s 13th Annual Maury County-Steve Brown Memorial Youth Dove Hunt to its list of sponsored events. 

Held Saturday, Sept. 8 at the Middle Tennessee Research and Education Center outside Spring Hill, the hunt was organized by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Wildlife Officers Association and a coalition of local organizations and businesses.

More than 40 boys and girls ages 9-17 were treated to a full day of outdoor fun and education capped off by exciting wingshooting over well-managed fields. The event included registration, lunch, clay target shooting, door prizes, safety orientation and the dove hunt, which concluded at sunset. The USA provided backpacks, Plano Synergy game calls and a variety of door prizes.

“Activities like this are a great way to get youths started hunting,” said event organizer TWRA Wildlife Officer Ryne Goats. “Since wildlife agencies in Tennessee and elsewhere are funded primarily by hunting and fishing license sales and taxes on the sale of related equipment, getting youth involved in hunting and fishing also promotes the conservation of all types of fish and wildlife.”

“These types of youth mentored events are critical to the future of hunting, angling and recreational shooting in our nation,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance, who was on hand at the hunt. “State agencies across the nation provide these opportunities for young people and their families to experience first-hand the fun, rewarding and unifying aspects of being outdoors with other like-minded people.   

“I encourage everyone to not only participate in these events, but also to find out how you can support and volunteer in your local area,” he added. “The USA is honored to sponsor and support events like this one in not only Tennessee, but many other states as well.”

More than 40 youths participated in the 13th Annual Maury County-Steve Brown Memorial Youth Dove Hunt Sept. 8.

“Funds and manpower for these kind of events are extremely limited,” Goats noted. “So assistance from the USA and other supporters is a tremendous help in making them a success.”

Saturday’s dove hunt was the latest in a series of USA-supported events in 2018. More than 700 youngsters were introduced to the joys of fishing in June during free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day events orchestrated by the USA and teams of dedicated union volunteers.

The organization also organizes Get Youth Outdoor Day events, which educate attendees about hunting, firearms safety, recreational shooting, wildlife and conservation through hands-on activities and demonstrations. 

The USA also recently received a $30,000 grant from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) to hold a series of pilot events through its Work Boots on the Ground program in which local union volunteers trained in firearms safety instruction introduce participants to shooting disciplines including trap, sporting clays, riflery and archery. The events are part of NSSF’s successful First Shots program, which teaches first-time shooters about firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports.

The first of these pilot events is set for this Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 in concert with the USA’s 7th Annual Get Youth Outdoors Day. It will be held at Wild Marsh Sporting Clays Shooting Facility in Clear Lake, Minnesota. Additional events are planned for Tennessee and Texas in 2019.

In addition, the USA and NSSF launched a reward program to thank union members who mentor newcomers to hunting, target shooting and firearms safety in 2018. Working through the USA’s national grassroots support system, international union partners and their locals, the program has already identified more than 1,500 mentors and sent each a complimentary Buck 364 Rival I knife customized with both organization’s logos.

Union Volunteers, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Aid Wyoming Elk Management

August 22, 2018 in Conservation News, General, Hunting, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Union volunteers recently collaborated with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to create a custom fence-crossing structure near Etna, Wyoming, that helps wildlife managers maintain healthy herds of free-ranging elk while protecting farmers’ crops from damage.

Volunteers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 322 out of Casper donated 48 hours of skilled labor to install a gate-like “elk jump” along a fence that guides Wyoming elk during migrations between their high-country summer range and lower elevation winter feeding areas.

The volunteers reconfigured the fenceline, set poles, built a retaining wall and erected fencing. Lower Valley Energy provided a boom truck to aid in setting the poles during the project, which was organized under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program.

Derek Lemon, habitat and access coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Jackson Region, said the structure will make it easier for managers to safely drive wayward Wyoming elk back onto the right side of the fence.

“An 8-foot-high fence runs roughly 20 miles along the boundary between public and private lands to facilitate elk movement from the mountains to state-run winter feeding grounds,” he explained. “When elk get on the wrong side of the fence, they damage crops and raid haystacks. In response, state game wardens are called in to push the animals back to where they need to be.”

Wyoming Elk

Volunteers secure a retaining wall to the “elk jump” structure.

Elk jumps, which serve as one-way gates, allow wardens to avoid chasing elk all the way to the end of the fence. “An elk jump is basically an opening in the fence with a corner and small ramp on one side, and six-foot drop on the other,” said Lemon. “The animals are willing to jump down to cross the fence, but rarely pass through in the other direction.”

Completion of the new crossing earlier this month considerably shortens the distance wardens must push elk back to public land. “This reduces stress on the animals and allows wardens to focus more time on other enforcement duties,” said Lemon.

“The project was on our to-do list, but we didn’t have the manpower to make it happen,” he added. “Having union volunteers and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance step in was fantastic because it allowed us to get the job done right away. It’s a win for the state, our wildlife and the local community.”

“When we learned of the need for this project, IBEW members jumped at the chance to help,” said IBEW Local 322 member Greg Moyer, who helped lead the construction effort.

“Union members are always interested in doing projects that improve the quality of life in our communities—and are particularly passionate about work that involves hunting, fishing, conservation and mentorship,” Moyer continued. “I’m grateful the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Work Boots on the Ground exist to help us with this community involvement.”

“Wyoming’s wintertime elk feeding program dates back more than a century and is critical to avoiding winter die-offs from starvation,” added USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “The USA is proud to help union members assist the Game and Fish Department in maintaining an abundance of elk that can be enjoyed by all citizens.”

Wyoming Elk

Members of IBEW Local 322 jumped at the chance to help the local elk herd and safeguard farmers’ crops.

USA, NSSF Join Forces to Introduce Youths to the Shooting Sports

August 20, 2018 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground


shooting sports

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) are joining forces to introduce youths and their families to the enjoyment and rewarding experiences of safe and responsible recreational shooting.

Utilizing a $30,000 NSSF grant, the USA will hold a series of three pilot events through its Work Boots on the Ground program in which union volunteers trained in firearms safety instruction provide participants hands-on introductions to shooting disciplines including trap, sporting clays, riflery and archery.

Thanks to the NSSF grant and funds raised at USA shoots, dinners and other events, all supplies including eye and hearing protection, firearms and ammunition will be provided at no charge.

The USA pilot events will be part of NSSF’s successful First Shots program, which introduces first-time shooters to firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports.

The first pilot event is set for Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 in concert with the USA’s 7th Annual Get Youth Outdoors Day—a free event open to boys and girls ages 9 to 17. The event will be held at Wild Marsh Sporting Clays Shooting Facility in Clear Lake, Minnesota, just north of Minneapolis. Attendees will also learn about wildlife, conservation and other outdoor traditions.

Additional events are planned for Tennessee and Texas in 2019.

“We’re excited to launch this pilot project with NSSF,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “American union workers are as passionate about passing our shared outdoor heritage to the next generation as they are about hunting, fishing and shooting. USA Work Boots on the Ground youth projects have engaged thousands of youths, and NSSF’s support will assist us in further expanding these efforts.”

In turn, NSSF Director of Shooting Range Services Zach Snow said his organization is eager to tap union members’ love of the outdoors and spirit of volunteerism in NSSF’s quest to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports by increasing participation.

“Research has revealed a high percentage of hunters and shooters in union households,” he explained. “Working with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance to help these folks create new shooters is a great fit for First Shots. We look forward to seeing this project grow and thrive.”

The USA-NSSF alliance follows USA partnerships with fishing industry powerhouse Pure Fishing and conservation champions Pheasants Forever and the National Wild Turkey Federation. The USA also recently partnered with industry leading product sales group Outtech and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting and restoring the nation’s aquatic resources by increasing participation in fishing and boating.

“Like the relationships with our charter unions and other allies, these agreements help the USA maintain its record-setting growth as we harness the passion, power and skills of Labor of union volunteers to impact the future of North America’s outdoor heritage in communities across the country,” said Vance.

IBEW, USA Member Aids Fishery Research That May Benefit Anglers Nationwide

August 17, 2018 in Articles, Fishing, General

fishery research

USA member Dave Halverson holds a healthy Iowa muskie captured for tagging and future study.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance member Dave Halverson is helping complete ground-breaking fishery research that could help other anglers catch more muskies and walleyes on reservoirs across the continent.

Halverson, 35, hails from Truro, Iowa, a short cast south of Des Moines. A member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 347, the hard-working electrician has been charged up over muskies for years.

“I love their absolute power and elusiveness,” he explained. “The feeling I get from watching a giant muskie chase down and inhale a lure at boatside is incomparable—and watching the fish swim away after release keeps me coming back.”

Halverson’s passion for muskies led him to help launch the Mid-Iowa chapter of Muskies, Inc., a national nonprofit dedicated to improving muskie fishing.

“One of our main goals is promoting muskie conservation through catch-and-release,” he said. “We educate people that these fish are much better off in the water, where others can enjoy them for years to come, than they are on a dinner plate or a wall.”

fishery research

Halverson assists researchers inside a tagging station.

