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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE for more photos.

Competition & Camaraderie Through the Years

April 6, 2017 in General, Press Release

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

By: Kate Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Union Members Volunteer to Tackle Conservation Infrastructure Crisis

April 3, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 31, 2017 in General, Press Release

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raising an Organization – USA Celebrates 10 Years

March 31, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electrical Worker Wins Trophy Hunt

March 28, 2017 in General, Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USA Volunteers Renovate Oak Mountain Horse Barn

March 22, 2017 in General, Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 21, 2017 in Articles, General, Hunting

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

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

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

March 16, 2017 in General, Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 10, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Jess Levens


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey Prep (not a recipe)

March 8, 2017 in Articles, General, Hunting

By: Chris Ellis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Adds to Leadership Team

March 8, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

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

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

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

Brian Dowler

Brian Dowler

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

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

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

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

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

Forrest Parker

Forrest Parker

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

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

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

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

Both Dowler and Parker have begun work at the USA and can be reached at briand@unionsportsmen.org and forrestp@unionsportsmen.org respectively.

Big Smallies: Get Ahead of the Pre-Spawn

March 7, 2017 in Articles, Fishing, General

By: Chris Ellis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 2, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Set in Stone: OPCMIA Cements Commitment to USA

March 1, 2017 in General, Press Release

By: Kate Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USA, Pure Fishing Hook Up with New MOU

February 22, 2017 in Fishing, General, Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USA Taps Rusted Rooster to Produce Brotherhood Outdoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Active and retired union members can apply to be on the show by submitting the online application at http://unionsportsmen.org/brotherhood-outdoors/be-on-the-show/.

Additional episodes of Brotherhood Outdoors can be viewed at www.myoutdoortv.com

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

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

From the Director’s Desk – Fall 2016

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General

THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO CHANGE THE FUTURE OF CONSERVATION

Alaskan Union Volunteers Build Public Use Cabins

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

ALASKAN UNION VOLUNTEERS BUILD PUBLIC USE CABINS

Put & Take: The Other Trout

November 14, 2016 in Articles, Fishing, General

PUT & TAKE

Mule Deer: A Classic American Hunt

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General, Hunting

MULE DEER: A classic American hunt

Union Leader Q&A: NFLPA

November 14, 2016 in Articles, General

Q&A WITH A UNION LEADER

Man vs. Ram

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

Man versus ram

Houdini’s Last Escape

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

HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE

USA appoints Scott Vance executive director

August 9, 2016 in General, Press Release

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

Scott Vance

Scott Vance

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFLPA, USA Team Up to Put the ‘Sport’ in ‘Sportsmen’

June 22, 2016 in General, Press Release

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) officially signed on to support the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) as its sixteenth governing affiliate. The decision was a result of years of dialogue discussing how the two organizations could work together to enhance the value for their members, and the partnership was solidified with the recent appointment of NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith to the USA Board of Directors.

Many NFL players and former players (Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson, Brian Urlacher, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri and Joe Thomas, to name a few) are avid outdoorsmen who enjoy hunting, fishing and spending time in nature with friends and family. The NFLPA and its members also place great importance on volunteerism and community service, according to Nolan Harrison, former NFL player and current Senior Director of Former Player Services. With the USA’s mission to unite the union community for conservation and its unique environment of fellowship in the outdoors, the partnership is a natural pairing.

“We are always looking for ways to connect with our larger family of organized labor,” said Smith. “Because so many of our players participate in hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities during the off season, the USA became a natural way for us to get our players more involved in this union and with other union members outside the football world. With so many different unions with different goals, I believe we always have to focus on the things we have in common. When I look to the USA, I look to it as one of the ways we can focus on the core things that bind us together.”

Dave_Butts_team

Former Redskin and now USA member Dave Butz (center) took the high over all individual award at the USA’s 4th Semi-Annual IAMAW St. Louis Area Shoot.

With some NFLPA members already in the USA’s ranks, the opportunity to extend the involvement to all current and former players will go a long way in building excitement and participation in events and volunteer projects, plus it will certainly – to borrow a line from AFL-CIO President and USA Chairman Richard L. Trumka – add more muscle to the conservation movement.

“We are ecstatic to have the NFL Players Association join the USA as its newest governing affiliate,” said USA Deputy Director Mike d’Oliveira. “They represent so many members who share a deep passion for our outdoor heritage, and we welcome them and their families with open arms to our growing team of hardworking sportsmen and women.”

With the NFLPA’s charter-level support, active and former NFL players can join the USA at no cost and are encouraged to participate in the organization’s fundraising dinners, sporting clays shoots and volunteer conservation projects that improve public access to the outdoors, enhance wildlife habitats, restore America’s parks and mentor youth to be responsible stewards of our wild spaces.

Pull the Trigger on Your 2017 USA Calendar Order

June 16, 2016 in Articles, General

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

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

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

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

Brad Dutcher

Brad Dutcher

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

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

Click here to order your calendar today.

Face-to-Face at Union Conventions

June 15, 2016 in General

In an age when teenagers (and some adults) start and end relationships with a text message, we keep tabs on friends and acquaintances through Facebook and professionals send emails more often than they pick up the phone, there’s a lot to be said for face-to-face communication. That isn’t to deny the importance of emails, text messages and social media or how they have revolutionized communication, but they simply can’t replace meeting and talking in person.

(L-R) USA staff Craig Coffin, Heather Tazelaar and Kevin Grubbs prepare to greet union members at USA’s booth at the 2016 BCTD Conference.

(L-R) USA staff Craig Coffin, Heather Tazelaar and Kevin Grubbs prepare to greet union members at USA’s booth at the 2016 BCTD Conference.

That’s why the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance attends 15-18 union conventions each year, despite a staff of about 15 people who juggle 40-45 USA shoots and dinners annually. Attending conventions provides us with the chance to address large audiences as well as speak one-on-one with union leaders and members about the USA and cultivate relationships that lead to the formation of USA dinner committees, new shooting events and conservation projects.

Attending union conventions also helps us grow our union-dedicated outdoor community because everyone who visits the USA booth and fills out an application, enters our daily door prize or gun drawing, takes a spin on our Spin N’ Win wheel or makes a Gun-A-Week calendar donation receives a complimentary USA membership.

As valuable as union conventions are for growing membership and building relationships, attending can be a challenge when you consider event scheduling, manpower and cost of travel, lodging and booth registration. As a non-profit organization, we strive to be efficient with our budget, so we can bring the greatest value to our members and partners while keeping our conservation mission top priority.  Before attending any convention, we weigh the estimated costs with the potential benefits and consider whether or not there are opportunities to at least cover our costs through fundraisers at the booth and other methods.

Our all-time record for fundraising at a union convention was $15,775 at the 2012 UA convention, and we hope for a repeat performance this year.

How you can help:
If you’re a union leader involved in convention planning and would like the USA to attend, these are a few ways you can help us:

  • Let us know about the convention as far in advance as possible
  • Comp booth space for us in a high traffic location
  • Allow us to fundraise to help cover costs
  • Provide us with a speaking or presentation opportunity
  • Let us know if we can pre-promote our booth and activities
  • Stop by the USA booth – we’d love to talk to you
  • Encourage fellow members to stop by our booth 

    Attending a union convention this year?
    If you’re attending a union convention this year, there are many reasons to stop by the USA booth (if we have one):

  • Learn about USA events and conservation projects
  • Order your USA 2017 Gun-A-Week calendar(s)
  • Learn how the USA can connect you with union brothers and sisters outside the workplace
  • Apply to be a guest on USA’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV show
  • Earn prizes from Buck Knives, Carhartt and other USA partners on our Spin N’ Win wheel
  • Enter to win gear in our Daily Door Prize drawings
  • Enter to win guns, cash or other gear in USA’s 50/50 or gear drawings, while helping us offset the cost of attending the convention

    By all means, post on our Facebook page, chat on our forums, text us your hunting and fishing trophies—we love it all. But we really want to meet and talk to you in person.  Although we can’t make it to every convention, don’t hesitate to invite us. We’d love to see you there!

Former NFL Player, Proud USA Member

June 6, 2016 in Articles, General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IBEW member and son receive VIP treatment at 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic

April 28, 2016 in General, Press Release

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Celebrity encounters, backstage passes, VIP treatment, exclusive access to the latest and greatest in bass fishing, weigh-in shows that were part-fish competition, part rock concert and a story-book finish made for an unforgettable trip.

Mark Duncan and his 16-year-old son, Patch, experienced the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic unlike any of the other 107,605 attendees at the 3-day event.

Mark, a longtime member of Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and IBEW Local 26 in Lanham, Maryland, won the Ultimate Bass Sweepstakes presented by USA and Carhartt. The prize included an all-expense-paid trip for him and Patch to attend the Bassmaster Classic, complete with VIP treatment and exclusive access.

“I’d watched the Classic on TV in years past, but I’d never seen an event like this before,” Mark said. “The lights, the music, the people there – it was all insane.”

