2023 has been another year of success and growth for the Kentucky Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. We hosted 15 official events in 2021, 31 events in 2022, this year we are up to 40 official events, one of which is getting ready to happen as of this writing. That is an increase of nearly 30% in one year. Events were conducted statewide, and it is safe to assume that our Chapter Leaders are committed to the BHA mission, “…to ensure North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands, waters, and wildlife.”
We started off the year with a new series of events called Conservation Coffee’s, which were a spin-off of our Conservation Christmas Dinner. The Conservation Christmas Dinner is an annual event in Lexington where we invite leaders of other statewide conservation groups to introduce themselves and their organization. The Conservation Coffee hosted on a Saturday morning in the months January through April, continued this type of conservation conversations through the start of spring. We did not realize how successful a morning event over coffee and donuts could be. We hosted great speakers from the President of the Bluegrass Trout Unlimited, a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife (KDFWR) Fisheries Biologist, a biologist from Daniel Boone National Forest, leaders from Kentucky Wounded Heros, the KDFWR Turkey Biologist, the Kentucky Falconry Association and their birds, leaders from the local NWTF Chapter, the KDFWR Furbearer Biologist, KDFWR Conservation Officers, Craig Caudill author of “Extreme Wilderness Survival,” and the KDFWR Wild Pig Biologist. Finally, we would like to thank the Sportsmen’s Warehouse in Lexington for providing an excellent venue and Wild Rivers Coffee for coming on as our 2024 Conservation Coffee sponsor.
We celebrated the end of the 2022-2023 hunting seasons in February with the first of many monthly pint nights in Lexington and followed that up with another in Henderson in March. New for us this year, was a tabling event the Gun Show and Preparedness Expo in Leburn, KY, where we got the word out on our mission and participated in a great new event. We also continued great use of virtual educational events with a “Turkey Talk” and had wonderful presentations form a representative of Hunters of Color and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
The chapter identified the need for additional engaging events that would also raise funds for conservation. So, we added a new trap shooting tournament in April called the “Sine Die Shootout.” Sine Die is a Latin term used by our legislature to mark the end of their annual session. We invited the entire Sportsmen’s Caucus, a bipartisan bicameral group of legislators, to compete for the “Legislative Top Gun” trophy and the public to compete for the “Herbert Mackey Memorial Trophy.” Representative Daniel Fister of the 56th District won the “Legislative Top Gun” and appropriately Herbert Mackey’s grandson, Carson Mackey, won the memorial trophy. We followed that up with a pint night in Lexington and another in Bowling Green before ending the month by tabling at the IF4 Film Night hosted by Bluegrass Trout Unlimited in downtown Lexington.
In May, we hosted a Fishing Day at Wilgreen Boat Dock at Taylor Fork Lake in Richmond. Next, we tabled at the first ever Elk & Outdoor Festival at Kentucky Gun Company in Bardstown. It was a new event, rich with participants from across the outdoor industry and wildlife conservation, where the KDFWR conducted a live drawing for the ever-popular elk tags. We followed up the successful online April “Talking Turkey,” with an additional virtual post-turkey season wrap-up and would again like to thank our partners at NWTF for participating. The last event of the month was a pint night in Lexington, where many successful and unsuccessful turkey stories were told.
Between turkey season and archery deer season, we try to get all our habitat projects completed. This is a rush of work out on our public lands. We do it this way, so as not to impede or encroach on any public land users during an active hunting season. The first habitat project was at Buckhorn Lake, where volunteers helped the KDFWR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) build fish habitat. Every June since we earned our chapter’s charter, we have conducted an in-person meeting of all elected chapter leaders. It is at this meeting that we update our three-year plan, conduct executive board elections and adjust the bylaws as necessary. We always end the meeting with a wild game and fish potluck, which we may open to the general membership in the future – stay tuned. And as usual, our diehard members in the 6th District hosted another monthly pint night.
CLICK HERE to read more about this event and our collaboration with Army Corp. of Engineers
Years ago, the states east of the Mississippi decided to host a smaller version of the annual BHA Rendezvous and called it “Muster in the Mountains.” Like Rendezvous, it is an opportunity to learn best practices from other chapters and BHA Headquarters, meet and network with new friends in our community, and enjoy ourselves. All BHA members from across North America are invited and it is a great event. This year it was renamed “Muster in the Marsh,” because it was held in Conneaut, Ohio on the banks of Lake Erie. Multiple members of the Kentucky Board of Directors and members at large attended this wonderful event hosted by the Ohio BHA Chapter.
We continued our summer habitat work with two clean-ups. The first was at Hickman Creek and Veterans Park in Lexington and we were proud to partner with Bluegrass Trout Unlimited once again. The second was at Jigg Water Creek, also in the 6th District. Finally, we partnered with a new friend, the Kentucky Native Plant Society, for a “Plant Identification Walk” at the Fleming Wildlife Management Area. This was an educational event open, not just to members but the general public with attendees representing several organizations. And as usual, our 6th District hosted another pint night to wrap the month up.
