Justin Forni’s first career and his love of the great outdoors began early. At age 13, Forni, a member of UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 412 from Edgewood, New Mexico, began riding Saddle Bronc bucking horses and bulls. He rode so well, he quickly became a young professional bronc rider. It was about that time he also shot his first deer.
While bronc riding lead Forni to his dream of being a professional rodeo cowboy, he didn’t have the same success hunting. The draw system in New Mexico can be very limiting for hunters, and the deer Forni harvested at age 14 remained his first and only deer.
A series of injuries, including a near fatal horse accident, due to his hazardous career encouraged Forni to step away from traveling the U.S. as a rodeo cowboy, though he has continued to stay involved in rodeo.
Today, Forni still travels the U.S., but now it’s as a proud union member and specialty welding instructor for the UA International Training Fund.
“Everything I have accomplished is because of the endless opportunities of the UA,” said Forni, who has gone on to reach the highest level of teaching in his trade.
He joined the union right out of high school while working as a cowboy on cattle ranches, welding part-time and going to college. At the time, his father was ill, and his mother had moved away to work.
“I made the decision for my family and my future,” he said. “I loaded up my truck with a horse and dog and left home for my new career and never looked back.”
While Forni worked to help support the family’s needs, he experienced first-hand the value of union brotherhood, especially when his father passed away when Forni was just 21.
“My union brothers would support me through the tough times,” he said. “Because of my career, we made it through.”
When the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Brotherhood Outdoors TV producers learned about Forni’s appreciation for his union, his dedication to family and his love of the outdoors, they invited him on an Arizona mule deer hunt. For Forni, who had never hunted outside of New Mexico, being a guest on the program provided the opportunity to be a part of the union spirit that defines the show and the chance to harvest another deer.
“I have always loved the show,” said Forni, a proud UA member of 14 years. “It supports everything I believe in. “
Brotherhood Outdoors co-host Julie McQueen said conditions for the hunt were challenging.
“The hunt was difficult because it was unseasonably warm,” she said. “Even after the monsoon season in Arizona, it was dry for that time of the year, so many of the deer had moved into areas that held more water or cooler temperatures.”
It was Forni who spotted the first deer on the hunt using a pair of new optics, according to McQueen, who noted that the crew mostly saw does and small bucks.
Evenings provided a nice reprieve for Forni, McQueen, co-host Daniel Lee Martin and the rest of the crew. Rest, jokes and stories shared around a campfire were part of the daily agenda.
“Everybody loved Justin because of his sense of humor,” McQueen said. “He may be the funniest guest we’ve ever had on the show!”
“We had so much fun together as a group,” Forni remarked. “I cannot tell you how long it has been since I have had honest fun for seven days.”
After challenging hills, unanticipated warm temperatures, thin altitude and miles of hiking, Forni and the crew spot three nice bucks within range on the final day of the hunt. Will Forni finally get to harvest his longtime, coveted second deer?
Tune in to Brotherhood Outdoors on Sunday, Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. ET on Sportsman Channel to find out.