The Duncans witnessed a historical comeback at the Classic. Jason Christie, the two-day leader, started day three six pounds ahead. But the tournament wasn’t over for Edwin Evers, who caught 20 bass that morning, making a last-minute play for the title.

Father and son arrived at the Classic Expo at the Cox Business Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on March 4 and met with representatives of USA and Carhartt who served as host for the weekend. They also met legendary angler and TV host Bill Dance before taking a group photo with the Classic’s soon-to-be-awarded trophy.

The Duncans’ Carhartt hosts ushered them around the Expo, taking them backstage with one of the Classic’s producers. They got to see it all, from the press room to the hole in the stage where the fish are dropped into a livewell that takes them back to the Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.

“We got our pictures taken on stage, saw where they weigh the fish and how the boats and trucks get in and out,” Mark said. “It was an incredible experience getting to see every part of the show.”

Both Mark and Patch’s favorite moment came during the last day. More than anything, Patch wanted to meet Kevin VanDam, the all-time money winner in professional bass fishing and his idol. The Duncans were sitting in Carhartt’s sponsor room, and Patch knew his chances were growing slim. Then, VanDam walked into the room. They got a photo with the legend – a moment both father and son will cherish for a lifetime.

“It was my favorite part because it was what [Patch] had wanted all weekend,” Mark said. “My son got to meet his idol. Just goes to show that the decision I made to become a union member almost 30 years ago is still paying dividends today.”

It was a sweet end to the Duncan’s trip. Back home, the experience continued to pay off, helping kick start a project. Before the trip, Mark and Patch had talked about converting their john boat into a “poor man’s bass boat.” The Classic gave them some ideas and resources, along with a little inspiration, and their project is now underway.

The trip also provided Mark with another opportunity to speak highly of his membership to both his union and the USA.

“Here is a situation in which I now get to discuss my union and why I’m a member of the USA with other people,” Duncan said. “All I have to do is mention the trip and they ask, ‘How did you win that?’”

It was the final weigh-in, and Evers stood in his boat as it was pulled into the Expo. “Dynamite” by Taeo Cruz blared over the speakers as Evers reached into his live well and pulled out his two biggest fish for the crowd to see.

His bag was taken to the stage for weighing. “Look at these big freaks of nature,” host Dave Mercer said of Evers fish, announcing he needed a 15 pound, 2 ounce bag to pull ahead.

“29 pounds, 3 ounces!” Mercer announced as the crowd erupted.

The Duncans cheered from the VIP sponsor suite as confetti rained down on the arena. “We are the Champions” blared through the speakers and Evers was crowned the 2016 Bassmaster Classic champion.

It was the perfect finale to the Duncan’s storybook experience, all thanks to Carhartt.

“We are grateful to Carhartt for their excellence, not only in their products, but in the way they serve others,” said USA Deputy Director Mike d’Oliveira.  “This trip is a perfect example of how Carhartt goes above and beyond to support and celebrate our members.”

Give Wildlife A Helping Hand

April 4, 2016 in General

by David Hart

Creating high-quality habitat is not always easy, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Timber thinning is a great way to boost the productivity of your land. Removing some trees allows sunlight to reach the ground, which stimulates new plant growth. Leave the mast-bearing trees like oaks and hickories.

Timber thinning is a great way to boost the productivity of your land. Removing some trees allows sunlight to reach the ground, which stimulates new plant growth. Leave the mast-bearing trees like oaks and hickories.

When Steve Dixon signed the papers on 165 acres in central Virginia, he figured he bought a piece of deer and turkey hunting heaven. The property consisted of a mix of mature trees and fields that were cut for hay, along with a small food plot tucked into a corner along a creek.

“I hardly saw any deer the first season I hunted it, and turkeys were scarce, too,” recalls the semi-retired financial planner. “I had no idea what was wrong.”

That was 10 years ago. As it turned out, the land was in poor shape. Since then, Dixon has worked on the land at every opportunity. He planted borders along the fields, he killed off the plants that provided no benefit to wildlife, and he managed the timber.

“The deer hunting has gotten much better. So has the turkey hunting,” he says.

“I’ve even seen some quail, and there are a lot more rabbits.”

Seek Help

Dixon’s first step was to call a state wildlife biologist. Although many biologists don’t have time to visit with every landowner looking for help, most will at least offer some technical guidance.

“We talked for about 30 minutes. He offered some general guidelines on how I could improve the land,” recalls Dixon. “I did most of the work myself. I also hired professionals to do the things I couldn’t.”

Hired help included a logger to conduct some timber management. A mature forest looks pretty, but it can be a wildlife desert. Aside from acorns dropped by oaks, there isn’t much food available growing beneath the closed canopy of a mature forest. Cutting some or all the trees in parts of the forest allows sunlight to reach the ground, which stimulates a flood of native grasses, shrubs and vines. This new growth not only provides a plethora of food, but it creates abundant cover for a variety of game and non-game species of animals and birds.

Dixon conducted a couple of small clear-cuts, where all the trees were removed, and he did a select cut, where only specific trees were taken out, on a large part of his forest. He made some money, and he increased the amount of wildlife he saw, as well.

“It took less than a year for all this new stuff to start growing. It was pretty amazing how fast the deer started using it,” he recalls. “A couple of years later, I had quail and turkeys nesting in the thick cover.”

Diversity Is Key

Dixon didn’t stop with timber management. He also put a lot of time and effort into improving his fields. An avid deer hunter, he knew the current state of his fields held little appeal to deer and other wildlife.

Controlled burning is a great way to stimulate new plant growth while clearing out accumulated dead plant matter. It’s an outstanding tool for quail habitat management and deer benefit from fire, too.

Controlled burning is a great way to stimulate new plant growth while clearing out accumulated dead plant matter. It’s an outstanding tool for quail habitat management and deer benefit from fire, too.

“They were mostly fescue, which doesn’t provide any benefit to deer, quail or turkeys. It’s just about useless,” he says.

He hired his local farmer’s cooperative to spray the field with a selective herbicide that killed the grass. It didn’t take long for an entire new plant community to grow. Ragweed, beggar’s lice, a host of wildflowers and some native grasses sprang up.

“I started seeing a lot more deer during hunting season, and there are turkeys nesting on the property, too,” he says. “I originally put all my money into a couple of food plots, but they only do so much.”

What really matters, says Dixon, is having a diversity of habitat, including everything from thick, brushy field edges to mature, mast-bearing trees in the forest.

“The more variety you have, the better your land will be for all types of wildlife,” says Dixon.

Think Small

You don’t have to own 165 acres or even 16 acres to give wildlife a helping hand. Anyone, even those with a postage stamp suburban lot, can do something. Dixon actually improved the habitat in his own suburban yard.

“I encouraged the back edge of my yard to grow up into weeds and vines. Basically, I didn’t mow it or otherwise try to control anything unless I knew it was a non-native plant. I know a lot of people don’t like seeing stuff like that, but I see all kinds of birds and other wildlife,” he says. “Most other yards are virtually void of any wildlife.”

He increased the appeal of his yard by planting flowers and fruit-bearing shrubs that not only look attractive, but that provide food for birds and pollinating insects.

None of it was easy, admits Dixon, and it isn’t necessarily inexpensive, either.

“Once I started seeing the results, I realized it was all worth it,” he says. “In hindsight, I didn’t do it so I would have better hunting. I did it because I wanted to help wildlife. Better hunting just happened to be a by-product of the work I did.” 

5 Wildlife Enhancers For The Yard

With just a minimum of effort, small-scale improvements around the house can lead to rewarding wildlife-viewing experiences, or just in knowing you are doing your part to help.

With just a minimum of effort, small-scale improvements around the house can lead to rewarding wildlife-viewing experiences, or just in knowing you are doing your part to help.

