by Daisy Coyne
It was in the snowy Colorado mountains that John Tuter decided he liked the direction his life was going.
In 1996, 31-year-old John Tuter went to Colorado with a bow strapped to his back for his very first elk hunt. But he wasn’t at all prepared for the snow he encountered.
The hunt was miserable. He and a friend were self-guided and had no clue how to contend with the inclement weather. Although he left Colorado that year cold and empty handed, he went home to Kansas City grateful for the experience.
And more importantly, he did not give up hope. In 1998, he returned to Colorado, this time with a rifle in his hands and a group of RMEF friends by his side.
He sat in silence on top of a snowy mountain scanning the landscape for elk while thinking about where his life was headed. He had just graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s in civil engineering and was dating a passionate and caring woman named Lori.
On that snowy mountain, Tuter killed his first elk. It marked a new chapter in his life—a freezer full of meat that was soon followed by more good fortune. He married Lori a year later, and in 2001, they had a son, Jordan. Two years later their young family left Kansas City and moved to Arizona.
The desert Southwest was a big change for Tuter, whose Midwest roots run deep. He was born in a small rural community in Missouri but spent most of his youth a stone’s throw from Kansas City. His dad was an avid quail and pheasant hunter, and by age 10 Tuter was following him into the field after birds.
Camping with the Boy Scouts and trips to his grandparents’ farm further solidified his connection to the outdoors. In his teens Tuter spent much of his free time hunting birds and deer, fishing, boating and hiking.
But it was not until 1994, when a college friend brought Tuter to his very first RMEF banquet in Kansas City that the idea of an elk hunt seemed possible. Tuter was moved by the passion for the outdoors and hunting that filled the room, and he immediately began volunteering for the Kansas City chapter.
“It’s what I grew up with, it’s what I love,” says Tuter. “To do that with a like-minded organization and like-minded people just means so much.”
Nearly three decades later, he’s just as enthusiastic as he was at the start. Tuter stepped up to help the Phoenix and Red Mountain Chapters then served as the volunteer Arizona state chair for eight years. In 2019, he became regional Southwest chair, another volunteer position that he still holds today.
Along with organizing banquets, Tuter loves traveling the country to attend RMEF events including the Kansas City banquet where it all began for him, and the Lakeshore banquet in Michigan where his son Jordan attends college.
In July 2022, at the Grand Junction banquet in Colorado, RMEF regional development director Darren DeLong met Tuter for the first time. DeLong had frequently heard Tuter’s name associated with outstanding volunteer work. After the banquet, they both squeezed into the back of a truck headed for Denny’s at 1 a.m. Over big plates of bacon and eggs, DeLong got a sense of how spirited and fun Tuter was as they shared laughs about hunting trips and other life stories.
“The guy is just incredibly passionate about RMEF,” says DeLong. “Some people give money and some give time. He’s a great guy that gives both.”
A few months later, DeLong flew out to Arizona to catch up with his friend and discuss their next step on the path for supporting RMEF. The Trails Society recognizes donors who have included RMEF in their estate planning through a will, life insurance policy, retirement account or otherwise.
“When we sat down and started looking at what charities we wanted to give something to, RMEF was obviously one of the top ones on our list,” says Tuter.
Along with being a part of the Trails Society, Tuter is also a Sponsor member, a Habitat Partner and part of the Habitat Council, having donated over $25,000 to RMEF through the years. He is also in the Partners in Conservation program thanks to his merchandise donations to events.
On his first date with Lori, not long before Tuter brought home his first elk, they’d discussed how important it is to have a passion in life. Tuter told her then that one of his passions was RMEF. Now he, Lori and Jordan are all RMEF Life Members, and volunteering is now a family tradition in their household.