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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.

 

Mule Deer: A Classic American Hunt

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General, Hunting

MULE DEER: A classic American hunt

Man vs. Ram

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

Man versus ram

Houdini’s Last Escape

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

HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE

Going Hog Wild

July 23, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by Bob McNally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who could ask for more?

A Place To Hunt Hogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Chef Nick Melvin of Venkman’s, Atlanta

Chef Nick Melvin of Venkman’s, Atlanta

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

Corned Boar Shoulder

3/4 cup Kosher Salt

3/4 cup Brown Sugar

4 tsp Pink Salt

10 Cloves Garlic, smashed

5 TBSP Pickling Spice

1 Carrots, peeled and rough chopped

2 Yellow Onions, rough chopped

2 Celery Stalks, rough chopped

5 Pounds Wild Boar Shoulder

1 gallon water

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

Grits

1 Cup Yellow Anson Mill Grits

8 Cups Chicken/Pork Stock

1 Cup Cream Cheese

1 Stick of Butter

Salt and Pepper

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

Golden Raisin Vinaigrette

2 Cups Golden Raisins

2 Cups Warm Water

4 Cups Red Wine Vinegar

1 1/2 Cup Sugar

1 1/2 Red Onion Minced

2 TBSP Toasted Fennel Seed

2 Cups Seedless Red Grapes, Halved

1/2 Cup Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

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

Plating

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

 

Wild Boar Recipe: Wild Boar Bacon

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

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

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

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

For the Brine

5 quarts water

1 cup kosher salt

1 cup of granulated sugar

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

Spices

2 Tablespoons white pepper

1 Tablespoon garlic, powdered

1 Tablespoon Mace

1 Tablespoon Coriander ground

1 Tablespoon dry rosemary

1 teaspoon nutmeg

 

To Coat After Brining

1 cup of cracked black pepper

1 cup of coriander

1 cup of maple syrup

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

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

 

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

Survive A Night In The Wild

July 14, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mistake Number One

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Things First

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

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

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

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

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

Forget Food?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Schooled

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

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

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

Survival School Contacts

True North Wilderness Survival: www.exploretruenorth.com

Nantahala Outdoor Center: www.noc.com

Wilderness Awareness School: www.wildernessawareness.org

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

 

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

A Place to Hunt Hogs

June 14, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CUGA Vests: When Your Hardworking Dog Deserves the Best

May 20, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

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

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

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

Q&A with Mark Meyocks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much do they cost?
$125

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

Give Fawns A Chance

May 10, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

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

Newborn fawns are vulnerable, particularly to predators like coyotes.

Newborn fawns are vulnerable, particularly to predators like coyotes.

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

Shoot A Coyote, Save A Fawn?

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

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

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

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

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

Better Habitat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shoot Fewer Does

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

IAMAW Member Experiences First Whitetail Hunt on Brotherhood Outdoors

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

Clayton Bolton arrives in Oklahoma for his first whitetail hunt.

Clayton Bolton arrives in Oklahoma for his first whitetail hunt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Your Gator

March 25, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by Beau Tallent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gator Hunting Techniques

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Grand Slam Turkeys

March 16, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Osceola: Florida Or Bust!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eastern: Take Your Pick

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

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

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

The Merriam’s Slam Dunk

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rios Are Grande

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

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

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

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

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

Seasons For A Grand Slam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunt Swappers Make Slams Obtainable

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

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

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

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

Swapping hunts is a great path toward completing your Slam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

IL Laborer to Appear on SD Turkey Hunt on Brotherhood Outdoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

keith_500

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

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

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

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

Pick A Pup For Hunting

February 13, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing A Breed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does Color Matter?

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

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

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

Male Or Female?

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

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

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

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

Pick A Pup From The Litter

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Spicy Alligator Tenderloin Recipe

February 12, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

Provided by Beau Tallent

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Seasons for a Grand Slam

February 8, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone Can Hunt Coyotes

January 26, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by Ron Kruger

Coyotes are a complete wilderness survival package.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does Cramer finally get his shot at a bull elk?

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

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

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

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

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

Tristan Cole shooting at USA's 2014 Western Pennsylvania Shoot

Tristan Cole shooting at USA’s 2014 Western Pennsylvania Shoot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blackpowder Squirrels

January 15, 2016 in Articles, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

On The Range

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blue Ridge Afield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Venison From Field To Table

December 27, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

 

By Beau Tallent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gear Up For Self-Processing

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

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

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

FoodSaver

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

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

Plan For Success

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

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

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

Shoot The Right Deer

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

Have An Exit Plan

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

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

Field Dressing And Skinning Tips

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

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

 Recipes:

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

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

Ted’s Venison Sausage with Fennel and Golden Raisins:

Ingredients:

5 lb venison shoulder

1 lb pork fat

2 cups golden raisins

5 cl garlic; minced

3 TBS kosher salt

2 TBS fennel seed

1 TBS freshly ground black pepper

1 ts  ground nutmeg

1 ts dried oregano

1/2 c dry red wine

medium pork casings

Method:

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

 

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

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

Chef Jordan’s Venison Jerky Recipe:

Ingredients:

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

3 TBS red chili flake

3 TBS of chopped garlic

1 cup olive oil

1 cup soy sauce

1 cup worcestershire sauce

1 cup tupelo honey

4 TBS minced green onion

salt and pepper

2 TBS sriracha

3 TBS brown sugar

Method:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Kid’s First Deer Gun

December 7, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evaluate the Situation

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

Evaluate Your Child

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

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

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

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

Choose a Caliber

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

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

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

 

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

Waterfowl Hunting With Kids

November 24, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by Dave Mull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keys to Teach Kids Hunting

 Kevin Essenburg offered some advice for parents:

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

Youth Waterfowl Days

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Rut Tricks For Big Bucks

November 12, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

By Beau Tallent

“When’s the rut?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Do’s And Don’ts For Hunting The Rut

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

 

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

Anticipation & Apprehension of a Nationally Televised Hunt

November 9, 2015 in Hunting

by Clayton Bolton, IAMAW DC 725, LL 946

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UA Father and Son Share Wyoming Dream Hunt

October 29, 2015 in Hunting

by Kate Nation

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

Howard Thomas with his antelope buck measuring 14.25 inches.

Howard Thomas with his antelope buck measuring 14.25 inches.

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

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

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

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

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

Donald Thomas with his nice antelope buck.

Donald Thomas with his nice antelope buck.

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

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

Deer Hunt The Dominant Doe

October 16, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by Bill Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Upland Bird Hunting Bucket-List Trips

October 5, 2015 in General, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

SOUTH DAKOTA PHEASANTS

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

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

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

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

 

MAINE RUFFED GROUSE AND WOODCOCK

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NEBRASKA PRAIRIE CHICKENS

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

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

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

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

 

KANSAS BOBWHITE QUAIL

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

Bobwhite quail

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

MONTANA SHARPTAILS

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

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

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

 

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

Hunt Resident Canada Geese

October 1, 2015 in General, Hunting

by David Hart

America has a love-hate relationship with Canada geese.

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

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

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

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

Why not?

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

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

Scout First

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

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

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

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

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

A Different Bird

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

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

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

Fields or Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Best Tech Gadgets for Your Hunting Dog

September 28, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

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

dogs

Garmin Astro

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

GoPro Fetch

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

FitBark

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

GeoDog

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

PetSafe Wireless Containment

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

Tap Into Public Land Hunting

September 6, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

By Bill Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All-American Big Game Hunts

August 26, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

By Beau Tallent

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

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

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

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

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

Midwest Whitetails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elk In The Colorado Rockies

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

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

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

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

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

Go Wild For Georgia Hogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Veterans Day Buck

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

by Kate Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donna Shaver with the biggest buck of her life.

Donna Shaver with the biggest buck of her life.

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

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

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

Shotgun Tips To Break More Clays

August 4, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Your Head Down

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

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

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

Focus On Your Target

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

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

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

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

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

That Clay’s Too Far

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

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

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

Follow Through On Your Shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Coyote Calling During Fawn Time

June 22, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by Beau Tallent

Sweat literally rolled down my face as I silently I pleaded with the scorching ball of fire to dip below the tree line. I needed relief from the June sun, but there wouldn’t be time or need for shade.

Coyotes are getting lots of attention lately, and rightfully so. Studies show fawn survival rates are dropping, enough so that states are reducing deer-hunting opportunity. Now's a great time to get after fawn-hunting coyotes.

Coyotes are getting lots of attention lately, and rightfully so. Studies show fawn survival rates are dropping, enough so that states are reducing deer-hunting opportunity. Now’s a great time to get after fawn-hunting coyotes.

I spotted movement in the high grass of the grown-up field edge not 15 yards from the fawn decoy and even closer to the speaker of my electronic predator caller.

My son’s youth-model .243 was already propped on a rest, so I simply leaned into the scope and pressed my shoulder against the rifle butt. Through the window of the box blind, the scope’s view danced across the back of the food plot and found the decoy. I eased the scope’s view toward the field edge where I’d seen the movement, and my sight picture filled with the head and front shoulders of a coyote emerging from the high grass, stepping slowly but purposefully toward the decoy. I squeezed the trigger, satisfied in knowing that one more fawn-hunting coyote was gone from our hunting property.

I’m not sure there’s a bad time to hunt coyotes, at least not on my place where we’ve seen a dramatic drop in fawn recruitment, not to mention much lower turkey populations. This time of year, however, taking out coyotes is especially effective. It’s harder to hunt and kill coyotes in the summer than other times of the year, but right now is when does are birthing fawns. Coyotes have found newborn fawns to be easy pickings, and they are picking off fawns at alarming rates, particularly in the southeast where I’m from. In these southern states, coyotes are not native. Perhaps that’s why coyotes are having such a big impact.

The summer months are the perfect time to hunt coyotes. Use a fawn-in-distress call, you’re taking coyotes that have learned to hunt and kill fawns. Biologists say other coyotes will eventually move in to fill available habitat if coyotes are taken out. But kill a coyote right now that is a fawn hunter, and you can directly improve fawn survival on that tract of land. Fawns will have a chance to get their legs under them before more coyotes move in, and that time will give them a better chance at surviving.

 

Coyote Calling On A Budget

A hunter need not spend a small fortune to successful call up coyotes on the hunting lease. First, choose your weapon. Your deer rifle will work fine, and that’s what I typically use for most of my coyote-calling setups when I expect to have shots of 100 yards or more. Another great option is the 12 gauge shotgun in your gun cabinet. However, I do recommend a simple and inexpensive modification—buy a specialized choke tube like the Predator Choke made by Trulock. A specialized choke tube will increase distance and the effectiveness of your pattern, so it delivers the greatest knockdown punch. Use No. 4 buckshot or No. 2 buckshot, not O or OO. I’ve found that more smaller pellets, especially when fired through a specialized choke tube, work much better than a dozen big buckshot pellets on coyotes that are often moving quickly.

A decoy is a great tool for closing the deal when trying to call a coyote into range. The author likes a fawn decoy this time of year because he wants to target coyotes that are targeting fawns.

A decoy is a great tool for closing the deal when trying to call a coyote into range. The author likes a fawn decoy this time of year because he wants to target coyotes that are targeting fawns.

Next, you need to consider how you’re going to call coyotes. Electronic calls are awesome, and not all of them will cost you a mortgage payment. I use one that’s about $200 made by Flextone, the FLX500. It has a remote option, meaning I can place the speaker a good distance from my hiding spot or stand. Coyotes are slick, and they’ll come in locked on the location where they heard the calls.

There are other less expensive options. I have a hunting buddy who has called up coyotes using just his mouth by making a squeaking noise that I guess sounds like a mouse. There are mouth calls, as well, that imitate very well the bawls of a fawn in distress or a screaming rabbit that sounds like its foot got slammed in a car door.

Another inexpensive option is a simple phone app called iHunt, which comes preloaded with hundreds of animal calls, including dozens for coyote hunting. For less than $10, you can download the app to your smartphone, then using Bluetooth sync with a remote speaker. I haven’t tried it, but you could probably use it just from your phone without a speaker in some hunting situations.

Another tool in your coyote-hunting toolbox is a decoy. Again, it’s not necessary, but I like to use a decoy. During the summer, I typically use a fawn decoy because I want to kill coyotes that hunt fawns. Once a call gets a coyote’s attention, the decoy will often close the deal in bringing the animal into range. There are cheaper decoy options that also work well, including motion decoys that are basically vibrating and wiggling pieces of fur, but they fool hungry coyotes.

Think it’s too hot to spend an evening in a stand hunting this summer? Most people would say you’re right, but not me. Coyote is too exciting and too much fun. It doesn’t require lots of money, and taking out some coyotes, especially this time of year, will do you part in conserving fawns and other animals that all-to-often fall prey to a coyotes.

Summer Projects For Outdoorsmen

June 9, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

By M.D. Johnson

The summer months, despite the nice weather across much of the nation, can be a frustrating time for the outdoors enthusiast.

Make your own goose silhouette decoys from cardboard boxes and spray paint. They're inexpensive and work great in the field.

Make your own goose silhouette decoys from cardboard boxes and spray paint. They’re inexpensive and work great in the field.

Oh, sure, there’s plenty of things to do around the house, like mow the lawn, paint the garage, and pick up after those two black lab dogs…and I’m sure you dog owners know what I’m talking about there, eh? But full To-Do lists aside, summer still can prove a challenge. Fishing’s tough due to the warm water temperatures, and hunting season is still a couple very long months away.

