The Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers recently appointed John Barkowski to serve as an Assistant Regional Director for the Southeast Colorado Group and Michael Kozer to serve as an Assistant Regional Director for the Central Rockies Group.
John was born and raised in Orland Park, Illinois (south suburb of Chicago), and traveled often to visit family in Colorado. He grew up hunting (bow and rifle) and fishing with his dad, grandpa and family friends on the Chippewa River in Ojibwa, Wisconsin, as well the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In the fall, hunting included white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, pheasant, doves and Canada goose. Species for fishing included bass, walleye, muskies, crappie, perch, trout and northern pike.
After high school, John moved to Marquette, Michigan, where he graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science from Northern Michigan University (NMU). Upon graduation, he moved to New Orleans and worked on a variety recovery projects from Hurricane Katrina. His outdoor time in the south was spent chasing red fish and speckled trout mixed in with mule deer and antelope hunts in Wyoming and an elk hunt in Montana.
He moved to Colorado during 2015 where he works as an environmental compliance manager in the construction industry, focusing on endangered species mitigation and stormwater compliance. “I’ve always been a member of hunter-conservation groups,” he said. “I co-founded the student chapter for Ducks Unlimited at NMU and have been a member of both RMEF and Mule Deer Foundation.”
Wanting to do more, John refers back to a statement he heard in college, which resulted in him changing majors: “Nature exists within the balance of itself but humans continue to threaten its existence.” With that notion in mind, he joined Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and started his pursuit of protecting public lands.
John currently spends much of the season chasing elk, mule deer, whitetails, antelope, bear and turkey. “I’m looking to expand that list with other North American and African species, and improve my fly fishing skills,” he says. John and his wife live in Colorado Springs.
Michael is a Colorado native. He grew up on the Front Range and then moved to Steamboat Springs right after high school. “I have been fishing for as long as I can remember,” he said. “A friend of the family kept me interested in fishing through my youth and into adulthood. Once I moved to Steamboat I started fly fishing. I managed to hook up into a nice brown on my first outing had have been hooked ever since.”
Mike found the art of calling elk fascinating from the very first time he heard them talking in a natural setting. “Being in Steamboat I was surrounded by pristine elk habitat, and found myself getting more and more interested in hunting. I learned to call way before I actually started hunting,” he said. “About six years ago I became close friends with a buddy who shares the same passion for hunting as I do, and he has taught me to be a better hunter. We are still constantly pushing each other to be better hunters and increase our success.”
He hunts with a bow 90% of the time and his passion is elk hunting during the rut in the mountains surrounding Steamboat. “I started off hunting small game. My first successful hunt was for Blue Grouse. I will never forget the satisfaction of going out and harvesting a solid meal from my surroundings,” he says. “I now find myself actively searching for whatever is in season to go out and hunt. I’ll hunt big game as much as I can, waterfowl and small game depending on the time of year.
“I primarily fish for trout, but I just love to fish, so if I get the opportunity and am not able to hunt, I will be fishing,” Mike says. “I’m very lucky living in Steamboat. This allows me to be on the Yampa River after or before work and on the weekends. The Flattops wilderness area is right out my back door.” Mike worked briefly (about 6 months) for the Colorado Division of Wildlife as a tech for the Aquatic Biologist and, later, as a land surveyor (for 3 years).
Then he worked in the outdoor industry for a company called Big Agnes for six years as a Warehouse Manager. He is currently working in the hook and bullet industry as the lead designer/production manager for a company called Talon Grips. “Everybody working for this brand has become family to me,” he says. Mike and his wife live about 26 miles outside of Steamboat Springs in the Stagecoach area.
“John and Michael are welcome additions to the Colorado BHA Chapter Leadership Team,” said chapter co-chair, David Lien (a former U.S. Air Force officer). “They understand—as Colorado BHA chapter founder, David Petersen, said—‘The three-part formula for assuring a rich elk hunting future … could hardly be simpler … Those three essential elements are: habitat, habitat, and habitat.’ We need many more like them."
Founded by Mike Beagle, a former U.S. Army field artillery officer, and formed around an Oregon campfire, in 2004, BHA is the sportsmen’s voice for our nation’s wild public lands, waters and wildlife. With over 34,000 members spread out across all 50 states and 13 Canadian provinces and territories, including chapters in 39 states and two international chapters—in Alberta and British Columbia—BHA brings an authentic, informed, boots-on-the-ground voice to the conservation of public lands. Since the Colorado BHA chapter was founded by David Petersen (a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot) in 2005 (the first official BHA chapter), they’ve grown their boots-on-the-ground presence to over 2,500 dedicated hunters and anglers.
 David Petersen. “The Future of Elk Hunting.” Traditional Bowhunter magazine: December/January 2013, p. 69.
 Katie McKalip. “BHA Membership Is Young, Active, Nonpartisan, Demographic Survey Shows: Two-thirds of members are 45 or younger, identify as Republican or Independent.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 8/7/18.