by Kate Nation
Howard Thomas followed his father’s footsteps both as a union man and a sportsman. He has been a member of the UA Local 502 Plumbers, Pipefitters and Service Techs since 1997, where his dad, Donald Thomas, was an active member for 37 years before retiring. His dad also introduced him to hunting, and they continue to share a passion for the sport today, primarily hunting whitetail in their home state of Indiana.
This fall, Howard got to pay his dad back in a big way thanks to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) 2014 Remington Wyoming Dream Hunt Sweepstakes. After learning he was drawn as the grand prize winner of an all-expenses-paid Wyoming antelope hunt at The Ranch at Ucross, Howard chose his dad as the lucky guest to join him on the trip.
After a long year of anticipation, father and son headed out on Sept. 30 for their first Western hunt. Not knowing what to expect, they quickly discovered that spot and stalk hunting on 36,000 acres of land is very different from hunting 15 acres from treestands in Indiana.
“I had never stalk hunted before. It was just an all-around good time,” Howard said. “We saw many animals you wouldn’t see around here [Indiana] – mule deer, badger, jack rabbits, prairie dogs.”
Accustomed to hunting with shotguns in Indiana, Howard and Donald had been shooting rifles, including the Remington Model 700 CDL SF in 7mm Mag Howard received as part of his prize package, twice a week for a month and a half leading up to their trip. Donald had also been walking to get in shape for all the walking hey would be doing.
And their efforts paid off. Led by a knowledgeable guide, Howard and Donald covered nine miles walking, climbing and belly crawling to get within 245 yards of a nice antelope, and Howard dropped it where it stood with one shot. Its horns measured 14.25 inches and had a nice curl. When they checked the buck in, they found that it was the second biggest to be checked in that day – opening day of antelope season.
The group fought rain all morning of day two, but they were able to put on a long stalk in the afternoon. They finally spotted a good size antelope at 600 yards and were able to get within 235 yards before the buck bedded down in a valley facing the hunters. After waiting for an hour, Howard backtracked up a creek and began moving toward the antelope from above. When the buck caught wind of Howard, it stood, and that was all Donald needed to drop it in its tracks.
“The look on my father’s face made the hunt for me, and I think the same for him,” Howard said. “Winning this hunt was really a life event for myself and my father. I would like to thank the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Remington for the trip and the very accurate 7mm.”