With just a minimum of effort, small-scale improvements around the house can lead to rewarding wildlife-viewing experiences, or just in knowing you are doing your part to help. Sportsmen have a weakness for wanting to help wildlife, and what better place to nurture our nurturing instincts than right in our own backyards?
Here are five tips for making the most of your backyard habitat:

  • Feed the Birds, Embrace the Squirrels: I was once a frustrated feeder of birds. I tried about every fancy “squirrel-proof” bird feeder and grandma trick I could find, but to no avail. I truly believe my backyard squirrels quite enjoyed the torture they delivered. Now I (almost) embrace the squirrels. I even fool myself into thanking them for the job they do of spreading the bird feed on the ground so more birds can enjoy. I like to feed the birds, and yes it feeds other animals (chiefly squirrels), too. Use a reputable brand of birdseed—I prefer Pennington mixes that include black oil sunflowers. And use a feeder that is covered to keep the feed dry. Moldy seed could harm or even kill birds.
  • Brushpiles Are Golden: It took all of my charm to convince my wife that the pile of limbs and shrubbery clippings along the back line of our yard was an example of my kind heart and not laziness. Brushpiles may be the easiest improvement a homeowner can make for backyard habitat, and brushpiles may also be the most beneficial. All kinds of critters and birds love my brushpiles.
  • Blooms Beget Berries: Flowering bushes, shrubs and trees are pretty. While your neighbors and houseguests will be duly impressed with the flowering displays of spring, your local animals and birds will love you in the late summer and fall when those blooms become berries. Some of these berries you’ll enjoy yourself—just save a few for the wildlife! Good choices for bushes are blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. Dogwood trees beautify any yard with spring blooms, and the red dogwood berries of fall are a favorite food for most birds and animals. Fruit trees are another great option. Pear trees are generally easier to grow, while apple trees are fantastic but can be a bit sensitive to soil types and climate.
  • Tiny Houses For Everyone: There are birdhouses, and there are specialized birdhouses for specific flavors of birds. I recommend placing some specific birdhouses around the edges of your yard. A wren nest box, a bluebird box, a chickadee next box, and a bat house (yes, a bat house!) are specific birdhouses to consider. And then maybe include a generic birdhouse—just don’t be surprised to raise a family of cowbirds.
  • Evergreens For Winter: The winter woods are bare, and likely so is the wildlife habitat in your yard. Consider adding some plantings that create important wintertime cover for birds and animals. Good choices (check with your local nursery about species that do well in your area) include rhododendron, eastern hemlocks, cedars and pines.

 

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

IBEW Local 26 Member Lands Bass Sweepstakes

February 13, 2016 in Articles, Fishing, General

by Kate Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bricklayer Guides Brotherhood Outdoors Hosts for King Salmon

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

Co-host Daniel Lee Martin and Matt Eleazer

Co-host Daniel Lee Martin and Matt Eleazer

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

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

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

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

Matt Eleazer adn co-host Julie McQueen

Matt Eleazer adn co-host Julie McQueen

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

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

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

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

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

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Carhartt Renew Partnership Through 2018

January 15, 2016 in General, Press Release

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to announce that Carhartt – the nation’s leading brand manufacturer of rugged work wear produced in the United States – has agreed to a multi-year renewal of its corporate partnership lasting through 2018.

“Carhartt is pleased to continue its partnership, now entering its fourth year, with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance – an organization that aligns with our passion for hard work and love of the outdoors,” said Tony Ambroza, senior vice president of marketing, Carhartt. “The outdoor conservation efforts made by the USA’s union members are invaluable because they allow all of us to continue to enjoy hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities year round.”

According to USA Deputy Director Mike d’Oliveira, Carhartt’s established presence as an industry leader in work wear and its commitment to the American worker makes a continued partnership an easy choice. Between Carhartt’s Detroit-area headquarters and factories in Kentucky and Tennessee, the company employs more than 2,100 hard working men and women – including more than 900 United Food & Commercial Workers International Union members – who design, cut, sew, market and sell garments. Over the past 15 years, Carhartt has produced more than 80 million garments in its American factories and since its start in 1889, has never stopped crafting products domestically.

“Carhartt is a known, respected name in the world of hardworking men and women, and it’s easy to see why,” said d’Oliveira. “The standard of excellence is apparent, not just in Carhartt’s products, but in the way they support us as partners and value our members’ hard-earned dollars.”

Since Carhartt also produces American-made hunting and outdoors gear, USA members can truly depend on the quality brand for work and play, said d’Oliveira. Carhartt also sponsors the USA’s award-winning TV show Brotherhood Outdoors on the Sportsman Channel.

“Carhartt has never let us down,” said Brotherhood Outdoors co-host Julie McQueen. “We really put our clothing and gear to the test, especially during our long days in the backcountry. We know that if we need dependable clothing that’s meant for hard work, we choose Carhartt.”

The work wear giant also supports the USA and its members in the form of national promotional sweepstakes. The current promotion will send one USA member and a guest to the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic with VIP access, Carhartt gear and $1,000 cash. In 2015, Carhartt sponsored an all-expenses-paid trip to the CMA Music Festival in Nashville for Carl Betancourt, a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 67. The prize also included a Carhartt camouflaged jacket, bibs and pair of pants.

“Loyal, committed partners like Carhartt are a big reason our organization is successful in our mission to unite the union community for conservation,” said d’Oliveira. “From product donations to national sweepstakes, all the way down to shirts on our members’ backs, Carhartt truly does ‘outwork them all.’”

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

Communications Internship (unpaid)

December 14, 2015 in General

 

Job Title: Communications Intern (unpaid) Reports to: Communications & Marketing Manager
Department/Group: Communications Job Category: N/A
Location: Franklin, TN Travel Required: N/A
Status: Part Time
(Duration: 10-12 weeks, not to exceed 20 hours per week)
Revision Date: N/A
Creation Date: 12/10/2015 Revision Date: N/A
About the Organization
The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with the mission to unite the Union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. The USA is an exciting conservation organization with a membership base of over 200,000 and a membership universe of more than 10 million active and retired members of AFL-CIO affiliated unions who love to hunt, fish, shoot and recreate outdoors.

We engage, educate and organize union members, their families and like-minded individuals who share a passion for hunting, fishing, shooting and the great outdoors. Our members volunteer their time and unique trade skills to expand and improve public access to the outdoors, conserve and maintain critical wildlife habitats, restore our nation’s parks and provide mentoring programs that introduce youth to the outdoors.

Qualifications & Educational Requirements
To succeed in this role, Communications Intern applicants must meet the following requirements:

·      College junior or senior working toward a bachelor’s degree in mass communications, public relations, journalism, marketing or a related field.

·      Minimum GPA of 2.7

·      Ability to juggle multiple projects and meet deadlines in a fast-paced environment

·      Strong desire to experience multiple areas of communications field

·      Desire to improve professional and interpersonal skills while learning to both give and receive feedback

·      Passion for conservation and the outdoors is encouraged, but not required

Job Description & Physical Demands
Primary Function

The Communications Intern will report directly with the Communications & Marketing Manager and assist as needed in the communications department in all areas, receiving instruction and feedback along the way.

 

General Role and Responsibilities

·      Write press releases, feature articles, news articles

·      Assist in managing social media accounts, including running campaigns and contests

·      Assist in production of quarterly magazine, The Union Sportsmen’s Journal

·      Respond to media inquiries

·      Assist in marketing efforts with corporate partners

·      Assist with email marketing

·      Assist with speechwriting/presentation creation for executive staff

·      Assist with website management and content creation

·      Assist with special projects (Annual Report, new print collateral, etc.)

·      Provide input on projects, processes, methods as requested

·      Assist with mailings

Organization’s Responsibilities

·      Assign duties as outlined above

·      Provide constructive critiques and feedback on completed assignments

·      Provide instruction in multiple communications disciplines

·      Provide opportunities to work with executive leadership

·      Provide opportunities to work with third-party vendors and freelancers

·      Meet regularly to evaluate skills and progress, and also to receive feedback from Communications Intern on experience

·      Complete paperwork needed for academic credit

Physical Demands

Working conditions are primarily in an office setting with occasional travel to events within reasonable driving distance. This position may be required to sit or stand for the majority of the work day.

Salary Range:
This is an unpaid internship. Academic credit will be earned in lieu of pay.

Interested Applicants can apply be emailing a cover letter and resume to: jessl@unionsportsmen.org.

WV | Coonskin Park Fishing Pier

December 2, 2015 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and West Virginia American Water Complete New Accessible Fishing Pier at Coonskin Park

A new fishing pier at Coonskin Park designed to accommodate individuals with physical disabilities was unveiled at a ribbon cutting today by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), West Virginia American Water and local union volunteers. The project, valued at $60,000, is a joint effort between the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground volunteer conservation program and the American Water Charitable Foundation’s Building Better Communities initiative.

CuttingImageThe completed project includes three handicap designated parking spots, concrete ramp from the parking lot to the pier, retaining wall alongside the new ramp and large wheelchair accessible floating dock with handrails. The American Water Charitable Foundation partially funded the project with a $25,000 grant, which was awarded to USA earlier this year. The Foundation supported three conservation projects that improve public access to water-based recreation activities in Tennessee, Illinois and West Virginia. West Virginia American Water contributed an additional $10,000 to the project, and a number of local businesses donated services and materials.

“This is the third project we have completed with funding from the American Water Charitable Foundation,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Fred Myers. “These projects allow us to give back to communities where American Water serves and where our members live and recreate.  West Virginia American Water went the extra mile by donating extra funds to ensure a successful endeavor. This partnership has been positive for everyone involved, and I hope to see it grow in the near future.”

USA organized a group of skilled union volunteers through the Charleston Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO to complete the project, located on the south side of Coonskin Lake near the Elk River Trail.

“More than half of West Virginia American Water’s 300 employees are represented by unions, and they are among the most talented and skilled professionals in the state,” said Jeffrey McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water. “We are proud to support this Work Boots on the Ground project, which will enhance the outdoor experience of our customers, our employees and their families.”

