Russell Delaney, a member of IBEW local 2320, grew up hunting waterfowl along Cape Cod with his grandfather and uncle. Even on his first outing, he knew he was destined to be a waterfowler. As the “grunt” of the group, Delaney had to put the boat in the water and stack and carry the decoys, but he loved every minute of it.
Today, Delaney lives with his wife, Anne, in New Hampshire where he has a new group of hunting buddies-his five sons ages 20 through 10. “We’re an avid hunting and fishing family. With hunter numbers dwindling, it’s important to pass the sport on to the youth to keep the heritage going,” said Delaney, who volunteers on his local gun club’s board of directors.
On Sundays, Delaney and his sons watch field sports on VERSUS Network. That’s how he learned about Escape to the Wild, a program of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), VERSUS and several trade unions and contractor associations that takes hardworking union members on the hunting or fishing trip of a lifetime.
“My oldest son, Douglas, asked me one Sunday if I had ever seen the hunting show with union guys,” Delaney said. “I told him I had seen it, and in fact, I had applied for it.”
Disguised as a local TV reporter in a plot that Delaney’s wife and sons helped devise, the shows host, Tom Ackerman, surprised Delaney with the news that he was heading to Nebraska to hunt waterfowl in the central flyway.
“I was in awe when I found out I was going on this trip,” Delaney said. “I’ve been a member of Ducks Unlimited for a long time, and I’ve followed migratory patterns and the number of birds over various parts of the country. When I learned about the central flyway, I thought ‘wow, that’s where I’d like to go.’”
Despite his interest in the flight patterns of waterfowl, Delaney is not a fan of flying himself. But after surviving a bumpy plane ride into Manchester, CO through heavy snowfall, his fun began as he got acquainted with Tom Ackerman, the camera crew and his guide, Steve Ferris.
Hunting the central flyway turned out to be even better than Delaney imagined. “I’ve never hunted from a blind of that caliber,” he said. “And Ferris’ calling technique was superb. I was awestruck listening to the sounds he was putting out there and watching the birds turn. I didn’t even want to shoot; I was so flabbergasted by the number of birds coming in to his calls.”
When the birds slowed down, Delaney, Ackerman and Ferris had more time to get to know each other in the blind. “There was lots of talking, laughter and joking,” Delaney said. “I felt like I had known these guys for quite some time. That played a big part in our success.”
As a Splice Service Technician for Verizon and a 20-year member of the IBEW, Delaney shares that same camaraderie with his union brothers and sisters. “All the union members are one big family,” he said. “You laugh together, cry together, and stick together through hard times and good times.”
Now Delaney looks forward to sharing what he learned about the TRCP and its effort to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing with his union brothers and sisters in order to “drum up support for conservation efforts.” He is also excited to give presentations about the TRCP’s Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.
Join Russell Delaney as the skies fill with birds in Nebraska’s central flyway. Tune in to VERSUS Country Thursday, Feb. 14 at 7:30 PM (ET) or Sunday, Feb. 17 at 10 AM (ET)