August is a very busy month for Kentucky BHA. During our first year as a chapter, we decided to honor our largest tract of public land, the Peabody WMA with a workday. That tradition expanded this year. We still procured a roll-off construction dumpster and filled it with illegally dumped trash and debris, but we added wood duck box construction at the adjacent Harris-Dickerson WMA. This event always yields a great turnout which allows for wonderful fellowship. We held a second habitat project, this one at Sloughs WMA near Corydon, Kentucky. At Sloughs, we helped the KDFWR Staff to conduct a “hack and squirt” removal of invasive woodie species of plants. Then we participated in two “Recruit, Retain, and Reactivate” (R3) events. The first was a shotgun skills and pre-dove season event held in partnership with Hunters of Color at the Mercer County Fish & Game Club. The second R3 event was partnering with our good friends at the Double Eagle Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation for their “Jake’s Day.” This very successful annual youth educational event always attracts hundreds of kids and their families. August also marks the start of our work to prepare for the January 2024 legislative session. Members of our board of directors met with legislators at the Capital Annex in Frankfort to talk about possible legislation, finally awarded Representative Fister his “Legislative Top Gun” Trophy and attended the Natural Resources Committee meeting. At that meeting, we were pleased to learn the KDFWR is making great progress in obtaining the C.F. Ataya conservation easement. That is a 54,000-acre conservation easement that we expect to be open to public use as a WMA in late 2024 or early 2025. Sticking with our monthly schedule, our 6th district leaders hosted a pint night.
September is “Public Lands Month”, and we are always ready when it gets here, because it marks the start of hunting seasons across the Nation. We held our second National Public Lands Day Pack Out at Buckhorn Lake WMA, where we worked on cleaning up the campground and a few other public access areas. Then we followed up our successful “Talking Turkey” online class with another online class, “Talking Bears.” KDFWR Biologist, JJ Baker, gave a great presentation on bear biology and bear hunting in Kentucky. Inspired by the loyal and regular 6th District Lexington pint nights, our loyal members in Louisville got back in the game, and we hosted two-pint nights on the same night. In Louisville, our former board member and wildlife biologist, Jonathan Mathews, gave an informative talk about public versus private land management.
CLICK HERE to read more about this Public Lands Packout with Army Corp. of Engineers
There is one event we look forward to every year for the sheer enjoyment of it – backpack stocking trout into the Red River Gorge. We assisted the KDFWR Fisheries Division in carrying in nearly 500 trout to the bottom of the Gorge, where we empty our packs and watch as the trout swim away. It is a challenging hike, but the results are so rewarding. We also had the opportunity to participate in an event hosted by the National Deer Association and The MeatEater’s own Mark Kenyon for his “Working for Wildlife” tour. There, folks harvest almost 700 pound of white oak acorns in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The acorns were delivered to the Kentucky Department of Forestry who are growing saplings to be planted next year. The Lexington faithful had another pint night, while the newly reenergized Louisville faithful had a ‘bird dog’ themed pint night. Life Member and former guide, Larry Richards, hosted a great talk for the members and their dogs in attendance.
CLICK HERE to read more about the Annual Trout Stocking
As hunting season heats up in November our official chapter activities slow down. Nevertheless, we were able to accomplish two tabling events. The first was the Gun Show & Preparedness Expo in Leburn, KY. We were proud to do our second event there and look forward to an expanded relationship in the future, as we’ve been asked to teach some classes for them in the spring of 2024. The second tabling event was in Louisville at the national conference of the Wildlife Society. The Wildlife Society is one of the oldest conservation groups in the Nation and its members include scientists, college professors, and college students. We were happy to get the word out about our mission and reconnect with our only collegiate chapter – the Murray State University Chapter of BHA.
Our chapter suffered its greatest blow late in the month of November, when we suddenly and unexpected lost our treasurer and founding member, Mr. Grant McAlister. He had a passion for public lands and his smile could light up a room. It is impossible to put into words the loss of such a great man. We are planning a signature event in his honor during the summer of 2025.
We were back in Maysville, Kentucky in December to participate in their two-day Christmas Festival. Our participation in the event is designed to get the word out and raise money for our mission. It would not be possible without the support and partnership of the City of Maysville Leadership and specifically, the Maysville and Mason County Tourism Director, Ms. Katelyn Bailey. Your chapter participated in the Friday night parade with a public waters themed float. Then Saturday we participated in the “Frontier Christmas” bazaar. Finally, Saturday night we conducted our annual Public Lands Film Festival at the historic Russell Theater. The Lexington faithful and 6th District Leadership held yet another pint night and inspired yet another district to get into the game. The northern Kentucky members and supporters came out in record numbers to be joined by members from around the state in our first ever pint night in Walton. Further proving, that KYBHA is growing and inspiring the conservation community across the Commonwealth.
As we move forward into 2024, the Kentucky BHA Chapter will continue providing the state with diverse engagement opportunities, providing you an avenue to make that important impact on conservation and the outdoor heritage we all cherish. We will continue to provide information regarding policy that impacts conservation so that you can stay informed and take action! We have some great ideas for this next year and we're excited to bring them to you!
Thanks to all our members and supporters for helping us to be the youngest, most dynamic, and fastest growing conservation organization in Kentucky. We cannot do it without you!