Summer doesn’t have to be passed simply with mowing, painting, and shoveling. In fact, there are plenty of projects for sportsmen that result in items that will prove quite handy. Try these DIY summer projects.

Silhouette Goose Decoys

Years ago, my wife Julie and I drove from our home in Iowa to visit my folks in northeast Ohio, and, as it was late November, do a little rabbit hunting with my Pop. Come first day, though, the focus on bunnies switched, thanks to cold weather, snow, and a constant stream of hungry honkers, into a goose pursuit. The problem? We had no decoys. We hadn’t even thought of loading up the plastics. However, with kudos to Julie’s artistic talents, some thrown-out cardboard, a handful of wood slats, and four rattle cans of paint, we were in business.

To make 12 silhouette decoys, you will need the following items:

• Eight (8) cardboard boxes, flattened, approximately 36-inch square. One box makes two decoys.

• Sixteen (16) 12-inch wood paint stirrer sticks.

• Four (4) spray cans flat or matte paint—light grey, white, black, brown.

• Office stapler

• Utility knife

• Pencil

Step 1 – After asking permission, we rooted through the trash bin behind the local pharmacy and came up with eight cardboard boxes which, when flattened, were about 36 inches square. Slit the boxes at each end, which leaves you with two flat single-thickness squares per box

Step 2 – On three single squares, draw the outline of a Canada goose in various body postures including a sentry, feeder, and outstretched neck feeder. Carefully cut along the lines and separate your new decoys from scrap cardboard. Scrap will be used as a stencil for additional decoys.

Step 3 – Using the stencils, sketch outlines on the remaining single-thickness squares of cardboard. Cut carefully.

Step 4 – With the stapler, securely attach the wood paint stir sticks, which are your decoy legs, to the bottom of each decoy. Apply your best knowledge as to where legs would be located depending on the body style of the decoy. Here’s a tip: Stir sticks can also be used to reinforce the upright neck section of any alert sentry decoys. We got ours gratis from the neighborhood hardware store.

Step 5 – Using your spray cans, it’s time to paint your decoys. Heads and necks are black, chests are grey blending into white from belly to tail, and backs are black with a mist of brown. Don’t forget to paint the legs black. A small stencil cut from scrap cardboard can be used for the white chinstrap.

Make Your Own Trotline for Catfish

Fishing by means of a trotline isn’t anything new, nor is it complicated. A trotline is a single line holding multiple baited hooks.

Running trotlines is great fun and very productive for filling the freezer with tasty catfish. Making your own trotlines will save money and makes for a great summer project.

Running trotlines is great fun and very productive for filling the freezer with tasty catfish. Making your own trotlines will save money and makes for a great summer project.

What a trot line can be is incredibly effective, particularly during the summer when catfish are concentrated under schools of gizzard shad or other baitfish. Here are all the ingredients for a killer trotline set-up.

To make a trotline, you will need the following items:

• For the main line, 200 to 250 feet of No. 36 (400-lb. test) tarred/braided nylon cord. One-pound (550-foot) roll makes two lines (barlowstackle.com; $26).

• Dropper lines are made from a 400-foot roll of No. 12 (95-lb. test) braided nylon cord (barlowstackle.com; $9). I cut 20-inch droppers, and like my droppers to be a different color from my main line.

• Three-inch stainless steel halibut clips, which are also called gang rig clips (cabelas.com; $10/25).

• Barrel snap swivels, size 2/0 (fishusa.com; $1/2).

• No. 1 Daiichi Bleeding Bait Octopus wide-gap kooks (ttiblakemore.com; $3/11).

• Bait of choice. I prefer nightcrawlers, cull (bait) shrimp, chicken liver, and cut shad.

• Smelly Jelly Sticky Liquid, Shad or Garlic (tacklewarehouse.com; $6/4 ounces).

• Plastic electric drop-cord reel for winding main lines, optional (menards.com; $7).

• Anchor for end of main line. A 5-lb. window weight or 3-lb. grapple anchor works well.

• Brass dog leash clip for attaching mainline to anchor weight.

For our purposes, we’ll build a 150-foot trotline with 20 20-inch droppers. Individual lines can be shortened or lengthened, depending on specific situations or state regulations.

Step 1 – Be sure to read and understand the trotlining regulations in your state. For example, Iowa limits properly licensed anglers to a maximum of five trotlines carrying a total of no more than 15 hooks. Some states regulate the overall length of the main line, hook spacing, tagging requirements, and where the lines may or may not be set.

Step 2 – Cut 150 feet of No. 36 twine as the main line, leaving 25 feet at either end to attach the line to the bank and to attach an anchor. Melt the ends of the main line with a lighter or propane torch to prevent unraveling. Securely knot the brass dog leash clip to one end, and wind the line onto the cord reel.

Step 3 – Slip the barrel snap swivels onto the gang rig clips; a little needle-nose plier work may be involved. Prepare the 20-inch droppers with a No. 1 hook at one end, and a closed loop at the other. Clip the barrel snap swivel onto the dropper loop.

Step 4 – At your trotline fishing location, tie off the end of the main line to a suitable tree or sturdy overhanging branch. Back off 25 feet, and clip a baited dropper onto the main line. Continue to clip droppers at roughly 5-foot intervals. With the last dropper clipped, run approximately 25 feet of free main line, snap the anchor onto the brass clip, and lower to the bottom.

Make Waterfowl Call Lanyards

Waterfowl call lanyards have a definite purpose above and beyond helping you look trendy in the field. A good hanger keeps calls handy, organized, and at least partially protected from the muck and mire we waterfowlers face on a regular basis. Too, a lanyard is good insurance. No one wants to drop a $200 goose call or $60 duck call in 8 feet of water and swamp mud. And while commercially fashioned lanyards are available, you can easily make your own piece for less than a $10 bill and in the colors, width, and length that best suit your needs.

The time required to build a lanyard is approximately two hours. Your cost, excluding calls is just $7.

The material needed is 100 feet of military spec 550 Paracord (parachute cord), No. 400 tensile strength; supplycaptain.com; (845) 236-1110.

To braid the body of your lanyard, cut a length of paracord twice as long as the intended finished length of your lanyard. Double it over (loop, up; tag ends, down), and hang from a sturdy nail. This is the core. The remaining paracord (approximately 90 feet) is likewise doubled in half, with the tag ends coiled and secured with rubber bands. Beginning 4 to 6 inches below the nail/loop, start by attaching the knotting cord to the core with a square knot. Continue tying square knots until the desired length is reached.

Now it’s time to finishing the lanyard and droppersWhen the desired length is reached, double the lanyard over, matching the first and last knots. Join the initial loop with the remaining core, and tie four to six additional square knots; pull very tight. To finish, combine all cords and secure with a barrel knot. Tied with slipknots, the four remaining tag ends become the droppers that hold the calls. Melt the raw ends of the cord with a lighter to prevent fraying.

These are just a few productive summer projects for sportsmen. Find others, and share your favorites here.

 

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

Last-Ditch Gobblers

May 20, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

By David Hart

The clock is ticking. In just a few weeks or even a few days, you’ll watch the sun set on another turkey season.

Bagging a late-season gobbler is far from impossible. Hunting pressure is lighter, and with hens going to nest, some gobblers are more fired up than during the early season.

Bagging a late-season gobbler is far from impossible. Hunting pressure is lighter, and with hens going to nest, some gobblers are more fired up than during the early season.

Maybe you’ve managed to put one on the ground or maybe you haven’t. Either way, you still have a tag in your wallet and a little time on your side.

You can keep doing what you’ve done all season or you can make a change in your tactics so drastic your buddies might think you’ve spent too much time in the woods.

Kick It Up
You’ve spent the past few weeks calling softly, you’ve sat for hours and you’ve practiced every low-impact hunting method in the book. And you still have an unfilled turkey tag. In other words, those methods haven’t worked. Now what?

It’s time to throw the kitchen sink at them. Go big, go loud and go fast. As the breeding season winds down, it can take aggressive, loud calling to fire up a worn-out gobbler. They often won’t gobble much towards the end of the season, but a cackling, cutting and yelping hen just might fire them up enough to announce their location. All it takes is one gobble to give you a shot of confidence and a dose of hope that you might get a chance. There’s no guarantee it will work, but this time of year, you’ve got nothing to lose.

Don’t just stay in one spot, though. Cover some ground. Call loud, wait a few minutes and start walking. Go at least 100 yards and repeat the sequence. Travel ridges, field edges and other likely spots.

Tone It Down
Aggressive calling can work against you, especially on hard-hunted public land where countless hunters have yelped at the top of their lungs. Soft, quiet, subdued calling may be the answer in some situations.

Don’t just walk and call, though. Pressured birds have spent a season watching hunters walk through the woods, yelping, clucking and cutting as they go. They’ve learned to associate those sounds with danger. Instead, find a spot with good visibility, particularly one far from trails, parking areas and other high-traffic locations and sit. Call occasionally, but call softly. Real hens don’t call much and they rarely call at the top of their lungs. Besides, you’d be surprised at how far even a soft turkey call carries. Try scratching the leaves to imitate the sound of a turkey feeding.

Most important, stay ready. Keep your mask and gloves on and keep your gun propped up on your knee. Late-season gobblers often slip in quietly, never making a peep as they approach. Don’t get caught off-guard.

Sit and Wait

How long you stay in one spot depends on you and the turkeys. Can you sit for hours? You might need to. Turkeys may roam late in the season, but they usually aren’t in a hurry. Just because you haven’t seen a bird in 20 minutes doesn’t mean one isn’t working his way towards you.

Stay ready. Keep your mask and gloves on, and keep your gun propped up on your knee. Late-season gobblers often slip in quietly, never making a peep as they approach.

Stay ready. Keep your mask and gloves on, and keep your gun propped up on your knee. Late-season gobblers often slip in quietly, never making a peep as they approach.

Don’t get frustrated if you don’t hear a gobble. The breeding season may be over. Gobblers don’t care about the hens around them and they aren’t interested in announcing their presence to all the other creatures in the woods. They just want to eat.

That’s why your best last-ditch hope might be to find a likely food source, set up a blind and wait. And wait some more. If you have the patience, you might get lucky and intercept a bird as he goes about his business.

There’s no telling where a gobbler might want to feed, but a safe bet is some sort of field that has abundant fresh greens. Food plots, especially perennial clover plots, are great choices. So are pastures. Turkeys tend to avoid tall grass, but they will feed along the edges where new green growth and insects are abundant.

There’s nothing wrong with tossing out a few soft yelps now and then. You might trigger a reaction gobble or you might find a late-season breeder. In other words, the secret to last-ditch turkey hunting is to spend as much time in the woods as you can. Things may be a bit tougher this time of year, but you can’t fill that last tag if you don’t try.

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

Strutting Hens: A Rare Sight in the Turkey Woods

May 6, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by Patrick Durkin, as seen on OutoorHub

Images by John R. Obst, a member of the USA and IAMAW NFFE FD1 Local Lodge 276

John Obst of McFarland, Wisconsin has seen a true woodland rarity in consecutive springs, and he’s hoping for a three-peat during Wisconsin’s 2015 spring turkey season.

What has Obst twice seen that most turkey hunters have not seen once? A hen turkey in full strut.

Obst was hunting turkeys on a southern Wisconsin farm in April 2013, and called in a hen that was likely curious about his yelps. When the hen saw Obst’s hen decoy, it went into full strut. Obst is an experienced hunter, and has seen hens get aggressive a few times, but had never before seen one do such a dead-on gobbler imitation.

The hen approached his decoy with its breast puffed out, tail feathers fully fanned, and wingtips dragging across the corn stubble as it strutted toward the decoy. And then the hen stayed in full strut. This was no three-second fluke where a bird simply forgets itself and slips out of character, as if to say, “Whoa! What was I thinking?”

A hen turkey in full strut

A hen turkey in full strut

No, this hen held that pose and attitude long enough for Obst to pick up his camera and photograph the bird as it strutted in front of the decoy, and then behind it before calming down and walking away.

Obst knew he had just witnessed a unique behavior; possibly a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence for even the most serious turkey hunters and birdwatchers.

When he went turkey hunting on the same farm in April 2014, however, lightning struck again. He didn’t have a decoy out this time, and just sat quietly as a hen strolled past his field-side blind and slipped into the woods.

He waited a few minutes and then called with a string of yelps. The hen marched back out of the woods, this time packing attitude. The hen was in full strut and did its best gobbler imitation for a long time, clearly agitated. After finally relaxing, it cooled off by dusting itself in the dirt.

And then the hen suddenly looked across toward the fence line, and slinked back into the woods, no longer acting bold and brave. “Seconds later,” Obst said, “a gobbler peeked out where the hen had been looking, and I had a turkey dinner.”

John Obst of McFarland, Wisconsin shot this gobbler in April 2014 moments after photographing a hen in full strut.

John Obst of McFarland, Wisconsin shot this gobbler in April 2014 moments after photographing a hen in full strut.

Although he has no way to prove it, Obst thinks he saw the same hen twice. The incidents happened on the same farm almost exactly a year apart. Even though both turkey sexes are capable of strutting, few hens resort to the behavior. Most make their point with pecking and angry talk.

How rare is a strutting hen? No one in my network of hunting friends and acquaintances has seen one, even though most of us have seen hens with a beard. In all cases, the bearded hens acted like any other hen as they fed and moved about the woods.

