Liasons & Committee Members

Scott Heatwole, Communications Co-Chair:

Scott Heatwole serves on the Colorado BHA Chapter Leadership Team as Communications Co-Chair. Scott was born on Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, and raised in nearby Newport News. “I fished on and off as a child, but was never really into hunting,” he said.

“None of my family hunted either so I was never exposed to it. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve really developed a serious interest in hunting, fishing and conservation,” Scott explained. “For me, it’s been more of a DIY initiation with the help of social media groups, online articles, magazines and hunting shows. I’m always on the lookout for more experienced folks who need a hunting partner though.”

Today Scott hunts pronghorn, mule deer, bear and turkey around the Front Range or on the eastern plains—depending on which tags he can get ahold of. “My son is chomping at the bit to catch a bass, and I’m starting to look into learning to fly fish,” he said. “My wife and I have a goal of hunting an elk together.” They hunt primarily with rifles and compound bows but are looking to muzzleloader hunt too. “My wife is extremely interested in traditional bow hunting,” he added.

Scott works for the Department of Defense as a DOD civilian and is completing (“albeit slowly,” he says) his bachelor’s degree. He served in the U.S. Air Force for ten years as an Aircraft Hydraulic Systems Craftsman. They currently live in Castle Rock and have two children and three dogs.

“I first joined BHA in 2019 after seeing Steven Rinella in a ‘Public Land Owner’ shirt on MeatEater,” he explained. “I loved the shirt and just had to have one. I discovered BHA while searching for the shirt online, as it was offered by BHA, and joined immediately. I’ve come from not knowing a whole lot about BHA to really loving the organization and everything it does.”

“We’re privileged and lucky to have another veteran join the Colorado BHA Chapter Leadership Team,” chapter co-chair David Lien (a former Air Force officer) said. “Scott’s proven track record of leadership and taking the initiative is the critical catalyst needed to strengthen and amplify BHA’s combined voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife. Wildlands and wildlife need many more like him!”

Derek Pankratz, Communications Co-Chair:

Derek was born and raised in northeastern Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Michigan. He started gun deer hunting at age 12 and began archery hunting not long after. “I was fortunate to have many uncles and cousins who hunted when I was growing up and they taught me foundational skills,” he said. “That said, a lot has been self-taught—with lots of mistakes along the way! My brother is my primary hunting partner and has been a great mentor, even though he’s three years younger (don’t tell him I said that).”

Over the years Derek has steadily expanded his hunting portfolio to include turkeys, rabbits, squirrels and a “bit of dabbling in waterfowl.” He hunts with a compound bow, rifle and shotgun. “I’m a very casual angler but do like the simplicity of Tenkara-style fly-fishing,” he added. Derek studied economics and political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “I worked for the government in DC before deciding it wasn’t for me,” he said. “Now I’m a researcher and writer for a global consulting firm, currently focused on climate change and corporate sustainability.”

Since moving to Colorado, Derek has been working on building his mountain hunting skills, mostly chasing elk with a bow, but also mule deer and dusky grouse when he stumbles into them. “I really love archery elk hunting. September in the mountains with bugling bulls is something special,” he added. “Mule deer, too, when I can get a tag, along with turkeys and grouse. Looking forward to pulling an antelope tag … A bit of trout fishing in the summer as well.”

His youngest daughter is very interesting in fishing—including ice fishing—so spending more time on the water with her is a priority. This past fall Derek also made a trip back to Wisconsin to hunt public land whitetails and small game. “The deer hunting was unsuccessful, but it was great to be back sitting twenty feet up in a red oak,” he said. “I did bring home some gray squirrels, though! I miss chasing those ‘tree ninjas.’”

Derek lives in Gunnison. “We moved from Wisconsin in large part because of the incredible access to public lands, and we’re fortunate to have so many opportunities here to hunt, fish, camp, hike, mountain bike and ski,” he explained. Derek first heard about BHA from his brother and joined in 2017.

Matt Lee, Armed Forces Initiative (AFI) Liaison

Matt was born in Iowa and raised in both Iowa and Minnesota. He’s an avid outdoorsman and mentor. Matt’s preferred pursuits are upland hunting, fishing, hunting deer, learning to hunt elk, and outdoor photography. His affection for outdoor spaces was first sparked early in his childhood while fishing for bullheads with his grandpa.

Soon after he was taken on a family vacation to Colorado where he fell in love with the mountains and the vast opportunities North America has to offer. At age 9 Matt was taken along on his first pheasant hunt and he was instantly hooked on those cagey birds. He spent his teen years fishing through the summer and chasing roosters in the fall.

He also spent 10 years serving in the Minnesota National Guard as an artilleryman. Matt has been a member of several outdoor conservation groups over the years, but in 2015 he learned about Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and the public lands access mission we fight for. This message spoke to him and resonated with his experiences as a public land hunter.

