Colorado BHA Winter Newsletter

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Colorado Chapter Newsletter Winter 2022

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” – Gary Snyder[1]

Recently, I found myself in a vegetarian restaurant in New York City, having dinner with a group of co-workers. A number of them are vegetarian or vegan. None of them had ever been hunting. Talk turned to my own recent hunts, and from there to the importance of knowing where one’s food comes from and even more pedestrian details about processing an animal from “field to table.” My co-workers were interested, thoughtful, and engaged throughout.

I doubt anyone at that dinner will take up hunting or fishing, but I hope they came away with a more informed and positive view of those activities. And, just maybe, if a problematic ballot initiative or piece of legislation comes up, they’ll consider how it might impact public lands and wildlife in a new light.

It was a reminder that, whether we like it or not, we are all ambassadors for the pursuits we cherish. That means holding ourselves to the highest ethical standards in the field, even when—especially when—no one else is watching (to paraphrase Leopold). And it means sharing with others why we do we what we do: for solitude, sustenance, camaraderie, a connection to the wild, and all the other reasons we choose to wake before dawn and head for the hills. As many of us gather with friends and family this holiday season, if you find yourself among non-hunters consider how you might change their perceptions for the better.

Wishing you and yours happy holidays and a bountiful new year!

Derek Pankratz


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Colorado Policy Updates

Weigh in now to protect the Thompson Divide

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has been working for years to secure greater certainty for Colorado’s Thompson Divide and the quality hunting and fishing experiences it provides. Now we need your help to secure a 20-year mineral withdrawal that will provide more time to secure permanent protection through the CORE Act.

With its bounty of fish and wildlife habitat and rangelands supporting local communities, the Thompson Divide area remains critically important to local ranchers, hunters, and anglers in Colorado. The three primary game management units that span the Thompson Divide are among the most desirable to elk and mule deer hunters in the state. The largely roadless area serves as year-round habitat for those and other wildlife species, and notably supports more than 34,000 acres of elk migration corridors.

The Thompson Divide is also a coldwater fisheries standout and contains several populations of Colorado River cutthroat trout, considered critical to the recovery and maintenance of the species in its native range.

Some places are appropriate for energy development and the Thompson Divide simply is not one of them. Local stakeholders have worked diligently to propose a management model that retains important uses like ranching, hunting, and fishing. Click here to take action now and tell BLM that you support this approach and this proposed 20-year mineral withdrawal.

Camp Hale earns National Monument status

In October President Biden visited Colorado and designated Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, providing long overdue recognition for the site where soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division trained during World War II.

BHA applauded this first use of the Antiquities Act during President Biden’s tenure, noting that “Valuable wildlife habitat in central Colorado will be permanently conserved following [the] designation…encompassing more than 10,000 acres of critical winter range for elk as well as mule deer habitat, migration corridors, and headwaters fisheries.”

Hunting and fishing conservation groups had pushed for the monument designation, which was previously included in a conservation bill known as Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE Act. The House of Representatives has passed the bill five times, but it has so far been stymied in the Senate.

You can read more about the history and importance of Camp Hale here.


Chapter News

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Public Lands Day stewardship recap

In partnership with Colorado Parks & Wildlife, BHA Habitat Stewardship Coordinator Brittany Parker and volunteers removed almost two miles of fencing in the rugged piñon juniper forests of Meeker, CO during National Public Lands Day weekend (Sept. 24-25).

While removing woven wire fence from the top of a ridge, two hunters out glassing approached us to share with us what they have seen while hunting this area. They told us over the many years they'd been coming to this spot they’d encountered multiple elk calves tangled up in the exact fence we were removing. They praised us for our hard work, expressed their gratitude, and continued in their pursuit to fill their archery tags. This story gave the group the resolve to not leave until they’d completely removed that particular section of fencing. It's anecdotes like these that continue to fill our tanks and put that much more purpose behind our work. Staff and volunteers walked away from the project proud to have improved habitat permeability in such an important area for our big game herds. 

