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In hunting and fishing union members value time outdoors with family, friends… sharing shots almost missed, shots not taken

Adapted from the Minneapolis Labor Review, July 24, 2021

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

MINNEAPOLIS — After a challenging day or week at work — indeed, after this very challenging past year — spending time outdoors to walk in the woods or hunt or getting out on the water to paddle a canoe or to drop a fishing line is especially important.

Three union members recently talked with the Labor Review about why time outdoors is so important to them and shared their hunting stories and photos: Kelly Hannigan, member of Roofers Local 96; Rosey Grab, member of Operating Engineers Local 49; and Brian Wegner, member of UNITE HERE Local 17.

Kelly Hannigan, 41-year member of Roofers Local 96, shot this tom turkey near Cannon Falls in April 2021.

Kelly Hannigan:
Roofers Local 96 retiree

Roofers Local 96 posted a recent photo of member Kelly Hannigan on Facebook: He’s wearing a Local 96 hat and he’s in the field showing off a 23-lb. tom turkey with a 9-inch beard that he’s just shot near Cannon Falls.

“I’ve turkey-hunted there for probably 25 years,” Hannigan, Oakdale, told the Labor Review. “It’s exciting because you get there in the dark” — and then watch and hear the day begin.

That April morning, Hannigan was hunting from a tent blind. “You periodically make hen calls,” short, staccato sounds, he related. “When the tom answers, he gobbles.” “He wants the hen to come to him; He gets frustrated and will come in.”

“I just called him in,” Hannigan continued. Two toms came in from behind a hill. “I shot him at 15-20 yards,” he said, using a 12-gauge shotgun with a 3.5 inch turkey load shell, a special more powerful shell.

“I deer hunt also,” Hannigan said. “I have land near Hill City, Minnesota” with a cabin on 80 acres. For the past 25 years, he said, “I only trophy hunt. It has to be something I’m going to have mounted.”

“I’m a 41-year union member with Local 96,” said Hannigan, who just recently retired last month. “It’s a good career. It’s hard work.”

Hannigan, 60, grew up in North St. Paul and graduated from North St. Paul High School in 1979. He began working as a stocker at grocery store. His mom was working in the office at Berwald Roofing, however, and that connection led Hannigan into the Roofers’ apprenticeship program and a 36-year career as a union Roofer at Berwald.

“It gave me a good wage; I worked a lot of overtime,” Hannigan said. “I bought a duplex in St. Paul right when I turned 20.” He added, “once you get a house, you’re hooked.”

When Hannigan began his apprenticeship, he noted, “back then there were no computers, no cell phone. You did everything on paper.”

Over his 36 years working in the field, Hannigan worked on the new Twins stadium and the new Gophers stadium and ran jobs for Berwald, getting official status as a foreman later in his career. He reported ending up just 111 hours shy of 82,000 pension hours.

Hannigan served Local 96 as an executive board member from 2009-2015. From 2016 to 2021, he served as a Local 96 business agent and as a trustee for the local’s health and welfare, annuity and apprentice funds.

“I was fortunate to be active in my local union and be a business agent,” Hannigan said.

Hannigan and his wife Judie have two kids now in their late 20s. She is a 35-year member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189, working at a care facility.

Retiring last month, Hannigan said he now plans to “just get settled in and figure out what we want to do.”

He and Judie like to go to Minnesota’s North Shore and go grouse hunting. He also goes grouse hunting with his brothers and nephews near Tofte and has gone on fly-in bear-hunting trips with friends in Ontario.

“I enjoy being in the outdoors,” Hannigan said.

As for deer, “when I hunt now, it’s only for trophies,” Hannigan said. He’s only shot two bucks in the past 20-plus years. “If I can’t see the rack, I don’t shoot.” He added: “For me, a success happens if I could have shot one…”

Rosey Grab, who is now an Operating Engineers Local 49 apprentice, shot this buck in Barron County, Wisconsin back in November 2009.

Rosey Grab:
Operating Engineers Local 49 apprentice

“I prefer hunting but I do like a day on the lake or the ice, depending on the season,” said Rosey Grab. “I find solitude in the woods.”

Grab, 40, who lives in Birchwood in northwest Wisconsin, is a second-year Local 49 apprentice.

“I’ve run into quite a few people who have started later in age,” she said.

She’s currently working for Kraemer North America as an oiler on cranes, gaining knowledge and experience. “I like working and learning the way I’m learning,” she said.

Grab’s goal is to become a crane operator. “I have one test left to take and if I pass it, I’ll be certified,” she said. “I’ve been working hard over the last year.”

“My family is in the trades,” she reported. “I’ve had the exposure to heavy equipment.”

In fact, Grab noted, “we have five generations” in the Operating Engineers. Her great-grandfather, her grandfather, her dad, her brother — and her daughter, who is a journey worker and “beat me to it” — all were or are members of Operating Engineers Local 139 in Wisconsin. Another brother — Anthony Loew — is a member of Local 49.

Growing up in rural Wisconsin, Grab also had exposure to hunting from a young age.

“I’ve been deer hunting since I was really young,” she said. “Mom would take us out in diapers.”

She continues to hunt on her parents’ land, about 10 minutes drive from where she lives now.

“I’ve got a nice buck that’s still on my wall right now,” she said. “I almost didn’t have him.”

As Grab tells the story of that 2009 hunt with family members, “I got him scoped and I went to pull the trigger and it went ‘click.’” The sound came from taking her safety off.

The buck looked up. “He didn’t know where the sound came from — he just knew it was out of place,” she said. Grab then fired — and missed — but brought down the buck on her second shot, using a .270 Winchester rifle from about 75 yards.

