Backcountry hunters and anglers is one of the fasting growing conservation organizations in the country and for good reason. From boots on the ground, grassroots activities across the country, to making our voice heard in Washington D.C. BHA is there fighting for you, me, and the many sportsmen and women across the country that use public lands to recreate on across North America.
Iv’e been a member now for 4 years and will be for the rest of my life. Two experiences that I had right out of college are what lead me to BHA.
1. I have been a hunter and fisherman all my life but it wasn’t until 6 years ago that I started to become more serious. Because I had free time and extra cash from a new job my options started to expand.
One of my best friends from college invited me up for a deer hunt in the Huron-Manistee National Forest located in the Northeastern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan. Big woods type of hunting – thick pines, oak stands, hemlock swamps. A type of hunting I had never experienced. As we floated down the river to our spot for an evening hunt it hit me. All this beautiful land, as far as I could see or possibly cover by foot is public land. Available to anyone who is looking for adventure.
Why is it here, how is it protected, where can I find more are all questions that raced through my head that night as I sat patiently in my stand watching the sun fall from the sky.
2. I blame my wife for my public land addiction. She talked to me one evening about taking a road trip out West. Having not been past the Mississippi I wasn’t interested at first. As most wife’s do she got her way and a couple months later I found myself in a civic loaded down with camping gear, zipping across highway 80 towards Wyoming.
Little did I know it at the time but this trip would change my life. From Sinks Canyon, Yellowstone and Teton National Park, Badlands, Devils Tower, and the countless other national forests we drove through I saw our public lands on a grand scale. I couldn’t get enough and now 3 road trips later, an elk hunt, 20 National Parks and counting, many more national forests, countless starry nights around campfires, and too many beautiful landscapes to count I find myself ever more looking for the next adventure.
Since these 2 moments I ask myself how can I give back, what can I do to help protect our public lands, and what actions are being taken to ensure these places are here for generations?
I started searching for an organization to join and support. Personally, I wanted to be part of an organization that was active. I wanted to help with my time and not just my wallet. I believe it was a podcast I was listening to and Land Tawney was the guest on the show. What he talked about struck home with me. Luckily there was a pint night not far from my house so I went and became a member soon after.
For this article I want to cover the following topics as to why I joined BHA.
- Active Organization
- Diverse Group of People With Same Mindset
- Helpful Community
- Public Lands Need Protecting
- How Can You Join?
This was the main reason I joined. Sure I could just donate money and there is nothing wrong with that but I wanted more skin in the game. I wanted, however how small, to use my effort and time to be part of the solution. For me and I think all of us get a sense of pride, responsibility, and education when you volunteer your time.
For example I volunteered at a “Learn to Hunt” event through my state chapter (Ohio). The event involved classroom training with a Q and A, range time shooting a 22 and shotgun, and a squirrel hunt that evening.
I was grouped with a father and son.
I can’t tell you how proud I was to walk behind this father and son team. To see them working together whispering and pointing in the direction of a shaking branch, approaching a tree from opposites sides trying to outsmart a squirrel, and the smiles they had on their faces on the truck ride home.
It was also my responsibility to show these 2 new hunters the importance of gun safety, how to walk quietly through the woods, and many other lessons of being a responsible hunter. It was great to see all the people who came out for the event with the eagerness to learn.
What surprised me the most was the education I received. Being able to interact with new hunters, answering their questions, and seeing how they think and learn a new skill will prepare me for the next time I help a new hunter out. I will be better prepared to help down the road.
BHA holds many other events throughout the year. Just this year alone the Ohio chapter has held the following.
- BBQ Bass and Trash Bash: This event tied fishing and cleaning up the one of our local rivers together.
- Multiple Pint Nights: Who doesn’t like drinking beer and talking about adventures on public lands?
- Tree Planting, Camp Out and Squirrel Hunt: Event was held in the Wayne National Forest.
- Public Land Film Fest: A great way to kick off deer season here in Ohio.
- Grand Lake St. Mary’s Fish Habitat Improvement
- State Park Clean Ups
- Making Our Voice Heard At the State Capital: Chapter leaders spoke to the finance committee to push for the purchase of approx. 49,000 acres of land that was up for sale. An energy company currently owns it and has allowed public access but the State will purchase it to keep it open to the public for generations to come. Due to these efforts and many other conservation organizations the Governor has just signed off to purchase these lands!
