Matt Lee, Chair
Matt Lee is a veteran, an avid outdoorsman, active mentor, and firearms safety instructor. His preferred pursuits are upland hunting, fishing, learning to hunt deer, 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 he 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. Along with a few backpacking trips and an influential trip to the BWCAW, that spark in him turned into a fire and it continues to burn to this day.
Matt has been a member of a few outdoor conservation groups over the years. But in 2015 he learned about Backcountry Hunters and 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, he pushed the Minnesota chapter to embrace more social media channels to spread the BHA message by taking the initiative to add three more accounts. In 2018 he was asked to join the board, in 2019 he was elected to a vice-chair role, and in 2020 he was appointed to the chair position.
Matt believes that equal access to the outdoors is an integral part of the American experience. In order to accomplish our goal to maintain that access the American people must compel our legislators to keep public land in trust for all citizens and ensure that our land is respected, well maintained, and preserved for future generations.
“Without access to public lands I would not be the person I am today.”
Ellen Candler, Vice Chair - Operations
Ellen was born and raised in South East Idaho and grew up fishing, rafting, and backpacking with her family in the rivers and wilderness of her home state. She followed her dad into the mountains on elk and moose hunts and took up deer and duck hunting when she was twelve. Like many young people, Ellen stopped hunting when she left home, but was re-introduced to it through the Minnesota DNR’s adult learn to hunt program. Fly-fishing has always been a passion and continues to push her to new rivers.
Today, Ellen enjoys exploring Minnesota’s fly-fishing opportunities and discovering Minnesota public lands with her husband Mike and dog Raleigh. She is rediscovering fly-tying as a way to learn the rivers and streams that she fishes. She looks forward to taking trips in the Boundary Waters and learning more about Minnesota’s outdoor opportunities through hunting and fishing.
Ellen spent several years in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan while she completed a BS degree from Michigan Technological University in Wildlife Ecology and Management. She is currently a Conservation Science PhD student at the University of Minnesota researching the extent that hunter derived food sources, such as hunter bait piles or hunter gut piles, influence the scavenger community.
Eli Mansfield, Treasurer
Eli grew up with an affinity for the outdoors in a small Indiana town. The majority of his young life was spent fishing with his father & brothers in the ponds & rivers near home. Summer & winter trips to his grandparent’s in Florida were spent surf casting from the state park public beach. It wasn’t until college, when Eli began devoting time to hone his hunting skills, that he realized public access to outdoor spaces is not always easy to come by.
After graduating from Purdue University, Eli moved to Minnesota where he earned his Master’s in Public Health Policy & Administration from the University of Minnesota. The abundant hunting access to public lands in his new state brought a sense of gratitude and responsibility.
“There was not a lot of public land where I grew up. I was lucky enough to hunt with great friends who owned farm ground back in Indiana. Once I moved to Minnesota and began hunting every free minute on public land, I realized I owed a debt to those who worked to make this a possibility.”
Eli began to find opportunities to volunteer with local groups and eventually found alignment with the ethos of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. Within BHA he met members who encouraged him to continue to pursue public land adventures all over the country. Although Elk hunting in the mountains has become an annual event, Eli would chose bird hunting with his Wirehaired Griffon, Leo, any day.
Eli continues outdoor pursuits throughout many states each year and encourages everyone to share in that journey.
“I’m very fortunate to have great hunting partners and an incredible wife who help me get the most out of life. We do it through adventures and memories we are making across this country on land that belongs to you & me.”
Ryan Heesch, Secretary
Ryan is from Red Wing, MN, and growing up, he spent as much time on the water fishing and boating as he could. Some of his fondest memories were fall trips with the family to the Mississippi river's backwaters chasing ducks with his uncles and cousins. After high school, Ryan moved west, first to Utah, where he spent winters working for Alta Ski Resort. It was in Wyoming, however, that his love of public land really took shape. Living in Jackson Hole, he worked as a fly-fishing guide during the summers while backpacking, hot springing, rafting, camping, and climbing as much as he could. His falls were spent in the mountains hunting Mule Deer and Elk, or on the sage flats stalking speed goats. In winter, he continued to indulge his love of skiing.
Ryan lives in Minneapolis and attends St. Catherine University, where he studies nursing. He aspires to work as a flight nurse. Ryan has recently started bow hunting and loves to still hunt whitetails in SE MN. During the summer, he is sure to get his drift boat wet as many days as he can, loving to embark on multiday river trips for bass, trout, and musky. However, his favorite camping spots are deep in the BWCA, and he plans at least a couple visits a year.
Ryan is passionate about developing a community of outdoor enthusiasts here in Minnesota to assure our public lands are available for future generations.
Aaron Hebeisen, Board of Directors
Aaron was born and raised in the small central Minnesota town of Mora, and says: “I have been angling at our cabin on the MN Iron Range since I could walk.” Aaron shot his first deer at 12 and now hunts whitetails all over eastern Minnesota, from the Iron Range to Rochester. But he’s an angler too: “I fish anywhere I can, including Canada and Hawaii, but enjoy northern Minnesota the best.” In addition, Aaron has hunted elk in Colorado and antelope in Wyoming, and also chases pheasant.
He grew up in an outdoors family. “The guys in my family are all avid hunters/anglers. My grandfather is an SCI member and has been all over the world hunting big game (Africa 3 times, New Zealand, Alaska),” he says. Aaron’s dad taught him about ethical sportsmanship and fair chase, as well as being “my best hunting partner.” Aaron adds: “I fully admire Theodore Roosevelt, from his gritty stubbornness to his wisdom and whole-hearted compassion for everything wild. I try to emulate his principles any time I step foot into the woods.”