Scott Walter, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ upland bird ecologist, said: “Although I’ve never observed a hen strutting, I’d be willing to bet this is true of most hunters. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. I’ve read of strutting behavior in hens, and it’s normally in response to a strong stimulus, such as aggressive behavior by another hen.”

Lovett Williams, Jr. of Florida, perhaps the nation’s most esteemed wild turkey biologist, has written of strutting hens, and said it’s fairly common for hens to briefly fan their tail feathers while jousting with rival birds. However, a hen in full strut, fully fanned and dragging her wingtips like a gobbler is “extremely rare.” Williams wrote that he has spent countless hours observing turkeys for over 50 years, and seen this behavior merely three times.

Other biologists note that turkey poults will strut as soon as one day after hatching, and both sexes can strut. In hens, strutting is usually a response to aggression by another hen, or a response to other strong stimulus, including hunting decoys.

On a turkey hunting forum, for example, a hunter reported a strutting dominance display by an old hen when a young hen tried using its dust bowl in a sunny spot on a dirt road. So, if anyone can match Obst’s good fortune for twice seeing one of nature’s most rare behaviors, you should feel fortunate.
If Obst is set on documenting unusual turkeys, he must be hunting the right farm. He also photographed a bearded hen while hunting there, noting: “That bearded hen behaved just as a hen should, with no gobbler imitations.”

I’ve seen three bearded hens over the years, all of them with thin, stringy brushes bobbing from their upper breast. One came out regularly in the same field, and twice offered easy shots. Although bearded hens are legal game in Wisconsin, I never felt the urge to shoot one.

What other odd things do we see turkeys doing? A few hunters on Internet forums report hens occasionally trying to gobble. One of them wrote: “I watched a hen ‘gobble’ once, but it wasn’t real good; it sounded somewhat like a gobble. It was one of the cooler things I’ve seen a turkey do.” Still another hunter described a hen’s gobble as much higher-pitched than a tom’s.

Of course, the rarity of gobbling or strutting by hen turkeys doesn’t diminish the impressive sight of a mature gobbler in full strut, especially when accompanied by a loud spit-and-drum sequence. Such scenes never get old.

Tempt Those Hung-Up Gobblers

April 20, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

By Bob McNally

Not every “hung-up” gobbler can be turned into a roasted turkey. However, over the years I’ve learned from some of the best turkey hunters in America how to tease, finesse and cajole gobblers into finally stepping within gun range, even the most timid of turkeys.

World Champion caller Preston Pittman (right) called in this heavyweight eastern tom for author Bob McNally. The bird was hung-up for more than two hours.

World Champion caller Preston Pittman (right) called in this heavyweight eastern tom for author Bob McNally. The bird was hung-up for more than two hours.

One of the best turkey hunters and callers I’ve known is Preston Pittman, owner of Pittman Game Calls, and five-time world natural-voice calling champion. Preston is a master at making a hung-up tom come running into gun range.

Double-Team Action
Many times Preston has proven to me that double-teaming toms is one of the best and easiest ways of luring hung-up birds into finally coming within range of my Hevi-Shot 6s.

In a double-team setup, the man out front never calls, and he’s most likely to get the shot. But the “call man” who is farthest away from the hung-up bird had best be on his toes, too. Such toms are cagey and have been known to circle a caller, coming in quiet and careful and closer to the hunter doing the yelping.

The End-Around Move
The “end-around” move is another tactic Preston may employ to unhinge a hung-up gobbler.

“It’s never a sure thing, and it can be risky because you might spook your bird or others nearby, which blows the whole deal,” says the Mississippi-native. “But if you make your move slowly, carefully, quietly, and use terrain features to best advantage, it’s often possible to successfully get around a bird. Often all you’re doing is crossing a ditch, fence, or working around a dense thicket or pond that a bird refuses to cross to your call.

“But the tom may have hens with him, or he is just too smart to come to your first location. When you set up a second time, try using a different call, even if you just change the type of mouth call. If you used a slate call, try a wing bone or box call. You’re trying to mimic a different hen coming to the tom from a different direction, which hopefully unhinges his location anchor, and he’ll come running.”

Old birds with long spurs often are tough to take, and they're known to hang-up for many hunters. Preston Pittman offers sage advice for putting such gobblers into shotgun range.

Old birds with long spurs often are tough to take, and they’re known to hang-up for many hunters. Preston Pittman offers sage advice for putting such gobblers into shotgun range.

Loud And Aggressive?
Being patient with very soft calling, putts and purrs also is a choice way to trick an old tom to strut to within shotgun range, particularly on public land or hunting property where birds are called too often.

Preston is quick to add that sometimes, especially on private land, old birds that wouldn’t close the final 50 yards to his gun can be taken by super-aggressive calling.

“Loud and incessant cuts and yelps, or even going into the now-classic fighting purr scenario has worked for me plenty of times,” he says. “Long periods of silence works well. And if you can pull it off, moving away can be the final nail in a gobbler’s casket, but this is often best with a pair of hunters.”

One time in Texas while hunting for so-called easy Rio Grande turkeys, Preston and I ran into a smart tom that hung up as badly as a 4-year-old Eastern in hard-hunted Pennsylvania. Preston decided we should re-locate our calling position on the bird, so we withdrew, circled to the east. We set up again, called, and the bird answered, but he wouldn’t come in. We move again, to the east. We set up, called, nothing. Again we moved east, and still the bird stayed put.

Finally, nearly two hours later, we move yet again, setting up unknowingly only a few yards from our original calling position. Preston used his voice instead of a manufactured call, and within 10 minutes the tom was down.

Why that gobbler didn’t work close sooner and come to other calls, I’ll never know. I do know that repositioning is effective in unhinging birds, especially if you can get above a tom. I had that work twice in two days one spring in Missouri with Preston, another time for Merriam’s birds in North Dakota.

“Probably the best advice I can give to a hunter having a tough time with an old or stubborn tom is to call soft and not too much, and be very patient,” explains Pittman. “Sometimes you’ve got to just hang in there and sit and watch, and just scratch the leaves or soft purr every 10 to 20 minutes.

“Even then, the bird may not do what you want it to do. Put in the time, watch, wait, learn that bird, and be a hunter.
“Slip out and come back that afternoon, or the next day. With turkeys it’s often a chess match, and you’ve got to make all the right moves slowly, patiently and perfectly, or you’re not going to take down that ol’ long beard.

“And that really is what makes this sport so special. It’s not easy, not ever. So when you do succeed, it’s a real occasion for celebration.”

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

Brotherhood Outdoors’ First Canadian Guest Hunts Kansas Whitetail

April 7, 2015 in Articles, Brotherhood Outdoors TV, Hunting

By Laura Tingo

pruner1Brotherhood Outdoors’ very first Canadian guest, Jim Pruner, resides in Airdrie, Alberta, and works at a diamond mine way up in Canada’s Northwest Territories. He has not enjoyed hunting nearly as long as he’s enjoyed fishing, but, to him, there is no comparison when it comes to what he enjoys most.

“I have been salmon fishing off Vancouver Island and deep sea fishing off the coast of Nova Scotia and tried in many lakes and streams everywhere in between,” said Pruner, a member of IAMAW District 14, LL 99. “But it just doesn’t call to me like a clear, cool morning out in the woods or prairie with a good rifle in my hands, looking for a beautiful deer or elk.”

He learned to hunt from friends and what he calls, “trial and error.” Now, he teaches others and brings along a new hunter each year to try to help them harvest their first deer.

“There’s little that comes close to seeing the huge grin on their face after they realize the reward of a challenging hunt,” he said, “…and that they can feel good about their contribution to conservation and to providing food for themselves and their family.”

It was his interest in hunting and conservation that led Pruner to join the USA and apply to be a guest on Brotherhood Outdoors.

“I really think it’s great to grow a love of the outdoors and solidarity amongst the membership,” he said. “It is a common thread no matter which industry, background, union or even country we come from.”

Pruner’s busy lifestyle keeps him close to home, where he volunteers at church as a financial clerk and with its youth group. He also supports Cub Scouts and his local fish and game club.  In his Brotherhood Outdoors application, he described his dream of hunting somewhere different that offers a chance at a big buck.

When the USA learned about Pruner sharing his love of hunting with up and coming hunters and giving back in his community, they decided to make that dream come true with a Kansas whitetail hunt with Brotherhood Outdoors’ co-hosts Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen.

prunerMiles away from Canada, Pruner faced an unexpected challenge in Kansas. An admitted high-energy personality, one of the toughest things he faced was sitting in the deer blind, waiting and watching for the right deer.

“I was so excited to try hunting in a different country…This would be the first time I hunted from a blind for any extended period of time since the area I usually hunt in consists of wide open prairie with little tree cover,” said Pruner.

Just after the sun came up on the first morning of the hunt, a young 10-pointer with two broken tines walked out in view of the blind.

“He was a young deer, not really a shooter, but still bigger than any whitetail I had ever taken,” said Pruner.

“He hunted hard, all day every day,” said McQueen. “I know it was hard for him to sit that long in the blind every day, but he really wanted his deer.”

That first long day in the blind turned into 54 hours of Pruner waiting patiently for a big buck to appear, as the small 10-pointer came out daily to tempt him.

“I wouldn’t have lasted two days without Daniel Lee and Julie’s encouragement and company, as I am not a patient person and fought every second not to jump out of the blind and go chasing into the trees to push the deer out,” Pruner said.

Tune in and watch as the excitement builds on day three when Pruner spots a big buck on the other side of a tree line. When a doe bursts from the trees at a run, will the buck follow behind her to give Pruner a shot at his trophy?

Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on the Sportsman Channel.

Click here for a sneak preview

Plant Spring Food Plots

March 30, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by Beau Tallent

Warm-season food plots hold deer on your property during the off-season, and they provide valuable nutrition to your wildlife.

You don’t need a food plot to kill a deer. Hunters have been getting along just fine before anyone thought of planting a patch of clover. Make no mistake, though: Food plots not only attract and hold deer, they can increase your success dramatically. Food plots concentrate whitetails in a small area, and they allow you to practice better herd management. They also attract and benefit other wildlife species like turkeys, rabbits, quail and songbirds.

Food plots don’t guarantee better hunting, but they can help draw and hold deer and they can keep them in your view a little longer. That gives you the opportunity to make better management decisions.

Food plots don’t guarantee better hunting, but they can help draw and hold deer and they can keep them in your view a little longer. That gives you the opportunity to make better management decisions.

Cool-season food plots are most commonly planted on hunting clubs and properties. These seeds are put in the ground in the late summer or early fall. They provide green fields during the hunting season that greatly improve hunter success. Warm-season food plots are less common, but they may be even more important for a balanced management program to improve the quality of the deer on a tract of land. These plots, planted from April to June depending on the region of the country, provide valuable nutrition as does are having fawns and as bucks are growing antlers.

There’s more to planting a successful food plot or two than turning some dirt and throwing down some seed, though. The best plots are the result of thoughtful site selection, careful design and thorough preparation.

Choose Your Spot

Starting from scratch allows you the freedom to build the perfect plot. If you have the option, consider doing it as close to bedding cover as possible.

Starting from scratch allows you the freedom to build the perfect plot. If you have the option, consider doing it as close to bedding cover as possible.


Aside from water, food plots need one key ingredient more than anything else: sunlight. Without it, they will fail to live up to their potential. That’s why it’s critical to choose your plot locations with that in mind. Most plot plants need at least four hours of direct sunlight per day. That can eliminate some locations like deep woods or narrow trails unless you knock down some of those trees.

If you have plenty of locations with suitable sunlight, don’t just plant them randomly. Instead, says forestry and wildlife consultant Aaron Bumgarner, think like a deer before you build them. For instance, he likes to plant plots adjacent to bedding areas.

“You want deer to feel as comfortable as possible. If they don’t have to travel across a big field or through open woods, they are more likely to use your plot during legal shooting hours,” he says. “I like putting plots in the middle of planted pines, which is often prime bedding cover, because the deer feel safe as they walk to the plot.”

Another good location is smack in the middle of your property, particularly if you have suitable bedding cover throughout your land. Providing adequate food deep within your boundaries ensures that at least some deer will stay on your property and whitetails on the neighboring farms will travel through your land to get to the food.

Of course, multiple plots are better than a single plot. Build several if you have the option. Place them at opposite ends of your property or build them on the corners or scatter them at strategic locations in relation to bedding cover. That not only gives you options to hunt different wind directions, multiple plots allow you to spread out hunting pressure.

Shape It
Before you start carving out the plots, consider their purpose. Will they primarily be used for bow hunting or gun hunting or both? Large plots are fine for gun hunting, but even they should be shaped with hunting in mind. Can you make a shot from one end to the other?

A popular and effective rifle-hunting plot is called the hub-and-spoke or wagon-wheel plot. As its name implies, the center, or hub, is the ideal location to place a blind or shooting tower. The spokes consist of three or more long, narrow plot strips radiating from the hub.

“It’s not a bad idea to put different plants in each spoke,” says Bumgarner. “That gives the deer different choices throughout the season.”

Large plots may not be a good idea if you are only going to hunt it with a bow. You need to reach all the way across is. That’s where smaller, or irregularly shaped plots do best. Bumgarner likes bean-shaped plots and long, narrow plots because deer will pass closer to your stand as they feed. Just make sure to keep them to 30 or 40 yards at the narrowest point, which is where you should place your tree stand.