After becoming a life member and volunteering for numerous BHA events, in 2018 he was asked to join the MN BHA board, in 2019 he was elected to a vice-chair role, and in 2020 he volunteered  to serve as the interim board chair position and then was elected to be the chair where he served until leaving MN for CO. “In 2022 I moved to Colorado with my amazing wife and our dog,” he explained. “I am now currently serving the Colorado BHA chapter in the Armed Forces Initiative Liaison role.”

In his new role he is working with veterans and active-duty military members, helping to facilitate their hunting and fishing opportunities. Giving back to the military community is a driving force in Matt’s life, the foundation of his dedication and selflessness. “I want to give back to those who have given so much to protect our access to hunting, fishing, and freedom,” he said. Matt lives in Lakewood, Colorado, and works as a commercial pilot transporting cargo and people all over the world.

Bob Shettel, CPW West Slope Liaison 

Bob Shettel joined the chapter leadership team as Colorado BHA’s first Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Liaison in 2015. As CPW Liaison, Bob helps ensure we’re up-to-speed on the myriad of issues impacting CPW, and vice versa, and serves as the chapter’s contact for most CPW-related issues. Bob also served on the Colorado Wildlife Council-West Slope Angler Representative.

As an avid outdoorsman, experienced teacher and passionate backcountry enthusiast, Bob brings a unique perspective to Colorado BHA. He’s a retired schoolteacher originally from western Pennsylvania who started fishing at 5 and deer hunting in his teens. He moved to Colorado in 1975, learned fly-fishing and has been an avid user of the local gold medal waters around the Roaring Fork Valley ever since.

Bob also holds four International Game Fish Association line class world records for California golden trout dating back to the 1980’s. He spends at least a week each year stomping around the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming in search of still bigger golden trout. “I’m retired, I hunt big game, I fish as often as possible (meaning: never enough) and fish not only streams, but high mountain lakes,” he says.

Brad Nicol, CPW Front Range Liaison 

Brad was born and raised in Texas, where he started hunting and learned traditional bass fishing, followed by fly fishing. Today Brad calls Denver home (along with his wife and three dogs) and hunts both big and small game. Although he’s primarily a rifle hunter, Brad is fixing to make the jump to bow hunting as soon as another hobby is “allowed into the home.” Brad is a commercial photographer ( and was introduced to the outdoors by his father, who has “always been my best fishing buddy and mentor.”



Ryan McSparran, At-Large CPW Liaison

Ryan was born and raised in Colorado, growing up exploring local creeks and ponds out his back door, and later the vast public lands of the Rocky Mountains. He learned to fly fish on a neighborhood pond that was full of bass and began hunting with his grandfather in Texas when he was 4 years old. Later, he joined his dad and granddad on elk and mule deer hunting trips.

“My grandfather was my hunting mentor,” Ryan says. “He ‘retired’ from elk hunting a few years ago, but at 92 years old he continues to hunt deer every year near his home in Texas. Now I usually hunt with my dad and with a few good hunting buddies.” Ryan went to Seattle Pacific University where he studied journalism and found a job writing for Fish & Fly Magazine. After college he went into corporate communications, and his career eventually evolved toward PR and marketing. In 2013 he launched a business serving hunting and fly fishing outfitters, Peak Outfitter Marketing.

Today Ryan primarily hunts Colorado’s vast public lands, but has also been on hunting trips in Wyoming, New Mexico, Montana and British Columbia. He hunts big game—primarily elk, mule deer and antelope—and drew a Colorado bighorn tag in 2010, harvesting a nice ram. “I’ve hunted big game with a rifle, a muzzleloader and a compound bow,” he says. “My perfect season is hunting bugling elk with a bow or muzzleloader in September, spot-and-stalk antelope in October, and then mule deer with a rifle in November.”

Ryan also does some waterfowl along with small and upland game hunting, but says, “With two small kids at home, I have to be more selective about my hobbies these days!” And one of the perfect hobbies for kids is fishing. “I fish for everything,” he adds, “from bass and carp in the Denver area, to cutthroat trout at remote lakes above timberline, and everything in between. But my favorite fishing now is on remote rivers and lakes. I love exploring wilderness waters where a little bit of distance removes most of the fishing pressure.”

Ryan lives in Littleton with his wife, Kelly. They have a son, Nolan, and a daughter, Clara. “With a vegetable garden and a freezer full of wild game, we enjoy hosting friends for meals, being involved at our church, and living the field-to-table lifestyle as much as we can,” he says. During March 2022 Ryan and his wife purchased Budge’s Wilderness Lodge in the White River National Forest.

Bryan Gwinn, Assistant Legislative Liaison

Bryan was born in central Illinois. “I started hunting as a child … bb guns, squirrels, pheasants and then whitetail,” he said. “My dad taught me how to hunt and along with my younger brother we hunted family farmland, fencerows and woods about 45 minutes outside of my hometown.” He attended the University of Illinois and, after working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. after college, Bryan moved to Colorado in 2005 and began law school at the University of Denver the following year.

Bryan met his hunting partner, Andrew, right after moving to Colorado when they both worked at the same restaurant. “I wanted to try hunting western big game and Andrew’s family hunting trips were petering out,” he explained. “So, we linked up and have been hunting deer and elk around Colorado for over 15 years now.” Bryan hunts with both a rifle and a compound bow.

