John was born in Auburn, Alabama (War Eagle!), and raised in northern Alabama. “I began fishing before I can remember with my father and grandfather,” he said. “I would spend as many summer days as possible with my grandfather, fishing for bass and bluegill on Kentucky Lake. Man those were the days!” John attended Auburn University and Colorado Mesa University and then worked in the ski/bike/outdoor industry for 18 years.
He started hunting later in life, after asking his dad what he wanted to do for his 60th birthday, which turned out to be elk hunting in Colorado. “Seeing elk on almost every bike ride, I guessed I could at least give him a place to start,” John added. “I figured since I would be out there, I might as well walk around with a bow, which always seemed cool to me, just in case. I joined a local archery league to make sure I knew how to shoot and, lo and behold, I’ve been hooked ever since. I have only ever hunted with a bow. I imagine I will and should diversify, but I just really enjoy shooting archery.”
John primarily hunts and fishes in the Gunnison Basin, with the occasional fishing trip elsewhere in Colorado. “I have archery hunted for elk and deer to date, and by hunted I mean aimlessly wandering around in the high country with a bow and pack,” he said. “I hunted the last few seasons for grouse as well and wow is it fun, especially since I get to actually shoot an arrow at something. I fish for all species of trout in all variety of water. From floating the Gunni to backpacking to high mountain lakes, I love fly fishing.”
During 2015, he joined BHA. “I went to a BHA hunting film fest in Gunnison,” John said. “I bought raffle tickets, grabbed a BHA journal, won a pair of binoculars, joined as a member and have been impressed with the organization ever since.” “I recently left the ski industry and now am proud to be working for the town of Crested Butte,” he added. “I am incredibly lucky to call Crested Butte my home for the last two-and-a-half decades.”
Christian was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. “I spent a lot of time outside growing up,” he said. “My dad was a U.S. Army Ranger and he taught my brother and me a lot of navigation and camping skills. We camped and fished regularly.” Christian moved to Gunnison at the age of 17 to attend Western State College, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in outdoor recreation and has lived there ever since.
After college a co-worker (Rob Geiss)—who grew up on a ranch in Conifer, Colorado—took Christian on his first deer hunt and he was hooked. “I was struggling to figure out elk hunting and at the same time I was working as a mountain guide through the spring and summer months,” he added. “I got a job as an elk hunting guide, which was kind of funny because I was terrible at hunting elk. Dave Mapes owned the operation and put more stock in my ability to guide people around the mountains and get them back to camp safe every night and was confident he could teach me how to hunt. I learned a lot about hunting and horsemanship from Dave.”
Christian hunted deer and elk with a rifle for over a decade, until a job change and the birth of his son resulted in taking a break from hunting. “I returned to it through John Chandler, who was taking up hunting for the first time and going the archery route,” he said. “I joined him at a weekly shoot with the West Elk Archers and soon after bought a bow and started hunting again. My wife and son both shoot as well and hunting has become a family activity.”
They have started fly-fishing too. “John Chandler helped expose us to the sport and has provided a ton of great insight and inspiration,” Christian added. “We are excited for a summer of exploring streams and improving as anglers.” He hunts mostly with a bow. “I have a long bow and it is my goal to hunt big game with that. I see a shotgun in our near future as we do more research into turkey and waterfowl.”
Christian hunts with his family in the units surrounding Gunnison. “We hunt for big and small game and we love to cook so have enjoyed learning more about preparing elk, deer, grouse, squirrel and trout,” he said. “We are hoping to add turkey and waterfowl to the menu.” Christian has worked in outdoor recreation since 1993 and for Crested Butte Mountain Resort since 2008, where he is Director of Skier Services.
MeatEater and Randy Newberg podcasts introduced Christian to Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “I attended a film tour event in Gunnison and have seen BHA info. connected with First Lite,” he added. “I am excited to be more involved and hopefully help lead some work that will have a lasting impact.” Christian lives seven miles south of Crested Butte “in the heart of paradise” with his wife Michelle and son Temple.
Chris was raised in a little logging town in the coastal range of California. “When I was in junior high I’d come home from school, dump my books, and wander off into the woods ‘till after dark,” he said. “From high school on I worked after school - but they were always outdoors jobs.”
He hunted black-tail and mule-deer with his grandpa, dad and brothers when he was young, and fished with his grandpa and grandma before that. “When I was a little older it was all about wild pigs. Then I moved to Colorado and added elk to the menu,” Chris added. “Eventually, with the ‘coming of age’ of my first son (i.e., getting his hunter education card), small game and turkeys crept their way into my life.”
Chris joined the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in 1982, working/serving as an armorer and marksmanship instructor. He extended his service twice more in the Marine Corps Reserves before hanging up his dress blues in 1994 as a staff sergeant. During the early 1990s he moved from California to Colorado “for more breathing room.”
“I went to Western Colorado University (then Western State College) and got a degree in biology,” he explained. “Kicked around the woods doing seasonal work for Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) for about a decade - some of the best stuff you could get ever get a paycheck for; trapping bears, tracking lynx, searching for wolverines - then hired on permanent in 2000. Salida was my first duty station, but I hopped back over the hill to Gunnison in 2004, where as a game warden I worked to hold the ‘thin green line’ in the Elk Mountains for the next 17 years.”
The first gun Chris ever owned was a muzzleloader pistol he bought at about 13 years old. “I have a couple others now, but they mostly live in the closet,” he explained. “I prefer packing my break-action single-shot 12 gauge (aka, ‘The Mule’) and I have a few recurves that are addicted to grouse, but a none-too-fancy 30.06 Savage does most of the heavy lifting around the place.”
“Now, just about anything I can draw a tag for is welcome to join my family at our table - though no critters out there should panic at that - I eat my share of tag soup, to be sure,” Chis added. “I’m a cold-mountain-stream, beaver-pond-brookie, high-mountain-lake cut-throat fly-fisher mainly, but I can be coaxed out to big flat-water or farm-ponds for pretty cheap.
Through luck and diversity, I mostly manage to keep the freezer more half-full than half-empty.”
Chris retired from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) in 2021 and is “enjoying the ‘sporting life’ at a leisurely glide - fishing on a whim and blacking out August - November on the calendar with a single word: ‘Hunt.’” He lives in Gunnison with his wife Sonja and two fledging sons, Jake and Joey, but is contemplating significant time afield to accomplish a retirement goal of hunting small game in all 50 states.
In addition, near the close of his career as a game warden, Chris started adult-hunter mentoring. “I’d take on a few mentees each season, and found it terrifically rewarding both professionally and personally,” he said. “Guiding a never-hunted-before to their first harvest is an incredible journey, and one that I intend to continue on.”
Chris joined BHA pretty early on, some 15 years ago. “A co-worker had told me about it, then he went to a Rendezvous and came back with a ‘Public Land Owner’ tee-shirt and that iconic bear-paw hat,” Chis said. “I was like ‘Ya, I’m with that’ and got a family membership.”