During the ribbon cutting, West Virginia AFL-CIO president Kenny Perdue stated how pleased his organization was to partner with West Virginia American Water in making Coonskin Park more accessible to everyone.

“So many of our members volunteer to work with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance because it combines their love of the outdoors and hunting with their desire to use their skills to give back to their communities,” Perdue said. “We are grateful to Paul Breedlove of the Charleston Building Trades for taking the lead on organizing the project, and to the many volunteers from the Carpenters, Finishers, Electrical Workers, Operating Engineers, Ironworkers, Laborers, Pipefitters, Roofers and Sheet Metal locals.

Jeff Hutchinson, director of the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission, applauded the project and stated that the park was honored to receive this generous gift. “The addition of the new fishing pier will allow the lake to be more accessible for citizens with disabilities and will increase usage of the lake by all Kanawha County citizens,” Hutchinson said.

Unions Put USA Calendar Funds to Work for Communities

October 14, 2015 in General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protect Hunting & Fishing TV Programming

October 13, 2015 in General

Do you enjoy hunting, fishing and shooting TV shows?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more at www.KeepMyOutdoorTV.com

Upland Bird Hunting Bucket-List Trips

October 5, 2015 in General, Hunting

by M.D. Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

SOUTH DAKOTA PHEASANTS

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

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

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

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

 

MAINE RUFFED GROUSE AND WOODCOCK

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NEBRASKA PRAIRIE CHICKENS

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

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

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

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

 

KANSAS BOBWHITE QUAIL

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

Bobwhite quail

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

MONTANA SHARPTAILS

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

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

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

 

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

Hunt Resident Canada Geese

October 1, 2015 in General, Hunting

by David Hart

America has a love-hate relationship with Canada geese.

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

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

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

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

Why not?

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

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

Scout First

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

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

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

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

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

A Different Bird

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

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

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

Fields or Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

USA Sees New Growth with Auto Workers and Utility Workers

June 26, 2015 in General

Spring is a time of new growth. That held true for the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance when the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA)—together representing more than a million active and retired members—came on board in April and May as USA charter unions, joining the ranks of the AFL-CIO, BCTD and 10 other affiliate unions.

Charter unions provide strategic guidance and resources to support the USA’s mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

(L-R) EricSorenson and Jim Henry of UAW Local 31at the USA's Kansas City Shoot

(L-R) Eric Sorenson and Jim Henry of UAW Local 31at the USA’s Kansas City Shoot

“We commend UAW and UWUA leadership for making sure their members who hunt, fish, shoot and recreate outdoors have an organization to call their own, and we hope additional AFL-CIO unions will follow their lead in 2015 to support our mission,” said USA Executive Director Fred Myers.

Thanks to the support the USA receives from the UAW and UWUA as charter unions, active and retired UAW and UWUA members are now eligible for a no-cost USA membership, which provides access to the USA’s online magazine, national promotions and giveaways, deals and discounts, members-only sections of the website and more.

“We know that many UAW members relax and unwind after a long week by hunting, fishing and simply spending time outdoors. We also know that’s how thousands of our retired members are spending their golden years,” said UAW President Dennis Williams. “We’re proud to support an organization that helps our hardworking men and women enjoy the activities their passionate about.”

Dave Cole of UWUA Local 666 and his son, Tristan, on a Brotherhood Outdoors quail hunt.

Dave Cole of UWUA Local 666 and his son, Tristan, on a Brotherhood Outdoors quail hunt.

Many UAW and UWUA members and leaders have been active with the USA for years, participating in shoots, conservation dinners, Work Boots on the Ground projects, the USA’s gun-a-week calendar program and more. And in 2016, the USA’s outdoor TV series, Brotherhood Outdoors, will feature UWUA Local 666 member Dave Cole and his son on a Georgia quail hunt as well as UAW Local 838 member Aaron Heying on a New Mexico bear hunt.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance gives union members the best of both worlds—it helps union brothers and sisters connect with one another outside of work, while also protecting natural resources,” said UWUA National President D. Michael Langford. “We are proud to support the USA’s efforts to protect America’s outdoor heritage and our members’ opportunities to recreate in the great outdoors.”

North & Central N.Y. BCTC volunteers restore replica of President Fillmore’s boyhood home, mark 50th anniversary

June 22, 2015 in Conservation News, General, Work Boots On The Ground

On a cold January day in 1800, a baby boy joined the world inside a modest log cabin in the Finger Lakes region of New York – an area that when, in full bloom, is rich with greenery, trickling brooks and booming waterfalls. This woodland son would become a cloth-maker’s apprentice, a lawyer, a politician and ultimately, the thirteenth president of the United States. President Millard Fillmore and his original domicile are no longer present, but his memory lives on in the form of an accurate replica cabin built 50 years ago in his namesake state park – Fillmore Glen.

Fillmore Glen

Left to right: Ron Haney, Business Manager for Roofers Local 195, Jeff Zaia, Fillmore Glen Park Manager, Fred Bonn, Regional Director of N.Y. State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation and Donald Morgan, Business Manager IBEW Local 43, stand at the entrance of the newly-restored cabin.

Over the spring and summer this year, a group of volunteers from the North & Central New York Building & Construction Trades Council (BCTC) successfully restored a half-century old replica of Fillmore’s quaint boyhood home at the park. The project is part of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Work Boots on the Ground conservation program and came about from collaborative between the BCTC, the New York State Parks and the USA. The BCTC was looking for a project for which to volunteer, the parks department had a project that needed attention and the USA facilitated.

According to IBEW Local 43 Business Manager Donald Morgan, 22 volunteers worked over the span of the project, logging about 345 man hours.

“We had Roofers, Sheet Metal Workers, Masons, Insulators, guys from (United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters), Electrical Workers … It was team effort for sure,” said Morgan.

The project involved many big jobs. Morgan said the bulk of the work involved re-roofing the old cedar shake roof shingles. The volunteers also replaced the floorboards and floor joints, and they changed out four logs near the bottom of the cabin, which had to be done carefully to keep the integrity of the period-themed structure.

“We really hit a home run,” said Morgan. “It was just what we were hoping for.”

Work Boots on the Ground conservation projects serve multiple purposes. The first to preserve outdoor resources and heritage for generations to come, and the second is to build bridges between unions and the public by putting members in a position to serve the communities around them.

“It’s all about giving back to the community,” said Morgan. “We really appreciate our communities, so we love the chance to give back to them and, and helps us paint a picture of who union members really are.”

The parks department also expressed gratitude: “The Union Sportsmen stepped in, stepped up and really helped us improve the experience for patrons visiting the park,” said Finger Lakes Regional Director Fred Bonn. “The crew tackled the project with enthusiasm, skilled craftsmanship and a great deal of pride.”

For more information on Work Boots on the Ground, please visit http://unionsportsmen.org/conservation/work-boots-on-the-ground.

7th Annual AFL-CIO Sporting Clays Shoot Breaks All-Time Records

June 19, 2015 in General

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) 7th Annual AFL-CIO Capital Area Sporting Clays Shoot held on May 29 at The Point at Pintail in Queesntown, Maryland, broke the all-time fundraising record for USA shoots by raising more than $147,000 to support the USA’s conservation mission. It also broke the USA’s all-time participation record with 235 attendees, including 204 shooters. This number includes 14 female shooters – also a record. There was also a team of four Wounded Warriors and a team of five active-duty Marines, who received quite the patriotic ovation.

The Roofers Team A achieved the HOA team award at USA’s 7th Annual AFL-CIO Capital Area Sporting Clays Shoot

The Roofers Team A achieved the HOA team award
at USA’s 7th Annual AFL-CIO Capital Area Sporting
Clays Shoot

As title sponsor, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and its leadership play a significant role in the event’s continued growth by fostering participation among the nation’s unions, securing additional sponsors and encouraging them to donate shooting spots to wounded veterans or active-duty service members.

“I’d like to thank all of our sponsors, especially the AFL-CIO and President (Richard L.) Trumka, for their continued support in making this year’s event the biggest and most successful in our organization’s history,” said USA Executive Director Fred Myers. “It’s strong partnerships like these that help us build bridges, not only for unions and their members, but also for unions and the communities around them.”

Bank of Labor also supported the event by underwriting the shoot’s commemorative gift, and Union Insurance Group donated a new Polaris Ranger vehicle for the USA to use at its shooting tour events.

The USA’s nationwide shooting tour will bring the union community together at more than 21 sporting clays and trap shoots across the country while raising funds to support the USA’s mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

EVENTS SCHEDULE

Drafting Her Path Through a Male-Dominated Industry

June 19, 2015 in General, Meet a Member

by Kate Nation

Growing up hunting and fishing, serving in the Navy and working in the sheet metal trade, Darlene McCann, a member of SMART Local 19, is accustomed to being a minority as a woman, but that hasn’t stopped her—or even slowed her down.