But Halverson didn’t stop there. He and fellow club members donated time and financial support to a 5-year fishery research study by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Iowa State University that could have implications for muskie and walleye management across the country.

“We provided volunteers to help biologists capture, tag and release fish this spring,” Halverson said. “To date, we’ve volunteered approximately 35 hours, but expect that figure to reach 200 hours by the project’s completion. We also secured a $2,000 Muskies, Inc. grant and used it to purchase 1,200 tags for the study.”

According to Iowa DNR biologist Ben Dodd, the research targets the dynamics of fish loss in man-made reservoirs due to escapement over dam spillways and is being conducted on central Iowa’s Brushy Creek and Big Creek lakes.

“Muskie abundance in Big Creek Lake declined following heavy spring rains from 2007 to 2010,” said Dodd. “The fish were going over the spillway and scattering downstream. In 2012 we partnered with the Corps of Engineers, Big Creek State Park, Recycled Fish and Central Iowa Anglers to install a fish barrier at the Big Creek spillway.”

The barrier proved effective, but Dodd and Dr. Michael Weber of Iowa State University suspected some fish were still going with the flow. “To manage the lake so that it provides quality muskie fishing without throwing the food chain out of balance, we needed to know more about the number of fish lost and the variables related to escapement,” he said. “Walleyes are another important gamefish species affected by this issue, so we are studying them as well.”

fishery research

The study aims to determine the effectiveness of this fish barrier placed at the spillway Big Creek Lake.

Fishery research began in the spring of 2016, as DNR biologists and Iowa State researchers captured muskies and walleyes in both lakes and implanted tags that can be detected by automated readers located on the spillway of each lake. “Big Creek has a fish barrier and Brushy Creek does not, so the findings will help us compare the two scenarios and evaluate the effectiveness of the barrier,” Dodd said.

Halverson and other Mid-Iowa Muskies club members joined the fishery research effort in 2018. “Dave and other volunteers assisted us with electrofishing and netting fish, transporting them to a tagging station on shore and releasing them back into deep water in the middle of the lakes,” said Dodd. “These guys have been great to work with. It’s a nice partnership that enhances our ability to conduct valuable research with limited resources.”

While the study still has two years to go, Dodd said early results are already enlightening. “We’ve lost 170 tagged walleyes and 25 tagged muskies from Brushy Creek (no barrier), compared to just 13 walleyes and 5 muskies on Big Creek,” he said. “So, the barrier is definitely making a difference.”

The fishery research data also provides a wealth of useful information on each escapee. “We can tell the size, age and gender of the tagged fish that pass through the readers. We are also gathering data on other pertinent environmental factors, including water level, time of year and water temperature,” said Dodd. “On Big Creek, we’re really only losing a small number of younger fish and the larger, more valuable fish are staying in the lake.”

Dodd believes the study’s results could someday guide walleye and muskie management on impoundments far from the Iowa study area. “We will eventually present our research, which could help other fisheries biologists and ultimately improve fishing opportunities in reservoirs around the country,” he said.

For Halverson, such a prospect makes time spent volunteering even more rewarding. “It can seem like a second full-time job now and then,” he laughed. “But it’s definitely worth the effort.”

Halverson also has a message for his union brothers and sisters. “If you’re passionate about an outdoor sport or pursuing a particular species of fish or wildlife, get involved with an organization to protect that tradition and pass it along to future generations,” he says. “The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Muskies, Inc. are two examples of groups that can help you make a difference.”

Written by Dan Johnson

Catching Summertime Crappie and Catfish Day and Night

August 16, 2018 in Articles, Fishing, General


Summertime is made for inviting friends and family for a fish fry. Two delicious fish to catch day or night are crappie and catfish. These fish bite best when the current is running. Or, in a lake without current, both crappie and catfish will hold on the thermocline, a place where cool water from the bottom and the warmer top layer water meet along the edges of underwater creek and river channels, humps, drop-offs, brush and ledges.

Taking Summer Crappie Day and Night Crappie and Catfish

Avid crappier Jonathan Phillips of Wetumpka, Alabama, knows that summertime crappie will relate to underwater structure that can’t be spotted without a depth finder and uses these tactics when he fishes crappie tournaments all across the nation.

“I like a Humminbird Helix 10 HD side scanning and down scanning depth finder,” Phillips says.

Since Phillips generally fishes offshore in a main lake or the main part of the river where jet skiers and pleasure boaters create waves, he explains, “Instead of using multiple poles and spider rigging during the summer, I’ll fish with a single pole with either a double- or a single-minnow rig straight down to where I’ve located the crappie with my depth finder.”

He also uses maps like Navionics and Humminbird’s LakeMaster, searches for contour bottom changes and scans with his depth finder around underwater structure to know where crappie are ganged-up.

Phillips compares catching summer crappie in deep water to picking cotton. “Start at the top of the school, catch as many crappie as possible, move deeper into the cover or the ledge, and then catch the center of the crappie school to keep from spooking other crappie.”

Phillips usually has 50-100 crappie locations identified and says, “I never try to catch all the crappie on any Crappie and Catfishlocation.”

When he drops a buoy on top of a school, he explains that he wants his minnow, “dancing right above the crappie. I’ll tight-line with live minnows and fish larger-profile jigs, due to the big size of the spawned shad. You must keep your minnows alive with a battery-powered aerator in a cooler containing ice treated with Better Bait Systems to get rid of chlorine and the minnows’ ammonia problem.”

The amount of weight Phillips fishes depends on depth and current, primarily 1/2- to 3/4-ounce on 8-pound-test hi-vis main line with a slip sinker above a barrel swivel and 18 inches of 6-pound leader with a #1 wire crappie hook at its end. If vertical jigging, Phillips fishes a chartreuse-colored jig or a jig with a chartreuse tail, doesn’t tip his jigs with minnows and uses fish attractant.

To avoid the heaviest boat traffic from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm, he often fishes with his wife Alicia at night near deep-water boat docks with lights that attract baitfish and crappie. However, they’ve learned the best summer crappie bite often occurs from just before daylight until 10:00 am.

Crappie fishermen across the country use these methods of catching crappie as well as longline trolling with jigs and/or crankbaits, fishing small inline spinners, side-pulling hair jigs tipped with minnows, shooting docks with jigs and fishing shallow water and deep water blowdowns with minnows.

Catching Daytime Summer CatfishCrappie and Catfish

Everyone knows tailraces are productive places to catch summer catfish in the daytime. Dams are summertime catfish-catching sites, and locks offer long concrete walls leading into the lock where baitfish and catfish hold. Motor up to the lock wall, run beside the wall with a depth finder to spot baitfish and structure, kill your motor and start fishing.

Most dams have wing walls in front of their floodgates, coming from the base of the dam out into the water, with the concrete above the water extending below the water. The end of an underwater wing wall often will have a hole that’s been created due to the tremendous amount of current at the end of the wing wall when the floodgates are open, and/or water comes over the dam. Below the dam too, the underwater rock piles will yield catfish.

Catfish may hold in the slack water created when turbines run side by side, and the underwater rocks break the current, forming a slack-water groove or seam. Bumping the bottom for catfish there is very effective.

Many anglers fish for cats with abrasion-resistant 15-20-pound line and check their lines every time they catch a catfish to identify the damage done by the catfish. The sharp, bony spines on a catfish’s dorsal and pectoral fins will nick and cut line. Some catfishermen will move 10 – 12 inches up the line, pinch on a 1/2-ounce split shot, tie a #2 Eagle Claw Pattern 84 hook onto the end of the line, and fish with live threadfin shad minnows. This size hook allows you to hook the threadfin shad through the nose without killing it.

Taking Big Catfish by Day and NightCrappie and Catfish

During the summer whether the current’s running or not, Phil King of Corinth, Mississippi, who’s won numerous national catfish contests, as well as participated in international catfish competitions, searches for monster sized catfish – 12–100 pounders – in holes in the bottoms of lakes and rivers by day and at night.
“I use my depth finder to locate holes in the bottom and often can spot catfish holding in front of a hole, in a hole or in a second drop-off in the hole,” King explains. “I define a hole in the bottom as a small depression that may only be 4–5 feet wide and 6–10 feet long, or it may be a deep bottom break that runs for 1/2-mile downriver.”

To fish the holes, King likes a two hook rig baited with fresh chicken livers, sometimes dipping them in red food coloring. Here’s how King rigs to fish holes. His main line is 60-65-pound test braided line with a heavy duty three-way swivel tied to it. Coming off the second eye of the three-way swivel, King ties 2 feet of 60-pound monofilament line and a No. 5/0 or a No. 8/0 circle hook. On the bend of the hook, he attaches 2-4 inches of 60-pound monofilament line and adds a second hook, since he fishes for very large catfish. Coming from the third eye of the three-way swivel, he ties 2 feet of 60-pound monofilament and attaches a 1-4-ounce lead sinker, depending on the current.