Bumgarner’s perfect plot is 100 to 125 yards long and 40 yards wide planted close to thick bedding or escape cover. Again, the key is security. If it’s an option, he will leave a few trees in the plot to add to the security.

Keep in mind that single, small plot may not last long if you have lots of deer. Generally, more acreage is better, although there is a point of diminishing returns. Opinions vary, but most experts agree that 3 to 10 percent of your land should be in food plots with plots ranging in size from a quarter up to two or three acres. Again, your deer density, your land’s available locations and your bank account will determine how many plots and how many acres you can plant.

Prep It
Once you’ve mapped out the locations, shapes and sizes of your plots, it’s time to build them. First, use a non-selective herbicide like Roundup to kill off the existing vegetation. Once it’s dead, mow it close to the ground and disk the soil. Wait for new weed growth to appear and spray it again. Turn the dirt, wait a few more weeks and hit it with another dose of herbicide. Repeated disking and spraying will cut down on future weed growth, although you’ll never totally eliminate unwanted plants.

If you start now, though, you can build a food plot that not only draws deer like a magnet, you can create a plot that you can be proud of, even if you never shoot a deer over it.

Spring Food Plot Seed Choices
While cool-season plots are often as basic as a cereal grain or two, like winter wheat or oats, it’s a different palette of potential seeds for plots planted in the spring.

It’s always recommended to blend several different seed plants in the same plot. This provides measured results, as different plants mature at different times and some last longer.

No matter what you plant or where you plant it, first conduct a soil test. It will help you grow healthy food plots that will attract more deer.

No matter what you plant or where you plant it, first conduct a soil test. It will help you grow healthy food plots that will attract more deer.

Common seeds to consider blending for spring plantings include iron clay cowpeas, soybeans, Alyce clover and joint vetch. Other options include lespedeza, browntop millet, sunflowers and buckwheat. A simple mix of cowpeas with buckwheat or Alyce clover with joint vetch will serve you well.

Pre-packaged spring mixtures work well in most situations. Pennington’s Rackmaster blend is an example of a popular mixture. Rackmaster contains soybeans, iron clay cowpeas, buckwheat, sunflowers and sorghum. This blend is high in protein, and it’s palatable. It won’t take deer long to begin using a food plot that contains these plants, and since deer maintain predictable patterns during the summer, they are likely to utilize the plot all summer long.

Test Your Soil

No farmer worth his John Deere plants a crop without first conducting a soil test.

Whitetail Institute vice-president Steve Scott says a soil test will not only help your plots reach their full potential, they can save you money in the long run.

“You may not need as much lime or fertilizer as you thought. A soil test will tell you that,” Steve says.

On the other hand, you may need to amend your soil significantly, which will then lead to strong, vibrant and productive food plots.

Test kits are available through your local extension office or through seed companies like Whitetail Institute.

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

2015 Spring Turkey Hunting: Crash Course for Success

March 26, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

shutterstock_64640317Tens of thousands of hunters will make their inaugural spring turkey hunting trip this season. Most states outlawed spring gobbler hunting until the late 1960s and early 1970s due to conservation efforts. Today, spring hunts have surpassed fall turkey hunting in popularity, but many hunters mistakenly believe the two activities are the same.

Those who have harvested toms and jakes in the fall season have the advantage of experience. The spring season, however, brings with it subtle differences that must be accounted for to ensure success.

Weather Factors

In spring, one day (particularly in the Midwest and Northeast) a foot of snow can fall and the next day it can be 60 degrees. Certain weather conditions are more conducive to successful spring turkey hunting than others.

Snowy days not only enable you to follow tracks left by turkeys but present the opportunity of locating large flocks. Turkeys roost near evergreen and cedar trees to keep warm on cold, snowy days. Toms also tend to gobble loudly in these warming flocks. Windy and rainy days are the worst for hunting, as birds are not vocal in these conditions. Creek bottoms and other shady areas are common flock locations for turkeys on hot spring days.

Mating Season

Toms and jakes scatter and search for food on most days in fall. You’re more likely to locate a single bird or two, as opposed to a flock during this season. Spring, however, is mating season, and this changes the dynamics of the hunt.

Hunters must mimic the mating calls of hens to lure toms and jakes close enough to take the shot. The yelp is the most common hen vocalization; it’s the one they use most often during mating season to tell a tom she’s interested. But just like humans, he may not be “in the mood” at that moment. But a few hours later, that same tom may react to your yelps. This is why mastering the art of turkey calling is so important, as it can make all the difference in success or failure.

Clucking is also a good call for luring toms into range. The purr is a reassuring vocalization to put the tom at ease and make him relax once you have him in your sights.

No Dogs Allowed?

This subject sparks heated debate among veteran turkey hunters. Some believe that using dogs is unfair and removes some of the sporting aspects, because canines can find and flush very easily. The argument is pre-settled in some states (like Wisconsin) that outlaw using dogs for spring turkey hunting.

If you choose to use a dog, make sure they are well-trained and it is not their first turkey hunt. Hens will eventually leave the area entirely if a dog continues to flush them out of potential roosting areas. Bowhunters could benefit from dogs helping locate a downed turkey. The good news is that a turkey’s sense of smell isn’t good, so they likely will not detect a well-trained canine that you hide during callback sessions after the dog flushes the flock.

For more on the latest tips, gear, and strategies that lead to successful spring turkey hunting, subscribe to the Cabela’s Turkey Roost email newsletter and of course, log onto the National Wild Turkey Federation website. And as always, make sure to thank the landowner in writing if you harvested a turkey on private property.

Painters DC 30 Partners with USA to Host Brotherhood Unity Event

March 24, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

Last summer, Painters District Council 30 (PDC 30) and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance joined forces to co-sponsor the first-ever Brotherhood Unity Event Sweepstakes.  PDC 30 members who entered the sweepstakes had a chance to win an all-expenses-paid upland bird hunt at Coon Creek Hunt Club in Garden Prairie, Illinois, in addition to gear from Carhartt, Buck Knives, Zippo and other well-known companies.

Five sweepstakes winners were selected randomly in December 2014 and headed to Coon Creek Hunt Club for the Brotherhood Unity Event on January 3, 2015.  Those winners included Gary Beier (Local 157), Jeff Tallitsch (Local 448), Mandy Ganieany (Local 157), Mark Hall (Local 607) and Trevor Glos (Local 607).  With more than 300 acres of top-notch cover to hunt, the winners got to experience some fast-flying bird action amidst a mixed bag of weather—a little snow, some freezing rain and then just rain as it warmed up. Despite the damp conditions, it was a day filled with laughter and friendship.

PDC 30 winners and event partners at Coon Creek Hunt Club

PDC 30 winners and event partners at Coon Creek Hunt Club

“I had a wonderful time on this hunt. It was great to be able to combine my love for the outdoors and my union.  Memories I will keep forever,” said Mandy Ganieany, an 11-year member of PDC 30.  “When I think of brotherhood and unity, I think of my union.  We are a family.  We look out for each other and support our community.”

The lucky winners received additional prizes from Bank of Labor, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Union Insurance Group.  Ganieany earned a USA logo Buck knife for getting the first bird of the day.

“These are the kinds of events we pride ourselves on hosting for our membership,” said Ryan Anderson, Secretary-Treasurer of PDC 30.  “It’s important that our members are introduced to other organizations that share our common interests and goals.  Not only are we helping further the brand awareness of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, we are also rewarding our members with new and exciting opportunities and new ways to celebrate their hard work.  We look forward to continuing this partnership and expanding this event in the years to come.”

See It to Believe It: Foster Farm Pheasant

March 24, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

see_itWinner of USA’s 2015 See It to Believe It Contest
by Clayton Bolton, IAMAW LL 946

I’m not of a fan of hunting “Foster Farm” pheasants. But I’m not one to turn down an offer to shoot most anything when someone else is paying the bill. They still taste good. Diet sciences for these pen raised birds have come a long way since my first experience with them. The “new” birds actually fly quite well.

One of my brother’s buddies had a lot left on his bird card with little season left. Any leftover birds won’t carry over to the next year, so my brother and I were invited along to help clear the card. It was an opportunity to pop some caps, swap some stories and tell some lies, with the promise of a beer or two afterwards. It didn’t take much to get me to go.

Spring 2015 USA Journal mech.inddWe walked the fields shooting up a storm and stuffing our vests. Suddenly, a strange looking bird with a severe flight disability fluttered across the sky. It looked like a pheasant with no tail feathers. Its flight path was in the general direction of a couple walking the road at the end of the field. The man had his shotgun over his shoulder with his woman by his side. As this directionally challenged bird approached, they were oblivious to the football shaped projectile heading their way. We all had the same thought, “that bird is going to hit them!”

Before any of us could speak, the bird crashed into the top of the gun barrel protruding over the man’s shoulder, the barrel hit the man in the head, and down he went. We all turned and looked at each other, knowing we all saw it and still couldn’t believe it.

Never had any of us seen anything like it before. Even the time I was run over by a doe while hunting wild pheasants on an island in the middle of Cut Ridge Slough didn’t compare. We were on our knees crying with laughter. It was just one of those unexpected things that happen in life. The best part was, it didn’t happen to us.

Gobblers That Don’t Talk

March 13, 2015 in General, Hunting

by David Hart

Confidence, persistence and patience are attributes a successful turkey hunter needs when gobblers are silent.

The author tagged this Nebraska gobbler after the birds stopped gobbling later in the morning. He simply stayed in the woods and kept hunting.

The author tagged this Nebraska gobbler after the birds stopped gobbling later in the morning. He simply stayed in the woods and kept hunting.

In a perfect world, spring gobblers would sound off on the roost as you settle against the base of a tree 100 yards away. They’d fly down, puff into a ball of feathers and gobble every three or four minutes—or more—as they inched their way through the woods in your direction. You’d be able to follow their every move as they zigged and zagged or even walked the other way.

But turkey hunting is far from perfect. Gobblers don’t always sound off when they hit the ground and head your way. Sometimes, they don’t utter a peep at all, even when it seems like the perfect morning.

Be Confident
When a gobbler doesn’t gobbler, that’s where your confidence becomes the most important ingredient of the day. A silent spring morning doesn’t mean the turkeys have vanished, and it certainly doesn’t mean they can’t be called into range. You simply have to believe that gobblers are hearing your yelps, clucks and purrs. And you must believe they will respond, even if they never make a sound.
“I learned a long time ago to be ready for a gobbler every time I hit my call,” says Rick Patterson, a lifelong turkey hunter from central Missouri. “Gobblers will often come without making a sound, especially if they’ve been pressured, so you need to be sitting down with your gun up as if you are certain a gobbler is on his way.”

In other words, don’t just walk down a trail and throw out a few yelps hoping a gobbler sounds off. Expect one to come in quiet every time you call.

It doesn’t always work, but blind calling to silent gobblers can be an effective tactic. Be patient and be alert. You just might catch a glimpse of a gobbler sneaking in to your calls.

It doesn’t always work, but blind calling to silent gobblers can be an effective tactic. Be patient and be alert. You just might catch a glimpse of a gobbler sneaking in to your calls.

“They actually do that a lot,” adds Patterson. “I don’t know how many times I’ve been standing there waiting to hear a gobbler after I made a few calls when I saw one running to me. Now, I won’t make a call without sitting down and getting ready. I expect to see a gobbler every time I call.”

Be Patient
Not all gobblers sprint to his calls. More often than not, Patterson doesn’t see anything. Sometimes, though, he does. It just takes a while. Most silent gobblers are in no hurry to investigate the sounds of a hen. It can take an hour or more for a nearby gobbler to make his way to you. That was another hard but valuable lesson Patterson learned over the course of 40 years in the turkey woods. He would sit for a few minutes before assuming there was no gobbler within hearing distance.

“It seemed like every time I stood up, I’d see a gobbler running away,” he recalls. “Any more, if I’m not working an active bird and I haven’t heard a gobble all morning, I might as well stay in one place and stick it out. I’ll sit for two or three hours sometimes.”

Staying put is much better than simply walking through the woods. In fact, there’s no better way than to burn out a tract of land than by constantly walking around. You may not see or hear them, but there’s a good chance you are doing nothing but spooking birds and ultimately decreasing your opportunities the rest of the season.

A gobbler doesn’t have to be gobbling every five minutes for a hunt to be successful. Be patient, and be prepared for a silent bird that may be making its way toward your calling.

A gobbler doesn’t have to be gobbling every five minutes for a hunt to be successful. Be patient, and be prepared for a silent bird that may be making its way toward your calling.

Be Persistent
Waiting in a single spot may be a great way to kill a silent gobbler, but it also helps you kill time. That’s important on those silent mornings. Patterson says gobblers often start talking later in the morning, even if they didn’t gobble at first light.

“They may already have hens in the morning, but those hens may leave and the gobbler will start gobbling to attract new hens or to call his harem back to him,” he says.

“If you can stick it out to 10 or 11 or even later, there’s a pretty good chance you can hear one gobble.”
That late-morning activity is even more likely to happen on public land. Although some hunters do stay in the woods throughout the morning, the majority are gone within a few hours of sunrise. Turkeys figure that out. They wait for hunters to leave before resuming their normal breeding activity. They may not talk much, but a single gobble is often enough to lead you to the right general location.