“I’m lucky to have grown up with a dad who liked to teach me to hunt and fish, so I never had to experience a challenge because of gender,” McCann said. “When it came to working in a male-dominated field, I had to work a little harder to prove that I can be just as good as the guys, but it has been to my benefit as it has made me a better worker and sportswoman.”

McCann learned the sheet metal trade in the Navy and has worked in the trade for 25 years as a field foreman, drafting project leader, CAD committee chairman and other positions. She recently achieved her dream of starting her own business, DAM HVAC Services, and becoming a signatory contractor and owner/operator while maintaining her union membership.

When not providing hvac drafting and 3D CAD services to companies across the country, McCann loves spending time outdoors. Her father introduced her to hunting and fishing when she was 8-years-old, and he could gut and skin a deer by age 12. While she enjoys hunting and shooting, her passion is fishing. From filling a stringer of fish five feet long to landing sailfish in Costa Rica to fishing for salmon in Alaska as a guest on USA’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV series, McCann has fish tales to span many a campfire. Asked about her greatest fishing accomplishment and she recalls a weekend trip to Pulaski, NY, where she and her husband caught and released more than 200 trout.

L-R: Davey Cooper (SMART local 27), Darlene McCann (SMART Local 19) and John McCann (NJ State PBA Local 266) at USA’s 2015 SMART New Jersey shoot.

L-R: Davey Cooper (SMART local 27), Darlene McCann (SMART Local 19) and John McCann (NJ State PBA Local 266) at USA’s 2015 SMART New Jersey shoot.

In addition to being a guest on the USA’s TV show, McCann has participated in the USA’s SMART New Jersey Sporting Clays Shoot for several years. She joined the USA because it represents the people she works and enjoys the outdoors with.

“It introduces people to opportunities they may have never been able to experience,” she said. “Whether it’s a veteran being sponsored at a shoot, doing a conservation project with other union members or being selected to go on a dream fishing trip, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is about making things possible.”

McCann encourages fellow union members to join the USA to experience all the benefits it provides and says it can be a great chance for women in the trades to “bridge the gender gap” by better connecting with their co-workers who enjoy the outdoor sports.
“At the shoot, I was pleasantly surprised at the help and tips I received from fellow union brothers…it helped create a camaraderie that wasn’t there before,” she said.

When asked what advice she would offer women or young girls who want to get their start in hunting, fishing or the sheet metal trade, McCann responded, “Go for it, and don’t be afraid to try. The only person that can stop you from succeeding in an outdoor sport or job in the trades is yourself. Neither is for everyone, male or female, but you have to work hard and not expect a break as a female.”

See It to Believe It: Rooftop Catfish

April 28, 2015 in General

by Mark Spreadborough, UA Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 290

The workday started like most workdays…I grabbed my tool pack and gear from my work van, secretly wishing I was unloading my fishing pole and waders, or rifle and pack instead.

A rooftop HVAC retrofit job lay ahead of me, and I was heading up to the roof of a 6 story building in downtown Vancouver, Washington to gather some data and get measurements for the job.

As I stepped over an iron girder that supported an air handler, I had to shift where I was going to land my foot because I saw something on the roof.   When I cleared the girder, I looked at what I thought was a piece of garbage and was stunned.

April15_catfish_250There,  seven stories up in the air, high and dry, was a Bullhead Catfish, dead and intact.  His beady, drying eyes looked up at me, seeming to challenge my invasion into his space.

I’ve seen fish caught in flood pools that dried up, and left out in the open like that.   I’ve also seen invasive species and trash fish caught and left on the river bank by fishermen.   Of course, I’ve seen thousands of spawned out salmon washed up on the river banks, smelling up the place.

However, I’ve been working on rooftops for 25 years, and I’ve NEVER seen a fish on a roof.

I looked around to see if anyone was playing a prank on me, but there was nobody.  I had to take a picture.

After much pondering, I suspect a bird had snagged it from the nearby Columbia River, and brought it up high to eat his breakfast in peace and quiet.   Perhaps my opening of the penthouse door startled the fishing bird away…..  or…   that fish was the smart one that figured out how to fly and the secret has now died with him.

I’ll never know….   but the weirdest thing I ever saw on the water wasn’t on the water, it was brought to me at work to puzzle over, and I have pondered it ever since.

Kansas City Union Volunteers Help Local Boy Scouts of America ‘Be Prepared’ for Summer Camps

April 28, 2015 in Conservation News, General, Work Boots On The Ground

For more than a century, The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has been helping mold the future leaders of America by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. Located in Kansas City, MO, the Heart of American Council (HOAC) serves more than 31,000 youth and is known for having the highest number of scouts achieving the coveted Eagle Scout badge.

Each summer, more than 23,000 young boys attend summer camps run by the HOAC and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities like sailing, archery, water skiing, space exploration and the shooting sports. Maintaining the grounds and facilities to support so many youth every summer is no easy task. Fortunately, Kansas City has a healthy population of skilled union members, many of whom are former scouts, have children in scouts, volunteer with the scouts or all of the above.

measuring_250“There was a great need at our summer camps to take care of repairing or replacing some of the major infrastructure items in the area of plumbing, roofs and electrical,” said Mark Brayer, Director of Support Services and Professional Advisor to the Properties Committee of the HOAC. “With limited funds…we started to get offers from various union members to come down to camp and use their skills to help in these renovations.”

In response, the Properties Committee established a concentrated weekend effort called Skilled Trades Work Day, and promoted the event to union members. It was so successful, according to Brayer, it has become an annual event at both the Heart of America Council’s H. Roe Bartle and Naish scout reservations, with one work day each spring and fall.

On April 11, 2015, nearly 320 volunteers turned out for the Skilled Trades Work Day at H. Roe Bartle, which encompasses more than 4,200 acres in the Ozark Hills on Truman Lake. Together, the volunteers built new storage facilities, repainted a swimming pool, installed new water heaters, put up trail signs and markers, planted a 500+ tree nursery and completed a variety of other projects in preparation for the camp season. Among the volunteers were approximately 100 union members of the Greater Kansas City Building & Constructions Trades Council (BCTC) including electrical workers, plumbers and pipefitters, roofers, painters, carpenters and millwrights, sheet metal workers, laborers, ironworkers, and operating engineers, along with Bank of Labor staff.

building_250A member of Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 8, Russ Burton is a perfect example of the strong connection between the union trades and the Boy Scouts of American in Kansas City. As an Eagle scout and Chairman of Skilled Trades Team for the HOAC, he has been involved with scouting for nearly 50 years and was instrumental in helping create the Skilled Trades Work Days, which he continues to manage with the help of Project Coordinator Rick McWirth.

Between labor, materials and equipment, the more than 300 volunteers at the Bartle Skilled Trades Work Day provided an estimated $178,000, which the HOAC can invest in future scout programs. According to Burton, much of the work completed would not have been possible without the skills provided by the union volunteers.

wire_250“We feel we operate the best Boy Scout Camps in the country, not just in terms of our program but also in the facility in which to offer that program,” Brayer said. “Having our camping facilities up to speed on maintenance items and putting in new facilities to support the program enables us to attract a larger number of our Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts each year and provide them with a quality program in a safe, clean and well-kept facility.”

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Work Boots on the Ground program brings together skilled union members for conservation projects,” said Alise Martiny, Business Manager of the Greater Kansas City BCTC. “Here in the Kansas City area, we are proud that so many union members are putting their boots to the ground to support the BSA Heart of American Council, which leaves such a positive and lasting impression in the lives of so many local youth.”

IUPAT DC30 Brotherhood Outdoors Guest Featured in Hometown Paper

March 23, 2015 in General

Mar15_Ledger

Columbus Metal Trades Volunteers Help Prevent Electrical Shock Hazards at Florence Marina State Park

March 23, 2015 in Adopt A Park, Conservation News, General

Under the banner of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Work Boots on the Ground program, members of the Columbus Metal Trades Council (CMTC) volunteered their time and skills on Feb. 21 to inspect six boat docks and 66 boat slips at Florence Marina State Park for electrical hazards and make needed repairs, saving the park $1,500 to $2,000.

James Carr, Curtis Culpepper and Mike Culpepper, members of Electrical Workers Local 613, along with project leader Dave Hall, a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 85, and Trish Carr looked for exposed wiring, broken receptacle covers, bad ground fault circuit interrupters and other hazards that could put boat slip tenants and park visitors at risk.

(L-R) Dave Hall, Curtis Culpepper, James Carr and Trish Carr volunteer their Saturday morning at Florence Marina State Park.

(L-R) Dave Hall, Curtis Culpepper, James Carr and Trish Carr volunteer their Saturday morning at Florence Marina State Park.

Work Boots on the Ground brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to projects that conserve wildlife habitat, educate future generations of sportsmen and women, improve public access to the outdoors or restore America’s parks. Sitting at the northern end of 45,000-acre Lake Walter F. George in Omaha, GA, Florence Marina State Park is popular among a variety of outdoor enthusiasts, especially anglers and boaters. As with most state parks, it is managed with a tight budget.