“When I go downriver to fish holes, I think about how to position my boat and how to fish those holes,” King reports. “I’ll start fishing above the hole and bump my baits back with a controlled drift, using my trolling motor, so that I can catch fish in front of the hole first. If the cats are in a feeding mode, they’ll be out of the hole and from 5–10 feet out in front of the lip of the break. If they’re not in a feeding mode, they’ll be down in the hole.Crappie and Catfish

“Let your lead and your bait drift back about 40 to 60 feet from the boat as you bump the bottom and while you’re holding your boat against the current with your trolling motor. You want to feel your lead tag the bottom slightly as you walk the bait back to the edge of the hole and allow the lead and the bait to fall into the hole. Continue to bump the lead back along the bottom of the hole.”

To catch the very big cats, remain silent in the boat anywhere around the hole. King has discovered that the bigger a catfish is, the more sensitive it is to sound. Then you can catch, photograph and release a monster catfish.

*** Be sure to check the regulations in your state about the sizes of catfish you can keep.

Written by John E. Phillips 

8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors

August 13, 2018 in Articles, General

Growing up in a little northern Wisconsin town, my brother, John, and I were wild kids that spent all of our free time in the woods and waters near our home. There was no internet then, we didn’t have cable TV and we lived to be outside. For us, every day was a new and exciting adventure of our own choosing—we swam, climbed trees, caught frogs and snakes, built stick forts and let our unbound imaginations steer our lives. We were untamed and unencumbered by all of the woes of the world. We were wild children!

Our kids today have it much tougher. The invention of the internet, smart phones, Netflix and 200 channel TVs are robbing them of the wild upbringings we had. Today’s plugged-in, tuned-in, logged-on world is inhibiting their natural adventuresome spirits. The good news is that it’s not too late—grand adventures still await those who seek them. Here are 8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors.

8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors:

1. Camping8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors

Camping is simple, easy, affordable and fun. A cheap tent, a couple sleeping bags and, most importantly, a positive attitude and you can turn an overnight in the backyard into a wild adventure to a new, undiscovered place. If your kids are really young, start with a night in the tent in the living room, then in the backyard and then to an actual campground. Ease into it, and avoid camping if it’s wet or cold until they are seasoned campers. A roaring campfire and headlamp for each kid helps ease the fear of the dark. Lots of food and snacks keep tummies quiet and happy too. Campgrounds are plentiful and easy to find with a little research. Our family prefers National Forest campgrounds because they are typically more remote and have more distance between the campsites. Most feature a lake or other natural point of interest that can provide additional opportunities. Check out to find a campsite that suits your comfort level.

2. Kayaking8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors

The surge of interest in small kayaks is easy to understand once you paddle one. People young and old love being on the water, and a 10 or 12-foot kayak is affordable and easy to paddle. Their small size, slow speed and quiet propulsion provide a more intimate connection to the water and the wildlife that surrounds it. Our family frequently paddles the rivers around our home. Getting a few friends to join in adds to the enjoyment and helps with pre-positioning vehicles. We typically plan two to four hour paddles starting upstream and ending at a bridge or take-out where we can leave a vehicle. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy in a scenic spot and a waterproof camera to capture the scenery. Websites like can help you find a paddling adventure near you.

3. Geocaching

Geocaching offers a simple but thrilling premise to kids. Use a simple GPS device to find hidden treasures! Kids and adults love the allure of navigating and searching not knowing what will be found at the cache. Geocaches are everywhere; I bet you have one within a few blocks of your home. Visit the website and set up a free account. Then search for caches that you would like to look for. Typically, most caches will have marked trinkets that you can take and then relocate to a different cache. You can log your finds on the website and begin marking off geocaches found on your family trips. Plus, it is a good excuse for you to get that new GPS you have been thinking about too.

4. Campfire Cooking8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors

Cooking over a campfire brings out something primal in kids. The simple act of cooking a meal becomes a lesson about where their food comes from. There are lots of fun campfire recipes, but simple hobo meals like a hot dog on a stick or s’mores make it fun and easy to cook over an open fire. If you take the time to plan ahead and do a little of the prep work ahead of time, cooking over a campfire can be enjoyable for adults too. Always have a backup plan to feed the hungry if things get burned or don’t turn out. In Boy Scouts, we start the kids with basic, fun foods and, within a couple years, they are making gourmet meals in Dutch ovens over open fires.

5. Fly a kite

Modern kites have come a long way from the old cross framed ones we used to make from dowels and paper and then promptly crash. The new aerodynamic delta designs make modern kites easy to fly and beautiful to watch. For a young child, it is hard to beat the magical experience of holding onto a string while a kite pulls and dances in the sky on the other end. Kite flying is affordable, and the equipment can be used over and over again. Pick up a couple of kite kits and help the kids build and decorate them. They will love the time spent with you in anticipation of watching something they have made soar high into the blue sky. Have the kids help watch the forecast for a day with some steady winds. Then head to the local park or open space for a couple of hours of fun.

6. Rock Climbing 8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors

Getting into rock climbing is not difficult, and good spots can be found all over. Rock climbing doesn’t need to be as extreme as highly technical climbs on steep pitches. Instead, think about climbing lower angle rocks and hillsides. With some basic safety training, single belay line, a simple harness and helmet, you can be off for a grand adventure. I recommend hiring a guide the first couple of times to learn the basics and experiment with equipment. Typically, they are affordable and excited to teach the sport to newcomers. The big thing to remember is not to over complicate it. Kids naturally are curious climbers. Just add in a measure of safety, and the enjoyment of a day exploring rocks will trump Snapchat any day.

7. Take a hike8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors

Turn a simple walk in the woods into an adventuresome hike exploring a new and wild place. Bring the camera, binoculars and a birding book to maximize the time on the trail. Make a game out of who can spot the most bird and wildlife species. The level of enjoyment on a hike is totally set by you. If you bring a level of excitement and discovery, the kids will too. Bring along a pack with plenty of snacks, water, sunscreen and bug spray. Each hike can be framed as a new journey with untold wonder with you as the guide. Point out things that might be obvious to you but not the kids, such as plants, animals or landscape features. This is your chance to impart your woodsman knowledge onto the next generation.

8. Photography

Photography is a way for kids to look at the outdoors through a totally different lens. A camera can steer kids to discover new and beautiful things they might not normally notice. Tell them you are taking them on a photo safari. Then go to a local natural area to explore with camera in hand. Set out on your safari to discover and document bugs, birds, flowers, landscapes, sunsets and wildlife of all kinds. Digital cameras can be found in a variety of price ranges to fit your budget. I recommend spending as much as you can afford on a camera. Cell phone cameras still lag in picture quality when compared to a quality DSLR camera, and the point is to get the kids away from their phones and connected to the world around them. The photos you take together while on your safari will forever remind you about your time together venturing into new and wild places.8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors

Take this list of ideas to the kids. Then, hide their smart phones and get outside to pursue some adventures in the great outdoors. Fun, exciting and engaging outdoor activities bring out their imaginations and will help them find their inner wild child.

Written by Bob Barteck, IAFF Local 425 Alumni


Shotgunning Tips to Help You Break More Clays and Drop More Birds

August 7, 2018 in Articles, General, Hunting

shotgun shooting tips

Accuracy doesn’t happen by accident. Whether you’re on the firing line at a trap range or taking aim as a rooster pheasant flushes in the field, there are tricks to hitting the target.

To boost your odds of making every shot count, we offer the following five timely shotgun shooting tips. Keep in mind there’s no time like the present to put these shotgun shooting tips into practice, since August is National Shooting Sports Month, organized by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance allies at the National Shooting Sports Foundation. For more information and to locate a shooting facility in your area, CLICK HERE.

Get Fit

It doesn’t matter whether you’re gunning for upland game or clay pigeons, proper shotgun fit is crucial to consistent success. The reason is simple: If your gun doesn’t fit, it might not shoot where you’re looking.

A number of factors come into play, including length of pull, pitch and drop at both comb and heel. Good news is, simple tests can help you check fit, such as lining up the beads to form a figure-eight and making sure you’re not crawling up a short stock or over-extending your form due to a protracted length of pull. If you have any doubts about a shotgun’s fit, work with a reputable gunsmith for a solution.

Make Yourself Comfortable

Shooters who find their comfort zone hit more targets. One of the best ways to achieve stress-free shotgunning is to become intimately familiar with your firearm, so there’s no fumbling or hesitation at the moment of truth. Practice is key to making this happen, so don’t skimp on range time.

A comfortable shooting position also boosts success. Shooting coaches like the legendary Rick Marshall Jr. recommend finding your most comfortable position and then assuming it whenever possible, so you can swing the barrel with no restriction of movement.

shotgun shooting tips

Trap shooting ace Rick Marshall advises shooters to stay focused and be comfortable, confident and familiar with their firearms.

Stay Focused

Total concentration helps avoid misses fueled by distraction. When you begin to mount the gun, focus on seeing what you want to hit. Toward that end, Marshall suggests using a catch phrase to keep your mind on point.

The words are up to you. Since the goal is to help you focus, short and sweet phrases are best. For example, when trapshooting, Marshall tells himself to “see the target” right before he calls pull. “That way, when the target comes out, I see it and break it,” he says. “It’s as simple as that.”

