Local 154’s Crawford wins bear hunt

L-154’s Todd Crawford with the 300-pound bear he hunted on Escape to the Wild.

Member’s dream trip is televised on Escape to the Wild

TODD CRAWFORD, A member of Local 154 (Pittsburgh), loves to make people laugh, whether he is with friends or family, or creating an application video for Escape to the Wild, a TV show that surprises “hardworking” union members with the hunting or fishing trip of a lifetime.

Escape to the Wild is a union-sponsored program that evolved from a relationship between the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and a number of AFL-CIO affiliated trade unions that recognized a majority of their members hunt, fish, and enjoy the outdoors. This same partnership led to the recently launched Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, a hunting and fishing club for union members and their families.

When Crawford learned he could apply to win the trip of his dreams hunting black bear in Canada, he “took a shot in the dark” and sent an application video that included a segment in which he dressed in a ghillie suit (camouflage clothing designed to resemble heavy underbrush) near the forest’s edge and scared the daylights out of his neighbor.

Crawford began hunting with his dad when he was 2 years old and always dreamed of hunting something larger than deer. He thought about hunting bear, “something that could hunt me back if it wanted to. It would be unbelievable,” he said. With a son and daughter in college, such a hunt did not seem feasible. So when Crawford received a call on his cell and learned he was one of the candidates for a bear hunt, he nearly drove his truck off the road.

Crawford’s dream hunt took him far north to Saskatchewan, where he discovered that hunting bear is a bit different than hunting deer. “I was kind of overwhelmed, since I was not experienced in judging the size of a bear very well,” he said.

“The most important piece of advice my guide, John Woulfe, gave me was that if all the other bears around spook when another bear comes in sight . . . that’s the bear you want.”

He and Escape to the Wild host Tom Ackerman saw six bears the first night but passed them up, waiting for a bigger bear that had been seen in the area.

Crawford knew the bear he wanted was headed toward him on the second night, when others in the area took off. “We saw a little bear climb 30 feet up a tree in about two seconds,” said Crawford.

Successfully hunting a 300-pound black bear was definitely the highlight of Crawford’s trip to Canada, but there was more to his experience than the hunt. “The people in Saskatchewan were so nice; it was unbelievable. That is going to stick with me forever. My thanks to the Woulfe family of Green Water Marean Lake Outfitters for taking me into their home and treating me like family.”

For Crawford, who joined the Boilermakers union six years ago, hunting is more than just a passion; it has made him better at his job. “Sitting in a tree stand for five or six hours in freezing weather . . . or standing on the bank of my favorite strip pond when it’s 90 degrees making a hundred casts . . . these things make it easier for me to do parts of my job like standing by the Ohio River in subzero weather hooking up structural steel or going into a boiler when it’s well over 100 degrees to make a weld.”

“It’s truly an honor to host season two of Escape to the Wild,” said host Tom Ackerman. The winners are hardworking Americans who share a love of the outdoors and have gone the extra mile in their community, at home, or on the job. Todd is an intense, focused, determined hunter and a fun-loving practical joker who understands the importance of keeping America’s hunting and fishing heritage alive.”

“I enjoy hunting with young sportsmen, especially my son, passing along what I know, answering their questions, giving them some of my tackle or an old arrow rest,” Crawford said. “More of us need to spend time with any youngster who wants to learn. This is important not only to continue the traditions of sportsmanship, but it is also the union way of life.”

Crawford’s trip aired Jan. 25. To view other Escape to the Wild episodes, check your local listings or go to versus.com.