IMG_0728“If there were any exposed wires or other electrical issues, and a renter or guest slipped into the water, it could cause serious bodily injury. The inspection helps prevent hazards and minimize risks,” said Tracy Yearta, park manager of Florence Marina State Park and Providence Canyon State Park. “Lots of these projects have to be funded by the department and, with funding the way it is, it’s very critical to bring in outside resources. Their [CMTC volunteers] skills and leadership ability is exactly what we need.”

Yearta first saw their skills and leadership in action in 2014 when CMTC volunteers cleared a 7-mile hiking trail and restored scenic views at nearby Providence Canyon State Park—Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon.

According to Hall, “Everybody was happy doing it…there was a sense of pride in knowing that we helped out the local community. The very next month at our meeting, everybody was exciting, smiling, happy. Some of the same volunteers wanted to do another project.”

This summer and fall, the volunteers will renovate Florence Marina State Park’s waste water treatment facility and install additional campsites at the park.

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.

IUPAT DC 30 Director of Training Gets First Chance at a Mule Deer on Brotherhood Outdoors

March 2, 2015 in Brotherhood Outdoors TV, General

by Laura Tingo

Steve Lefaver on his Montana deer hunt.

Steve Lefaver on his Montana deer hunt.

Stephen Lefaver, Director of Training for Painters District Council 30’s Joint Apprenticeship & Training Fund (JATF) and president of IUPAT Local 448, credits his first true introduction to the outdoors to spending summers as a boy visiting his aunt and uncle at their lake cabin in the woods of Northern Wisconsin.

“Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, the outdoors weren’t necessarily right out our back doors,” said Lefaver of Montgomery, Illinois. “I was lucky enough to live near a pond where I learned to fish. [Wisconsin] is where my passion for the outdoors really began.”

Exploring the woods and the water as a kid, he recalled trying to catch whatever he could.

“I wasn’t interested in waterskiing or boat rides; just give me a fishing pole and a backpack, and I was happy,” he said.

Lefaver admits that as an avid adult hunter, sometimes it becomes an obsession for him now.  Yet, for him, hunting is more than bringing home a prize harvest – it’s about preserving the great outdoors.  And it was his interest in conservation that inspired Lefaver to join the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA).

“I joined to be a part of the only conservation organization that highlights the union workers and their families and organizes community projects to put our skills to use for conservation initiatives.”

Lefaver demonstrated this in 2012, when he coordinated a USA Work Boots on the Ground conservation project that brought together members of IUPAT District Council 30 to paint the newly built Torstenson Youth Conservation Education Center in Pecatonica, Illinois.

Lefaver exhibits leadership in every aspect of his work. As a member of IUPAT DC 30 Local 448, he has served as recording secretary, financial secretary, vice-president and now president. He also serves as a trustee for its District Council.  He also led the charge in giving the apprenticeship program a complete overhaul—improving curriculum and programing across the board—earning the title of Director of Training for IUPAT DC 30’s JATF.

“I am blessed with a wonderful wife, two children and a great job,” said Lefaver. “My priorities are my family and our members, which leaves very little time for hunting.”

When USA’s Brotherhood Outdoors team learned about Lefaver’s dedication to his family, union and conservation, there was no question that a four-day Montana whitetail hunt was the well-deserved respite he needed.

The excitement of the hunt began even before Lefaver reached the cabin at Bearpaw Outfitters, as he spotted elk, mule deer and pronghorn—for the first time in the wild—on his 2-hour drive from the airport.

That was only the beginning.  On the first day of the hunt, Lefaver, co-hosts Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen and their guide spotted 72 deer.

“It was amazing to see the look on Steve’s face when deer were pouring out of the ravines,” said McQueen. “None of us had ever seen such a healthy deer population.”

When the guide arrived mid-day with Lefaver’s permit, he was pleasantly surprised to learn that the general deer permit was good for a whitetail or mule deer.

“So by now, I’m feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve with a wish list a mile long and not sure of what I was going to get,” he said.

Though Lefaver and the crew again saw a huge number of deer on the second day, they decided to wait for a trophy. On day three, the landowner told the crew he had just sighted one of the biggest deer he had seen on the property.  With that news, they spent the night planning out their final day.

After hiking 4-5 miles around ridgelines and through draws on that last morning, the group spotted a shooter buck at 800 yards out. They raced to the creek, but their shooter buck disappeared into the thicket, this time at about 300 yards away.  They waited and hoped for a shot as the buck came out of the thicket chasing his doe four times.

“Before they got to the creek, they both stopped about 325 yards way,” said Lefaver. “Once I knew this was our shooter, I told the cameraman that I was going to take the shot.”

With time running out, will Lefaver get a shot or head back to Illinois empty handed?

Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on Sportsman Channel. 

Brotherhood Outdoors’ First Canadian Guest Hunts Kansas Whitetail

March 2, 2015 in Brotherhood Outdoors TV, General

by Laura Tingo

Pruner working at a diamond mind in Canada's Northwest Territories

Pruner working at a diamond mind in Canada’s Northwest Territories

Brotherhood 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.

Miles 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.”

pruner_500

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.

Kentucky Boilermaker Hunts ‘Bama Bucks and Tennessee Hogs on Brotherhood Outdoors

March 2, 2015 in Brotherhood Outdoors TV, General

by Laura Tingo

When Nick McWhorter was growing up in Rush, Kentucky, his family never had much money.

“But we did have some fishing poles and deer rifle,” McWhorter said.

For McWhorter, now a member of Boilermakers Local 105, those gave way to a love of the outdoors that’s as strong as his love for his craft, both of which are strongly woven in his family.

“There’s more to hunting and fishing than filling up your freezer with meat,” he said. “It’s about spending the best of times with family. I hope to pass it on to my kids and that they enjoy it as much as I have.”

McWhorter grew up playing in the woods with his brother and catching fish at a farm pond on hot summer days.  He got his first deer while sitting on his dad’s lap and an 8-point while hunting with his grandpa.

Last year, McWhorter hunted for 43 days and harvested a 10 point at 42 yards. It was his dad who helped him track the deer. “You talk about rewarding! My first buck with a bow, and now I’m hooked,” he said.

When USA’s Brotherhood Outdoors crew learned of McWhorter’s commitment to his family, union and passing on his outdoor heritage, they invited him on an Alabama whitetail hunt.

“To say I was ecstatic when I got the call would be an understatement,” said McWhorter. “I had always dreamed of being on a hunting show.”

Arriving in Alabama for an early season deer hunt, Brotherhood Outdoors co-host Daniel Lee Martin knew it would be a challenging hunt.

“We were fired up for the first morning,” he said. “A cold morning means the big bucks will be out.”

The deer, however, had other plans.  Days into the hunt, battling hard rain and bitter cold, McWhorter and the Brotherhood Outdoors crew didn’t spot a quality deer to zero in on.

“We gave it all we had. That’s how it goes. That’s hunting,” McWhorter said.

Heading home, Martin and co-host Julie McQueen got an idea and quickly pulled together a redemption hunt for McWhorter in the form of giant Tennessee hogs.

nick_500A couple months later, McWhorter, his wife Sabrina, and his bow made the drive from Kentucky to meet Martin and McQueen at Wilderness Hunting Lodge in Tennessee’s Cumberland Mountains.

On their very first morning, wildlife surrounded their cabin, providing great photo opportunities for Sabrina and adding excitement for the crew as they headed out.  It wasn’t long before they saw pigs on the move.

McWhorter, who had never seen a wild hog before, was amazed by their size, which only grew as he slowly inched his way into bow range.

When a huge boar steps into the open at 32 yards out, will McWhorter’s arrow hit the mark?

Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on the Sportsman Channel.

Youth Program for High School Grads Builds Bridges into Community Work Force

March 2, 2015 in Articles, General

by Laura Tingo

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and the Washington state education system have a few things in common when it comes to youth, the outdoors, volunteerism and a solid work ethic. Recently, the two came together when a group of about eight students from the Puyallup School District’s training-transition Advance Program helped prepare for the USA’s 6th Annual Puget Sound Sporting Clays Shoot in Puyallup, WA, on October 23, 2014. The students volunteered to clean up the range at the Sumner Sportsmen’s Association, where the USA shoot was held, by picking up shell casings and performing various landscape maintenance tasks like edging, raking leaves and collecting firewood.

puget_sound_500“They were awesome,” said Heather Tazelaar, USA Event Analyst who oversees the USA’s sporting clays tour. “These young adults worked really hard, and you could tell they took pride in their work and enjoyed being out there.”

Participating students, ranging from 18 – 21 years of age, benefit from the Advance Program by staying in school after achieving their high school diplomas to gain valuable experience in the working world through community volunteer projects. Each student lives with some level of developmental disability and must qualify for the program with a history of job experience. Launched in 2003, the program is completely optional and open to students until the age of 21.

Denita Caudill, a job coach who has been working with the kids for nine years, said preparing the range for the USA shoot marked the sixth year that students in the program have had the opportunity to volunteer with the Sumner Sportsmen’s Association.

