The Best Public Land Volunteer Events for Hunters and Anglers this Summer

The Best Public Land Volunteer Events for Hunters and Anglers this Summer

Hunters and anglers like to talk a big game about being some of the original and most impactful conservationists. Some even go so far as to say that their pursuit is conservation. In a lot of ways, they’re right. For generations, our community has done incredible work for conservation. But what does that mean for us as hunters and anglers today?

If we want to claim this mantle of “conservationist,” we need to answer a few questions.

What’s required of us? Is buying a deer tag or fishing license enough? Are we a conservationist if we retweet an action alert from a conservation organization? How about sending an email to a senator or donating some money?

What checks the box? What responsibility comes with the title?

I’ve asked myself these questions a time or two and, admittedly, I do not have all the answers. But what I have stumbled on is one action that has helped me feel like I’ve achieved some level of conservation impact. And that, I’ve found, might be a whole lot more important than any label or title in the first place.

pick up trash

Dirty Hands, Clear Mind

The action I speak of is on-the-ground volunteer work. I’m talking about tearing down fences, picking up trash, planting a tree, clearing a trail, and eliminating invasive weeds. The options are nearly endless, the impact is tangible, and the satisfaction is real.

A lot of conservation initiatives can be draining. They take something out of you, from making a phone call or writing a comment to giving up your hard-earned money. In contrast, volunteering your time and sweat to do something good for fish and wildlife—and doing it alongside other like-minded folks in the outdoors—is energizing. It fills you up and leaves you a better version than you were before.

I’ve experienced this myself most recently during our first two events on the Working for Wildlife Tour. We picked up more than a ton of trash on a WMA outside Boston, Massachusetts. We managed wildlife openings and small-game habitat in a state forest in Northern Michigan. We made new friends. We laughed. We ate good food. We told stories. We refilled our metaphorical gas tanks with the cleanest renewable energy you can find.

What I’m trying to say is, you might want to try this whole volunteering thing out. And if you do, these seven upcoming events this summer might be a good place to start. If none of these are in your neck of the woods, do a quick search online and you’re sure to find an opportunity close to home. Hope to see you out there.

volunteer for conservation

Summer Conservation Events

June 17 - Thinning Timber in Oklahoma with Pheasants Forever: This event, located at the Osage Wildlife Management Area of Northeastern Oklahoma, involves the thinning of dense post-oak timber in an effort to improve food and cover availability for everything from quail, deer, and turkey.

June 24 - Planting Native Wildflowers and Shrubs in Michigan with MUCC: MUCC (Michigan United Conservation Clubs) hosts one of the most consistent and impactful volunteer habitat programs I know of in the nation. One of my Working for Wildlife Tour events was a part of their “On the Ground '' initiative, as is this opportunity to contribute to a 24-acre native prairie restoration effort specifically meant to benefit wild turkeys but will also impact everything from birds to bees and whitetails.

June 28 - July 2 - Backcountry Trail Work in the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana: If you love big, wild country, this is an opportunity you can’t miss. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Armed Forces Initiative is sponsoring a multi-day backcountry trip into “The Bob” to work on clearing and maintaining trails. You’ll be giving back to one of the nation’s most spectacular wild places, and have a hell of an adventure in the process. This is a no-brainer for anyone with the time and backcountry acumen to get back in there.

July 1 - October 1 - Catch, Count, and Identify Butterflies in Washington’s National Parks and Forest: Here’s a unique opportunity to participate in some citizen science with Mt. Rainier and North Cascades National Parks, along with the U.S. Forest Service. In addition to being important pollinators, butterflies are useful indicator species for the health of ecosystems, which is why the parks service is looking to get your help in identifying and counting the butterflies (and wildflowers) present in some of the Pacific Northwest's most beautiful and ecologically important landscapes. A volunteer project that involves beautiful hikes into subalpine meadows, all while getting a chance to catch some critters—what’s not to like?

July 12 - Clean Up the Missouri River in South Dakota: Join the Izaak Walton League of America, US Corp of Army Engineers, South Dakota Game, Fish, & Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and BHA in cleaning up the legendary Missouri River outside of South Dakota’s state capitol.

July 29 - Aspen Stand Restoration in Idaho’s Panhandle with the Working for Wildlife Tour: Join me in Northern Idaho for the third stop on my Working for Wildlife Tour as we partner with the National Deer Association and U.S. Forest Service to work on an aspen stand restoration project. We’ll remove encroaching conifers across 15 different sites with hand tools, create “vegetation fences” to increase young aspen survival, and then end the day with a social get-together and food.

August 4 - 13 - Catch and Eliminate Invasive Pythons in Southern Florida: Here’s another particularly unique volunteer opportunity to help address a particularly unique wildlife challenge in southern Florida's Everglades: invasive Burmese pythons. These giant constrictor snakes were illegally introduced to Florida’s subtropical ecosystem decades ago and quickly began to flourish. Unfortunately, the large snake's success has led to a crisis for Florida’s native mammal populations as possums, raccoons, birds, and numerous other animals have been overwhelmed by the hungry snake population.

Aggressive python management initiatives have been tested over the years, and now the state is looking for citizen volunteers to help join the fight during their 2023 Florida Python Challenge. Participants are asked to capture and humanely kill as many invasive snakes as possible, with prizes given to the most productive snake hunters. If you enjoyed catching snakes as a kid, this just might be your moment to shine for native species conservation.

August 12 - Improving Wildlife Habitat in Missouri for the Working for Wildlife Tour: Here’s another opportunity to join me for a Working for Wildlife volunteer event, this time in Missouri with Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. We’ll be creating whitetail and turkey habitat in the B.K. Leach Conservation Area alongside the Mississippi River with a social event to follow later that evening.

September 23 - Early Successional Habitat Creation in Missippi’s Leaf River Management Area: Join the National Deer Association, the U.S. Forest Service, and me for another Working for Wildlife event, this time in Mississippi, as we work to create early successional habitat for birds and wildlife of all types in the Desoto National Forest.

summer conservation opportunities

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