Joe Steffen, Chair
Joe grew up in the small Central Wisconsin town of Plover and started hunting whitetails in Northern Wisconsin at a young age. His father introduced him to the vast public acreage that Iron County WI had to offer and for over a decade they pursued whitetails . During High School he never had a problem finding any excuse to get outdoors and even managed to be accepted into a school sponsored program that allowed him to whitewater canoe through many of the major Wisconsin waterways for a summer.
After high school he attended College where he received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice and his Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and Public Administration and is currently pursuing his Masters Degree. Joe currently works as the Deputy Director for a College Public Safety Department and works part time as a Police Officer and for the Police Academy.
Joe is an avid sportsman. When he is not working, you will likely find him in the field chasing Deer and Turkeys around Wisconsin and at least once a year a trip out west to chasing some sort of critter. During the summer, you can find Joe around a campfire, canoeing, kayaking and trying to catch dinner in the Boundary Waters and the Wisconsin River. Joe enjoys visiting his fellow Midwesterners in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan several times a year. Joe’s wife, Megan and their black labs, Buddy Lee and Amigo, will often join in on the adventures.
Since 2016 Joe has previously served as a board member and Treasurer for the Wisconsin BHA Chapter. In addition Joe has been a lead Hunter Safety instructor for the Wisconsin DNR for the last 5 years and volunteers his time for the Learn to Hunt program through the Wisconsin DNR R3 mentor programs. He is passionate about keeping people involved in hunting and fishing and ensuring public land access for generations to come.
Alec Bekkers, Vice Chair
Alec has lived in the Milwaukee area since his freshman year of college and over the years has quickly become an “adoptive” Wisconsinite. Spending much of his upbringing moving between Texas, Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, and even a few countries in Europe, Alec has since grown roots in the Milwaukee area and immersed himself into the broader Wisconsin lifestyle. While growing up without any exposure to hunting and angling, Alec discovered his life’s passion for the outdoors during his adult life and has spent the past 7 years learning, exploring, and growing as an adult-onset hunter.
Beginning his Wisconsin life with college at Marquette University, and later a Master’s Degree, Alec has worked in a number of local positions within GE (General Electric) and now works with the GE Healthcare business unit. During work hours you can find Alec enthusiastically engaging with GE Healthcare teams all across the globe around his career passion of Operations & Supply Chain Management.
Outside of work, Alec is doing his best to convince his girlfriend and their 2 Labrador Retrievers to find any and every outdoor activity to engage in – whether it be hunting, fishing, bird dog training, hiking, camping, or the preferred pursuit of any “true outdoorsman”… downhill skiing (much to the chagrin of the Meateater Podcast). While continuing to build his acumen & expertise around Wisconsin-based hunting & angling, Alec has also expanded his pursuit to experience hunting cultures all across the US – elk in Utah, redfish in the Carolinas, sage grouse in Wyoming, elk & bear in Idaho… and many more to come.
As a new member to the board, Alec hopes to channel his passion for the outdoors into the Milwaukee area and drive engagement with urban & suburban BHA members to get out there and explore the beautiful public lands & waters that Wisconsin has to offer, and furthermore to aid in BHA’s mission of supporting, maintaining, conserving, and enabling public access to the natural spaces that we love and adore.
Dan McElroy, Treasurer
Dan has been a fisherman since he was big enough to hold onto a Zebco. Ranging from small creeks and retention ponds of the suburbs where he grew up, to catching crabs on turkey necks at his grandparent’s home in Florida, or pursuing trout and salmon on the streams and rivers of the mountain west and Alaska, fishing has always been in his blood. His college years were spent fishing Lake Michigan tributaries and obtaining a business degree and environmental studies minor at Valparaiso, and then on to an MBA at the University of Illinois. Dan works as an accounting manager at a marketing firm when he is not chasing walleye, trout, and bass in northern Wisconsin.
As an “adult onset hunter”, Dan has spent the last 10+ years hunting whitetail in Wisconsin during both bow and gun seasons, and ventured west to chase mule deer for the first time this year with his wife Jen, and is looking forward to making a western trip an annual tradition.
