Chapter Chair: Joey Bell, Nashville, TN.
Joey Bell grew up on a farm in middle Tennessee. It was during his life there, he learned the value of hard work, respect for animals, and how to be a steward of the land by tending crops and maintaining habitat for wildlife.
His love for public lands was cultivated in the Duck River where he spent many days catching catfish and smallmouth bass as well as the occasional duck hunt in the winter. With a passion for the outdoors and preservation of our wildlife, he joined BHA immediately after hearing about their mission to protect our public lands. He knew he wanted to become involved and quickly volunteered for leadership roles within the Southeast Chapter."
Co-Vice Chair: Gerald Cook, Nashville, TN
Gerald Cook took his first week-long backcountry trip when he was 6 years old, paddling & portaging the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with his dad. Since that time he’s spent many a night in backcountry camps around the country hiking, hunting or fishing. He’s fished “Bucket List” states and rivers, hunted waterfowl in 3 of the 4 flyways, followed his bird dog on upland hunts and hiked over 3 different continental divides in North America. Although he resides in Tennessee he has contributed conservation dollars to 12 different states (and counting) through licensing. Next on the list: a cast & blast return trip to Alaska.
Gerald’s passion for Public Land began in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and he fuels that passion often with return trips. He fights passionately for clean water, access, and conservation.
Treasurer: Kurt Holmes, Nashville, TN
I grew up hunting, fishing and exploring our public lands and waters in West TN. It is that time that nurtured my deep appreciation and love for the natural world. I joined BHA because I wanted to be involved with an organization that would work to protect our wild places.
Jonathon Simerly, Roan Mountain, TN
I grew up on a small farm in the Appalachian Mountains, tucked in the Northeast corner of Tennessee. It was those mountains that molded my curiosity and passion for the outdoors. At an early age I took to the woods looking for any excuse not to be inside. Squirrel and rabbit hunting, catching salamanders in the nearby streams and branches, and cutting trails would account for the majority of my childhood.
As an adult I pursued a career in the outdoors, a career that would take me all over the nation suppressing wildfires. It was while working on the fire crew that I was able to experience many of the different landscapes and wildlife our public lands had to offer.Through that career and those experiences my knowledge of land and wildlife management grew. The way of life I experienced is the reason I joined BHA. Being from Northeast Tennessee I am blessed with an abundance of public land. I couldn’t imagine these wild places not existing for my daughters and future generations, and that is why I fight for public lands.
Harold Elie, Nashville, TN
Born & raised in Jasper County, Illinois, Harold Elie grew up hunting quail, dove, squirrel, rabbit, deer, and turkey in the Embarras River Bottoms, a small tributary river that received its name from early French explorers who found themselves “embarrassed” by the winding river & all of the obstacles that it presented. Along with hunting the agriculture-lined river bottom grounds, Harold’s family also found state parks that provided public hunting to be a great resource. Some of Harold’s first hunts took place on public land in Illinois, and unlike a majority of the community who would turn their nose to the idea of hunting public grounds, Harold’s family embraced the opportunity.
Harold currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee, working in the music industry and hunting public land full time. Land poor, and with week days as his weekends, Harold finds himself utilizing public land now more than ever and has continued to fill his freezer from hunting local public grounds. Not long after its inception, Harold joined Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, encouraged to see a lobbying organization fight for our country’s public & wild places. Feeling compelled to give back to the land that has given so much, Harold joined the local Tennessee Chapter and is now on the board serving as the Vice Chair of Events. Whether it be a pint night, storyteller, or wild game dinner, Harold is looking to build a community for public land hunters to enjoy what they’re working hard to protect & to show the general public that we are stewards of these public lands.
I was raised in southern California by a father who was raised in the mid-west hunting and fishing. We hunted birds in the desert, fished in reservoirs, and occasionally would throw a hook into the Pacific. When I was a teen my family moved to southern Indiana where squirrel and whitetail were the focus of fall. I now live in east Tennessee where we own thousands of public acres for everyone to enjoy. Let's keep those public lands in public hands!
I grew up in Southeastern Illinois. My mom started my love for the outdoors early in life, taking me and my younger brother out mushroom hunting and fishing. I spent all my free time playing outside or playing sports. In college I majored in Conservation Law and Homeland Security, with plans to focus my passion on protecting our resources.
No one in my family hunted, along the way I had a couple older mentors that guided me. Most of my hunting success came from trial and error. Due to that I have always tried to help others learn about the outdoors. I have volunteered as a Hunter Education instructor, 4H rifle instructor, conservation camp counselor, among others. I was dawn to BHA for the opportunities they presented to be a steward for the environment and ensure that generations beyond me can have access to experience the outdoors. BHA offers a platform from which we can educate and introduce first timers to unlimited resources our public lands have to offer.
I grew up in Tennessee and spent most of my time hunting and fishing the areas around Kentucky Lake. My father worked for TWRA so I became interested in working with wildlife at a young age. I graduated in 2012 from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville with a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management. I went on to work all throughout the Southeast for multiple organizations. I worked at federal hatcheries raising fish to be stocked in public waters. Also, I worked on multiple WMAs performing species inventories, timber stand improvements, and collecting forage data. I currently work as a Terrestrial Zoologist which requires me to evaluate impacts to Threatened and Endangered species throughout portions of 7 states. One of my main focuses in my current position is evaluating impacts to bat species.