Aaron’s passion for wildlife and public lands led him to pursue a BS in Natural Resource Ecology & Management, with an emphasis on Wildlife, from Iowa State University. Aaron’s professional roles have included working with the MN DNR researching CWD in white-tailed deer, conducting angling surveys on the St. Croix River, and restoring forested and wetland areas around Minnesota with the Minnesota Conservation Corps. He has also worked at wildlife parks/centers, educating the public about different North American wildlife and the conservation issues surrounding them.
Jordan Wolf, Board of Directors
Jordan is a lifelong Duluth, MN native with the BCWA in her backyard. With over 1 million acres of public land to explore in northern MN, she is always looking for the next opportunity to strap a canoe to the truck and head out on the next fishing trip into the Boundary Waters.
She spent several years as a volunteer wilderness firefighter in northwestern Wisconsin, as well as teaching Hunter’s Safety and First Aid courses. She is currently a third-year medical student at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
In her free time, she can be found pouring over topo maps and planning her next excursion into the Superior National Forest or BWCA. She enjoys bushwhacking for brook trout with a fly rod, backcountry backpacking, and is always looking for the next excuse to go explore public land wilderness areas. Her last trip to the BWCA was fishing and through-hiking the Border Route Trail along the Minnesota-Canadian border. Her home water is the St. Louis River, where she enjoys float tube fly fishing for smallmouth bass. Through years of fishing and backpacking in the Superior National Forest and BWCA of MN and experiencing the valuable resources they provide, Jordan has developed a passion for public land access, advocacy, and preservation.
Mark Zschoche, Board of Directors
Mark grew up in eastern Kansas just outside of Kansas City. As a young boy, he would ride his bike to fish at local ponds. Mark would also tag along with his dad, brothers, and grandpa on pheasant hunting trips to central Kansas practically since he was able to walk. Even though he wasn’t old enough to carry a shotgun when he started going on these hunting trips, he loved being outdoors, walking the fields, and observing wildlife. The thrill of a pheasant or covey of quail flushing unexpectedly from under his feet was what really hooked him on hunting.
As Mark got into high school and college, he broadened his hunting interests and started pursuing ducks, whitetail deer, and turkey. He attended Kansas State University, where he volunteered with a conservation organization for the first time, the collegiate chapter of DU. Shortly after college he took a job opportunity that moved him out west to Montana, and then to California. That is where his passion for public lands and access was really ignited. He and his now wife, Heather, spent countless weekends camping, hiking, and fishing on our great public lands during their time out west. “At that time, public lands were somewhat of a foreign concept to me being from Kansas. Once I learned about the endless opportunities they could offer, my eyes were opened to a whole new world of recreation.”
Mark now lives in Minnesota, but still gets out west at least once a year for various hunts. He also has bird dogs, which he loves to follow and watch work in the field even if shot opportunities are scarce some days. Upon moving to Minnesota, Mark immediately contacted the Minnesota Chapter of BHA to get more involved in an organization that matched his passion for public lands. Over the last several years, Mark has stayed involved in BHA to ensure the same opportunities he has now are still available to future generations.
Greg Kvale, Board of Directors
Greg grew up in an outdoor family in southern Minnesota. His father introduced him to the outdoors when he was very young with trips to the BWCAW and other public lands and waters. When not, outdoors his favorite place is in the kitchen.
A combat wounded Vietnam era veteran Greg dedicated his professional career to natural resource protection and management as a forester and real estate specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. After retirement Greg started an appraisal business and worked with the DNR, The Nature Conservancy, DU, PF, Trust for Public Land and other conservation organization in acquiring and protecting over 10,000 acres of public land and 15 miles of shoreline.
Greg is a co-founder of Anglers for Habitat, and a co-founder and instructor for the Minnesota Waterfowl Associations Woody Camp for youth for over 25 years. A board member and local leader of many conservation organizations Greg has been involved in conservation issues both on a local, state and national level for decades.
Charlie Brandt, Board of Directors
Charlie had a classic outdoors upbringing, where my whole family hunted and fished to some degree. Walleye and deer openers were holiday events, and we’ve consumed our share of fish & wild game. Over time…families changed, cabins got sold and old hunting pals became beloved memories. Fresh out of high school, he fell into a job selling fishing boats and worked full-time thru a 2yr. business management degree. It turned into a career of sorts. The fishing boat business keeps him in touch with his kind of people, with the added perk of down time in the fall.
Loss of private access drove Charlie to a public-land hunting obsession for whitetail, elk, antelope, mule deer, etc. He’s a long-time bass tournament angler and fishing adventure seeker. Those like him who grew up hunting and fishing often take our resources for granted, and he’s trying to help change that. Charlie lives in Elk River with my partner in crime since high school, Rachelle and they continue to fish, hunt, cook & soak up the outdoors.
Mike Verhoeven, Board of Directors
Mike is an avid outdoorsperson, and jumps at any opportunity to get outside. He works as a lake biologist, and is currently conducting research on aquatic plants at the University of Minnesota. Over time, his interests have begun to focus on introducing others to the outdoors and advocating for public policy that favors good stewardship and conservation of natural resources; these interests drew him to get involved with BHA.
He grew up in New Prague, about an hour SW of the Twin Cities. As a kid he spent his time after school hunting, fishing, and trapping. Under the mentorship of two grandfathers with a passion for hunting, he had opportunities to hunt elk in Colorado, black bears in northern Minnesota, and ducks in southern Minnesota from a young age. His adventurous mother showed him the wonders of the Superior National forest via canoe. Mike and his wife, Kristin, live in St. Paul now and enjoy getting out at every opportunity to explore and harvest the bountiful outdoor resources that Minnesotans enjoy.