In addition to hunting and fishing, Dan continues to enjoy a variety of other outdoor activities across our amazing public lands like hiking, camping, kayaking, and fat biking trails be they in Wisconsin or abroad.
Gary VandenLangenberg, Secretary
Gary was born and raised in Green Bay, WI and resides there with his wife Jenny and children Lily, Robin, Forest, and Lake. Gary’s father took him hunting, fishing, and camping at a young age and instilled in him a love for the outdoors and wild places.
After high school Gary attended Fox Valley Tech College and earned an Associates Degree in Natural Resources. Difficulty finding work in his field of study led him to the construction industry where he worked as a carpenter for 14 years, followed by his current Project Management role for the past 12 years. However, passion for the outdoors has always remained a central focus in his pastimes.
Gary enjoys building and hunting with his own homemade traditional archery equipment, crafting recurve and longbows, cedar arrows, and bowstrings in his small basement workshop. Nearly every year, you can count on him obsessively planning a public land hunting trip to the Western US. He also enjoys gun deer camp in Pembine WI, open water and ice fishing, as well as camping and traveling with his family. Waterfowl hunting is a new interest for him, sparked by his son’s drive to hunt and cook waterfowl and other wild game.
Gary is passionate about protecting hunting and fishing opportunities and access for all people. He believes that America’s greatest treasures are its public lands and waters, and enjoyment of these natural places should not be limited to a select few, but instead should be a right guaranteed to everyone.
William Koepke, Board of Directors
William grew up in North central Wisconsin running beagles with his dad, bear hounds with his godfather, and butchering deer with his Nana. An interest and love for the outdoors was seeded early, and fully developed in college.
William graduated from University of Wisconsin Stevens Point with a degree in Sports Medicine. The Stevens Point area has access to public land and water, which has a way of keeping people in the area. William and his partner Marissa live in the Stevens Point area with their two dogs. You can find them recreating on land or water in much of their free time.
William hunts everything Wisconsin has to offer, but will spend a majority of the fall chasing birds and small game with his English springer spaniel Jango. William found an interest in upland hunting after finding a copy of Mark Parman’s “A Grouse Hunter’s Almanac” from a local bookstore that was closing. After a long hiatus from hunting and hunting dogs, Parman’s book reinvigorated a love for working dogs and chasing game. It was after reading “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer one archery season that William was drawn to becoming more involved with the natural world, public land, water access, and volunteerism. Within BHA William looks to connect more public land user groups, help strengthen the non-hunting perception of hunting, and safeguard Wisconsin public natural resources through helping produce a chapter podcast and newsletter.
“Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.” - Robin Wall Kimmerer.
Ben Plass, Board of Directors
Ben has been a resident of the Appleton area since he was born. He’s a self-proclaimed generalist outdoorsman, who is happy any time he can be outside with a bow, shotgun, fishing rod, or rifle in search of a meal and some memories. He does most of his recreation outdoors in the Fox Valley and surrounding areas, as well as the Driftless region and the North Woods. Ben has enjoyed a few Western adventures chasing elk with his bow on public land in Idaho and Colorado, and plans on many more trips to the mountains.
Ben obtained his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon. A pharmacist by trade, Ben enjoys learning new things and looks forward to his days off outside with family and friends, and always spends several vacation days each year in search of ducks, deer, elk, pheasant, or whatever fish are biting.
He cut his teeth in political advocacy while in pharmacy school, meeting with legislators in Madison and Washington, D.C. to discuss legislative issues in healthcare and pharmaceuticals. He has been a BHA member since 2014, and has served on the Wi BHA policy committee since early 2020. Ben is a proud husband to Kimberly, and father to Theodore, Charlotte, and William. He hopes to continue to share his passion for nature with his children well into the future.
Ben is looking forward to serving as the Policy Chair and help in supporting BHA’s mission to ensure North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters.
Miles Thompson, Board of Directors
Miles grew up in the small town of Plymouth, WI where he was able to spend most days of his childhood haunting the local rivers and streams for Smallmouth and Trout. Other interests would divert his attention through high school, and he eventually left WI for college. He earned an A.S. in Business Management from Berkeley College in New York…where of all places, on the NYC drinking water reservoirs, he was reconnected with the joys of solitude and reflection so easily found with a rod in hand.
