by Laura Tingo
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.