Last week was a wild ride through south and central Florida covering Miami, Jupiter, Tampa and Orlando. The trip illuminated not just the diversity of Florida’s landscape but more importantly the people and sportsmen that make up the state. I met with traditional archery hunters, Gladesmen, offshore and inshore anglers, surfers and adult onset hunters trying to wrap their heads around their new pursuit.
We were there with the primary goal to raise awareness for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program that has contributed heavily in the state of Florida. LWCF has funded over 1.3 billion dollars of projects in Florida, contributing to the Everglades, The Florida Trail, WMAs, Fishing Piers, access to the best surf breaks, and on it goes. Raising awareness was not without its challenges, especially with focus on the election and the algae emergency, but I think we were successful. I was able to meet with Rep. Curbelo’s staff, who, later that week signed on to a letter supporting the permanent reauthorization of LWCF. Additionally, we were able to get hand addressed letters from the attendees that will be delivered to Senator Nelson’s office.
The pint night tour was successful from a chapter building perspective as well. I was able to meet with several members who wanted to be more involved as well as non-members that signed up or said that they were considering signing up in the future.
For me the most important part of the trip was the ability to shake the hands of our leaders in the state. In Miami I was able to chat with our State Captain Richard Martinez who has been working hard to open up access in Loxahatchee! Richard was still riding the high from killing an absolute beauty of a buck on public land! If you live in the Miami area pay attention, Richard has some cool and important things coming your way, from a local clay shoot to action alerts!
Richard Martinez's Public Land Buck
From Miami I drove to Jupiter Fl for the second Pint Night of the Tour. Jupiter had a large contingency of surfers making it one of the most interesting groups of folks I’ve had the pleasure to get to know during my career with BHA. Other folks had just gotten back from Colorado where they had successful Mule Deer hunts, but tough warm weather elk hunts.
Some of the crew from the Jupiter Pint Night
The next location was Tampa, which was absolutely on fire, largely from the ground work put in by our Florida Influencers Chase Waller and Travis Thompson. Chase was gearing up for a trip to the glades while Travis seemed to be lining up a string of cool events! Additionally, I was able to spend a good bit of time chatting with a group of three firefighters prepping for their first trip out west to chase antelope! Of course, Tampa has an amazing fishing scene which was well represented by Parker Rabow, who definitely sold me on their fishery and the good access opportunities they have to it. As I’m writing this, some of these guys are planning a great event, so stay tuned!
Some of the crew from the Tampa Pint Night
The final night was in Orlando, where I was able to spend time with my good friend and Southeast Chapter Board Member Chad Rischar. Chad has been instrumental to the development of the chapter in Florida and across the Southeast, plus he’s an interesting guy and talented chef of wild game, so any chance to banter with him is always appreciated. Though the turnout was small, the folks that were there were passionate outdoorsmen who care about Florida’s public land system, which in my mind closed the tour on a high note!
In summary Florida is full of men and women who are passionate, friendly and talented outdoorsmen in a variety of pursuits, and though Florida has some incredibly challenging issues that it faces, the folks I met can get the job done!