Chin Up

A poor attitude can kill your accuracy faster than almost anything. “Shooting is 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical,” Marshall tells students. ““Keep a positive attitude and believe in yourself, even after you miss a shot. I’ve seen too many shooters get discouraged after missing a target, then miss two or three more shots because the negative energy drags them down.”

In a similar vein, staying positive in the face of adversity such as inclement weather, strong winds or other challenges serves you better than complaining or worrying about them.

Practice With A Planshotgun shooting tips

Practice makes perfect, but the goals of practice are more important than just shooting. The secret to productive practice is not shooting as much as you can, but practicing with the goal of improving what you do. Otherwise you just repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Next time you head for the range, identify an area of your shooting you’d like to improve, then figure out how to fix it.


12 Tips to Help You See More Deer on Archery Opener

August 3, 2018 in General, Hunting

Archery Opener

1) Have Your Eyesight Checked and Improve Your Vision

Often hunters overlook the most critical tool to successful hunting – vision. I’ve always thought if you wear glasses, you can see better than people who don’t, and 20/20 vision and experience in hunting and shooting are enough to make someone a productive hunter. However, no matter how well you see, you can be taught to see better and to recognize what you see more quickly and accurately. According to optometrists I’ve spoken with, vision is the ability to use what you see to perform some task. For example, you use your eyesight to see a truck coming your way, but by using your vision, you know what to do to keep from getting run over.

“Being able to see deer in the woods, distinguishing bucks from does, perceiving direction of flight and then reacting quickly enough to take a shot are learned skills that can be developed and improved,” said Dr. Gary Etting, a developmental optometrist in Encino, California, who has worked with sports vision skills for U.S. Olympic teams.Archery Opener

2) Spend Twice as Much Time Scouting as Hunting

Bowhunter Dr. Robert Sheppard of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, says that to know you’ll have a buck in front of you on opening day, “Spend at least two hours scouting for every one hour hunting. Then less time is required to bag a buck.”

3) Pick Up Sheds and Use a Spotting Scope

Wildlife biologist Bob Zaiglin of Uvalde, Texas, reports that searching for shed antlers in the spring and the summer helps you to learn the numbers and sizes of bucks on the land you hunt. “Look for sheds and deer at naturally-occurring and manmade mineral licks in the summer to identify where deer are staying, besides watching farm crops, food plots and pastures to spot velvet anglers. I also use a spotting scope with a window mount to see deer from my truck in the summer.”

4) Meet the People Who Know Deer Where You Hunt

These people may see and know the locations of bucks on private and public lands and lands available for leasing – landowners, farmhands, wildlife biologists, foresters, timber cutters, school bus drivers, town barbers, bankers and postmen.

5) Know What Deer EatArchery Opener

Since deer are browsers and feed on more than 600 various types of plants, nuts and crops, you often can locate deer at many places. The local wildlife biologist for private and/or public lands can give you ideas of what the deer in your area prefer to eat at different times of the year.

6) Diagram a Green Field and Prepare Tree Stands and Shooting Lanes

First determine if a green field has quick access to dense cover, experiences little hunting pressure and is close to a place where deer travel. Identify the deer trails, pinpoint the best places for tree stands, and determine which way to approach a green field without your scent being carried there. Note that information in your GPS or logbook. Cut shooting lanes.

7) Pinpoint a Buck’s Core Area

“A deer must have three elements in its core area: food, water and cover, with cover being the most important,” Dr. Grant Woods, wildlife biologist from Reeds Spring, Missouri, says. “I define cover as a place where a deer feels secure and can avoid any disturbance that disrupt him by making him uneasy or raising his metabolic rate. Also constant wind direction influences the site a buck chooses for his core area, since deer use their noses more than their eyes for protection.”Archery Opener

8) Study Maps to Save Time Scouting

To look for places deer likely will be at the beginning of deer season, use Google Earth, Huntstand and OnX maps. With your cell phone’s GPS, you can get to the sites where you want to hunt with Huntstand and OnX, even in regions with no cell service. Also ( produces custom topographical maps, revealing where the high and low ground and water sources are. The aerial views can show you how much of the area is forested, nearby water sources and any development not visible from roads.

9) Set Aside a Sanctuary for Deer

The older, bigger bucks are the first deer to escape hunting pressure and move to sanctuary areas. One of the most common types of sanctuary areas are regions too hard to reach or too far away from an access road for most hunters to get. The second are little patches of thick cover that hunters walk past or don’t consider that they’re holding nice bucks. Alex Rutledge, nationally-known deer hunter from Birchtree, Mo., says, “Effective sanctuaries must have little or no human traffic.”

10) Choose Your Stand Site Last at Hunting Camp

Dr. Keith Causey, a retired professor of wildlife at Auburn University, once told me, “When I’m hunting private lands, I let everyone I’m hunting with pick the stand sites they want to hunt from that day. Then I take the area that no one else wants to hunt, and that’s often where I encounter bigger bucks – particularly on opening day.”

11) Use Attractants and Feeders Where Legal and Trail CamerasArchery Opener

To locate a buck to hunt on opening day, you need to be able to stop him, take a picture of him, watch him as his antlers grow and see where he goes after he leaves your attractant or feeder. Walk the edges of green fields to discover deer trails, and ask others about traditional deer trails.
A trail camera will help you determine what time of day or night the deer are appearing, as well as give you an idea of the buck-to-doe ratio on the property. Several cameras on the land will enable you to learn what trails bucks travel and where they are bedding.

12) Consider Hunting Cattle Farms

Alex Rutledge prefers to hunt cattle farms with their highly-nutritious soils that produce grasses and hay year-round and have water and pastures with thickets and shade trees. “The same needs of cattle equal all the same needs deer have.”

Written by John E. Phillips

Choose The Right Softbait For Better Summer Bass Fishing

August 2, 2018 in Fishing

Summer’s swelter doesn’t stop bass from biting. In fact, savvy anglers armed with the right lures and tactics can enjoy great hot-weather bass fishing for largemouths, smallies and spots.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s tackle-crafting friends at Pure Fishing offer a wide variety of products to help us get the job done, including a fistful of bass-catching softbaits made in Spirit Lake, Iowa, by the company’s Berkley brand.

bass fishing

PowerBait Power Worm

The Berkley softbait arsenal is broken into three separate families: PowerBait, Gulp! and Havoc. Knowing how the baits in each of these lineups excel in different fishing situations can help you catch more bass all summer long.

PowerBaitInfused with a bass-busting cocktail of natural attractants, PowerBait is a great all-around option and exceptional when finicky largemouth bass play hard to catch—such as in heavily pressured lakes or whenever the fish aren’t in the mood to bite. PowerBait also makes bass hang onto the bait longer after striking, giving you extra time to set the hook.

Gulp!Designed to flood the strike zone with tempting attractants,
Gulp! baits are ideal for slow-moving presentations such as drifting and
dropshotting. A Gulp! Leech or Minnow on a size 1 to 1/0 dropshot hook is hard to beat for summer smallmouth bass.

bass fishing

Gulp! Leech

HavocWhile PowerBait and Gulp! products are rich in scent and flavor, Havoc baits are built to trigger bass that are using their vision and lateral line system to capture prey. They excel for fast presentations aimed at aggressive bass, but can be equally effective pitched, punched and twitched.

Havoc baits also bring a variety of colors, shapes and actions to the table. Tailoring these particulars to the conditions and mood of the fish can be critical to success, especially in clear water—which is just another example of how choosing the right bait for each situation or presentation can help USA members catch more bass on every trip.

bass fishing

Havoc Pit Boss


Bow Season Starts Now: Summer Prep for Serious Hunters

July 31, 2018 in Articles, General, Hunting

Bow Season

The very first time I shot a “real” bow, I missed. When I say I missed, I mean the entire target… at 10 yards. I can still hear the sound of that Easton Gamegetter XX75 arrow skipping off the trees and rocks, breaking apart to its final resting place in the woods behind my childhood home. Maybe an archaeologist will find the mangled aluminum wreckage someday… I sure couldn’t.

It was my brother’s High Country Sky Force, some of you may remember that bow. It had dual-hatchet cams and that unmistakable early-90s camo. It was, for seven-year-old me, the most beautiful thing in the world, despite the fact that I couldn’t hit water in the middle of the Atlantic with it. I learned a few valuable lessons that day. First, if you want to be good at something, you need to work at it. Second, I don’t like to miss. Some may say it crosses the line into loath. Lastly, I wanted to know why I missed.

A few months later, my dad scraped up the money and bought me my very own bow. Thus began my journey into all things archery. Bowhunting, 3D, target, indoor, field, if there was a bow involved, I wanted to be signed up. Honestly, I’m glad I missed that first arrow. It ignited a desire to get better, develop my shooting and bowhunting skills, and it allowed me to learn why I missed.