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Big Springs State Trust Land project improves pronghorn habitat

Big Springs State Trust Land provides approximately 10,000 acres available for hunting near Colorado Springs, and is known for its year-round herds of pronghorn antelope. Unfortunately, the property contains miles of woven-wire fencing, which is particularly problematic for antelope given their well-documented preference for slinking under—rather than jumping over—fences. Working collaboratively with Colorado Parks & Wildlife, BHA volunteers helped to replace woven fencing with wildlife-friendly alternatives. Future workdays will continue to replace woven fencing on this property, with the goal of ultimately replacing all of the roughly seven miles that exist.

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Workshops demystify the hunt

Many people are curious about hunting, but without support getting afield with confidence can be daunting. With the help of partner organizations and BHA chapters, the Hunting for Sustainability workshops aim to address barriers to entry and the missing link of community. Workshops are all-inclusive and include sessions on hunting ethics, regulations, public land access, field dressing, butchering, cooking, and advocacy.

In Colorado, 12 participants recently attended a workshop hosted by Timber to Table [link: https://timbertotableguideservice.com/] focused on Western big game hunting. This workshop featured a unique focus on field dressing and butchering from Timber to Table's Ana Kampe. Ana got her master’s degree in sustainable farming and food systems before starting Timber to Table with Adam Gall, so she was able to emphasize the important connection between hunting and local, sustainable food systems.

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Women in the Woods Elk Hunt

Women in the Woods Elk Camp was back again for its annual hunt. Six participants and two hunting mentors spent a cold weekend in the mountains of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains learning some of the tricks of Western big game hunting. Elk and deer were plentiful, though none in the right place at the right time—another integral part of Western hunting. Spirits were still high and participants were able to attend a field dressing and butchering clinic thanks to our partners at Colorado Parks & Wildlife. As the Women in the Woods community grows we continue to look for volunteers and participants to make these events possible. We can't wait to see what 2023 has to offer! 

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Colorado + Montana + Idaho + Wyoming = Public waters fishing fun

Each year, Colorado BHA member Brad Nicol donates a fly fishing trip on Wyoming’s North Platte River to be given away at BHA’s North American Rendezvous, held last May in Missoula, Montana. This year’s winners were Kirk and Sara Adams of Boise.

In early October the pair were able to come to Wyoming. Kirk had previous fishing experience, but Sara was quite new. She proved a quick learner, however, and was soon catching fish. Near the end of their second day on the river she landed a 22” rainbow!

Brad reflected on the experience, noting that, “Being able to spend time on the water, especially my favorite stretch of public water, with people who share the same enthusiasm for our public lands and waters is a gift.”

For a chance to win trips like these, and have a ton of fun with like-minded outdoorspeople, be sure to grab your tickets for BHA’s 2023 Rendezvous, which will take place March 16-18 in Missoula, MT. 

Upcoming Events

We have a special event planned for Colorado Public Lands Day (May 20, 2023) in Gunnison. More details to come, but this is one you won’t want to miss!

And if you don’t get enough of the beautiful Gunnison Country in May, come out to the 2023 Colorado BHA Rendezvous, June 9-11, 2023 at the Soap Creek Corral/Coal Mesa Horse Camp just west of Gunnison off Hwy 50. Stay tuned for more information.

For an up-to-date list of all upcoming events, including pint nights and stewardship opportunities, see: https://www.backcountryhunters.org/co_upcoming_events.

In case you missed it

BHA garnered national media attention for its advocacy of Colorado stream access and its perspective on the controversial and complex corner crossing issue in Wyoming:

And if you’re looking for a good listen, Colorado BHA’s own co-chair Don Holmstrom (ep. 99) and chapter coordinator Brien Webster (ep. 104) were recently featured on the Seek Outside podcast. Access the episodes via Seek Outside [link: https://seekoutside.com/so-podcast/] or wherever you get your podcasts.

[1] Snyder, G. (2020). The Practice of the Wild. Counterpoint.

About Derek Pankratz

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