“The program offers them a bridge to the community,” said Caudill. “I’ve been able to watch (the program) evolve and become what it is today. Our children grow in skills and confidence. It’s exciting to see it and see former students and their successes as young adults being good employees…knowing how we helped to build those skills that they now are relying on.”
Students that find success after the Advance Program often return to tell Caudill what the program meant to them in their professional journey. “One student referred to us as `his college,’” she said.
Donovan Noonan, a 19-year-old student in the Advance Program, said the program is good for building skills and that he enjoys the volunteer aspect.

“I hope to be a personal trainer, and now it’s up to seeing where these job experiences lead me,” Noonan said. “I can see myself continuing to volunteer in places like food banks, churches and with animal care.”

John Anderson has served the Advance Program as Work Crew Leader for nine years, organizing community work crews, assisting students with daily activities, providing oversight on-the-job, and fostering open communication between teachers, students and work site locations.

For him, it’s all about “…watching students grow in confidence to take on any task, seeing the quality and quantity of work improve…seeing the students graduate, get jobs and become a valuable member of society,” he said.

And as with Caudill, many students come back and check in with him. One student, following the volunteer experience at the Sumner Sportsmen’s Association, went on to be hired as a trap miner and range custodian.

Another, 20-year-old Bryce Quilici, said he likes “everything” about the program. His dream job is that of a firefighter or personal trainer. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

UA Member and Former Saddle Bronc Rider Seeks Different Kind of Buck on Brotherhood Outdoors

February 13, 2015 in Brotherhood Outdoors TV, General

Justin Forni’s first career and his love of the great outdoors began early. At age 13, Forni, a member of UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 412 from Edgewood, New Mexico, began riding Saddle Bronc bucking horses and bulls.  He rode so well, he quickly became a young professional bronc rider. It was about that time he also shot his first deer.

While bronc riding lead Forni to his dream of being a professional rodeo cowboy, he didn’t have the same success hunting.  The draw system in New Mexico can be very limiting for hunters, and the deer Forni harvested at age 14 remained his first and only deer.

forni3A series of injuries, including a near fatal horse accident, due to his hazardous career encouraged Forni to step away from traveling the U.S. as a rodeo cowboy, though he has continued to stay involved in rodeo.
Today, Forni still travels the U.S., but now it’s as a proud union member and specialty welding instructor for the UA International Training Fund.

“Everything I have accomplished is because of the endless opportunities of the UA,” said Forni, who has gone on to reach the highest level of teaching in his trade.

He joined the union right out of high school while working as a cowboy on cattle ranches, welding part-time and going to college. At the time, his father was ill, and his mother had moved away to work.
“I made the decision for my family and my future,” he said. “I loaded up my truck with a horse and dog and left home for my new career and never looked back.”

While Forni worked to help support the family’s needs, he experienced first-hand the value of union brotherhood, especially when his father passed away when Forni was just 21.
“My union brothers would support me through the tough times,” he said. “Because of my career, we made it through.”

forni2When the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV producers learned about Forni’s appreciation for his union, his dedication to family and his love of the outdoors, they invited him on an Arizona mule deer hunt. For Forni, who had never hunted outside of New Mexico, being a guest on the program provided the opportunity to be a part of the union spirit that defines the show and the chance to harvest another deer.

“I have always loved the show,” said Forni, a proud UA member of 14 years. “It supports everything I believe in. “

Brotherhood Outdoors co-host Julie McQueen said conditions for the hunt were challenging.

“The hunt was difficult because it was unseasonably warm,” she said. “Even after the monsoon season in Arizona, it was dry for that time of the year, so many of the deer had moved into areas that held more water or cooler temperatures.”

It was Forni who spotted the first deer on the hunt using a pair of new optics, according to McQueen, who noted that the crew mostly saw does and small bucks.

Evenings provided a nice reprieve for Forni, McQueen, co-host Daniel Lee Martin and the rest of the crew. Rest, jokes and stories shared around a campfire were part of the daily agenda.

“Everybody loved Justin because of his sense of humor,” McQueen said. “He may be the funniest guest we’ve ever had on the show!”

“We had so much fun together as a group,” Forni remarked. “I cannot tell you how long it has been since I have had honest fun for seven days.”

After challenging hills, unanticipated warm temperatures, thin altitude and miles of hiking, Forni and the crew spot three nice bucks within range on the final day of the hunt.  Will Forni finally get to harvest his longtime, coveted second deer?

Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sunday, Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. ET on Sportsman Channel to find out.

VIEW PHOTOS

Who was Brotherhood Outdoors Biggest Fan?

December 3, 2014 in Brotherhood Outdoors TV, General

This year’s 2014 “Brotherhood Outdoors Fan Photo Frenzy” contest really got fans involved in showing their support for USA’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV series and their outdoor heritage. For nine weeks, from October 3 to November 30, entries consistently came in from 20 states and Canada showing that Brotherhood Outdoors fans are all over North America.

Jacob Crismon - 1st Place

Jacob Crismon – 1st Place

To vie for a top-spot in the competition and the hope of winning one of three great prize packages, Brotherhood Outdoors fans were asked to register on the USA website and submit their best fan photos. Show us your spirit was the name of the game with images submitted for a staff vote at the USA’s national headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, with fans submitting photo’s showing their love for the show on clothing, hunting gear and even baked goods!

Brad Richmond - 2nd Place

Brad Richmond – 2nd Place

Earning the First Place win with a photo taken of the 10 point buck he shot along side his union logo t-shirt and the Brotherhood Outdoors logo set atop the buck’s antlers, was Jacob Crismon, a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 from Holts Summit, Missouri. His Grand Prize package, valued at roughly $180, included a USA logo Carhartt jacket, autographed USA logo hat, Sportsman Channel water bottle and Buck Knife 120 General and Brotherhood Outdoors poster and decals.

The 2nd prize win was Brad Richmond’s photo of himself representing both Brotherhood Outdoors and the USA while spending time in the great outdoors. Richmond, a member of Operating Engineers Local 150 from Rockton, Illinois, got hooked on Brotherhood Outdoors after his experience as a guest on the show – and now practices what he learned from the show with his new crossbow. His prize package, valued at roughly $60, included a USA logo Carhartt jacket, Sportsman Channel water bottle, Autographed USA logo hat and Brotherhood Outdoors poster and decals.

Joe Short - 3rd Place

Joe Short – 3rd Place

Taking home 3rd prize was Joe Short, a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 from Manheim, Pennsylvania. Short’s picture of a successful duck hunt with his little brother who was home on leave from the military right before Short’s wedding displayed great enthusiasm for the outdoors and appreciation for brotherhood. His prize package, valued at roughly $30, included an autographed USA logo hat, Sportsman Channel water bottle, “Best of Brotherhood Outdoors” DVD and Brotherhood Outdoors poster and decals.

Thanks to all who participated with us in the “Brotherhood Outdoors Fan Photo Frenzy” contest and for helping us find out that all Brotherhood Outdoors fans have spirit and are the best when it comes to supporting their outdoor heritage.

Enter our Cast & Blast with Your Vote for Brotherhood Outdoors

November 21, 2014 in General

A program of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Brotherhood Outdoors is the ONLY 100% union-dedicated outdoor TV series that showcases everyday, hardworking union members in a positive way while they join us on a dream hunting or fishing trip.  Please cast a vote now for YOUR show, Brotherhood Outdoors, and help it win a prestigious Sportsman Choice award in the following categories:
•    Best Variety Show
•    Best Educational/Instructional Show
•    Best Hosts (Daniel Lee Martin & Julie McQueen)

Get Entered to Win the Cast & Blast Package
Cast your vote for Brotherhood Outdoors and send us an email at brotherhood@unionsportsmen.org to tell us you voted, and you will be entered for a chance to win the USA’s Cast & Blast package, which includes a union-made Remington 870 Express shotgun customized with the USA logo, a St. Croix Premier Series Spinning Rod and a Plano® 728 Angled Tackle System.

Please include the following information in your email:  Full Name, Address, Phone Number, and Email.

Vote Now

Vote for Brotherhood Oudoors – Your Union-Dedicated TV Show

November 10, 2014 in General

More than 140,000 viewers voted in Sportsman Channel’s 2011 Sportsman Choice Awards, and Brotherhood Outdoors took home the award for Best Combination (Hunting/Fishing) Show.  Since then, the series has only gotten better, and we need your help to make sure the ONLY union-dedicated outdoor show on television wins an award this year.

Union-TV-Yes-on-black-gold rule_200Cast your vote for Brotherhood Outdoors from Monday, Nov. 10 until Sunday, Nov. 30 on the Sportsman Channel website in the following categories:
Best Variety Show
Best Educational/Instructional Show
Best Hosts (Daniel Lee Martin & Julie McQueen)

Cast your vote for Brotherhood Outdoors in the categories above, and you will be entered for a chance to win a $250 gift card to your favorite outdoor retailer.  Four gift cards will be given away.  Unlike previous years, you can only vote one time per category, so cast your votes wisely!