Speaking of bow season, as hunters, we spend thousands of dollars on leases, countless hours setting treestands, setting trail cameras, planting food plots, scouting and much more leading up to bow season. We spend more time, effort and money than we care to admit in preparation of setting ourselves up for the perfect situation. Now, how many of us put that same amount of time and effort into the one factor we can actually control in this situation: shooting our bows?

This isn’t a “shoot your bow more” article, although we all should. This is the nuts and bolts of practicing more effectively and preparing your equipment for the moment of truth, and there’s no time like the present to prepare for bow season.



The most basic of the previously mentioned processes are your points of contact: feet to the ground, release hand, and grip position on the bow. You wouldn’t guess it, but just slightly changing the position of your feet (from neutral to open or closed stance) can drastically change impact points. Essentially, you are changing everything about your form from your hips all the way up to your shoulders, which will alter your orientation to the target. Find a stance that is comfortable for you and make sure your feet are in the same position, or as close to it as possible depending on terrain, each time you draw your bow.

Release hand position—or more importantly the consistency of that position— is important, but so is how you activate the release. You’ve probably heard about back tension, hinge releases, trigger releases, hand held releases, half-moons, click or no click, and the list goes on and on. At this point it’s important to find what works for you and what you can do every time you shoot your bow. Repeatability is the absolute key to accuracy in archery.

A repeatable grip position (with minimal lateral torque on the bow) is also important, but I’ve found through my own failures and testing that I have to make serious errors with my bow hand to have any noticeable impact differences inside of 50 yards, but the smallest deviation in form and position in my release hand can cause “flyer arrows” at 20 yards. Focus on how your release fits into your hand and how you are applying pressure to make the release fire.


Introducing someone new to the sport is a more than worthwhile venture in the summer. Not only do you get another shooting partner and someone to enjoy archery and bowhunting with, but it also helps you work through your archery frustrations prior to bow season.

TIP: You inherently have to break archery down into individual components when bringing someone green into the bowhunting fold. Doing so will not only help the newcomer, but it will also help you get back to those basics and take stock of the necessary things we all take for granted with archery.


There is a disconnect between every other organized sport and shooting a bow. In those organized sports, training is broken down into individual elements. It would be unheard of for a football team to scrimmage every minute of every practice without working on the fundamentals of the game. However, this is precisely what most of us do for archery. We draw our bow, make some shots, pull the arrows, and repeat. In essence, we are learning how to score arrows on the target, not how to shoot them in the middle and why they go in the middle.

Try breaking archery into the processes necessary to shoot a bow and work on a specific aspect of archery each time you find yourself at the range this summer. In simple terms, if you don’t break archery down into individual components, you’ll have nowhere to go when you miss— no way to get better because you land on, “I missed and have no idea why.”

TIP: Focus on one specific process at a time. Figure out where your weaknesses are and tackle them in training.


I don’t like the word practice—perhaps one of the few things I have in common with the great NBA player, Allen Iverson. To me, shooting my bow is about building confidence in myself and my equipment. You can’t control the weather. You can’t control the rut. The only thing you can 100% control is how prepared you are to execute the perfect shot when the moment comes. No one makes perfect hunting shots every time they are presented an opportunity. The point is to be as prepared as possible to increase your odds of making a perfect shot during bow season.

TIP: Pick up a shot counter from your local sporting goods store and record the number of perfect shots you make in a practice session. Be honest with yourself. When I say a perfect shot, I’m not talking about where the arrow lands, I mean how it got there. More on this later.



We all know real-life hunting situations do not equal perfect shooting situations. Shooting side hills, where you have uneven footing, affords one of the more technically tricky hunting shots with a bow. Limited hand-torque and keeping your sight bubble level is easier said than done, but keeping your bow level is key to downrange accuracy.

TIP: Make leveling your sight easier when shooting on a side hill by slightly tipping your top cam up the hill while drawing your bow. This allows the top cam to “fall” down the hill, to level, at full draw rather than fighting it “up” the hill to level. How you get the sight level has a significant impact on the amount of torque you are adding to the riser and by letting the top cam fall, you minimize the risk of adding unwanted torque.


If you are hunting out a blind, yes, you should practice sitting down while drawing your bow and executing a shot. We all know this. One thing that many bowhunters have overlooked, myself included, is how differently peep sights and pins look in a dark blind. Aligning your peep sight to your scope housing is critical for repeatable accuracy. It is also very easy to misalign your peep in a dark blind during bow season.

TIP: Paint the inside ring of your scope housing white so you can see it in ultra-low light. Nail polish and whiteout both work great here. Just make sure to give the correct one back to your wife.


Shooting on perfectly level ground is excellent for building proper form, but shooting out of a treestand or from any elevation is an entirely different ballgame. Most hunters have high misses from extreme angles because they have a breakdown in basic form and upper body alignment. Practice bending at the waist rather than bending at the shoulders to maintain proper alignment in your upper body. As Chubbs from Happy Gilmore would say “It’s all in the hips…”

TIP: Bending at the waist also serves to keep your eye-peep-scope housing alignment identical to flat ground. A tiny variation in peep alignment equals massive point of impact differences down range.



Whether you are trying to cure target panic or just can’t seem to hold the pin in the middle long enough, aiming your bow without executing a shot actively works to remedy these problems. I particularly like doing this drill after a day of shooting. Draw the bow, hold the pin in the middle of the target for as long as you can and let your sight picture tell you when you need to let down.

TIP: Repeat this process 5-10 times at the end of a practice session. You’ll be amazed at how difficult it is, at first, and how quickly your stamina and aiming improves leading up to bow season.


A recent trend in bowhunting is to shoot ultra-heavy arrows. To do this effectively, you’ll need to hit the gym—lifting weights so you can draw 90-pounds and shoot arrows that are heavy enough to nearly be classified as rebar. Or so some say… There are more factors to penetration than a heavy arrow. The most important of these, from my testing, is arrow flight. I’ll take a 50-pound bow with a light arrow flying perfectly and delivering all its energy on the tip of the broadhead over a 70-pound bow with a 600-grain arrow flying like a sputtering bottle rocket. Drawing more weight and having a perfectly tuned arrow is ideal, but you don’t have to run out and drop $180 on ultra-heavy arrows to get the penetration you need on most North American game.

TIP: Tuning your bow for perfect arrow flight with broadheads, broadhead design, and shot placement are far more critical, in my opinion, than slapping a heavy arrow and a setup and calling it good.


What’s the most critical part of a bowhunting setup? Is it the bow riser? The broadheads? Making sure your accessories match the color of your fletchings? Kidding. Without a doubt, strings and cables are the most critical and overlooked piece of equipment on a setup. They are the engine that drives the bow. They are also the most fragile and prone to wear. How often you need to change them varies significantly from person to person, depending on how much you shoot, how well maintained they are, how they are built, etc.

TIP: If you can’t remember the last time, if ever, you changed your strings and cables, change them over the summer. This way you’ll have enough time to get your bow shooting at tip top performance rather than changing them mid-bow season.


Arguably the most crucial piece of summer practice advice: count “good” arrows by how they got to the target, not where they land on the target. Proper form and executing the same shot, every shot, is the key to consistent accuracy. There are many ways to shoot a bow, but only one right way for you, and that comes down to shooting the same “shot” every time you draw your bow. Figure out what is most repeatable for you and build your form around that. You’ll be ready for bow season before you know it.

Written by Matthew Bray

You can find more hunting and fishing articles by clicking HERE.

Photos courtesy of Realtree

IBEW Member Enjoys Wild West Pronghorn Hunt This Week On Brotherhood Outdoors

July 18, 2018 in General, Hunting, Press Release

IBEW Member

Julian Smith, an IBEW member of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, enjoys a thrilling Wyoming pronghorn hunt when he appears in an upcoming episode of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Brotherhood Outdoors television series airing this week on Sportsman Channel.

A U.S. Army veteran and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 405, Smith was selected to appear on the show due to his union work ethic and commitment to the service of his country and community.

Smith is an active member of the Cedar Rapids Grants and Programs Citizens Committee, as well as the local Veterans of Foreign Wars. “These are great avenues for lending a hand and connecting with the community and other veterans,” he explains.

When not on the job, volunteering or spending time with family, Smith savors time spent outdoors, fishing or hunting. During his Wild West pronghorn adventure, he quickly develops an appreciation for the fleet-footed pronghorn’s ability to elude predators—as well as a love for the breathtaking scenery of the open country it calls home.

Catch all the exciting action when the episode featuring IBEW member, Julian Smith, airs this week, including Tuesday, July 17 at 4 p.m. Eastern, Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., Saturday at 1:30 a.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern.

Award-winning Brotherhood Outdoors is currently in its 10th season of whisking hardworking union members away on action-packed hunting and fishing adventures. Produced by creative powerhouse Rusted Rooster Media, the series puts the spotlight on union members who are as passionate about the outdoors as they are on keeping this country running. Each episode takes viewers to the homes, communities and jobsites of these tireless American workers for an inspirational glimpse at their backstories before heading onto the water or into the field.

