2023 was a benchmark year for the Indiana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. With the support of our members and chapter leaders we were able to accomplish hosting a myriad of successful events that we hope to build upon for the years to come. These events were not only opportunities for our members to connect but were able to showcase our dedication to giving back and working for our public lands!
On Feb 25th we hosted our first Field to Table event which sold out in just a few days. Chefs Chris Eley of Smoking Goose Charcuterie, Neal Brown of Howe & Brown Hospitality, and Levi Kinney of Fishers Test Kitchen prepared an amazing array of wild game foods with meat donated from our very own chapter members. Included with this meal were presentations by Jim Sweeney and Jeff Manes who produced and authored “Everglades of the North; The Story of the Grand Kankakee Marsh” which is a film everyone should check out to understand the value of wetlands in habitat and water quality. The dinner was concluded with another presentation by Amos Rodriguez who is an instructor at White Pines Wilderness Academy and is known for his participation on Alone Season 7. He gave us a strong message on conservation and told us his story of how he came to pursue the outdoor experience. Check out his YouTube channel HERE. It was a night to remember with great conversation and great food! CLICK HERE to check out our Field to Table event recap.
**Side note, our BHA Podcast & Blast with Hal Herring also featured Jim Sweeney and Jeff Manes covering the topic of the Kankakee Marsh, CLICK HERE to access episode 152**
The Indiana Chapter was also busy putting our boots on the ground to help with projects across the state. At Lake Monroe, members spent a morning with the DNR helping construct new Hunter Check-In stations at Paynetown SRA. Then later on in spring members of the state chapter along with students from the BHA Indiana State Collegiate Club joined together and assisted DNR at the Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area clear brush and invasive plants on a newly acquired piece of public land. Just outside of Elkhart, Indiana BHA partnered with Trout Unlimited to pack-out trash and improve habitat on the Little Elkhart River. In May, we had 3 members obtain their Level B Bucker Certifications through the USFS which allows them to help with projects across the state such as trail clearing upkeep. Our chapter will continue to seek projects for members to get their hands dirty and perform the great grassroots efforts that we know through BHA!
**The Level B Bucker Certification quickly came in handy as two of our dedicated volunteers assisted with major storm damage cleanup on public lands! CLICK HERE to read more**
The past year also saw us expand on virtual events for members to participate in including Turkey Talk with The Hunting Public, Women in the Woods Q&A, and Wild Edibles Virtual Workshop. These events have been good opportunities for people across the state to be able to participate and engage with each other while learning at the same time. We look forward to more educational events in the future with our members.
It wouldn’t be a successful year without our 3rd Annual Indiana BHA State Chapter Rendezvous in the books! This year we moved the event to a more centralized location at the White River Campground in Hamilton County. This space was great and we had an opportunity to provide an outstanding event to numerous members and their families that participated in this wonderful weekend of fellowship. Nearby the campground is the Strawtown Koteewi Park that provides a fully furnished archery range 3D course, and archery proshop. The park facility also consists of numerous acres of native prairie restoration projects and a Natural History educational center. Throughout this wonderful weekend, we hosted stewardship projects, an archery competition, and fly-fishing instructional courses. Participants also learned from two great presentations, Bob Bruner, an Exotic Forest Pest Educator from the Department of Entomology at Purdue University educated people on the threats to forest around Indiana. A great presentation was also delivered by guest speaker Christy Brocken about the Native American history of the area and the related aspects of hunting, angling and gathering evidence that have been found on the site.
Rounding up this year's rendezvous, many folks were able to participate in an educational float down the White River thanks to Friends of the White River and their great crew! This year we had great prizes donated from our BHA National Partners along with items from our fantastic state sponsors!
The chapter always looks forward to hosting this event and stay tuned for the 2024 IN BHA Chapter Rendezvous information!
The Indiana Chapter also spent 2023 engaged in state policy efforts. In February, our chapter board Secretary and others attended the State House Conservation Day. During this event, we were able to engage with elected state officials and demonstrate the importance of conservation and sound policy regarding our natural resources (you will find our chapter leaders there once again in February of 2024). During the 2023 legislative session, the IN chapter also helped defend the Indiana DNR's science-based "Best Available" Floodplain Mapping" from a legislative roll-back in SB 242, prevented the anti-wetlands amendment introduced into SB 414 at the 11th hour in a house committee from becoming law, and secured an additional $12 million for the Clean Water Indiana program. CLICK HERE to see a short 2023 legislative briefing.
In December of 2023, the chapter published an Op-Ed piece regarding sound forest management in the Hoosier National Forest along with our position statement regarding S.2990. Indiana BHA has supported the efforts of the USFS Forest Management plan since 2019. From our viewpoint, it's vitally important that we promote sound science-based management of our public forests in order to create biodiverse ecosystems that can sustainably support native plants and wildlife. To learn more, please CLICK HERE to be directed to this Op-Ed. You can also find an article published in the Herold Times by CLICKING HERE.
As always, we couldn’t be as successful at our endeavors without the support of our dedicated sponsors Flint Ridge Rifles, Howe & Brown Hospitality/Fishers Test Kitchen, The Smoking Goose, Two Forks Guide Service, Moving Waters Outfitters, and West Boggs Park. We look forward to growing this list and expanding what the chapter has to offer. Check out or State Sponsor page of the website HERE.
If you would like to get involved more with conservation and public lands, please contact the chapter at [email protected].
2024 is already under way and the Indiana Chapter is back in action! Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram (Indiana BHA) to stay informed. You can also follow the Indiana State University Collegiate Club on Instagram. You can also frequently check out the Indiana BHA Chapter page on the BHA website, CLICK HERE to access!