He went on to earn a B.S. in Fisheries Biology from Kansas State University, where he was introduced to bird dog training and bird hunting (by running into a group out training dogs on public land, while he was trying to fish). This new passion helped steer him to Arkansas for graduate work, where there are some of the largest, and arguably the best, tracts of public land available for waterfowl hunting…especially flooded timber. He earned a M.S. in Aquaculture & Fisheries and was lucky enough to land a job back in his hometown managing lakes and ponds (and haunting his old familiar streams once again). He is currently the Ecologist and GIS manager for a private botanical garden in Sheboygan, WI.
With his wife and growing family, he enjoys exploring WI public lands while camping, canoeing, and hiking. Whether it’s just down the road or up in the vast WI Northwoods, he can be found outdoors, actively instilling the ethic of conservation and a reverence for wild, natural places in the next generation.
Dean Elbe, Board of Directors
Dean lived all over the world while growing up, England, Spain, and Guam were just a few of the places he lived. It is growing up in places that did not have public lands or waters that he grew to know how important public lands are and what a privilege they are.
He ventures out west when he draws the tags that allow him to do so, an avid fly fisherman and whitetail hunter. He does his best to stay in shape by competing and training for Train to Hunt and Beast Mode Archery events.
He is very proud of his son Matt and Wife Connie and does his best to spend quality time with them enjoying the great outdoors and all it has to offer.
Paul Schecklman, Board of Directors
Paul grew up in central Wisconsin where he spent much of his time outdoors with his family. Whenever there was free time, he would travel with his family to their northern Wisconsin cabin which is now his family’s home. Paul grew up working on a neighbor’s horse ranch, learning the importance of working the land. His family was extremely steadfast in conservation, never taking from the land without giving back to it and appreciating the vast natural resources of Wisconsin. Paul is an avid whitetail hunter but challenges himself by pursuing all wild game in wild places. You will find him fishing for anything that is biting on open water and frozen lakes. He enjoys managing land to create diverse and healthy wildlife habitats.
Paul works as a fire-medic, having worked in La Crosse, Eau Claire, and Madison. One thing remained constant, accessible public land to explore and pursue wild game. Paul has a degree from UW Oshkosh and is completing his Masters at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service. He and his wife Chelsea have two dogs and enjoy traveling with their camper van and mountain bikes. Paul is a passionate defender of Wisconsin’s public lands and hopes to bring more people into outdoor adventures while growing BHA’s involvement and causes throughout the state. He believes that humans belong in nature and deserve access to what our nation’s landscape has to offer.
Brock Rosenkranz, Board of Directors
Brock is a lifelong resident of Richland Center, settled in the heart of the Driftless Region. Growing up with a conservation driven biology teacher as a father, his appreciation for the outdoors and its beauty was fostered from a young age. Trout fishing was his first passion, as he learned to fish out of lunker structures in front of RCHS that were part of a project his dad initiated. Brock also had great mentors that introduced him to turkey, duck, and deer hunting in his youth, learning and creating memories that stick with him to this day.
Graduating from UW-Platteville with majors in Construction Management and Occupational Safety, he decided to become a carpenter himself. He is currently self-employed, building custom houses and post frame buildings with his lifelong friend and hunting buddy. Brock spends the majority of his free time outdoors, usually participating in whatever season is open, though trout fishing, turkey and deer hunting are his main passions. Recently he has also gotten bitten by the rabbit, squirrel and musky bugs.
He has served on the Wisconsin Conservation Congress since 2016 as a delegate in Richland County, spending time on a number of sub-committees including the trout, turkey and upland game, and outreach committees. Serving on the congress has strengthened his love and passion to protect the outdoors.
Recently, Brock has been able to assist in a number of different Learn to Hunt/Fish events and has fallen in love with sharing the majesty of the outdoors with new and returning outdoorsmen, women and children. Even though he was brought up in a fishing, outdoor loving family, he had several mentors and family friends that helped develop his love for all things outdoors. That is what has fueled his passion to retain, reactivate, and recruit folks of all ages.
