You are browsing the archive for kids Archives - Union Sportsmen's Alliance.

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

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


shooting sports

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

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

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

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

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

Additional events are planned for Tennessee and Texas in 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors

August 13, 2018 in Articles, General

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

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

8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors:

1. Camping8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors

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

2. Kayaking8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors

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

3. Geocaching

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

4. Campfire Cooking8 Ways to Connect Kids to the Outdoors

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

5. Fly a kite

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

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

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

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

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

8. Photography

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

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

Written by Bob Barteck, IAFF Local 425 Alumni


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

March 8, 2018 in Articles, Fishing

Crappie Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

Crappie Fishing

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

The Kid Kit

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

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

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

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

Crappie Fishing

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

Consider a Guide for the Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crappie Fishing

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

Hire The Right Fishing Guide

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

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

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

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

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

Crappie Fishing

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

Questions to Ask Before a Guided Trip

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

* How much will the trip cost?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crappie Fishing Tips

Crappie Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by John E. Phillips

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

March 8, 2018 in Articles, Fishing, Tips

used boat

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

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

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

  1. Get the Family Involved

    used boat

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

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

  1. Research

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

  1. Set a Budget

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

used boat

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

  1. Start the Search

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

  1. Prepare to Purchase

    used boat

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

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

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

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

used boat

Fishing and tubing are the most popular family boating activities.

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

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

Written By Bob Barteck— IAFF Local 425 Alumni