IBEW Member Helps Provide Hunting Access to Kids with Mobility Challenges

December 3, 2013

Mike Cramer, left, and IBEW member Hugo Kraft on the ground blind and travel trailer Kraft constructed.

A new, custom-built deer blind in Texas Hill Country set the stage for kids with mobility issues to experience the thrill of the hunt safely and comfortably, due to the completion of a conservation project organized and sponsored by the Houston-area union community and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance

The blind, affectionately named “Hugo” for the USA member who constructed the park apparatus, was built to meet the needs of youth hunters dealing with a wide range of mobility issues.

The project began last year, when members of the Houston-area union community gathered to raise funds for the organization’s first conservation project in Texas, headed by project leaders Michael Cramer and Mike Shelton.

A year later in October,the blind was finished thanks to the engineering and ingenuity of Hugo Kraft, a member of Houston Local 66. After signing on to help out with the project, Kraft said he was “off to the lumber yard.”

“I brought it home and started building,” said Kraft, a USA member of five years. “I felt whatever it took, I’m donating that.”

Over the period of a few months, the state-of-the-art blind was finished, complete with a wheelchair accessible ramp, a floor to withstand 500 pounds, a window ledge and an adjustable, handmade gun prop.

“This truly was a labor of love,” said Cramer, financial secretary of UA Plumbers Local 68 in Houston. “It was a cooperative effort that is good for the community, good for youth with special needs and good for labor.”

Jerry Warden, executive director of the Texas Youth Hunting Program, a division of the Texas Wildlife Association said the mobile blind exceeded his highest expectations. “This blind is extremely well-designed and very user-friendly.”

Each year, the program, led by Warden and a team of trained volunteers, organizes 150 hunts, involving an average of 1,500 kids.

Kraft’s final request to the conservation committee -- to purchase a trailer to allow the blind safe transport between hunting grounds – was approved with a unanimous vote. Kraft went on to modify the trailer with enhancements of chains, a wench, straps, hardware and even a spare tire.

“Anytime you can do something to help people with disabilities, it just makes you feel good,” he said.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is a union-dedicated outdoor organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community to expand and improve hunting and fishing access and wildlife habitat throughout North America. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.