- Learn to Hunt Event: This year was a dove hunt for new hunters to try out.
- Raffles: This past February I actually won 2 VIP tickets to a Meateater live event in Cleveland.
This is just one state chapter. Activities like this are happening all across North America.
The annual rendezvous is on my bucket list to attend. Held recently in Boise, Idaho this is a weekend full of outdoor activities, wild game cook off, elk calling contest, and much more.
I joined BHA because its not about me, you, or anyone else individually. All of us coming together to work towards a common goal is what makes this organization great!
Diverse People With Same Mindset
Whether you hunt big game, small game, waterfowl, upland birds, fly fish or use rod and tackle you will be able to find strong support for whatever your passion is. BHA is made up of people from all walks of life. Currently BHA has a chapter in 46 states, 2 provinces and the Yukon Territory in Canada
Here is the breakdown of the demographics of BHA members from a 2018 survey. Data was taken by an article published by BHA.
- 68% are younger than 45 years old
- 33% identify as independent, 23% republican, 20% democrat, 16% as none of the above, 8% did not list an affiliation
- 71% of members time afield is spent on public lands and waters
BHA is a young, energetic bunch with a similar goal in mind. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, where your from, or what your outdoor passion is. Protecting wildlife and these wild places should be the number 1 priority for all of us.
Being part of the community within your state chapter is a great way to meet new people. Join your states chapter Facebook or Instagram page. It’s a great place to share knowledge on various topics. I’ve been able to help new hunters talk about gear, particular public lands to check out, and strategies.
Not only that but it’s a great way to keep up to date on current issues impacting your state and upcoming events.
On the flip side I’ve been able to get help on particular hunting locations out west. For an elk hunt I reached out to the state chapter and was able to chat with a couple guys. One of them even gave his number and we had a couple conversations.
Along with some scouting we were able to find elk on the 2nd day of the hunt. Having that local knowledge was invaluable and I am grateful for it.
Public Lands Need Protecting
Our public lands are one of North America’s greatest treasures. No matter who you are, what you look like, or how much money you have, anyone can get out and explore these beautiful places. Whether it’s out west, up north, back east, or down south there are lands set aside for you.
Whether you hunt, hike, camp, or fish keeping public lands in public hands is the key to all our futures. The federal government alone owns approx 640 million acres. This doesn’t even include land held owned by the state or local governments.
This is important because by law most federal lands must be “multiple use” lands meaning open to hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, resource extraction (timber harvest and mining) etc.
Unfortunately, many states by their state law must create a profit from the lands they own. Because of this, millions of acres of land have been sold by states to private entities because the easiest way to make a profit and cut your expenses is to sell the land. Most states also just don’t have the amount of funds to properly manage the land.
For example research done by The Wilderness Society found Nevada was given 2.7 million acres at state hood and now only controls about 3,000 acres.
New Mexico has sold about 30% of their public land and Idaho around 41%. Many other states have gone down this path as well.
If federal public lands are transferred to the states, history shows they will end up is private hands. Selling public land for a short term gain yields long term consequences.
So why is this important?
1. As mentioned above 71% of BHA member’s time is spent on public land and water. We rely on these lands to find adventure and challenges ourselves. Without them out time afield would drastically change.
2. The Outdoor Recreation industry is one of the largest industries in the county at $412 Billion in 2016 according to a study done by the BEA (Bureau of Economic Analysis). This industry relies heavily on public lands and without it would drastically decrease in size.
3. Future generations depend on us to preserve a future for them that has abundant wildlife and wild places. Once these lands are sold it’s done. Very rarely will land be placed back into public hands. Also, there needs to be places in this world a road hasn’t touched and a few boots have stepped on.
How Can You Join?
Whatever your outdoor passion is we are all out here for the same reasons, we just portray our passions in different ways. Coming together as one group will make us strong and give us a larger presence when the time comes to push back and fight to protect these amazing places.
An annual membership is only 25 bucks. College students or military is $15, Their quarterly magazine is a great read as well and comes with your membership.
If your serious about giving back, investing in your future as well as generations to come I can’t recommend joining BHA enough!
Already a member? Let me know why you joined below.
Best of Luck This Season!