The 2018 Brotherhood Outdoors season also features union members in pursuit of New Mexico elk, Mexican permit and bonefish, Saskatchewan waterfowl and black bears, Louisiana redfish and trophy whitetails in Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio. Along the way, the show also offers snapshots of the USA’s community-based conservation, public access, outreach and mentorship efforts, which are executed by an all-volunteer union labor force.

For a complete listing of upcoming episodes, CLICK HERE.

To watch episodes online, visit

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

11 Activities to Get Your Family Outside for Great Outdoors Month

June 13, 2018 in Articles, General

Great Outdoors Month

Summer is one of the best times to escape the indoors and connect with nature, and June just so happens to be Great Outdoors Month! We’ve compiled a list of various outdoor activities that you can enjoy with your family and friends, not only for Great Outdoors Month, but all summer long– so get ready for some summertime adventures!

11 Great Outdoors Month Activities:

Water SportsGreat Outdoors Month

Water sports are a great way to get outside and cool off on a hot summer day. Whether you have a small pond to yourself or want to go to the great big blue, there are multiple ways to get on the water. You can take it easy and canoe or kayak, or hop on a jet ski or tube and feel the adrenaline rush of flying over the water and waves. Fishing boats are another great way to get on the water, even if you turn it down a notch and just want to relax on the waves.

Great Outdoors MonthBiking

Biking is a family friendly activity that everyone can participate in. It’s also a great workout to keep you in shape for the upcoming hunting season—talk about an added bonus! There are multiple trails around the United States that also feature multiple terrains. Some will be paved and some will consist of dirt. Whichever you prefer to ride on, grab your bikes, round up your family and try viewing nature from two wheels for Great Outdoors Month!

PCamping Great Outdoors Month

Camping is an amazing way to get in tune with your true outdoors side. Our great country features some pretty incredible State and National Parks, and almost all of them offer some sort of camping. You’ll find places deep in the park that are compact and only have enough room to feature a tent, but you’ll also find campsites that are big enough for you to pull your fifth wheel camper into and set up a full campsite for a great trip with your family.

Pro tip! If you’re on a road trip, make sure to pack your tent! This will make for virtually endless car camping locations!

Great Outdoors MonthConservation

Caring about the well-being of America’s fish, wildlife and the lands and waters that support us all is something everyone who loves the great outdoors has in common. Participating in conservation efforts is one of our favorite Great Outdoors Month activities because it encourages us to escape the indoors and help preserve what we all love the most, the outdoors. There are many ways to volunteer for conservation. For example, you can clean up trash throughout a park, trail, beach or other body of water. A simpler example is to pick up any fishing line you find when you’re at your favorite fishing spot and recycle it at a nearby line recycling center, and if there isn’t one near you can always just put it in the trash can.

You can even work with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) to complete a conservation project with your union local. Our conservation program, brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to conservation projects that improve and enhance public access, wildlife habitat and outdoor experiences for communities across America. USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program works closely with federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups to provide manpower needed to complete critical projects that may otherwise go undone.

Campfires Great Outdoors Month

Campfires are always an easy go to for anyone who wants to sit outside with their family and friends on a nice summer night. They can also get you to adventure into the wilderness to collect the wood you need for your fire and the sticks for everyone to cook their marshmallows later that night for a great snack. However it is always important to know the fire regulations in your area. Also make sure to build your campfire in a well ventilated area and to keep it enclosed so it doesn’t spread.

Great Outdoors MonthFishing

Fishing is an all time favorite outdoor sport for all of us at USA, during Great Outdoors Month AND the entire summer! There are so many species to fish for—it’s truly impossible to get bored! You can catch anything from river cats to giant bass and bluegill. Some State and National Parks are having free fishing days as well that can be found here.

If you’re at the beach on vacation and want to get out and see what the ocean has to challenge you with, just head to a pier and rent a pole. If you’re really dedicated you can always hire a guide to help you try to catch sharks, stingray, and other species you may not be used to in your neck of the woods.

Great Outdoors Month

Hiking is a very calm and relaxing outdoor activity that many enjoy, and your location choices are nearly endless—if you have enough space you can even go for a family hike on your own property! Many State and National Parks also have hiking trails already ready for you to go adventure on, and you could also take your own route of a trail and go deep into the wilderness, just make sure you don’t get lost! And always make sure to clean up the trails you venture onto to keep our great parks preserved and pristine.

Great Outdoors MonthHorseback Riding

Now you’re usually either a horse person—or you’re not. For those of us that love horseback riding, you never go back. If you have your own horses and enough land to really get out and ride, then you already have a great option to go get outside and enjoy the wilderness. If you want to load up the horses and head somewhere new, there are many parks that allow horseback riding. Some beaches even have designated horseback riding areas if you ever wanted to know the feeling of riding a horse down the beach with the sounds of the ocean in the background and waves at your side.

No horses? No problem! There are tons of places across the country that offer affordable horseback riding lessons and trail rides for the whole family. All you have to do is put in a little time to research your best options.

Hunting PreparationGreat Outdoors Month

Hunting preparation is a must for anyone who wants to have a great season next fall, but it’s also a great way to get outside and do something that can be fun and also productive. Head to your go to spot and set up your trail cameras to find out what’s spending time in your food plots and at your mineral stations.

When you get home, don’t forget to spend a little more time outside for Great Outdoors Month and shoot your bow. You may need to sight in your bow and make sure that your shot is still as good as it was last season, but hopefully you’ve been shooting routinely all year!

Great Outdoors MonthGeo-Caching

Geo-Caching is an interesting activity where you go outside and find containers that contain random objects that could have been put in the container by anyone. All you need to do to find these containers is download the geo-caching app on your smartphone, use your GPS to find the caches near you, and then share your findings on social media for everyone to see. You can even get your whole family involved in this fun outdoors activity. You never know where geo-caching will take you, so it helps to be up for anything!

Off-Roading Great Outdoors Month

Off-roading can be a great way to spend time with friends and family, and a good adrenaline rush for anyone who loves the outdoors. Anything from dirt bikes, ATVs, and even trucks can be used for this fun outdoors activity. Some parks even have trails for these vehicles and can be rented sometimes. If you have enough space in your own backyard you can even make your own trail. Just make sure you wear your helmet and are following any regulations listed for the area you’re enjoying this activity in.


7 Foolproof Father’s Day Gifts for Outdoorsmen

June 5, 2018 in Articles, General

Father's Day Gifts

Still searching for the perfect Father’s Day gift for that dad who just can’t get enough of the outdoors? Whether he enjoys fishing, hunting, or just relaxing in the great outdoors, we’ve got you covered! Checkout our list below of seven foolproof Father’s Day Gifts for any dad who loves the outdoors.

7 Foolproof Father’s Day Gifts for Outdoorsmen:

FLAMBEAU T4 PRO MULTILOADER – $56.97 Father's Day Gifts

Flambeau’s T4 Pro Multiloader Tackle Box is the perfect size to suit all of your storage needs. Featuring a front load or top load system, you can access your gear quickly. The Multiloader comes with four line dispensing ports, six compartments and a sturdy handle, conveniently providing you with everything you need all in one place.

Father's Day GiftsCARHARTT FLAG PATCH CAP – $29.99

Help dad show his USA Pride in style with the Carhartt Flag Patch Cap. The adjustable cap features a Carhartt Force sweatband and moisture-wicking fast dry technology, helping keep dad cool in the summer heat.

BUCK KNIVES 363 RIVAL SS KNIFE – $22.50Father's Day Gifts

Gift dad with the smallest edition of the Rival family, the 363 Rival SS Buck Knife. Compact, but powerful, the drop point blade on this knife has a tumbled finish, making it even more corrosion resistant. Featuring Buck’s advanced Edge2x blade technology, this made in the USA knife is unbelievably sharp right out of the box. Give your dad the gift of having a lightweight, EDC Buck Knife he can throw on his keychain, lanyard or even in his pocket.

Father's Day GiftsOTTERBOX VENTURE 25 COOLER – $209.99

Head outside for the day with Otterbox’s Venture 25 Cooler. This product has a 25-quart capacity, anti-slip rubber feet, a bottle opener and tough latches. Most importantly, Dad will never have to worry about his favorite drinks going warm with its ability to keep drinks cold for 10 days, making it ideal for all his outdoor adventures. If you want to make this gift extra special for your outdoors dad, order it in tan/Realtree camo/orange!

MILWAUKEE TOOL M12 FUEL 2-TOOL COMBO KIT – $229.00Father's Day Gifts

Upgrade your dad’s tool kit with the best of the best Milwaukee Tool M12 Fuel 2-Tool Combo Kit. This Combo Kit is the most capable and compact 12-Volt Hammer Drill Driver and Impact Driver Combo Kit on the market. Included is the M12 FUEL Hammer Drill Driver, the lightest weight and most compact 12-Volt Hammer Drill Driver. Also included is the M12 FUEL Hex Impact, featuring the best in class driving speed, power, and size. What more could he want for Father’s Day?


Surefire’s Titan LED Keychain light is just what every dad’s keyring needs. Featuring a high-performance LED, stainless steel keyring, and rechargeable battery (charger sold separately). This product is conveniently lightweight and indestructible, allowing it to be carried anywhere.