Once you close the distance, you shouldn’t “talk” much, either. Spend enough time in the woods, and you’ll realize hens just aren’t that vocal most of the time. They might cluck occasionally and they’ll make a few soft yelps at times, but they are rarely loud and aggressive. You shouldn’t be, either.

When All Else Fails
If you can’t get an answer or you never hear a gobble, find a known strutting area, sit down and wait. Fields, ridges, openings in big woods and along river bottoms are all common strutting areas. Gobblers will often follow their hens around for a couple of hours before heading to their strutting zone. If you get their first, there’s a good chance you can punch a tag. It’s a roll of the dice, but if you are greeted by the sound of silence the next time you step into the turkey woods it’s better than loading up your truck and heading home.

What Influences Gobbling Activity?
A number of research projects have examined gobbling activity and the various factors that influence it. One, conducted on an unhunted area in South Carolina, found a distinct peak of gobbling activity in the early spring when flocks of hens and jakes break up. Gobblers also increased vocalizations during the peak incubation period. As more hens were sitting on nests, gobblers were more active in their search for unbred hens.

That study looked at activity throughout the spring and developed a trend for the entire season. It didn’t examine daily or short-term factors like weather and hunting pressure. A study in South Dakota did. It examined gobbling activity of a hunted population and a nearby unhunted population and examined gobbling activity related to various weather conditions and hunting pressure. There was no discernible pattern in gobbling activity related to various weather factors. Temperature, precipitation and barometric pressure don’t seem to dictate gobbling activity, at least not in any way that researchers could tell. However, hunting activity did. The results were obvious: Pressured birds clammed up.

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

Master Your Shot at the Range and in the Field

March 12, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

Archery can be one of the most thrilling and rewarding forms of hunting regardless of what animal you are pursuing. The heart pounding seconds as your prey gets closer to your ideal shooting range is like nothing else in the world, and bagging the perfect kill is something that you can brag about to your buddies. But the truth is, it takes a certain level of skill and technique to successfully take down an animal with a bow and arrow, and there are many things that can throw off your shot, causing you to miss your target.

Equipment

One of the biggest factors to consider when bowhunting is your gear. Not every bow is a good fit for every person. With the technology today, the right bow for you might not be the one you expected, and having the wrong weapon is the quickest way to ensure you miss your target. Consider these factors:

Eye Dominance

Are you right or left eye dominant? Typically it is the same as your hand dominance, but not always. Most hunters don’t encounter problems when practicing with their less dominant eye, however, when put in high-pressure situations, problems can arise and you might miss that buck. Test your eyes by using the thumb test. Hold your arm up, focus on an object about 20 feet away and cover up the object with your thumb. Your thumb should look out of focus as you continue to look in the same direction as the object. Close your left eye; if your thumb doesn’t appear to move and covers the object, this means you are right eye dominant. If it looks like your thumb moved, you’ve just discovered that you’re left eye dominant. Once you know which eye is dominant, you’re ready to purchase a bow.

Draw Length

Different bows have different draw lengths and it is dependent primarily on the length of your arms and the width of your shoulders.

Draw Weight

The draw weight is the amount of force that’s needed to bring the bow to a full draw. This is measured in pounds. Ideally you will want to find a weight that you can easily draw and hold for up to 60 seconds without shaking.

Calculating all of these variables and finding the best compound bow can be tricky. Often times the best move you can make is to seek assistance. Retailers like Cabela’s can not only give you advice and recommendations, they also offer some of the best quality compound bows and latest outdoor gear.

Form and Technique

Proper form can have a drastic impact on the success of your shot. As with any activity requiring skill, you will need to find the perfect form and practice until achieving it on a moment’s notice is as familiar as breathing.

Stance

Proper foot positioning is vital. Most hunters will use the “open” stance but other options include “closed” and “squared.” Experiment with different stances and find the right position for success.

Grip

Your grip works to stabilize the bow. Find the spot on your hand where you don’t have to have a tight hold on the bow when drawn. Your fingers should be relaxed and loose when fully drawn. This will also ensure that your arm is positioned correctly and your elbow and shoulder is locked. A variety of compound bow manufacturers install a removable grip that can be replaced with an aftermarket grip so that hunters can adjust their grips to their preferred comfort.

Draw

Start with your elbow at your chin, pull your arm straight back. Most of the work should be done by the muscles in your back, not your arm.

Anchor Position

Consistency is the biggest factor with your anchor position. Pick a spot on your jawbone that allows your hand and knuckles to rest solidly when you let go of the bowstring or trigger of your release. Make sure you use the exact same spot every time—this can have a huge impact on the arrow’s direction.

T-Form

This is an evaluation that you can use to make sure you have proper form. Have a buddy look at you from the side as you have the bow drawn. Your spine should be straight and your elbows and shoulders should be relatively even, forming a “T” with your body.

Outdoor Oddities

February 13, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by Bob McNally

A funny thing happened on the way outdoors…

Humorist Dave Barry pretty much owns the comedy line, “You can’t make this stuff up.” But that zinger sure fits a lot of outdoor happenings. Here are but a few to make a sportsman shake his head in disbelief, blink heartily, and or even chuckle.

A New And Dangerous Breed Of Flying Fish

This is where you expect to see a sheepshead, not dropping from the sky and smashing into an airplane on a runway.

This is where you expect to see a sheepshead, not dropping from the sky and smashing into an airplane on a runway.

The takeoff of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Gulfstream G-IV jet from MacDill AFB in Florida was aborted after it collided with a 9-inch sheepshead on the runway.

Sheepshead, in case you didn’t know, are a zebra-striped saltwater fish often found up to 100 feet deep on nearshore reefs and or huddled tight to structure like barnacled piers—not dropping out of the sky on an airport runway!

Investigators surmised the fish was, most likely, dropped by a bald eagle in flight.

The sheepshead caused no damage to the NOAA jet, said base wildlife manager Lindsey Garven, but added, “It left a streak of fish guts.”

No Hunter Left Behind

Cuz Strickland, of the Mossy Oak camouflage company, remembers a long-range drive to bowhunt he and some pals made. They were driving from their homes in Mississippi to Texas. The guys worked long, overtime hours to get free time to hunt, so when they left late one night, one of the crew was dead tired and sacked out asleep in the back seat of a van.

They drove through the night, and somewhere just over the Texas state line, they pulled into a small gas station for fuel. While the tank filled, everyone except “sleeping beauty” got out of the van to stretch their legs.

While they were gone, the sleeping hunter woke and went into the service station washroom. When he returned to the van, it was gone. His pals had paid for the gas, gotten back into the van and didn’t noticed he wasn’t in the vehicle.

Three hours later the van driver saw a Texas police car speeding up behind him, lights flashing, siren screaming. The driver gulped hard, everyone sat up straight and wondered why they were being pulled over.

When they stopped, the police car pulled alongside, and there was their wayward red-faced buddy, wearing only shorts, boots and an intense frown.

Heads Up: Not Your Normal Weapon Of Choice

When Terry Nowakowski, 20, broke down the door of his Zephyrhills, Fla. home to confront his girlfriend during a heated argument, Chelsea Harrison grabbed the nearest thing she could find to defend herself—a mounted deer head.

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office reported that she “began striking him in the face and body with the ends of the antlers until she lost her grip, dropping it to the floor.”

Apparently, the buck stopped there.

Alligator heads aren’t regularly used as weapons except by live alligators. But it did occur when the ex-girlfriend of Arkansas State Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R) was charged with third-degree domestic battery after allegedly striking him in the head with a preserved (mounted) alligator head during a domestic dispute.

Julie McGee, 39, of Little Rock, was booked into the Pulaski County Jail after Hutchinson called police to his home late one night.

Snakes… Enough Said

A man who stopped along South Florida’s Alligator Alley to catch a glimpse of the area’s famous reptiles got a little closer to nature than he expected. The result was being air-lifted to an emergency care unit. Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles said the 29-year-old from Boynton Beach was bitten on the foot by a cottonmouth water moccasin snake one evening after he and his girlfriend stopped their car and got out to watch an alligator, apparently oblivious to the reptile near their feet.

In Rowan County, North Carolina, 82-year-old William Litaker spotted a couple of poisonous copperhead snakes behind a mobile home he used as storage. To rid the danger posed by the snakes, he thought he’d “smoke ’em out.” But when his kerosene-induced smoke-snake-control-system destroyed a barn, two sheds and the mobile home containing collectibles and antiques, he was reflective.

“I thought now would be a good time to do it [smoke ’em], but it wasn’t,” he said.

A Shark’s Smile

Florida Keys Capt. Lenny Moffo had been guiding tarpon anglers only a short time and made a rookie mistake that almost cost him dearly.

Unhooking, reviving and releasing a giant tarpon at boatside is exciting enough. Things get a bit dicey when a 400-pound shark joins the party.

Unhooking, reviving and releasing a giant tarpon at boatside is exciting enough. Things get a bit dicey when a 400-pound shark joins the party.

In those days he used a small hand “release” gaff for holding played-out tarpon at boatside while he did unhooking chores. No problem, except he put his hand through the gaff lanyard to prevent losing the tool overboard. He used the gaff that way successfully for a number of big tarpon, until one day guiding two anglers near Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys.

Lenny put the gaff in a 90-pounder’s lower jaw and was working on the hooks when suddenly a giant bull shark came rushing in and hit the tarpon in the middle across the back. The shark pulled on the tarpon so hard Lenny couldn’t get the gaff out of the fish’s jaw, and he couldn’t turn loose the gaff because of the lanyard.

The 400-pound shark started pulling him overboard. Lenny yelled at his anglers to save him from going in with the shark, but they had frozen in shock, fear—or whatever emotions sweep through a person when they see a huge shark chewing through a huge tarpon while the guide is being pulled into the ocean.

Lenny was in a panic, but he was able to lock-hook his knees under his skiff gunnel long enough that the shark cut the tarpon in two before he got pulled over.

Lenny said he will never forget kneeling in his boat with a massive tarpon head still hanging from his release gaff.

Trout Trip To Remember, For All The Wrong Reasons

Tim Sampson, of Atlanta, had been waiting anxiously for spring trout season in North Carolina. He diligently picked the perfect remote river to fish and waited for an ideal weekend, and then he drove six hours to his selected spot. Shortly after daybreak, Tim parked his car near the river, walked in to the stream, and worked into position to begin fishing. He had a new, expensive graphite fly rod and new chest-high waders, which he couldn’t wait to use.

He climbed over riverside rocks and boulders to the stream edge, and studied the river to choose just the right fly. He placed his $400 fly rod on a large boulder beside the stream, while he selected a fly from his trout vest. That’s when he heard the clickety-clack of rocks above him on a bluff wall beside the river.

Tim looked up and saw two hat-size stones had broken loose from the stream-side cliff and were dancing down toward him. They weren’t dangerous, so he watched fascinated as the rocks skipped and bounced their way down from 100 feet above. One rock in particular hopped high as it careened downhill, smacking here and there until it pirouetted just above and to the side of Sampson, landing smack on his pencil-thin graphite fly rod, smashing it to ruin.

At the moment of impact, Tim sensed trouble and leaped to pull his fly rod to safety. But he slipped on loose boulders and fell—cutting several large gashes in his new waders.

With no other rods and ruined waders, Tim left the stream and headed for his parked car, which wouldn’t start. It was 3 miles to the nearest town, and only two cars passed him as he walked to get help. Neither of them offered Tim a ride. It was dark before he got a wrecker to tow his car to a service station. And it was late the next day before he started back to Atlanta.

“It was a trout trip I’ll never forget,” he lamented. “It cost me a $400 rod, $100 waders, $200 to have my car fixed, and another $100 for food and a motel—and I never made one cast, let alone catch a fish.”

The author’s best-selling book Fishermen’s Knots, Fishing Rigs, and How To Use Them has 304-pages with nearly 700 illustrations, making it the most comprehensive reference on the subject. It covers nearly 200 fishing knots and rigs of value to all anglers. Autographed copies are available online at www.mcnallyoutdoors.com.

 

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

UA Father and Son to Share Wyoming Dream Hunt

January 26, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

Howard (L) and Donald (R) Thomas are both avid hunters and proud UA Local 502 members.

Howard (L) and Donald (R) Thomas are both avid hunters and proud UA Local 502 members.

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

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

“I have never even seen an antelope except on TV,” said Thomas, who added that it will be a first for his dad as well.  “We always talked about doing something like this, but it’s very expensive and, with kids, there’s no time.  This makes it a lot easier.”

When Thomas saw an ad for the USA’s sweepstakes in the UA magazine, he figured he might as well enter, but he couldn’t help wondering “what is this going to cost me” when he got the phone call from USA Deputy Director Mike d’Oliveira.  Lucky for Thomas, the answer was nothing, thanks to the USA’s great partnership with Remington.

The Remington Model 700 CDL SF in 7mm Mag that tops off the $7,000 grand prize package is ‘extra sweet’ icing on the cake for Thomas, an avid Remington fan and the owner of six Remington shotguns.  You can only hunt whitetail with a shotgun in Indiana, so the Model 700 will come in handy for Thomas’ antelope hunt in the fall.

“I never knew that Remington was union until Mike told me…that made it even better,” Thomas said.  “I tell all my friends to buy nothing but Remington.”

We wish Thomas and his dad the best of luck on their antelope hunt and look forward to sharing the highlights of their trip in a future issue of the Union Sportsmen’s Journal.