“I bow hunt for elk and rifle hunt for deer each year. I was fortunate enough to draw a tag and took a nice ram with my bow in 2017,” he added. “Every few years I get back to Illinois for deer camp and tree-stand whitetail hunting. And I try to do as much pheasant, turkey, quail, and small game as I get invited to do or can squeeze in otherwise. I am building points on antelope and moose and looking forward to burning my elk points on a good unit very soon. I’m a willing fisherman and novice fly fisherman.”

Bryan has lived in south Denver, near DU, since 2007. He’s a lawyer in private practice for eleven years. “My practice consists mostly of business law, real estate, civil litigation and other ‘country-lawyer’ matters that my clients bring my way,” he said.

Bryan and his wife, Kara, have three kids: Harlan, Colette, Joni and a dog, Boone. “We spend a lot of time at our cabin near Del Norte in the San Juan Mountains and spend a week each summer on a lake in northern Minnesota,” he added. Bryan joined BHA after hearing about the organization through Steven Rinella/Meateater.

Paul Painter, Denver Metro Area Work Projects Liaison

Paul Painter was named Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) Denver Metro Area Work Projects Liaison. Paul was born at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois, but raised in the little Appalachian coal town of Plumville, Pennsylvania, which is about 15 miles from Punxsutawney Phil. Paul is a graduate of IUP, not Indiana University Purdue, rather Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “I’m a computer geek so being outdoors is my release,” Paul said.

“Being raised in Pennsylvania where the first day of deer season is a state holiday, I was surrounded by outdoors activities as a kid. My late father-in-law, though, was my biggest outdoors influencer,” Paul added. “I only occasionally fly fish, and a bit more of pheasant and quail hunting with my daughter and son-in-law in Kansas. 2nd rifle season is when I get together with high school buds for deer and elk hunting.” Paul lives in Parker.

“I have done fence projects with Paul for more than a decade,” Colorado BHA chapter Treasurer Nathan Kettner said. “I think he will be a great addition to the team.” Are you interested in serving on the Colorado BHA Chapter Leadership Team? 

Steve Witte, Indemnity Land Liaison

Steve Witte was recently appointed to serve as the Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers chapter Indemnity Lands Liaison. Steve was born in Wray, Colorado, and raised on a farm near Vernon until age 10 when his folks moved off the farm and purchased a business in Wray, where he finished grade school and graduated from junior high and high school.

“As a boy on the farm, with my Daisy, I did my best to guard our granary from ravaging sparrows. My first fish was a sunfish from a private pond along the banks of the Arikaree,” Steve explained. “In those days, pheasant season was a very big deal in Yuma County, and I couldn’t wait to participate! My hunter safety card number is in the low four-digit range.”

“I’ve had several mentors,” Steve added. “My father taught me firearms safety, my uncle took me pheasant hunting and made big game hunting sound intriguing. One of my bosses, early in my career, and my friend (also named Steve) taught me to fly-fish and took me big game hunting. A man named Floyd tricked me into thinking calling turkeys must be easy.”

Steve is a graduate of the Colorado School of Mines. He worked for the Colorado Division of Water Resources throughout a career spanning forty years. His work took him from downtown Denver, to Alamosa, to Steamboat Springs, and finally Pueblo. At the time of his retirement in 2018, Steve had served as the Division Engineer for the Arkansas River basin for thirty years.

“I’ve used nearly every type of weapon legal for hunting in Colorado,” Steve added. “I hunt turkey each spring and I enjoy fly-fishing small trout streams, but lately my passion has become archery deer hunting, specifically plains archery hunting in Colorado. Recently, I’ve drawn some deer and antelope tags in several western states, but my home base for hunting and fishing is southern Colorado.”

Steve joined Backcountry Hunters & Anglers in 2022 after listening to BHA’s “Podcast and Blast” with Hal Herring, especially Episodes 125 and 132. “As a new member, I was excited to attend the 13th Annual Rendezvous of the Colorado Chapter held at ‘goat wadi’ near Salida in June 2022. In 2023, I was pleased to participate in the Gunnison Fence Pull as part of the Colorado Public Lands Day and was able to meet a number of great people,” he said. “As enjoyable as these events were, I recognized the real reason for having joined BHA after I lost access to public lands that have been very special to me.”

“The experience, advice and support of other BHA members has provided me with a foundation to attempt to bring about changes needed to restore public access and preserve habitat,” Steve added. “Working together is the key to address these issues as well as some of the bigger issues that are in our collective interest, such as resolving corner crossing issues, exploring opportunities to gain meaningful access to landlocked parcels and existing outdoor recreational leases on large parcels, and resisting attempts to privatize public lands.”

Thanks to Steve, the Colorado BHA chapter was able to lead the effort to encourage the State Land Board to provide Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) an exclusive initial opportunity to lease 17,232 acres of indemnity lands under the Hunting and Fishing Access Program before offering these for private recreational leases or other uses that would preclude hunting and fishing.” Steve lives near Pueblo.