COSTA SALTBREAK SUNGLASSES – $169.00+Father's Day Gifts

Every dad needs a cool pair of shades to hit the water with, and Costa has you covered with their Saltbreak Sunglasses, featuring seven different lens color options to help you choose the best color for your needs. Adorned with scratch-proof lenses, a lightweight design, and excellent glass clarity, this product is the perfect accessory for all your outdoor activities just in time for summer.


6 Last Minute Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for Outdoorsy Moms

May 9, 2018 in Articles, General

Mother's Day Gifts

Still in search of the perfect Mother’s Day gifts for that mom who just can’t get enough of the outdoors? No worries, we have you covered! Whether she enjoys hunting, fishing, or just relaxing in nature, these products aim to please. And even if it shows up late, she’ll be so happy with her gift she won’t even be upset. Check out these six last minute Mother’s Day gifts for outdoorsy moms!

6 Last Minute Mother’s Day Gifts for Outdoorsy Moms:

St. Croix Avid Pearl Fishing Rod – $230.00+

Mother's Day GiftsSt. Croix’s Avid Pearl spinning and casting rods feature high-modulus SCIII graphite blanks and a full complement of premium components that will elevate Mom’s fishing experience to all-new levels. Featuring a striking fuchsia-metallic finish and beautiful mother-of-pearl reel seat insert, these beauties are specialized, hard-core high-performance fishing tools with a feminine edge. Looking for a great all-arounder? Check out the two-piece spinning model # APS66MLF. This 6-6” rod is rated for 4-10-lb. line, and will handle everything from panfish and pompanos to bass and bonefish.

Mother's Day Gifts

Carhartt Realtree Xtra Phone Clutch – $44.99

Carhartt’s Realtree Xtra Phone Clutch is the perfect size to carry with you anywhere. Featuring five credit card pockets, phone pocket, leather wrist strap, and two additional pockets, there’s no need to carry around that heavy purse anymore. This product comes adorned in camouflage with a pink stripe to add that feminine touch.

Nano Bantam Knife – $19.50+Mother's Day Gifts

Man or woman, no one can argue the importance of owning your very own everyday carry knife. As Buck Knives says, “ONE TOOL FOR A LIFE LIVED OUTDOORS.” While there are many options to choose from at Buck Knives, we recommend the Nano Bantam Knife for that special mom in your life. The Nano Bantam is small and lightweight, allowing it to fit into virtually any carrying configuration she prefers: key rings, pockets, backpacks, lanyards, etc.

Mother's Day GiftsFlambeau Graphite 400 Tackle Bag – $40.50

Moms are great at keeping their family’s lives organized, so treat your mom to this Flambeau Graphite 400 Tackle bag to store all her gear on the water. Featuring 4 Tuff Tainers that fit in the top loading compartment, 4 exterior accessories zipper pockets, an adjustable shoulder strap, and a carry handle, this product will not only help her stay organized, but look stylish while doing it.

Mother's Day Gifts

ORCA 20-Quart Cooler – $189.99

Whether a day on the boat, a weekend of camping or a day at the park, ORCA 20 quart cooler is the perfect gift for that mom in your life. Featuring stainless steel handle, cargo net attachment, and cold retention up to 10 days. Orca Coolers come in a variety of colors to be sure she finds one that will stand out at her next outing.


Mother's Day Gifts

Thermarest Slacker Single Hammock – $69.95

Help her slack off in style with the Thermarest Slacker Single Hammock. This product features 100% soft polyester fabric making it the perfect lounge spot. It stuffs into its own attached pocket that doubles as a place to stash a book or tablet to help that special mom in your life get even more relaxed.


Lyme Disease – A Chronic Battle I Never Saw Coming

March 15, 2018 in Articles, General

There it is—my alarm waking me before the sun has risen. I pry my eyes open, groggy and a bit confused, but then I remember where I am. I’m camped at 9,500 feet with my dad, uncles and cousins in the Rocky Mountains. Any pain I feel this morning is pushed aside as I rush to get my hunting clothes on and grab my gear.

As we drive the truck up the dark mountain, my anticipation builds along with extreme nausea and dizziness for no known reason. I try to block it out of my mind, as I have far more important things to focus on.

Finally, we reach our stop and begin our trek deeper into elk country. “Yikes! Even going downhill is hurting my muscles a lot,” I think. “Focus… focus!”

lyme_diseaseDad leads the way as I push myself to keep up, following closely behind. He is the expert, and I am the novice, imitating his every move. This was what I had been dreaming of since I was a little girl. It was finally my year to be in elk camp with a tag of my very own, and to top it off, I was blessed with the best guide I could ever want.

We walked and walked, tip toeing through patches of woods to peek into the meadows, hoping to catch some elk feeding. Something still doesn’t feel right. My neck feels like someone put their toughest boots on and stomped on it, my lower back is tight and aching, my feet are throbbing, my head is pounding, I’m nauseous, my heart feels like it might explode, and I feel like I haven’t slept in weeks.

“Focus Courtney!” I scream in my head, afraid to admit how bad I feel.

The first day of the elk hunt is over, and we return to camp with an un-punched tag. My dad is still in good spirits, but I can’t help but realize my body is deteriorating more with each day of the hunt, each mile hiked, and my chance of punching my elk tag this year is deteriorating with it.

I go back to my tent and pray to God that He will give me the strength and endurance to continue on this week long hunt and that I might be blessed with my first elk.

The Answers to All My Questions…

I returned to Minnesota with no elk meat for my family that year. Miraculously, I survived two weeks in the Colorado backcountry with a group of men who had never had a woman in their elk camp before. That, in itself, was a huge blessing. I also managed to keep up with my dad, who is as healthy as a horse, covering more than seven miles together on the last day of the season. No one would have realized the condition I was in unless I told them. I’ll share it with you in hopes that you never have to go through what I am fighting to this day.


With a fever of 103°F and severe pain and stiffness throughout her body, Miller was poked and prodded at the ER, but doctors couldn’t identify the problem.

About two and a half weeks prior to my first elk hunt with a tag, in September 2016, I was admitted to the emergency room due to a severe fever and excruciating pain in my neck, back, legs, jaw, head, etc. You name it, and it was killing me. They did a spinal tap and hooked me up to IV fluids but could not figure out why I had a fever or why I was in so much pain. They sent me home with more questions than answers.

I had experienced some ongoing symptoms prior to the ER visit. I was constantly sick with colds and coughs. I grew extremely tired and weak, having to take naps in my car on my lunch break, and fighting falling asleep at my desk. I started getting a throbbing pain in my head, and felt like I was stuck in a strange brain fog in the mornings. One of the scariest symptoms I experienced was fainting twice while alone in my apartment. The one time, I even collapsed into wooden doors and lost my vision for a bit, but not consciousness.

My body deteriorated to the point that my mom had to stay with me in my apartment and help me in and out of the bathtub and my bed (the only two places I really went). If I so much as sneezed, coughed, or yawned I would start crying from the pain in my head and jaw.

I had seen my primary doctor fairly early on, but she couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. We did tons of blood work and tests but got no answers.

Fewer than 50% of patients with Lyme disease recall a rash.

Then it happened. I started to get discoloration on the top portion of my left thigh. Over a few days, it grew to several inches in length and felt hot to the touch. I also began getting bright red patches across my back and stomach.

Once my doctor saw the bullseye and disseminated red lesions, she said there was a good chance I had Lyme disease, especially given my outdoor lifestyle. Then I recalled finding a decent number of ticks on me while turkey and deer hunting that year.

I did all the blood tests for Lyme disease, and they came back negative. Yet after researching symptoms online, I was certain that’s what I had. My doctor put me on two weeks of doxycycline. That’s routine practice for doctors in typical health care system, but it’s not effective for everyone, even if you catch it early. Eventually, I was tested a second time for Lyme disease, and this time it came back positive.

A couple weeks after my ER visit, I convinced my family to let me go on my elk hunt. I was just over a week or so into my doxycycline treatment and slowly starting to feel more normal. I was determined I would be ready to roll by opening day of elk.

lyme disease

Miller and her dad chasing elk in the Rockies.

While I had many ups and downs physically throughout this hunt, I wasn’t consumed by pain the entire time. There were plenty of moments I pushed it out of my mind and enjoyed my time hunting with my dad and the other men in our camp. I learned that I am truly capable of overcoming many obstacles if I put my mind to it. My dad and I had many great moments on this trip that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

However, shortly after finishing my first round of doxycycline, all my symptoms returned, and with a vengeance. They put me on a second round of doxycycline, but this time, my symptoms started getting worse while I was still taking the medicine.

My primary physician later sent me to an infectious disease specialist, which was a complete waste of my time and money. The specialist confirmed I had Lyme disease but said the couple rounds of doxycycline were all they could do for me. She even said, “Maybe over time, it will just heal on its own.”

