Colorado BHA Hosts Its 14th Annual Rendezvous

Colorado BHA 14th Annual Rendezvous Report: Gunnison National Forest (June 9-11, 2023)

The Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers 14th Annual Rendezvous was held in Gunnison National Forest south of the West Elk Wilderness at the Soap Creek Corral dispersed camping area west of Gunnison during June 9-11, 2023.

A group of 15 or so hunter-angler-conservationists—along with a multitude of canine companions—from across the state met up for a picture-perfect weekend filled with abundant hiking and fishing opportunities along with heavy doses of campfire comradery and a wild game smorgasbord.

As many of our local members know from boots-on-the-ground experience, the Elk and West Elk Mountains are home to some of the most impressive peaks and scenery in North America. And the elk herds there are tough to rival. In 1899, John Plute killed an 8x7 bull in Dark Canyon of Anthracite Creek (now in the Raggeds Wilderness), that would stand for almost 90 years as the largest typical elk ever.[1]

On Saturday (June 10), we dispersed to go hiking and fishing, returning mid-afternoon for an informative Q&A session with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Area Wildlife Manager Brandon Diamond.[2] After wrapping up the CPW session, we held an informal chapter meeting to discuss where we’ve been, where we’re going, and to recognize our collective contributions to BHA’s rapidly growing portfolio of conservation (and other) accomplishments.

For dinner that evening we had a wild game feed that included (in part): elk burgers and meatballs, elk barbacoa, antelope backstrap, pulled pork, smoked trout dip and green (garden) salad. We also had Dutch oven biscuits with sausage gravy for breakfast Saturday morning. And last but not least, Central West Slope Regional Director Craig Grother reminds us that, “Mr. Jameson also made his annual appearance at the campfire that night.”

The weekend was greatly enhanced by the Dutch oven (and other) cooking wizardry of both Chris Parmeter and Mike McKeever.  And a big thank you to Chris for recommending the Rendezvous locale. We tentatively plan to return to Soap Creek for the 2024 chapter gathering.

“The Colorado Rende … provides us a space to spend time with each other outdoors, to be lifted up and inspired by each other’s energy, passion, and insights—and to deepen our relationships with each other,” Brien Webster, former BHA Program Manager, said after attending the 2022 Rendezvous. “It boils down to the three Gs: good people, good food, and good times,” chapter Co-Chair David Lien (a former Air Force officer) added.

Since the Colorado BHA chapter was founded by David “Elkheart” Petersen (a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot) in 2005 (the first official BHA chapter), our capacity to engage on issues impacting our wild public lands, waters and wildlife has grown exponentially. “For me, it was always super simple,” David said. “If you want to hunt, first you have to have animals to hunt. And if you want animals, first they’ve got to have habitat to live in. So, if you’re not trying to protect habitat and improve it and increase it, then you’re working against yourself as a hunter.”[3]

Another renowned hunter-conservationist, Medal of Honor recipient Theodore Roosevelt, would agree. “Theodore Roosevelt fell in love with the West hunting in the backcountry,” Land Tawney, BHA’s President & CEO, said. “What he fell in love with was the challenge and the thirst for life that you only get in the backcountry. I take solace in the fact that we are protecting the backcountry much like he did.”[4]

“Roosevelt was not only speaking to hunters, of course, but to all members of society,” Sports Afield contributor Shane Mahoney said. “Wildlife, in his view, was to be protected by a fortress of the concerned—an army of men and women who would resist the destruction of wild nature and preserve it.”[5] Because of Teddy’s Roosevelt’s leadership, America’s public lands truly became the “estate” of the average American.[6]

And as BHA founder Mike Beagle (a former U.S. Army field artillery officer) said: “We will continue to be a voice for core values of solitude, challenge, freedom, and tradition so badly needed in the world where outdoor pursuits risk becoming more about selling products and technology instead of exercising skill and woodcraft. BHA is getting better and better. The best is yet to come.”[7]

BHA Issues Triad (PAF)[8]

  1. Public Lands & Waters (Public Lands = Freedom). Our public lands make each of us land-rich. Protecting and perpetuating public lands and waters is paramount. We are: “The voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.”
  2. Access & Opportunity. We are intent on keeping public lands in public hands. And access has emerged as a priority issue for North American hunters and anglers, and lack of access is cited by sportsmen and women as the No. 1 reason why we stop pursuing our passions. Access to the more than 600 million acres of public land is part of being American. However, opportunity is diminished when access becomes excess.[9]
  3. Fair Chase.[10] We must ensure that the ethical pursuit of fish and game is upheld as dearly as our own obligation to morality and citizenship.[11]

BHA Action Triad (PAF)

-P = Public Service. As BHA members we are all public servants, doing selfless work that benefits more than just ourselves.