To vote for Brotherhood Outdoors and register for your chance at a $250 gift card, CLICK HERE.

Donation from Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and volunteerism of Proctorville, Ohio outdoor sportswoman support Ohio-based nonprofit that introduces special needs youth to joy of hunting

October 29, 2014 in Conservation News, General

by Laura Tingo

A donation by the Ohio AFL-CIO Conservation Dinner committee with funds raised from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Annual Ohio State Conservation Dinner held in Columbus, Ohio, and the dedicated volunteerism of Brittney Sowards, 19, of Proctorville, Ohio, is putting smiles on a lot more faces, in more places and more often for youth outdoor enthusiasts served by the Special Needs Youth Sportsmen, Inc.

The USA’s gift of more than $4500 will support the nonprofit’s mission to provide youth with special needs safe access and opportunity in the outdoor sporting world.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance gives us an opportunity to give back to those that support us – our members who enjoy the great outdoors and the enjoyment and relaxation it brings when the whole family is together, fishing and hunting and making memories with their children,” said Tim Burga, Ohio AFL-CIO President.

Brittney Sowards, 19 with one of her prize deer.

Brittney Sowards, 19 with one of her prize deer.

“Special Needs Youth Sportsmen is a strong example of providing safe access and hands-on experience to all youth, early on to foster their enjoyment of the outdoors and instill a lifelong commitment to preserving the great outdoors for future generations,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

Sowards first learned about the Special Needs Youth sportsmen, Inc. at the age of 14, when a brochure circulated in her classroom inviting kids, like her, to hunt. On her second time out, Sowards, who live with Autism, harvested her very first deer. Since aging out of the program she has enjoyed for five years, Brittany returns to volunteer every chance she gets.

“I just keep going back,” said Sowards, who helps with things like setting up for the events, getting the kids outfitted and making lunches. “It’s a neat experience, I met a lot of new friends…I found a lot of people could relate to me,” she said. “We all finally fit in.”

This year marks the fifth year that the Ohio-based nonprofit has taken youth ages 6 – 18 on elaborate hunting trips with a host of volunteers and community supporters. Over the Oct. 18th weekend, kids had the chance to experience a European-style pheasant hunt. The organization’s founder, George McCalvin, said the USA’s donation will help expand programs and services for participants.

“(The donation) is a great shot in the arm for us,” said McCalvin. “It gives us the opportunity to do more with the kids…to get them in the outdoors.”

It was the USA Ohio State Conservation Dinner Committee, led by Ohio AFL-CIO Field Director Jeanette Mauk, that made the decision about how to allocate proceeds raised by the more than 368 USA member and avid sportsmen and women through support and attendance at the dinner.

“Not only do we want to encourage young people to know about labor but to also get to experience something in the outdoor world,” said Mauk. “This organization provides resources and gives a young adult the chance to experience the outdoors in a safe way.”

For Sowards, the draw to return year after year is about her love for the great outdoors and meeting new friends.

“You get out and breathe the fresh air… enjoy the outdoors,” she said. “One year, one of the little kids came in with his dad and the trucks jumping up and down screaming that he got his first deer! We were all so excited for him.”

“What’s neat about this whole thing is that we never met and, now, we are friends and like family.”

To learn more about Special Needs Youth Sportsmen, Inc., visit their website at: www.specialneedsyouth.org.

Fishing for Freedom, Restoring Lives

October 21, 2014 in Fishing, General

by Laura Tingo

jerry1

Jerry Doubek (right) shows off his catch at the Fishing for Freedom weigh-in.

Jerry Doubek of Nixa, Mo., has enjoyed fishing since he was a boy, but since meeting USA member Leroy Shull, he doesn’t just fish for the sport of it– he fishes for freedom.

When Jerry, a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, returned home in 2009 after serving in Afghanistan—leaving the structured life of a soldier and facing the loss of his lower right leg—he experienced something many soldiers face.

“My transition was difficult,” said Jerry, a former Army Ranger who served with the 173rd Army Brigade Combat Team and was awarded an Honorable Discharge in 2012. “It’s very personal and we all suffer; whether from post-traumatic stress disorder or physical, we all have experienced the same aspects of war.”
Jerry’s battle of adjusting to civilian life meant being a loving husband, father and getting back to work. Prior to his deployment, Jerry ran a successful trucking company. Yet he found himself withdrawing from his wife, kids and society.

“I became reclusive,” he said. “When you go from being a Ranger and doing everything your body can do – to nothing…, it’s hard.”  He saw himself leading to what he thought was impending divorce too. “It affected my children. I thought of suicide.”

Unable to walk for 18 months and dependent on a walker, Jerry faced an uphill battle of painful physical therapy.  “Being in the military, going 100 mph to nothing is so hard,” he said.  “This wasn’t who I was.”

A friend, who noticed what was happening to Jerry, invited him to go fishing with a group of new friends he found in a program called Fishing For Freedom. The program was founded by Leroy Shull, a USA member and IBEW Local 124 retiree, and Larry Stoafer, a retired U.S. Army Major, in partnership with the Leavenworth Bass Club, in Leavenworth, Kan. One of the largest wounded veteran events in the country, it is funded 98% by union labor and provides an opportunity for America’s heroes to spend a day on the lake at no cost. It also offers a relaxed and therapeutic environment to aid in the healing and readjusting process.

“The first year, we invited 30 wounded soldiers,” said Leroy. “It’s a passion that got in my heart, and I knew we had to keep going. When I saw in the soldiers’ eyes and in their faces what we’ve done for them, I said, `bring me a 100 wounded warriors and I’ll get the money.’”  Year after year, union brothers and sisters line up to support the annual events as volunteers. Ironically, the program launched in 2009 – the year Jerry returned from Afghanistan.

Trying to encourage Jerry, his friend reminded him how much he used to enjoy fishing.
“I didn’t want to go,” said Jerry. “If you are a family member with a wounded veteran at home and reading this story, get them up and make them do it.”

His friend didn’t take no for an answer and told Jerry’s sergeant.

“She knew what it meant to me to be out and about amongst people,” recalled Jerry. “She ordered me to go and, of course, I wasn’t happy at the time. It was what I needed to do. It truly changed my life.”

Soon after arriving to the docks of Missouri’s Truman Lake, Jerry met Leroy.  “Leroy took the time to befriend me,” said Jerry. “I got to relax and enjoy it. This program has put me back on track.”

Since `fishing for freedom,’ Jerry has restarted his trucking company and is celebrating his happy marriage. “I have such a wonderful wife.”

He also learned he is going to be a grandfather. “The good Lord has really granted me the greatest opportunity of my life with this program,” he said. “It saved my life.”

Since his first, Jerry hasn’t missed a Fishing For Freedom event. “Each year I stop whatever I am doing.”

Leroy said he remembers that first day like it was yesterday.

Leroy Shull in his custom Fishing for Freedom boat.

Leroy Shull in his custom Fishing for Freedom boat.

“Jerry was there, walking with a cane. I felt like he had a sense that we could talk when he got a little more comfortable. He eventually opened up to me and shared a story. He is the epitome of what our program is all about. His experience affected all of us in the program,” Leroy said. “It’s a brotherhood.”

To Jerry, being there, seeing people that care and all of the volunteers and soldiers dedicating their time is an inspiration.

“Without guys like Leroy, this program wouldn’t work at all,” said Jerry. “We owe a ton to Leroy and the organization. It’s not us who are the hero,” he said. “We’ve done our job and we are home. It’s them. They are the heroes.”

Leroy has plans for a Fishing For Freedom event at Lake Palestine near Tyler, TX, in March 2015. Union support and volunteers are needed.  For more information, contact Leroy Shull at onfish2@yahoo.com or 816.694.5513.

Brotherhood Outdoors Fan Photo Frenzy Contest

October 13, 2014 in General

Hey all you Brotherhood Outdoors TV Fans…
Here’s a chance to win cool Brotherhood Outdoors prizes!
Put on your best “fan-face,” show your spirit, snap a pic & enter
the Brotherhood Outdoors Fan Photo Frenzy Contest today!

Biggest-Fan-Article-Image
Are you our biggest Brotherhood Outdoors TV fan? If so, show us by sending in a creative photo that demonstrates your #1 fan spirit!
Have fun with it and maybe even get a little crazy! Paint your face, wear a costume, sport a wig, paint a sign, build a tribute, gather your crew and show us how you support Brotherhood Outdoors TV.

Enter here for your chance to win the Grand Prize package filled with cool gear like a Carhartt Duck Jacket, Buck Knife 120 General, USA logo hat autographed by Daniel Lee Martin and Julie McQueen and more valued at $175!

Here’s how it works:
1. LIKE the Brotherhood Outdoors TV Facebook page
2. Register to win
3. Check the Brotherhood Outdoors TV Facebook Page to get information about the upcoming season and contest competition

Registration Form

Good Luck!