DIY Deer Processing

January 18, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson

Yes, it’s true. Over the past 30 years, I’ve been accused—and more than once, mind you—of being cheap.

Any hunter knows the great joy and satisfaction of harvesting a deer. The next level of satisfaction is processing your own deer to fill the freezer with the ultimate in organic meat.

Any hunter knows the great joy and satisfaction of harvesting a deer. The next level of satisfaction is processing your own deer to fill the freezer with the ultimate in organic meat.

Not frugal, not budget-conscious, but cheap.

And you know what? I’m okay with that, especially when it comes to processing the whitetails my wife and I tag each fall and winter. Over the last decade, professional processing for venison, be it deer, elk, or what-have-you, has increased dramatically in price, often to the point where it’s simply no longer affordable to many.

The answer? DIY, aka Do-It-Yourself, processing of their big-game harvests. Certainly, processing your first deer might initially seem a daunting task. However, believe me, it’s not difficult. Yes, there is time involved, and self-processing is a bit of an On-The-Job-Training type of proposition. But when you consider the money you’re saving, and the knowledge that it’s absolutely, positively your venison roasting in that Dutch oven, you’ll soon see it’s definitely time well spent.

It’s trendy these days to eat organic. Well, there’s nothing more organic than killing a deer and handling all of the processing and packaging.

 

 

My Processing Equipment List

While I’m a firm believer in keeping things simple, I’m also a stance advocate of having the proper tools for the job. DIY deer processing is no different. If you have the right tools, you’ve taken 50 percent of the challenge out of the task. Before I get started… rather, once the animal is home, hanging in the garage, and the woodburner going to knock the chill off—I assemble the following equipment for the preliminary or outside work:

• 4.25-inch knife, a Buck #2243  mid-spined, with some backbone

• a 5-inch Edge Brand #487 stiff, with lots of backbone for tough spots

• a 6-inch Buck #226, flexible blade for fillet type work

• Firestone wheel sharpener

• Meat saw

• Shop vacuum

• Paper towels

 

For the finish or inside work, I’ll have the following:

 

• 7-inch Rapala fillet knife

• Clean restaurant bus tubs – 1,710 cubic inch interior

• Vacuum packer and assorted bags

• Butcher paper

• Masking tape

• Indelible Sharpie marker, black

True, your equipment list might be a tad different—this knife for that favorite one, or an electric sharpener—but the above will get you started on the right foot, not to mention that you’ll likely already have most, if not all of these items in your cabinet already.

 

Step-by-Step DIY Deer Processing

It’s true that exceptional wild game on the table begins in the field. Tasty meat begins with quick harvest, proper field-dressing and good temperature management practices, i.e. keep it cool, but not frozen. Here, let’s assume we’re dealing with a medium-sized whitetail. The animal has been field-dressed, and is hanging via a gambrel in the garage or back yard if you’re living in the country. The step-by-step from field to skillet involves:

• Skinning and trimming. I skin my deer immediately because a warm carcass is easier to work with than a cold, or worse, a frozen one. After skinning, I trim all the fat, connective tissue, and blood-shot meat away. Here’s a great tip… a shop vacuum makes short work of all the stray hair left clinging to the carcass; however, be sure to empty the canister before the weather warms. I learned this one the hard and smelly way

• If the temperature ranges from 35 to 40 degrees, I’ll slip a cheesecloth game bag over the carcass and let it age for up to two weeks. Yes, I said 14 days. However, if there’s a chance of it freezing solid or, on the other end, becoming too warm as in 40+ degrees, I’ll process the animal immediately. We’ll assume the latter for our purposes here

• With the 6-inch Buck knife, I remove the backstraps on either side of the spine. These are trimmed of all fat and connective tissue, and I cut them into 1-inch butterfly chops or small steaks and vacuum pack them in meal-size portions. Don’t forget about the true tenderloins located opposite the backstraps just below the hips on the inside of the body cavity

• The front shoulders, legs and remaining trimmings are removed and put into a 5-gallon bucket lined with two clean trash bags to be ground into burger. Using the meat saw, I cut through the spine ahead of the hips, leaving just the hindquarters to be worked. Keeping the saw busy, I cut through the pelvic bone, which gives me two separate hindquarters to contend with.

• Each hindquarter is processed identically. The shank (lower portion) is removed, cut to size, and dropped into the burger bucket. The hindquarters are deboned and cut into roasts by muscle group, or into steaks, whichever you prefer. It’s important to understand I’m not a professional butcher; therefore, my roasts and steaks always—and I do mean always—look different from animal to animal. To most of us, looks don’t matter, for it’s all about taste. If you’re unsure with the hindquarters, simply let the various muscle separations be your guide. It’s a learning process, you really can’t do it wrong.

A quality grinder is well worth the investment and will pay for itself after only several deer are processed.

A quality grinder is well worth the investment and will pay for itself after only several deer are processed.

• Now for the packaging. Steaks, roasts and chops are vacuum-sealed and will keep for up to a year in the freezer. Burger is ground (see below), and mixed with ground pork fat at a ratio of approximately 7:1, burger to fat. The finished burger is shaped into 1-pound blocks, wrapped in Saran Wrap followed by quality butcher paper, and marked with the initials VB (Venison Burger) and the date.

Gear Spotlight: Cabela’s 1HP Electric Grinder

For years, I kept telling my wife, Julia Carol, I wished I had an electric grinder. With such an appliance, I could complete the deer processing—well, process in its entirety, along with saving the now $100 or more to take the trimmings to a butcher, simply to be ground into burger. Finally, I pulled the proverbial trigger and purchased a commercial grade 1HP electric grinder from Cabela’s (cabelas.com). Yes, the $500 upfront cost might come as somewhat of a shock; however, I like the speed and all-round capabilities of the larger unit. NOTE: Cabela’s also offers a 3/4HP model for $379, and a 1/2HP for $329. But with the price of professional processing on the rise nationally, it will only take two or three deer to reach the break-even point on my purchase.

A long list of accessories is available for our particular unit (#22), including sausage stuffers, jerky slicers, juicers, a burger press, even a 7-gallon meat mixer. All of the inner-workings are dishwasher safe, and the grinder itself can be cleaned in just minutes. The grinder is simple to operate, and, with the optional foot-operated power switch attached, a joy to use.

 

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

Motion Quotient For Decoying Waterfowl

January 8, 2015 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

Watch a flock of ducks on a city park pond or a group of geese on a golf course, and one thing will stand out: Motion. They swim, splash, walk and flap their wings. Aside from the occasional sleeping bird, the entire flock is in a perpetual state of motion.

A flag can get the attention of distant geese, but don’t use it when the birds are committed or already working your spread.

A flag can get the attention of distant geese, but don’t use it when the birds are committed or already working your spread.

When viewing flooded fields and timber from the sky, wakes and movement in the water can be seen long before actually ducks on the water are visible.

Skilled waterfowlers understand that in order to fool ducks and geese, it’s vital to imitate, to some extent, the natural motion that occurs from a flock that has lit on the ground or water. Whether it’s a handful of mallard decoys on a marsh or 10 dozen full-body goose decoys in a corn field, adding some sort of motion to the spread can tip the balance in your favor and help in decoying them in for a shot.

Flag Them In

One of the best ways to pull in a flock of geese passing in the distance is with a flag. Little more than a piece of goose-colored cloth cut into the profile of a flying bird and attached to a handle, a flapping goose flag can draw the attention of distant geese and alert them to your presence. That’s about all they are meant to do, though.

“One of the biggest mistakes I see with flags is that guys will use them when the geese are coming right to their spreads or when the birds are directly overhead,” says Mark Brendemuehl, an Avery Outdoors territory manager and expert waterfowl hunter. “Flags are really just meant to let passing geese know you are there, so once they turn and come toward me, I’ll quit flagging and start calling.”

Spin Cycle

Spinning-wing decoys don’t just draw the attention of passing ducks, they can pull birds out of the sky and into your decoys. Although he’s not a big fan of them, Mark admits spinners can be deadly at decoying ducks under the right conditions.

Spinning-wing decoys can be highly effective in certain situations. Use three or four in dry fields for extra pulling power.

Spinning-wing decoys can be highly effective in certain situations. Use three or four in dry fields for extra pulling power.

The rapid flash of battery-powered wings excels in dry fields, particularly in the early season. They can work well over water, too. However, experience has taught Mark that there are times when they not only don’t work, they actually spook ducks.

“Ducks can be come conditioned to avoid them later in the season, and they don’t seem to work as well on cloudy days,” he says. “If you are using one, and it’s not working, pull it.”

Pay attention. If ducks are flaring, it may well be that noisy flapping contraption in the middle of your decoy spread.

Mark has also learned that geese tend to avoid spinning-wing decoys. That presents a dilemma for hunters who have an opportunity for ducks and geese on the same hunt. Do you jump up and turn off the spinners when you see geese? Or do you turn it on when ducks are in the sky?

Jerk It

Spinners are illegal in a handful of states, and some hunters reject the notion of using any device powered by battery. They understand the importance of motion, though, which is why many veteran hunters use a jerk cord, one of the oldest tricks in the book. There’s no easier and inexpensive way to bring a water spread to life. Jerk cords are little more than a string tied to a line of decoys. They are easy to make, but some companies like Avery Outdoors sell jerk-cord kits that include a length of string, a bungee cord, a weight and clips to quickly attach several decoys to the cord.

Jerk cords excel on calm days and on small waters. Jerk cords are also deadly in standing timber. Passing mallards can’t resist the combination of urgent calling and splashing or swimming decoys.

A jerk cord can add life to a lifeless decoy spread. They excel in flooded timber and on small, calm bodies of water, but they work anywhere your decoys need a little motion.

A jerk cord can add life to a lifeless decoy spread. They excel in flooded timber and on small, calm bodies of water, but they work anywhere your decoys need a little motion.

While many waterfowlers assume there’s no need for added motion on a breezy morning, Mark will use still use a jerk cord even when a slight wind bounces and shifts his decoys.

“I just pull a little harder to get them to make a lot of commotion. That can look like ducks feeding or splashing, which can give you the upper hand if you are competing against other hunters,” he says.

Batteries Required

A host of products designed to add life to a duck or goose spread require batteries. Some splash water, a few wobble, others actually fly in circles over the water or ground. They all draw the attention of passing birds and can pull them into shooting range when a lifeless spread can’t.

The problem, says Mark, is that battery-powered decoys are prone to repair issues, and the batteries seem to go dead when you least expect it. Smart hunters check the batteries before they hunt, of course, or they simply carry spares. However, they can add another layer of complication to the hunt.

“I try to avoid complications,” Mark adds. “I hunt a lot of places that require a pretty long walk, so I try not to carry extra weight or something that may or may not work when I get there. I know a jerk cord and a flag will work every time.”

What you use is somewhat less important than the mere fact that you add some motion to your decoy spread. It doesn’t matter if it’s powered by your hands or a 12-volt battery. A lively decoy spread will outdraw a lifeless spread every time.

 

 

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

Hunting Safety and Potential Legal Liabilities

December 19, 2014 in Articles, Hunting

By Nik Donovic

Hunters face many potential legal liabilities as well as dangers to their personal health and well-being each time they hunt. As a hunter, it is your responsibility to understand the laws and restrictions in the area where you intend to hunt. If you want to dramatically minimize potential legal liabilities for which you could be held accountable, practicing hunting safely at all times is essential.

Hunters, and owners of hunting land, who join organizations such as Union Sportsmen’s Alliance can also learn more about and contribute to ongoing conservation efforts designed to protect local wildlife habitats and improve access to quality hunting areas.

huntingSafety Tips to Help Keep You Safe While Hunting
There are certain gun and other safety tips you will want to keep top-of-mind at all times while hunting. Learning and adhering to these safety rules could mean the difference between you sustaining serious injury in a hunting or firearms accident and you coming home unharmed and safe.
•    Always assume a gun is loaded.
•    Never point your gun at other people. Always point it in a safe direction.
•    Your finger needs to stay off the trigger until you are ready to fire a shot.
•    Line your target up, but also check the area beyond your target before you shoot.
•    While a deer cannot distinguish difference in certain colors, wearing hunter orange could help save your life. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation states hunters are seven times less likely to be mistaken for game and shot when they are wearing hunter orange.
•    Use a sturdy, portable tree stand that does not need to be nailed into a tree. (In some areas, it is illegal to build permanent tree stands, platforms, blinds and other such structures.)
•    If you plan to use a tree stand to give yourself a better vantage point, stay as low as possible. You are more likely to sustain serious injury the higher you are off the ground.
•    Never carry guns or other weapons up a tree. Raise these items up and down, unloaded, so you minimize your risk of an accidental discharge.
•    Stay physically fit. Hunting can be taxing and cause significant strain on a person’s body. Exercising regularly, eating well and preparing yourself for the long haul can reduce your risk of suffering serious health problems while hunting.

Potential Liabilities Associated with Hunting Accidents and Injuries
The key to prime hunting land is access. An estimated 85 percent of the property in New York State is privately-owned. This means hunters have either zero or very limited access to the forests, fields and other areas where wildlife typically roam.

Access R2landownerhunterProperty Owners
While some land owners may be willing to provide temporary access to their properties for hunting purposes, there are a number of potential legal liabilities associated with hunting accidents and injuries sustained on private property. Property owners with extensive amounts of land are often forced to deal with people trespassing on their properties. Even when a property owner grants temporary access to hunters, there are certain circumstances in which he or she could still be held legally liable for any injury or harm caused by the hunters.