Steve Kopp, Board of Directors
Steve was born and raised in La Crosse, where memories of first casts were made, and oversized blaze orange coats were worn, and where he still live today. Growing up in God’s Country truly gave him a love for the outdoors, that has been a part of many fond memories to last a lifetime.
Steve graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in German and a Political Science background. After graduation, he moved to Chicago, which only made him long for the great beauty of the Coulee Region, and eventually moved back. After coming back home (and reading a well lovedcopy of A Sand County Almanac), a passion for hunting, fishing, and public lands was reignited and kicked into overdrive. He currently work as the IT Officer at Bluff View Bank, and is a Blackhawk pilot in the National Guard. When he’s not busy working or flying, Steve enjoys checking traps, hunting deer, small game, upland birds and waterfowl, cooking wild game, and enjoying time with his dogs Bascom and Leo.
He looks forward to being on the board, becoming a mentor for new hunters, and spreading a love for our great natural resources we are blessed with in Wisconsin.
Matthew Reel, Board of Directors
Matthew resides in South Central Wisconsin with his wife and two children. Matthew grew up in South Central Wisconsin with a passion for the outdoors. Matthew is an avid bowhunter, fisherman, and outdoor enthusiast. He enjoys camping with his family throughout the state’s beautiful State Parks during the summer months. When fall arrives Matthew will be found chasing elk or deer with his bow, throughout the vast western public lands or paddling a canoe through the BWCA.
Matthew is a graduate of Winona State University (MN), where he attended on scholarship. He was a recieved first-team all conference alloladates as a captain of the golf team as well as a BS degree in Business / Marketing. He pursued his golf talents in California for a number of years before returning to work as a PGA Golf Professional back in his home state of Wisconsin.
Matthew works with a variety of organizations using his talents to teach, mentor, and fundraise for worthy causes. Beyond his involvement with BHA, Matthew is actively involved in PGA, RMEF, NWTF, and his local conservation clubs youth programming.
Matthew is looking forward to serving the BHA Board of Directors, and helping bring new energy and excitement to the Events and Fundraising Committee.
Tom Olson, Board of Directors
Tom is a lifelong resident of southern Wisconsin. He grew up in Oconomowoc and enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school. After his enlistment, Tom bounced between colleges finally ending up at UW-Madison where he finished a degree in pharmacy. He currently lives in Madison where he works as a pharmacy consultant for the state Medicaid program.
Tom spends as much of his free time as possible hunting and fishing on public lands and waters around the state. In addition to hunting and fishing, Tom enjoys backpacking, mountain biking, canoeing and camping. His favorite public land adventures occur on his yearly ventures to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quetico Provincial Park. Tom is purchasing his first bird dog in the coming months and is looking forward to chasing upland birds in Wisconsin and beyond. Tom is excited to join the Wisconsin BHA Board and hopes to encourage all people to enjoy and protect our public lands and waters.
Erika Gonzalez, Board of Directors
Erika was born into an angling family. She mastered her casting technique by casting into a hula-hoop in the driveway, from her grandfather’s parked boat. By the age of 12, Lake perch and Largemouth Bass feared her. Although she grew up in flatlands to the south, she decided to settle in the majestic woodlands of Wisconsin. She splits her time between Washington Island, and Madison, where she lives with her dog Olive.
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, with an interdisciplinary BS degree in pre-law and conservation of natural resources, she aimed to be a conservation warden but didn’t quite make the cut. She later pursued master’s degree work at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, in Environmental Sociology, where during her thesis research on hunters and conservation, she discovered...Turkey Hunting. A small obsession was born. Recently, she finally took a deep dive into bowhunting, and fell in love.
A long, grueling career in the brewing industry, led her on a circuitous path to the biotechnology industry, where she is now a fermentation scientist. She is also currently a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin - LaCrosse, focusing on industrial microbiology and mycology.
Throughout her professional and academic careers, Erika has always found a way to get out in the woods to fish, hunt or forage. In 2022, she completed the Wisconsin Master Naturalist program, intending to use this knowledge to teach others, instilling in them a love for the natural world, and most importantly apply it to conservation work. Erika can also be found on Substack, where she writes about her outdoor work, and adventures at Semi-Wild; Moderately Urban.