Many of the applications we receive from potential Brotherhood Outdoors guests include stories of hardship, triumph or a family legacy. However, once in a while, we come across stories so full of humor and true-to-life experiences, we can’t help but feel an immediate connection with the applicant. This was the case with SMART Local 18 member Mike Kraning out of Kenosha, WI. His story of the one and only trophy hanging in his home instantly sparked our interest.
Mounted trophies typically represent a skilled sportsman or woman’s fruits of labor from a triumphant day in the field, but this didn’t hold true for Mike’s trophy. He found his big buck lying on the side of the road after it had been struck by a vehicle. Not wanting to pass on a nice piece for his wall, he called the authorities and got permission to collect the buck for himself. So Mike’s mounted trophy was roadkill –not even his own! The Brotherhood Outdoors team knew we needed to get Mike Kraning in front of a big animal in the wild to put an end to his family’s jokes and provide him with some outdoorsman honor in telling the story of a new trophy on his wall.
When we met Mike, he was pretty quiet. But as he started talking about his union and family, it was as if we were talking to an old friend. Mike first got involved with unions as a teenager in high school and now specializes in the sheet metal and finishing products that are fabricated through his company. He takes pride in his work, and his craftsmanship was evident when he presented us with a stainless steel replica of the Brotherhood Outdoors logo. Mike’s pride doesn’t stop with his union and his work; he also holds his family in high esteem, and it was his family that introduced him to the outdoors. He spent days as a pre-teen hunting with his grandfather, father, uncles and brother and is now determined to pass on the love of the outdoors to future generations of his family.
For Mike’s big game hunt, we took him to Northeast Texas to hunt elk with professional guide Mike Ford of Rio Rojo Rancho. The multi-use, family-owned property also offers hunting for whitetail deer, red deer, fallows, axis deer, blackbucks, coyotes and turkeys. Although our sights were set on elk, we also spent a little time hunting whitetails and coyotes. We didn’t have much luck with the coyotes, but Mike was successful in taking one of the many deer on the property. But the elk action was what this trip was all about. We couldn’t wait to see the look on Mike’s face when he caught a glimpse of his first elk in the wild!
Making our way through the ranch’s forest, it took no time before we spotted a group of bull elk, including a nice 6×6 bedded in the woods. Mike said his heart raced seeing such enormous animals in the wild. We stalked the elk, ran through the trees, set up the shooting sticks multiple times and did our best to keep up with the herd while staying as stealthy as possible. It seems like no matter how much planning takes place, the final moments are always more chaotic than you expect. It was in these moments that Mike showed us his true sportsmanship, shooting skills and immense love of the outdoors.
The Brotherhood Outdoors crew and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance are proud to have outdoorsmen like Mike Kraning on our team; he stands for all we strive to achieve in this industry. He’s a hard worker and dedicated sportsman who appreciates what the union brotherhood offers, knows the importance of introducing future generations to the outdoors, and represents everything that’s possible when you set your mind to it.
Watch as Mike takes his first shot at a bull elk in hopes of earning some real bragging rights with a new trophy to replace his road kill buck. Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sunday, July 7 at 11 a.m. ET (original airing) on Sportsman Channel.