Should an owner of hunting land fail to warn hunters of potential dangers on the property, neglect to post trespassing and other warning signs, or act in a negligent manner that puts hunters or others needlessly in harm’s way, he or she might be liable. Owners of hunting land, as well as hunting clubs, are advised to obtain hunting land and lease liability insurance to protect themselves and their assets.

Hunters
Hunters who do not own a large piece of land must find other ways to gain access to hunting land. In many cases, hunters can obtain a lease, request restricted access from the property owner, take advantage of state-owned land or become a member of a hunting club.

If you do plan to hunt on a piece of private land, you need to ask permission first or you could, at the very least, face trespassing charges. Hunters themselves could also face potential legal issues if they are found responsible for causing injury or harm to another as a result of negligence. Hunters can purchase insurance to cover injury, death, property, equipment, guest liability, member-to-member coverage, general liability and more.

Sources:
NY State Department of Environmental Conservation: Hunter Safety Basics
Register-Star: Access Is Key to Prime hunting LandScott C. Gottlieb & Associates, LLP: http://www.1800talklaw.com/personal-injury/hunting-firearms-accidents/

Dillon Precision Products – American Made with a No B.S. Warranty

December 9, 2014 in Articles, Hunting

by James Pryor, USA Membership Services Manager

dillon_225American made outdoor products are not always easy to find, so I felt compelled to share my experience with an American-made product that is backed by one of the best warranties and customer service organizations in the industry.  No, I’m not a company rep. or pro-staffer.  I’m simply a happy customer.

The company is Dillon Precision Products, and they produce some of the finest progressive reloading presses in the world.  I have owned two Dillon presses for more than 25 years.  During that time, I have reloaded tens of thousands of rounds on each of them.  On the rare occasions when I did have an issue, my phone call to the customer service department was answered quickly, and the person on the other end was extremely knowable about not only on the product in question but reloading in general.  In each and every case, they made helpful suggestions and helped me troubleshoot the issue.

On the even rarer occasions when a replacement part was required, they shipped it out immediately and at no cost to me.  When these guys say they have a lifetime “no BS warranty,” they truly mean it.  For those who reload or have an interest in reloading, I would encourage you to check out Dillon Precision at www.dillonprecision.com.

What’s Wrong With Sunday Hunting?

December 5, 2014 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

If you were standing outside on February 18, 2014, you might have heard a collective cheer coming from fields and forests of Virginia.

The addition of Sunday hunting will give parents the freedom to take their kids more often. As hunter numbers decline, it’s vital to instill the hunting ethic in the next generation.

The addition of Sunday hunting will give parents the freedom to take their kids more often. As hunter numbers decline, it’s vital to instill the hunting ethic in the next generation.

That’s when the state legislature passed a bill legalizing Sunday hunting for the first time in modern history.

That leaves a shrinking number of states—West Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, South Carolina, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania—with total or partial bans on Sunday hunting.

Sunday hunting remains illegal on public land in Virginia, a compromise to appease the hikers, bird watchers and horseback riders who were active and vocal in their opposition.

Why The Hate?

Despite the compromise by advocates on public land, those groups continued to fight against the bill to legalize Sunday hunting, claiming their lives were at risk by simply walking or riding on a trail. What they failed to realize (or admit) is that sharing the woods with a hunter is far safer than driving to the trail or riding a horse.

It isn’t just non-hunters and anti-hunters who oppose Sunday hunting. Unbelievably, some hunters are against it. The Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance, a group that consists primarily of hunters who use hounds to run deer, fought the bills every year they were brought up. Their logic? A position paper on the VHDA’s web site cites everything from religion to the notion that game animals need a day of rest.

Some Pennsylvania hunters fear landowners who currently grant hunting permission would stop if Sundays became just another day to hunt.

“That argument frustrates me to no end,” says Virginia resident Matt O’Brien, who organized a Facebook page dedicated to lifting the ban in his home state. “If a landowner doesn’t want anyone hunting on Sunday, all he has to do is say so. It’s his land.”

No hikers or horseback riders were injure during this hunt. Despite the fear-mongering from Sunday hunting opponents, outdoor user groups all find a place to take part in their favorite activities, even on Sunday.

No hikers or horseback riders were injured during this hunt! Despite the fear-mongering from Sunday hunting opponents, outdoor user groups all find a place to take part in their favorite activities, even on Sunday.

Slow Progress

Virginia may have been the most recent state to lift the long-standing ban, but it likely won’t be the last. However, it could be a while before places like Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Maine enjoy the freedom given to Virginia hunters.

Opposition from a variety of groups remains strong in those and other states. Sadly, many hunters remain complacent.

“I think a lot of people think it’s a losing cause, so they don’t bother. Or they don’t grasp the importance of the additional day, but a lot of people work six days a week, so their only opportunity is on Sunday,” says O’Brien. “The addition of Sunday could help increase hunters participation at a time when hunter numbers are declining.”

A study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) found the addition of Sunday hunting in the states where it remains illegal would result in the addition of 27,000 new jobs and an overall economic impact of $2.2 billion.

The direct impact alone in Pennsylvania would add more than 4,400 jobs.

Make It Happen

O’Brien says it wasn’t just a grassroots effort that helped pass Sunday hunting in Virginia. The NRA and the NSSF were busy working the state legislature, putting pressure on specific law makers and educating the rest of the state capital.

However, neither group would have gotten involved if O’Brien didn’t build an active and vocal grassroots network through social media. By the time the movement gained full momentum, he gathered 6,000 members on the Facebook page dedicated to the cause.

Many were active in writing letters not only to their state representatives, but to local newspapers and web sites countering the various hollow arguments used in opposition to Sunday hunting.

“We had the facts on our side, and I think we did a very good job getting those facts out to the public,” says O’Brien. “Lots of people were very active in the grassroots effort.”

Hunters must first convince their fellow sportsmen that winning the Sunday hunting battle can be done. It starts with grassroots efforts like this one, which took place at Bass Pro Shops near Richmond, Virginia.

Hunters must first convince their fellow sportsmen that winning the Sunday hunting battle can be done. It starts with grassroots efforts like this one, which took place at Bass Pro Shops near Richmond, Virginia.

Equally important, he adds, is that the fight was framed around private property rights. Why isn’t a landowner allowed to participate in an activity that’s legal six days a week on the seventh day? What’s so different about Sundays?

“There was no valid argument against the property rights issue,” he adds.

It was an argument that helped win the fight in Ohio, which lifted its blanket ban on Sunday hunting in 2002. None of the dire predictions put forth by opponents came true. Even farmers, one of the most vocal opposition groups, ultimately embraced Sunday hunting.

O’Brien suggests hunters in other states organize through social media and undertake an active and honest public relations campaign. Supporters in Virginia set up booths at outdoors shows, even major outdoor retailers in an effort to gain support.

“Every time you see a story about Sunday hunting, write a letter to the editor or on the comments section setting the record straight. Talk to as many people as you can and use facts to support the cause,” he says.

“I think it will eventually come to the states that don’t have it yet, but only if hunters organize, unite and become active in their push to legalize something that should be legal.

“Forty other states allow it,” O’Brien said. “The world keeps spinning, and everyone gets along just fine.”

 

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

 

Slugs For Deer

November 16, 2014 in Articles, Hunting

by Dave Mull

Today’s shotguns and slugs for hunting big game, especially whitetail deer, deliver performance almost on a par with high-powered rifles. The key word is “almost.”

In areas where high-powered rifles are impractical or even not allowed, slug shotguns are a great option for deer hunting. A nice, tight group of slugs is the goal for any hunter.

In areas where high-powered rifles are impractical or not allowed, slug shotguns are a great option for deer hunting. A nice, tight group of slugs is the goal for any hunter.

While slugs can be extremely accurate, they move much more slowly than a rifle bullet, and that has an impact on how you sight-in your shotgun for the season.

“You have to pay attention to your setup,” says Brian Smith, a longtime slug hunter from northern Indiana who is marketing director for Lightfield Ammunition, maker of several types of sabot slug loads. “You have to pay attention to how you hold the fore-stock of the shotgun down when you’re sighting in your scope. When you’re in the field, you’re not always resting it, and you want to make sure you sight your slug gun in by holding it like you’re going to hold it when you take a shot to kill an animal.”

The problem is the powerful recoil of a slow-moving, heavy slug causes the barrel to jump before the projectile is out of the barrel. At the range, this action can be consistent enough that you can get a tight group and think your gun and scope is perfectly accurate. But then you get into the field, hold the barrel down completely, put the crosshairs on the vitals of a deer, squeeze the trigger—and send the slug underneath your target. The barrel didn’t jump.

Smith said the opposite happened to him once when hunting from a blind. After being careful to hold the fore-stock down firmly when sighting the gun at the range, when he readied to shoot a deer from his ground-blind, he rested it on the windowsill. When he shot, the barrel jumped and the slug went over the animal’s back.

The key when sighting the shotgun and then shooting it when afield is to make sure that all of the recoil comes straight back, said Smith. That means holding the front end of the gun down firmly.

“It goes against what a lot of us learned when we first started shooting long guns, and most of us learned with .22s,” Smith said. “We were told we were supposed to relax. With a slug gun you’ve got to hold the fore-end fairly tightly.”

The most important thing to remember when sighting in a slug gun is to grip the forestock tightly and keep it from jumping up.

The most important thing to remember when sighting in a slug gun is to grip the fore-stock tightly and keep it from jumping up.

Knowing the slug’s trajectory is important, too. For example, Smith said one of Lightfield’s most deer-hunting loads popular loads can be sighted in to a tight group at 100 yards. At 50 yards, the slug will be 2 1/2 inches higher.

The trajectory is one reason Smith says slug guns perform better with a good scope, preferably one designed for weapons with the harsher recoil such as a slug gun—scopes designed for .22-caliber rifles probably won’t hold up to the jolt. While open, iron sights work just fine, a scope will deliver better accuracy at longer ranges, too.

Smith said hunters should consider getting a “DSG.” That stands for “Designated Slug Gun.” Many popular slug guns come in packages that include a short, rifled barrel for slugs, and a longer smooth-bore barrel for shooting bird shot. Better to have a shotgun that’s dedicated to slug shooting. If you switch barrels, every time you switch back to the slug barrel, you need to re-sight the weapon. The same holds true if you remove the rifled slug barrel to clean the shotgun—you have to get back to the range and make sure the gun can shoot tight groups.

Smith also noted that it’s highly important to sight in—and hunt—with the same brand and load of slugs. Slugs from different companies have different trajectories and performance.

While shotguns with rifled barrels are the best and most accurate when shooting slugs, modern slug designs can work better than passably well when shot through a smoothbore barrel—especially at closer ranges. Smith noted that one of Lightfield’s slugs was developed to meet the criteria of the United States Marine Corp, which wanted a round that could take out a human target at 150 yards—shot from a smoothbore shotgun. He further stated that several companies make screw-in invector chokes with rifling to make slugs spin and improve the projectiles’ downrange accuracy.

The important thing for the hunter to learn is how accurate his particular shotgun—rifled or smoothbore—is with slugs. That knowledge helps the particular hunter decide how far away he shoot and cleanly harvest his quarry.

Smith cautioned that first-time slug shooters—especially young hunters—can develop a fear of shooting slugs because of the recoil.

“We’re a big proponent of using the (Caldwell) Lead Sled because the recoil of slugs is greater than normal buck shot and equals that of a high powered rifle,” said Smith, noting that the firing range rifle holder can reduce recoil to almost nothing.

He emphasized once again that even with this tool, the shooter must grip the fore-end tightly and hold it down. He said the Lead Sled is great for teaching youths to shoot a slug.

“When you’re helping a young person in slug gun states, you don’t want them to get scared of the gun, so use the Lead Sled,” says Smith, who has three daughters who harvested their first deer with slugs before they were teenagers. “When they’re in the field their adrenaline is pumping and they’re excited and they don’t even hear the shot, let alone feel the recoil.”

Slugs and shotguns are in a category of their own for hunters. Powerful means to reliably harvest big game, the hunter who uses them must spend some time at the range to get to know their capacity—and their limitations.

 

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

18 IN Parks to Close Temporarily for Deer Reductions

November 4, 2014 in Conservation News, Hunting

As Seen in The Outdoor Wire on Nov. 4, 2014

deer_300Select Indiana state parks will close temporarily to allow for controlled deer reductions in the coming weeks.  The dates for the temporary closings are Nov. 17 and 18, and Dec. 1 and 2.

The state parks affected are Brown County, Chain O’Lakes, Charlestown, Clifty Falls, Fort Harrison, Harmonie, Indiana Dunes, Lincoln, McCormick’s Creek, Ouabache, Pokagon, Potato Creek, Prophetstown, Shakamak, Spring Mill, Summit Lake, Tippecanoe River and Whitewater Memorial.

These state parks will close to the general public the evening before each of the two efforts and reopen the morning after each two-day reduction.

Only individual hunters drawn last September and those hunters they listed on their applications may participate at Brown County, Chain O’Lakes, Charlestown, Clifty Falls, Harmonie, Lincoln, McCormick’s Creek, Ouabache, Pokagon, Potato Creek, Prophetstown, Shakamak, Summit Lake, Tippecanoe River and Whitewater Memorial. There will be no standby drawings at those parks.