Though I grew up hunting private land, I haven’t always been stationed close enough to make use of it. However, almost every town I’ve landed in for work had public land close by. BHA is the first organization I’ve encountered specifically focused on keeping public land in public hands. Without public land, many people would have limited or no access to hunting. Not only is that a depressing thought for those people, it also means less money is coming in to fund conservation. Because of this I see BHA as not only a conservation group of the everyday hunter, but also a supporter of wildlife conservation starting at the grassroots level. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?
Growing up the Appalachian Mountains I didn’t understand or fully appreciate the public lands and waters I grew up hunting and fishing. As a Veteran, I have seen firsthand the healing effects of recreating on our public lands for myself and other Veterans. It is my hope that we can preserve these wild places for future generations
Raised in Michigan for 25 years until I joined the Army in 2011 and was stationed at Fort Campbell, KY. After the Army in 2014 I started school at MTSU graduating in 2016. Since college, I have been serving in the reserves as an instructor. I currently live in Nashville and spend my free time fishing, hunting, and Mountain Biking.
Growing up in east Tennessee, I enjoyed hunting and fishing from an early age. These experiences instilled a lasting passion, and deep respect for the outdoors that served as a natural path to a career as a scientist and engineer working with rivers. Through my outdoor pursuits and work with rivers, I became aware not only of the many benefits, but the need to preserve natural places and their ecosystems. Getting involved with BHA has allowed me to contribute to land and water conservation and public land protection. Living in multiple states across the nation for a few years has enabled me to experience the diverse hunting and fishing opportunities our nation’s landscape has to offer, but my love for the region has led me back to east Tennessee where I continue to enjoy the abundant public lands of my home state.
Xavier lives in west Tennessee with his wife and two daughters where he is a land manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He has been with them for approx. 10 years. He has worked in many areas in land management including fire, law enforcement, refuge management, biology, and public use, and worked with everything from waterfowl to large game species. When He is not working with wildlife Xavier enjoys getting out in the woods and chasing game alone, with friends, but more importantly his daughters and wife. He also enjoys trapping, fishing, backpacking, and anything outdoors related.
Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and growing up in Richmond, Virginia, Wil Sterchi admittedly did not spend a lot of time in the outdoors. There was the occasional family camping trip or fishing out of stocked ponds in the suburbs with his high school buddies, but that was about it. In fact, he grew up without a firearm in his family’s home and didn’t shoot his first gun until he was in graduate school. Even then, Wil’s passion and excitement for the outdoors never really came about until his mid-20s. He was working in the NASCAR industry and residing near Lake Norman in North Carolina, when he finally decided to drive to a nearby private hunting preserve and started asking questions to the owner about how to get into upland hunting. The property owner took it upon himself to have Wil out to the property one day, they put out some Bobwhite Quail (yes, they were planted), and the owner personally showed him the different breeds of bird dogs that he owned, and how each one of them worked. After his first time ever bird hunting (even if it was on a preserve), experiencing the different bird dogs work, and taking a few birds that day, Wil was diagnosed with Adult Onset Hunting.
After this initial experience, Wil’s drive and passion for learning more about conservation, public lands, indicator species, and anything that involves conserving habitat, especially for wild birds, only grew.
Wil currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee and works in the pharmaceutical industry. As a new member of the Tennessee Chapter of BHA, Wil aims to be an influential part of this growing BHA community and desires to be a resource to those who want to give the outdoors a try, even if they don’t know where to start.
Born and raised in California to non sporting parents, David only took up hunting and fishing after moving to Louisiana where he developed a deep appreciation for the natural world and his opportunity to spend time in it. Primarily a self taught sportsman, David particularly enjoys small game hunting and sight fishing for redfish. He enjoys cooking for friends, camping, kayaking, and hiking with his family. As membership chair David is responsible for operating as a conduit for BHA membership to the board and HQ as well as, establishing process that support and engage the membership of BHA Tennessee.
Matt Baggett, Chapter Secretary: Brentwood, TN
Matt grew up in Middle Tennessee and is a lifelong Tennessean with roots here that go back to right after the Revolutionary War. He grew up fishing on Kentucky Lake which he would not have identified as “public land” at that time. Taking Hunters Ed in PE class during 7th grade made a huge impression on him and he was bitten with a deep desire to hunt. He rapidly got into bird hunting, deer hunting, and goose hunting. Most of that early hunting was done on private ground. Attending college in East TN he explored the rugged mountains while mostly backpacking and his love of the wild public lands grew. While in college he moved to the Tetons one summer and he got his first real taste of what has been preserved for us all in our public land inheritance.. Something about the scale of the mountains and sky zapped his brain. He loved these wild places. Only in the last few years did he come to understand the precarious nature of the future of our wild public lands. He discovered the mission of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and immediately raised his hand to volunteer. He wants his family and children to have the same options for discovery in the wild as he had. Once these places are gone--they aren’t coming back and deserve our best efforts to protect them.
I grew up in the Midwest, where public lands were always a welcome respite from suburban living. My fondest childhood memories are of fishing for northern pike and musky in the remote parts of the North Woods of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario. My lifelong love for the outdoors led me to seek more ways to get in tune with it, which is how I became an adult onset hunter. Moving to Tennessee was a blessing that opened up opportunities unavailable in public-land poor Northern Illinois and Indiana.