Unfortunately, Lyme disease can escalate into chronic Lyme disease if not treated early enough or properly, which is exactly what happened to me. Lyme disease is an epidemic issue in the United States and many other countries. It is difficult to test for and widely misunderstood by both medical professionals and insurance companies. This is why I’ve had such a difficult time finding the appropriate treatment that I can afford.


This isn’t even the HALF of it.

While the standard treatment for Lyme disease is 14-30 days of antibiotics, many times it is ineffective. Lyme spirochetes have the ability to “hide” from antibiotics, and standard treatments often only mask the disease rather than cure it.

This chronic disease has impacted my life in many ways. I used to be able to workout on a daily basis to get in shape for various hunting seasons. I boxed, lifted weights, did cardio, and more. Now, I resemble a couch potato much more than the girl I once was. Even hunting and fishing have become more of a challenge due to my lack of energy, sore muscles and other symptoms. Because of the way Lyme disease is classified, I’ve also spent thousands of dollars out of my own pocket to treat myself, with no guarantee of ever being symptom free again.

I experienced all the symptoms of early Lyme disease and the majority of the symptoms for chronic Lyme disease listed HERE, as well as light/sound sensitivity, tingling/numbness and shooting pains, night sweats, irritable bladder, exaggerated symptoms from alcohol and stomach/abdominal cramps.

An LDo published survey of over 3,000 patients with chronic Lyme disease found that patients suffer a worse quality of life than those with most other chronic illnesses, including congestive heart failure, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and arthritis. Doctors don’t agree about the cause of these ongoing symptoms, and the primary cause of this debate is flawed diagnostic testing. There is currently no test that can determine whether a patient has an active infection or whether the infection has been eradicated by treatment.

I’m 23 years old, and right now, my quality of life isn’t looking all that bright. If I’ve learned one thing from this journey, it’s that if I’m ever blessed to be healthy again, I will never take it for granted. I’ll also forever hold onto the memories from that first elk hunt with my dad, and pray to God that Lyme disease won’t make it my last.

To learn more about Lyme disease symptoms click HERE.

Lyme Disease Symptoms – What to Watch For

March 15, 2018 in Articles, General


If you’ve been bit by a tick, you may start to experience Lyme disease symptoms typically anywhere from 2-30 days after the initial bite. Lyme disease is a clinical diagnosis, meaning that your treating physician will take into account your past medical history and your current symptoms. Additional laboratory tests can be run to determine a Lyme diagnosis, though many tests currently being administered by general practitioners are not very reliable. Many experts believe that less than 25% of patients with early Lyme disease and less than 10% with chronic Lyme are being properly diagnosed.

Also keep in mind that you may or may not even be aware that you were bitten. Ticks inject an anesthetic to numb the bite area so you rarely feel the bite and in some cases they can bite, feed on your blood and drop off without you ever knowing they were there!

If you have ANY of these Lyme disease symptoms or live in an area with a high prevalence of Lyme disease (make sure you read to the end!) then go get tested and request a Polymerase Chain Reaction test, which is currently the most accurate determination of Borrelia infection.

Lyme Disease Symptoms

Always listen to what your body is telling you. Pay close attention to your symptoms, and if you think you have Lyme Disease, don’t ignore it.

Early Lyme Disease Symptoms: 

• Bullseye rash (rash occurs in
less than 50% of patients)
• Flu-like symptoms
• Lack of energy and fatigue
• Headaches, especially at the
base of the skull and neck
• Muscle and joint pain
• Stiff neck
• Swollen lymph nodes

Chronic Lyme Disease Symptoms:

• Extreme fatigue
• Unexplained rashes and allergies
• Migrating pain in arms and legs
• Weakness and/or numbness in the arms
and legs
• Twitching and severe muscle and
joint pain
• Severe or recurring cervicogenic
• Vertigo, dizziness and poor balance
• Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
• Fainting
• Poor memory and concentration
• Insomnia
• Extreme irritability and frequent
• Vision problems, including blurred
vision, double vision and floaters
• Heart conditions, including pericarditis
and extreme palpitations
• Panic attacks and mood disorder
including severe depression
• Problems speaking, word retrieval
problems, word block
• Progressive dementias
• Motor neuron disease, similar to ALS
• Gullain-Barre-like syndrome
• Multiple sclerosis-like syndrome

Chronic Lyme disease can manifest itself as nearly anything as you’ll see from the extensive list of Lyme disease symptoms. The bottom line is, if you have any unexplained neurological, muscular, vision or mental issues and you suspect you’ve been bitten by a tick, GET TESTED for Lyme disease, and demand the right test!

HOW DO I GET TESTED?Lyme Disease Symptoms

First, go to your general physician armed with knowledge. The vast majority of general practitioners know very little about Lyme disease or it’s detection and unfortunately what they do know is largely inaccurate. There are direct and indirect tests that can be used to test for Lyme. Direct tests such as the Lyme Dot Blot Assay (LDA) or the Lyme Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction – PCR) look for the presence of Borrelia antigens or nucleic acids. Indirect tests (such as Elisa, IFA and the Western Blot) look for the patient’s immune response to Borrelia. It is important to note that not all ticks are infected with the disease, however, the ticks themselves can be tested for Borrelia and other tick borne diseases using the PCR test.

The indirect testing methods are the most commonly used by physicians in the United States and they are highly variable in their accuracy. This is because they look for your immune response to the Borrelia organism and not the actually “bug” itself. Demand the direct testing methods which are much more effective at detecting the Borrelia pathogen and giving you a clinical and accurate diagnosis.


Lyme disease is a very serious threat to those of us who love the outdoors and spend lots of time enjoying it. I can tell you from personal experience that arming yourself with a great deal of knowledge and being extremely vigilant and careful not to be bit by a tick is vitally important.  I have spent the last 20 years of my life experiencing the long list of Lyme symptoms.  I was misdiagnosed dozens of times and had two “falsely” negative tests that delayed my diagnosis for nearly 15 years.

If you are in the woods or even your own backyard protect yourself. Use tick repellent sprays and wear tick-proof clothing. If you find or even suspect that you or a family member have been bit by a tick, be very diligent for the symptoms of Lyme or other tick borne disease. If you have any suspicions at all, go to a health care provider and get tested using the right test.

If I had known these things 20 years ago I could have avoided literally tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs and my quality of life would have been tremendously better. Lyme disease is scary and it takes a toll on your life and your family. Please take the precautions to avoid getting it at all costs and seek the correct treatment if you suspect that you have this egregious affliction.

Learn how to prevent tick bites and remove ticks HERE.


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

Get Hooked on These 5 Spring Break Fishing Destinations

March 15, 2018 in Articles, Fishing

Spring Break Fishing

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

Cabo San LucasSpring Break Fishing

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

Costa Rica

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

FloridaSpring Break Fishing

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


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

New OrleansSpring Break Fishing

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

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

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

Written by Travis Baker

SMART Union Member Wins Elk Hunt of a Lifetime

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

Elk Hunt

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

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

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

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

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

Elk Hunt

Lindsay and her father Dana scouting for elk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lyme Disease Facts & Myths You NEED to Know

March 10, 2018 in Articles, General


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

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

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

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

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

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

9 Lyme Disease Facts:

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

Find more Lyme Disease facts HERE.

3 Lyme Disease Myths:

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

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

MYTH: Antibiotics cure everyone.

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

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

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

Myths courtesy of Bay Area Lyme Foundation

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


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

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

March 8, 2018 in Articles, Fishing

Crappie Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

Crappie Fishing

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

The Kid Kit

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

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

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

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

Crappie Fishing

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

Consider a Guide for the Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crappie Fishing

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

Hire The Right Fishing Guide

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

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

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

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

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

Crappie Fishing

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

Questions to Ask Before a Guided Trip

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

* How much will the trip cost?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crappie Fishing Tips

Crappie Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by John E. Phillips

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

March 8, 2018 in Articles, Fishing, Tips

used boat

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

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

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

  1. Get the Family Involved

    used boat

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

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

  1. Research

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

  1. Set a Budget

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

used boat

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

  1. Start the Search

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

  1. Prepare to Purchase

    used boat

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

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

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

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

used boat

Fishing and tubing are the most popular family boating activities.

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

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

Written By Bob Barteck— IAFF Local 425 Alumni

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

March 1, 2018 in Articles, General


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Hints for Drawing the Tag of a Lifetime

December 19, 2017 in Articles, Hunting

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Written by Eric Pawlak, WTA TAGS – Director

Start Planning Your 2018 DIY Elk Hunt Now

December 18, 2017 in Articles, Hunting

DIY elk hunt

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

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

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

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

DIY elk hunt

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


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

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

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

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

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

DIY elk hunt

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

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

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

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

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

DIY elk hunt

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

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

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

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

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

Think Small for Hunting Heritage

December 14, 2017 in Articles, Hunting

Written by: Scott Vance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start with Small Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Hot Winter Fishing Destinations

December 14, 2017 in Articles, Fishing, General

Written by: Travis Baker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 4, 2017 in Articles, General

Richard Childress, NASCAR legend and honorary chair for NHF Day

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USA, Pure Fishing Hook Up with New MOU

February 22, 2017 in Fishing, General, Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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