-A = Overcoming Adversity. To do that work effectively we must continually overcome adversity and opposition from those who are opposed to keeping public lands in public hands. As the renowned biologist Valerius Geist said, “We need not despair. We need to be active.”[12]

-F = Fight. We must fight for our right to hunt, fish, and otherwise recreate on our wild public lands and waters. As Medal of Honor recipient Teddy Roosevelt said: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

For additional/related information see:

-Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Angler’s 14th Annual Rendezvous (June 9–11, 2023) photos.

-“You’re Invited to the 14th Annual Colorado BHA Rendezvous (June 9-11).” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 5/11/23.

-“Colorado BHA Rendezvous Report: San Isabel National Forest (June 10-12, 2022).” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 6/17/22.

 -Derek Pankratz. “Spring 2023 CO BHA Newsletter.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 4/10/23.

-Derek Pankratz. “Winter Newsletter (Colorado BHA).” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 12/23/22.

-“Colorado BHA Q2 2023 Update.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 4/24/23.

-“Colorado BHA Q1 2023 Update.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 2/1/23.

 -“Hunting ethically is good, hard work.” Montrose Daily Press: 5/2/23.

-“Hunting Ethically Is Good, Hard Work.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 5/1/23.

-“Guest opinion: Selling off our public lands is a bad idea that won’t die.” VailDaily: 1/29/23.

-“Bad ideas never die.” Aspen Daily News: 1/25/23.

-“The Ghost Bulls of Colorado.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 1/18/23.

-“Colorado Over The Counter (OTC) Unit Elk Hunting.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 11/14/22.

-“Proposed Jackson Mountain (CO) Mountain Bike Trail System Withdrawn.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 6/12/23.

-“Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Increase Reward For Illegal Trail Construction (Help Stop Trail Building ‘Free-For-All’).” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 4/10/23.

-“Trails vs. Elk: ‘They’re Just Dying Off.’” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 12/3/21.

-“Colorado BHA Report: Impacts of Off-Road Recreation on Public Lands Habitat.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 5/21/18.

-Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Colorado’s 2021 Guide for Planning Trails with Wildlife in Mind.” Appendix A includes standard protocols for how and where the trails are developed (i.e., Avoid, Minimize, Mitigate).

-Sylvia Kantor. “Seeking Ground Less Traveled: Elk Responses to Recreation.” Science Findings #219 (U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station): September 2019.

-“Conservation (& Conciliation).” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 9/15/21.

-“Colorado BHA State Chapter Leadership (Triad) Structure.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 7/26/21.

-“BHA State Chapter Development (Recruiting/Retaining Leaders & Avoiding Burnout).” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 6/1/21.

-“Empowering Leaders: It’s In BHA’s DNA.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 1/7/21.

-“Where Hope Lives: A Brief BHA History.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 11/30/20.

-BHA’s North American Action Map, tracking/highlighting examples of our accomplishments across the continent.

-Check out our Take Action Center to stay engaged on legislation in your area. 

-Gift a BHA membership.

-David “Elkheart” Petersen (founder of the first BHA state chapter, here in Colorado, and a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot) books:


Founded by Mike Beagle, a former U.S. Army field artillery officer, and formed around an Oregon campfire, in 2004, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the voice for our nation’s wild public lands, waters and wildlife. With members spread out across all 50 states and 13 Canadian provinces and territories—including chapters in 48 states, two Canadian provinces and one territory, and Washington, D.C.—BHA brings an authentic, informed, boots-on-the-ground voice to the conservation of public lands. The Colorado BHA chapter was founded by David Petersen (a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot) in 2005 (the first official BHA chapter)


[1] David A. Lien. “Peak Elk Hunting.” Bugle: September/October 2013, p. 64.


[3] Scott Willoughby. “David ‘Elkheart’ Petersen aims to protect outdoor resources.” The Denver Post: 6/12/13.

[4] Daniel Xu. “Leaders of Conservation: BHA Executive Director Land Tawney.” OutdoorHub: 6/18/14.

[5] Shane Mahoney. “Pursuit Of The Common Good.” Sports Afield: May/June 2013, p. 36.

[6] Joe Kasper. “[Congressman Duncan] Hunter [R-CA] Introduces Teddy Roosevelt Bring Back Our Public Lands Act.” Press Release/Statement: 7/31/07.

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


[9] “Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Increase Reward For Illegal Trail Construction (Help Stop Trail Building ‘Free-For-All’).” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 4/10/23.

[10] “Hunting Ethically Is Good, Hard Work.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 5/1/23.


[12] Ben Long. Hunter & Angler Field Guide to Raising Hell. Kalispell, Montana: Scott Publishing Company, 2023, p. 8.

About David Lien

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