For Fort Harrison (an archery hunt) and Indiana Dunes and Spring Mill (both are firearms hunts), a public standby drawing to fill spots left vacant will take place on property each morning of the reduction.

Indiana Dunes State Park will conduct daily standby drawings at 8 a.m. CST. Potential standby participants can apply on site between 7 and 7:45 a.m. CST but cannot enter the park before 7 a.m. CST.

Spring Mill and Fort Harrison will conduct daily standby drawings at 8:30 a.m. EST. Potential standby participants can apply onsite between 7:30 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. EST but cannot enter the park before 7:30 a.m.

Eligibility for daily onsite standby drawings is limited to Indiana residents who are 18 years of age by Nov. 17, and have any valid license to take deer in Indiana. Indiana residents who possess an Indiana lifetime license to take deer are also eligible. Participants must wear a hunter orange hat or cap and vest, coat, jacket or coveralls at all times while on the property.

Applications can include up to three individuals. The number of participants drawn will be based on the number of unclaimed spots for each day; it is not a first-come, first-served process. The need for stand-in hunters tends to increase with each hunt day.

Questions about participating in the standby drawings should be directed to the property of interest.

DNR biologists evaluate which parks require a reduction each year based on habitat recovery and previous harvest rates at each park. The state parks are home to more than 32 state-endangered plants and numerous significant natural communities. The reductions help control browsing by deer to a level that helps maintain habitat throughout the state parks for all plants and animals.

Information on 2015 state park deer reductions, including online applications, will be available next summer at dnr.IN.gov/fishwild. The application deadline is usually the end of August.

Grouse Success Measured In Flushes

October 8, 2014 in Articles, Hunting

by Dave Mull

Many grouse hunters who pursue this speedy quarry with dogs gauge their success by how many flushes—not kills—they get in the course of an outing. People who don’t hunt grouse may find this strange, but it’s true.

Dogs and hunters alike relish a successful grouse hunt, but success for most is measured in flushes, not kills. Photo Courtesy of Tom Huggler.

Dogs and hunters alike relish a successful grouse hunt, but success for most hunters is measured in flushes, not kills. Photo courtesy of Tom Huggler.

Lots of flushes means a grouse hunter found the right kind of area to put the dog into, that the dog found the birds, and that the hunters had enough fortitude to crawl and crash through the thick stuff to be close enough to the dog to hear and maybe even see the grouse flush.

Grouse live in places that rabbits and snowshoe hares have a hard time getting through. When the hunter with his canine goes in, harvesting a bird becomes quite an accomplishment.

Almost every year since 1986, I’ve joined a group of guys, mostly fellow writers, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to pursue grouse for at least four days. All 11 of us are decent shots, and a couple (not me) are close to expert shots. Several of us bring great pointing dogs or one of the flushing breeds, and the dogs all know what they’re doing. We hunt hard, we know the kinds of habitat where grouse live, and we spend several hours a day in the woods, swamps and patches of brush-filled clear cuts where large trees have been lumbered. The Michigan limit on birds in the Upper Peninsula is five, and in nearly 30 years, not one of us has ever filled it. A career day for most of us is three birds. The retired conservation officer in our group, a great shot and native Yooper, once shot four and holds the camp record.

You see, it’s not so easy to shoot a grouse.

But before we discuss the shooting aspect of the sport, let’s discuss how to find where grouse live—and perhaps gain some insight on why they aren’t easily harvested. In the Upper Midwest where I hunt, the biggest key is finding areas that have been timbered or struck by fire between five and 10 years earlier. Clearcut is a happy term in the grouse hunter’s vocabulary. Removing the big trees and their sun-blocking canopy allows smaller bushes and other flora to come back and flourish, and along with them comes the whole arboreal foodchain. Grouse are opportunistic omnivores, eating some bugs, but especially subsisting on buds, berries, grasses and leaves. Clover is a favorite of grouse. Seldom do you find much of the food grouse prefer in mature forest—grouse need new growth.

Michigan’s Al Stewart approaches a pointing setter in thick grouse cover. Successful hunting often takes place in stands of young, thick aspen. Photo courtesy of Tom Huggler.

Michigan’s Al Stewart approaches a pointing setter in thick grouse cover. Successful grouse hunting often takes place in stands of young, thick aspen. Photo courtesy of Tom Huggler.

About 80 percent of our successful hunting takes place in or adjacent to stands of aspen, the individual trees about as thick as a man’s wrist and many of them growing so close it’s nearly impossible to swing your shotgun. We sometimes spy these from afar, their bright yellow leaves—or what’s left of them in the fall—giving the trees’ location away. We find vast expanses of aspens on national and state forests as well as on paper company land, which is often open to hunting. This holds true not only in Michigan, but in Minnesota and Wisconsin, too; the two other states I’ve hunted for grouse.

The best parcels of aspen have an understory of other plants, particularly bracken ferns, which help ground-walking grouse stay hidden from flying predators. When you look around and notice edibles such as wintergreen berries or small buds on trees, you’ve likely found a place with grouse. It’s time to uncase your shotgun and put your dog on the ground.

A word about dogs. The main thing a dog in the thick stuff must do to enhance and not hinder your hunt is stay close and not flush grouse where you can’t see them. That said, many pointing breeds range a bit farther, so their masters adorn them with “beeper” collars, which either beep at wide intervals while the dog is moving and looking for birds or stay silent until the dog goes on point. When pointing, the steady beep changes its sound to an electronic hawk scream, designed to get the bird to freeze in its tracks, or it starts beeping more quickly to alert the hunter that the dog might be pointing a bird.

I have always had golden retrievers, flushers, and while the aesthetic is different, they are still effective companions in the woods. They cover ground, get birds in the air and—perhaps most important—find birds that get shot. Whether hunting with a pointer or a retriever, you need to keep tabs on the dog and recognize when it is on scent so you can get ready to shoot. In the thick cover or a grouse covert, it’s best to stop walking and start “skooching” forward already in a shooting position when the dog gets “birdy” or goes on point. In other words, if you’re right handed, your left side and shoulder stays in line with where the bird is likely to get up, and you’re watching the dog with your left shoulder more or less pointed at him. You just keep sliding your left leg forward, following with your right leg.

Even when the dog doesn’t seem birdy, grouse can explode from anywhere, so it’s a good idea to constantly watch your surroundings, thinking about what small trees are in the way of your shotgun swing, safety on, of course, but always ready to shoot.

Grouse don’t need to be hit by a huge amount of lead to hit the turf, and most of my companions shoot 20 gauge, double-barrel shotguns. It’s not a snooty, status sort of thing (well, maybe it is a little). Double guns are quick to put first and second shots in the air. Some of our number use 16 gauge shooting irons; a few of us use 28 gauges. Shot size is usually 7-1/2 or 8.

Jerry Dennis, of Traverse City, Michigan, displays a grouse that was flushed and retrieved by Gabe, the author’s golden retriever.

Jerry Dennis, of Traverse City, Michigan, displays a grouse that was flushed and retrieved by Gabe, the author’s golden retriever.

As mentioned, we judge our success by how many birds we moved more than how many we shot. Other factors of a good day afield are common among most bird hunters include not being hoarse from yelling at the dog, not getting lost in the bush for an extended period, and not getting the truck stuck.

A school of grouse hunting that doesn’t cotton to our particular manner of hunting has practitioners that often come closer to filling the game bag. These are “road hunters” who use 4×4 trucks or ATVs. Some of these fellows call ruffed grouse “chickens.” They drive around until they spot a grouse or two along the side of the road, where the birds come to pick gravel. They stop their vehicle, get out, uncase their shotgun (some use a .22 rifle) and shoot the birds on the ground if they can.

States have different laws about how close to a roadway hunters are allowed to shoot, and from what I can tell, most road hunters ignore them—or just don’t know the rules and haven’t gotten caught yet.

One fall I found an Upper Peninsula chamber of commerce’s tabloid, a sort of annual outdoor guide, and along with stories on all manner of fishing as well as hunting for snowshoe hare, bear and deer, was a story about effective grouse hunting. The contributor had essentially written a how-to guide on road hunting. He gave lots of advice on topics such as how a 12 gauge shotgun was the most effective weapon because it put the most lead pellets in the air, and how if you left the vehicle motor running, the grouse that had ducked into the brush at side of the road was less likely to hear your footsteps. He concluded that while many bird hunters might question his techniques, he’d “rather eat them than miss them.”

In this writer’s opinion, grouse hunting done the right way involves hunters on foot and following dogs. Sure, we drive around looking at maps and finding habitat likely to hold grouse, but true blue ruffed grouse hunters don’t shoot the ones they see along the road. I don’t find legal road hunting to be reprehensible when done within the limits of the law. I just don’t think it’s as much fun as getting into the thick stuff with a close-working dog. It certainly isn’t as challenging.

I guess the bottom line is that many grouse hunters, myself included, would rather miss them than eat them.

 

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

Advanced Trail Cam Tactics

September 25, 2014 in Articles, Hunting

by David Hart

Trail cameras have come a long way since they first hit the hunting scene a decade or more ago.

Trail cameras don’t just offer a glimpse into the life of undisturbed deer. They can help hunters have more success.

Trail cameras don’t just offer a glimpse into the life of undisturbed deer. They can help hunters have more success.

Back when trail cameras first came out, they were really nothing more than a novelty; a really cool, very interesting way to see what roamed the woods when a hunter was not there.

Trail cameras have come a long way. They don’t just show you what’s out there. They can help you better manage your deer herd by telling you exactly how many bucks and does you have. What was once an inexact science at best and a wild guess at worst is now a proven tool in your management toolbox.

Count Your Deer

The trick, says Ohio Division of Wildlife biologist Clint McCoy, is to put your camera over bait. Simply placing it along a field edge or a worn deer trail will capture deer, but it likely won’t photograph all of them. He and fellow biologist Peter Acker, who works for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, agree that corn is the best way to put deer in front of your cameras and that a camera placed on a bait site for 10 days will capture virtually every deer in the area.

Both biologists studied the use of trail cameras while they were graduate students at Auburn University and part of one of the world’s most successful research facilities on white-tailed deer. Their studies also revealed that one camera per 100 acres is usually sufficient.

“Any more and you will likely count the same deer multiple times at different bait sites,” says Acker.

Bucks are easy to count. They have unique antler characteristics that allow hunters to tell them apart. Antlerless deer, however, don’t have those identifying racks. McCoy and Acker agree the best way to determine antlerless deer populations is through extrapolation. For instance, if you have 40 “captures” of 10 unique bucks, that means you have 4-to-1 capture-to-individual ratio.

Finding and patterning trophy-class bucks is difficult, but a trail camera allows a hunter to scout more places to determine where to be hunting on opening day.

Finding and patterning trophy-class bucks is difficult, but a trail camera allows a hunter to scout more places to determine where to be hunting on opening day.

That ratio can be used to figure antlerless deer numbers. If you count 100 does in all your pictures, you likely have 25 does, based on the 4-to-1 photo capture ratio.

Hunt Them With A Camera

Seeing different deer and then counting them is one thing, but hunting them is an entirely different game. Trail cams can help with that, too. Most allow users to set the date, time, and even such features as moon phase, relative humidity and other details that may affect deer activity. Smart hunters can calculate that information into their hunting activity.

“I start monitoring trail cams in late August or early September, which is about a month before our bow season opens,” says veteran Indiana hunter Steve Reynolds. “That gives me time to figure out patterns, and it gives me time to figure out where to hang stands in relation to wind direction.”

Reynolds doesn’t just hang a trail cam and check it every couple of days and hope for the best. Instead, he’ll start by hanging it near a food source to see what deer are using it. He also looks at the time and he considers the specific location of each deer sighting. Once he finds a buck he wants to hunt, Reynolds will then start to learn the buck’s patterns.

“If a buck is only using the field at night, I’ll try to determine where he’s entering the field, and I’ll hang cameras along that trail,” he explains.

Hang and tend trail cameras only when conditions are favorable. In other words, hunt with your camera just as though you were hunting with a gun or bow, with minimal impact on a buck's core area.

Hang and tend trail cameras only when conditions are favorable. In other words, hunt with your camera just as though you were hunting with a gun or bow, with minimal impact on a buck’s core area.

Bucks tend to be fairly predictable in late summer and early autumn. They’ll feed in the same fields and walk the same trails day after day. That’s why Reynolds will keep moving his trail camera until he catches the buck on film during legal shooting hours. If he gets the buck on camera several days in a row, he won’t enter the area until opening day.

When working a trail camera in a big buck’s area, it is important to keep human scent and disturbance to a minimum.

“I’m basically hunting that deer with a camera before I hunt it with a bow,” he says. “I only pull the card or move the camera in the middle of the day and only when the wind is favorable. I wear rubber boots and make sure to keep my activity to a minimum. I only check it every three or four days, and I get in and out quickly.”

Deer activity changes as food sources change and hunting pressure increases, but Reynolds won’t put his cameras away after opening day. Instead, he’ll use them to scout new locations and new food sources. He also uses cameras to monitor activity close to where he’s already hunting. If, for instance, a spot goes cold, Reynolds will place a trail cam over a nearby oak flat or on a different crop field.

“He still has to eat, and he will likely be on his feet during legal shooting hours at some time. A camera can really help me find-tune my hunting location,” adds Reynolds. “There’s no guarantee a buck will walk down a certain trail or step into a food plot when I want him to, but photos don’t lie.”

 

 

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