Armed Forces Initiative Helps Veterans Hunt … And More

Conservation and democracy are among America’s most enduring principles. In fact, no other nation enjoys the vast array of national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, rangelands, forests, rivers, and wilderness as the United States. The deed on a big part of this public land inheritance dates back to a veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, Theodore Roosevelt.[1]

Fast forward a hundred-plus years and today veterans have a long history of taking the initiative in support of our great public lands estate. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) was born around a campfire in March 2004, thanks to seven hunters and anglers, men and women, taking the initiative.[2] That’s how all battles are begun and won!

They were inspired by the political activism of Theodore Roosevelt, the Land Ethic of Aldo Leopold and the contemporary writings of hunting ethicist and renowned trad bow elk hunter David “Elkheart” Petersen.[3] In fact, BHA was founded by a former U.S. Army officer, Mike Beagle. The “Gang of Seven” that gathered around our founding campfire also included a U.S. Navy veteran, Tony Heckard.[4]

The first BHA state chapter, in Colorado, was founded (in 2005) by a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot, David “Elkheart” Petersen. And the first BHA North American Rendezvous (in 2012) was held at Fort Missoula (established by the U.S. Army in 1877) in Montana.[5] More recently, BHA started its Armed Forces Initiative (AFI).

“BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative is a group of North American veterans from all branches of service who understand the power our land has,” explains AFI Coordinator Trevor Hubbs (a U.S. Army veteran). “Whether it’s Coastal Carolina swamps, a logging road five miles into the Maine hardwoods or a misty mountain view in western Alberta, AFI members know there is something special to these places. They have walked across the chasm of leaving the service and through our public lands and have come out the other side.”[6]

We are excited that AFI is prioritizing Fort Carson in Colorado Springs for one of the programs newest installations/clubs. As part of that process, AFI leaders have organized two upcoming Colorado hunts for veterans. During Sept. 2-7, 2022, AFI Colorado is partnering with veteran owned and operated Rugged Mountain Outfitters for a pre-season scouting camp/bear hunt (with appropriate tag).[7] In addition, during Nov. 12-18, AFI has organized a third rifle season (over-the-counter license) elk hunt also supported by Rugged Mountain Outfitters.[8] 

“AFI resonates with the veteran and military community because it provides a sense of purpose,” AFI Liaison Leader Ryan Burkert said. “In creating the program, we were very conscious that we didn’t want just a hunting/fishing club, and we didn’t want to provide a one-time semi-guided experience; we wanted to provide the knowledge, skills and opportunities to create conservation leaders. From the start, our mantra was: ‘Our goal is to give veterans and service members a new mission, and that mission is conservation.’”[9]

“The military is designed to indoctrinate members into its way of life,” Trevor adds. “This is an effective war fighting tool, one that forges some of the deepest bonds in the history of human relationships. Leaving those bonds behind for a civilian life can in many ways be more stressful than anything in the military. AFI aims to help with that transition.”[10]

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has been focused on engaging and empowering veterans from the very start. For example, AFI Communications Director Justin Townsend is an active duty Coast Guard officer (he’s also Editor-in-Chief of Harvesting Nature) and is stationed in Colorado Springs.[11] Indeed, some 14 percent of BHA members are military service members or veterans, twice the U.S. average.[12]

“I receive more praise, motivation and encouragement from BHA as a volunteer than I ever have at any of my salary careers,” Colorado BHA Central West Slope Assistant Regional Director Leslie Kaminski said. “This organization has allowed me to help folks break into the hunting and fishing community … This is the ultimate learning environment, the ultimate ‘sky’s the limit’ community. Dream it big because there is a BHA army behind you …”[13]

However, we need many more leaders like Justin and Leslie and the thousands of other volunteer BHA leaders across the country and continent. Our president and CEO, Land Tawney, likes to remind us that BHA is a grassroots organization that is fueled by the time, talent and treasure of our members.[14] As Land knows well, empowered and inspired volunteers are our most important asset.

“You don’t inspire volunteers to action by decree from on high,” David Petersen adds. “Rather, you give them minimal direction and maximum freedom to do their own thing, within the realm of the group’s charter.” We encourage all chapter leaders and members to take the initiative on whatever you have the drive/energy/interest to pursue within the broad parameters of BHA’s wildlands and wildlife preservation mission.[15]

For more information about AFI volunteer opportunities in Colorado (or elsewhere) contact Trevor Hubbs ([email protected]). And remember, as Trevor says, “Public Lands = Freedom.”[16] Teddy Roosevelt adds, “Those of us privileged to take to the field are entrusted by fate and circumstances to hold and nurture the hunter’s legacy.”

  • BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative. “Armed Forces Initiative-Get Involved.”
  • Col. Mike Abell. “Where are you at in the defense of our future?” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 8/12/22.
  • Meet Trevor Hubbs, AFI’s New Field Marshall.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 1/28/22.
  • Trevor Hubbs. “BHA Armed Forces Initiative 2022 Work Plan.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 2/3/22.
  • Trevor Hubbs. “You Can’t Cheat The Mountain.” Bugle: May/June 2022.
  • Trevor Hubbs. “A Toast To Fallen Comrades.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 6/15/22.
  • Become An AFI Volunteer; Armed Forces Initiative Leadership.
  • David “Elkheart” Petersen (Colorado BHA founder/former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot) books:

David Lien is a former Air Force officer and co-chairman of the Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. He’s the author of “Hunting for Experience: Tales of Hunting & Habitat Conservation.”[17] During 2019 David was the recipient of BHA’s Mike Beagle-Chairman’s Award “for outstanding effort on behalf of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.”[18]

[1] David A. Lien. “Hunting’s Roughrider.” 5/31/12; “Hunting’s Roughrider.” Backcountry Journal: Fall 2012, p. 13.



[4] David A. Lien. “Where Hope Lives: A Brief BHA History.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 11/30/20.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Trevor Hubbs. “AFI Members Find Community … And More.” Backcountry Journal: Spring 2022, p. 45.

[7] Trevor Hubbs. “AFI Colorado Bear.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 7/7/22.

[8] Trevor Hubbs. “BHA Armed Forces Camp Colorado 3rd Rifle-Veterans Day Elk Camp.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 7/7/22.

[9] Ryan Burkert, Liaison Leader, Armed Forces Initiative. “Faces of BHA.” Backcountry Journal: Winter 2022, p. 15.

[10] Trevor Hubbs. “AFI Members Find Community … And More.” Backcountry Journal: Spring 2022, p. 45.


[12] Editor(s). “Member Survey Results.” Backcountry Journal: Winter 2021, p. 14.

[13] David A. Lien. “Empowering Leaders: It’s In BHA’s DNA.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 1/7/21.

[14] Col. Mike Abell. “Where are you at in the defense of our future?” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 8/12/22.

[15] David A. Lien. “Colorado BHA Q3 2022 Update.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 7/25/22.

[16] Trevor Hubbs. “2022 AFI Quarter 2 In Review.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 7/21/22.



About David Lien

See other posts related to Colorado AFI Comms Channel