Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lekse Lovin' Life in the RMEF & NASCAR's Fast Lane

Fred Lekse
Life is a twisting turning road, and when Fred Lekse graduated from law school in 1996, his goal wasn't a career with NASCAR. But a few winding curves put him in the driver's seat as president of Kevin Harvick Inc., representing one of the biggest names in NASCAR racing. 

"It's a lot more fun than the traditional practice of law," he says. "I've been fortunate and really lucky. I hooked up with some good people, and fortunately they've been successful. So I've been successful." 

Kevin Harvick wins Toyota Owners 400
(April 27, 2013 - Richmond, VA)
It's easy to lose touch with things in the hustle and bustle of the NASCAR circuit, but one thing that remains close to Lekse's heart is the great outdoors. Growing up in rural Indiana, Lekse found the natural world ever alluring. Much of his young life he spent hunting the fields and fishing the streams of the Hoosier state. 

"Hunting is just something I've always done," he says. "Since I was able to drive I was out hunting or fishing every moment I got. I wouldn't trade it for anything, that's for sure." 

Lekse's deep passion for hunting caused him to pursue a variety of wildlife across diverse terrains, from cougars in the mountains and winding canyons of Utah to Canadian moose in their willow and spruce flat haunts. But he embraces a special fondness for hunting elk. 

"I love it," he says, "especially bowhunting. There's just something about being out in the woods at that time of year and during the peak of the rut." 

Each fall, as the vibrant green of the aspen leaves transitions to brilliant yellow and orange, Lekse and a group of friend’s pilgrimage to Colorado for an elk hunt in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. "It's just a public land, archery, walk your-legs-off type of hunt, and it's a lot of fun," he says. "You put in a hell of a lot of work, but a lot of times you get more satisfaction from some of those 5x5s you kill on public land in Colorado than the monsters you can run into on a paid hunt." 

For a man as passionate about elk hunting as Lekse, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was a natural partnership. "I went to a banquet in North Carolina and thoroughly enjoyed it," he says. "Then I bought a hunt in Kentucky from one of the first Elk Foundation banquets I ever went to." 

That hunt turned out to be the catalyst for an even deeper partnership with the RMEF. "When I bought the hunt, I didn't really know what to expect," says Lekse, who until then hadn't considered Kentucky a great elk state. "But to see the numbers and the quality of elk on what used to be a coal mine was pretty impressive. It immediately convinced me I needed to do my part with the Elk Foundation." 

Lekse had become good friends with David Allen, RMEF president and CEO, back when they both worked in NASCAR. "Through David, and as I elk hunted more and more, I was able to see the work the organization was doing," he says. "Recently I bought a ranch in Colorado and decided I needed to become a bigger supporter. I just developed a sense of responsibility. I'm enjoying this resource, and I feel like I need to do more to help preserve it." 

And do more he has. Lekse has become a Habitat Partner at the Bronze Benefactor level, donating more than $100,000 to RMEF's mission, and he's also a member of RMEF's President's Council. But he still wants to do more. 

"Fred has been extremely generous with his donations and serves on a committee of our board of directors," says Allen. Part of what he does is help RMEF with major fundraising. This is a task few are more qualified for than Lekse, who secures endorsements and contracts regularly for Kevin Harvick, Inc. "He brings an interesting perspective to us coming from the sports business world, and he is a great fit," Allen adds. 

Lekse has also become a familiar face at banquets all across the country. "I try to hit as many banquets as I can every year," says Lekse, "especially the Grand Junction banquet in Colorado. It's always an impressive event, and I do enjoy the auctions." 

But it's the camaraderie that really draws Lekse to RMEF events. "I love the atmosphere," he says. "After you've been going for a few years, there are a lot of familiar faces. And it's nice to visit and share everyone's hunting stories from the year." 

Gary West, RMEF major gift officer, who is a friend and hunting partner of Lekse's, says, "Fred's a real fine gentleman, and his greatest passion is to hunt. He brings that same passion to this organization, and to our mission to protect habitat and keep the hunting tradition alive." 

Lekse's commitment to RMEF continues to grow, promising a partnership for years to come. "What I like about the Elk Foundation is that you don't have to be someone who can just write a check. It's dependent on the volunteers who have their feet on the ground as much as it is the people who can write checks," says Lekse. "I'm fortunate enough to be able to write a check, so I'll do that. But I want to do more."

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