Since forming in April 2018, the North Dakota chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers has grown from about 60 members to nearly 450 outdoors enthusiasts across the state.
That’s quite a leap for the chapter, which, like its parent organization, is dedicated to promoting and protecting public lands across the country.
This coming weekend, the chapter will host its second annual North Dakota Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Rendezvous. The festivities get underway Friday afternoon, Aug. 9, and will continue through Sunday morning, Aug. 11, at Sully Creek Campground just 2½ miles south of Medora, N.D.
Anyone with an interest in the outdoors and public lands is welcome to attend, said Brock Wahl, chairman of the North Dakota BHA chapter.
For people who live in the Red River Valley and elsewhere in the eastern part of the state, the upcoming rendezvous sounds like the perfect reason to head west to the Badlands for a few days. The more the merrier.
“The nature of this for us is we’re a young organization. We’re just over a year old, so part of what we’re trying to do is establish some consistency with our events,” Wahl said. “This event is what we are trying to make into our big event for the year in terms of fun and involvement.”
Events on tap Saturday include a morning hike from 7 to 9 a.m. MDT on the Maah Daah Hey Trail, a Backcountry Cook-off that afternoon and a BHA Pint Night at 7 p.m. at Boots Bar and Grill in Medora.
There also will be raffles and other activities.
Last year, the BHA chapter partnered with the Roughrider Archers in Dickinson to hold the rendezvous in conjunction with the archery club’s Badlands Classic archery shoot, Wahl said. A scheduling conflict prevented that from happening this year, but the BHA board decided to hold the rendezvous anyway and hopes to renew the partnership with the archery club next year, he said.
The growth of North Dakota’s BHA chapter mirrors the national trend for the organization. The organization passed its 2018 goal of 30,000 members and is aiming to reach 50,000 members this year, Wahl said.
He attributes the growth to the broad spectrum of outdoors and public lands users the organization covers.
“If you were to compare us to, for example, the Mule Deer Foundation or the Wild Sheep Foundation, a lot of those organizations are for a specific animal, both private and public land, and they generate a lot of money that they put into things that are best for that animal,” Wahl said. “We have just a little bit bigger reach. We’re public lands, essentially that’s our main bucket is public land, protecting them, protecting the sale of public lands.
“Now you’re talking about mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, waterfowl.”
A bigger umbrella, in other words, than an organization dedicated to a specific species.
As an organization, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers appears to trend younger than other conservation groups, Wahl says. Nationally, about 70 percent of BHA’s membership is age 45 and younger, he said.
“When we show up at other conservation events, whether giving a speech or just participating, you can tell we’re some of the younger guys in the room,” Wahl said. “I think that’s pretty common.”
Anyone interested in attending the upcoming rendezvous can sign up at www.backcountryhunters.org/north_dakota_rendezvous_2019. Or, just show up on the spur of the moment.
The only charge is the state park entrance fee, which is $5 daily or $25 annually.
“For us, this event is about a lot of things,” Wahl said. “It’s an opportunity for members to interact in person with the board members who represent the public lands and members in North Dakota and see what we’re all about.
“What better place to do that than the Badlands.”