For Gary Green, a Public Education Officer for IAFF Local 321, hunting is about the full experience. “The time I spend in nature gives me peace and pure enjoyment. Hearing the wind through the pine needles, a loon call or having a chickadee land on my arrow is priceless. Filling my tag is a bonus,” Gary said.
When Gary found Escape to the Wild, a TV program of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), VERSUS Network and sponsoring unions and contractor associations that awards hardworking union members with the hunting or fishing trip of a lifetime, he was impressed with the way it incorporated the winners’ emotions and the sights and sounds of the trip. Once he discovered he could apply to be one of the lucky winners on season two, Gary sent in an application, telling his wife “I feel like I’m buying a powerball ticket.”
Born into a Navy family, Gary traveled the country as a child before settling in northern Wisconsin, where he was introduced to hunting and fishing soon began chasing small game with a .410 and hunting deer with a recurve bow. Today, Gary is a husband, father of four, and an avid conservationist heavily involved in teaching lessons of the outdoors to younger generations and adults.
“I want to inspire people to get involved in conservation by working together. I like that the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is trying to pull everyone together for a common voice,” Gary said.
An avid turkey hunter and president of one of the National Wild Turkey Federation chapters in Wisconsin, Gary dreamed of hunting the beautiful, ocellated turkey in Mexico and one day achieving the World Slam. For turkey hunters, a world slam is achieved by successfully hunting all five wild turkey subspecies in North America and the ocellated turkey.
“Thanks to my union, the TRCP, and VERSUS Network, I got to hunt the most difficult one,” said Gary, referring to the location and cost of hunting the ocellated turkey. “I’m a practical guy; it’s not cheap. I definitely wouldn’t be able to afford a couple thousand dollar turkey hunt with weddings coming up and kids in college.”
“Firefighter Gary,” as he is known on the job, was surprised with the hunting trip of his lifetime through the voice of Sparky, the mechanical dog he uses to teach elementary students about the importance of fire safety and prevention.
“I was fired up on so many levels…about going on the trip, being one in 10 people chosen in the U.S., and knowing that my efforts in the community are appreciated,” Gary said. As excited as he was to hunt to elusive ocellated turkey, he equally anticipated the chance to see a place he’d never seen before and all its fauna and wildlife.
“It was 95 degrees and humid as heck. We’d rinse off in the river or makeshift shower and be sticky again in no time,” Gary said. “We saw big butterflies, toucans and howler monkeys. The more I listened to the monkeys, day and night, the more they reminded me of the T-Rex in Jurassic Park. It was amazing.”
In the thick foliage of the Yucatan, Gary’s guide told him he would have a better chance shooting a turkey out of a tree because they quickly disappear on the ground. “I told him I didn’t want to do that,” Gary said. “It’s an ethics thing.”
Gary was also encouraged to take a body shot, but as a self-taught taxidermist, he didn’t want to do that either, making the hunt even more challenging.
Join Brother Gary as he faces the challenges of hunting ocellated turkey in the thick jungle of the Yucatan. Tune in to VERSUS Country on Sunday, March 9 at 10:00 AM (ET).