“I got the nickname ‘Click’ from that,” she shared. “They never let me live it down!”

Nonetheless, she got her trophy, a 21-7/8 spread with nine points. “It would have been 10 but one of the tines broke off,” she said. (See photo, page 7).

Grab still hunts deer, she said, but her now-husband has been introducing her to duck hunting.

Grab’s husband, William Grab, IV, is a member of Operating Engineers Local 139. “We met over the outdoors,” she said. “I met him because we went fishing where I live.”

In learning duck hunting and observing, Grab said, she likes “the calmness of the morning, the fog over the water, listening for the wings… The anticipation is indescribable but it’s amazing.”

Sometimes, she reported, she and her husband will hunt squirrels or grouse right from their house — “just when we want to walk out and take a break from reality and walk in the woods.”

Before becoming an Operating Engineers apprentice, Grab had worked multiple jobs at the same time — as many as five full-time or part-time jobs at once — doing home health care, bar-tending, working at the local Dairy Queen.

She had no benefits, no sick time, no vacation.

“After my kids graduated, it was time to have ‘me’ time and to follow my passions,” Grab said, and she entered Local 49’s apprentice program.

As a 49er, she earns a good wage and “I’m able to contribute to a pension,” she said. “The benefits from being in the union are worth it.”

“This is less stress and it also gives me more time to enjoy the outdoors,” Grab said. “I’ve got more time to go fishing and hunting with my husband.”

“Going hunting or fishing,” Grab said, “you’re able to take in the sun and the wind and the elements — but you’re not at work. You can enjoy them a little bit more.”

UNITE HERE Local 17 member Brian Wegner on an October 2019 hunt in McLeod County. The dogs (left to right) are Lilly (5-year old golden retriever), Otis (5-month old yellow lab) and Sunny (7-year old golden retriever).

Brian Wegner:
UNITE HERE Local 17 member

“Anybody who hunts pheasants will tell you, it’s not really hunting unless you have a dog,” said Brian Wegner. “It’s a beautiful thing to watch the dog work the bird.”

Talk to Wegner about hunting and you hear lots of stories about the dogs he has hunted with over the years. “All the dogs are different. They all did something incredible.”

Wegner, 65, has been a member of UNITE HERE Local 17 since 1982 — starting as a beer vendor at the Metrodome. He has worked at the metro area’s other sports stadium, too. “I like the atmosphere at the stadiums,” he said. “It’s also been a fairly high-income, part-time job.”

“There are five or six of us left who were originally opening day vendors at the Metrodome,” he noted.

Wegner even met his wife Kathy at a baseball game, when she accompanied her cousin who was dating another vendor. “I met her in the hallway,” he said.

In Wegner’s years at Local 17, “I would always volunteer to come on the negotiating committees, he said. “I’ve negotiated contracts for 30 years.”

Wegner eventually started working as a part-time business agent for Local 17, moving to full-time for about six of the past eight years.

“I’ve always strung together multiple jobs” until becoming a business agent, Wegner said. “I think most of my good hunting was behind me before I took this job.”

Wegner has lived 32 years in northeast Minneapolis but grew up in Hutchinson and still goes there to hunt. He graduated from Hutchinson High School and later graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead with a major in biology.

Working after college, he needed a part-time job to supplement his income. With two high school friends, he went to a 1982 hiring fair at the Metrodome — and all three continue working around baseball to this day, he said.

But what Wegner really wanted to talk about was Mandy. “She was my first real hunting dog.”

“I married in 1989 and one of our first acquisitions was an impeccably-bred golden retriever named Mandy,” he said.

“Mandy was motivated,” he said. “We played ‘find the bird with a pheasant scented dummy.’ She was a bird-finding, retrieving machine. She followed me as a puppy and managed to get out hunting every fall of her life.”

“A lot of people don’t buy into that philosophy but I always take [puppies] along,” he said.

Wegner recalled a special hunt with Mandy: “In October of 1990 during MEA break, I had a day off and I took my prepared one-year old-puppy out for a hunt. We had a defining day in a hunter/dog combo’s life.”

“We started the day duck hunting in a slough off of Eagle Lake (in the Hutchinson area) with a limit of ducks in pretty short order,” he said.

“We shifted gears and headed to the Donald Martens farm just north of Eagle Lake to try our luck at pheasant hunting,” Wegner continued. “It was there that Mandy flushed and retrieved her first of many roosters (we got two that day). Mandy was truly excited and dialed into this pheasant hunting. It was what she was meant to do — and it was always done with such joy.”

Wegner also said about Mandy: “If she flushed a bird — and I missed the shot — she’d give me a dirty look. She did her job and I let her down.”

“Over the years,” Wegner said, “I’ve hunted pheasants in eight different states with Mandy and other dogs (Era, Cookie, Brutus and more recently Lilly). I’ve loved every minute of it and built special bonds with my hunting partners both human and canine, but there will only be one Mandy, such a special girl.”

“Over the years, so many shared hunts and situations have occurred generating numerous stories but in my book hunting is about special relationships, especially with your dog,” Wegner said.

“My dad brought me up to be a hunter,” Wegner said. And now Wegner hunts with his grandson.

Some days pheasant hunting, Wegner said, you can get your limit in an hour. Some days might involve walking 15-20 miles in the field. When he entered his 60s, Wegner admitted, he began to slow down a bit. But whether you get one bird or get the limit, “once you get older, it doesn’t matter that much,” he said. You’re out hunting with your dog. “Being able to still do that is reward enough.”



Related story:
After missing last August due to COVID, Game Fair returns for two weekends: August 13-15 and August 20-22
(Minneapolis Labor Review, July 24, 2021)

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