One cold march evening in 2004, a group of seven avid outdoorsmen, outdoorswomen and conservationists sat around a crackling campfire in the southern cascade foothills of Oregon. They all had concerns about the management of our nation’s wilderness, and the shrinking amount of public land available to us for outdoor pursuits. From those concerns, an organization called Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) was born with the purpose of protecting public land and wildlife.

Over the years when on hunting trips and vacations, retired attorney and Wichita resident Kurt Ratzlaff remembers seeing bumper stickers advertising Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and always wondered what they were all about, but noticed from their website, there appeared to be no Kansas chapter. His inquiry with BHA as to why there was no chapter here in Kansas was met with a challenge to start one here, so less than a year ago, the Kansas chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers was born with Kurt as the chair person.

Kurt’s father, Bob Ratzlaff was a meat cutter, and Kurt can’t honestly remember a time growing up in eastern Colorado when he wasn’t helping his dad cut, process and package meat and wild game in his dad’s small butcher shop. To help work his way through college, Kurt also cut meat at a grocery store near school. Over the years, Kurt has processed all his own wild game harvested on hunts, so when it was suggested that Backcountry Hunters and Anglers sponsor a local meat processing class, Kurt was all-in. When Bob Ratzlaff had his small butcher shop all those years ago, he bought equipment and supplies from the company that later became Walton’s. Walton’s, whose slogan is “Everything but the Meat” seemed like the perfect place to host a meat processing class, and when Kurt approached them at their Wichita location, they were more than eager to host the event. 

“Home Meat Processing 101” is from 6 to 9 p.m. March 12 at Walton’s Inc, 3639 Comotara St., in Wichita, where the folks at Walton’s will offer a basic introduction to home meat processing. Kurt feels the biggest hurdle in teaching someone how to process their own meat is getting them to jump in and begin working on a big piece of raw meat, so participants will be shown how, then have the chance to help grind, stuff and smoke three different flavors of bratwurst. The $25 fee includes hands-on meat processing tips, a meal of bratwurst that will already be on the smoker, a chance to win meat processing equipment from Walton’s and other great prizes and gear, and a chance to taste the bratwurst made during the class which will be put on the smoker during dinner.

Kurt believes that on average, BHA members are younger than members of most other national conservation minded organizations. People these days also seem more concerned than in years past about where their food comes from, so knowledge of basic meat processing will allow hunters and consumers to know how their meat is handled without having to pay someone else to do it. 

The mission of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is protection of public lands and wildlife, and they are involved in numerous educational and service projects. Kurt Ratzlaff said Kansas ranks 49th out of 50 in the amount of public land available to outdoorsmen, in other words, next to the bottom. Check out BHA’s website at and listen to their podcast the first and third Wednesday of each month; sign up for Home Meat Processing 101 on the BHA website … continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.


Steve Gilliland can be contacted by email at

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