Supporting Kansas Habitat and Hunting Heritage 24/7 Style

419763cf-236f-4b28-9bd9-cfcb0fb423fd By Tom Carpenter  

Ask any hunter what their favorite month of the year is, and I’d bet you a tank of gas that November comes in number one. Hands down. 

The logic is simple. Upland bird seasons are open, or opening up, everywhere. Waterfowling begins to reach its zenith in many places. And the whitetail rut is kicking in across much of the country.

Nowhere is this more true than in Kansas – the heart of the nation, and a place in the hearts of traveling hunters coming to the Sunflower State from all corners of the country.

That’s why, beginning Saturday November 3 and running through Sunday December 3, 24/7 Travel Stores in Kansas are offering all customers the opportunity to make a donation to Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever at the register, and also to purchase PF/QF merchandise right there in the store (a portion of the proceeds from which will go to PF and QF).

Ten 24/7 Travel Stores in Kansas are located along the I-70 and I-35 corridors.
 

GIVING BACK TO HABITAT AND HERITAGE

Mark Augustine, president of 24/7 Stores, is part of the second generation of family owners of the company. “Larry Triplett, founder of the stores and my father-in-law, made me a hunter,” says Augustine. “He hired me on in 1989.”

Augustine is concerned with traditional wildlife habitat conservation across his home state as well as on the farm he and his wife Becky own, to be sure. But getting new hunters in the field is equally important to continue our country’s conservation mission, and Augustine knows it: “Larry gave me the chance to become an upland bird hunter. I helped my children become hunters. By giving back to PF and QF, I hope 24/7 Stores can help wildlife, and help get new hunters into the fold.”

“I in turn got my son Ted and daughter Rachel (now in their twenties) involved,” adds Augustine. “We always had so much fun. Our first dog was a Britt, Gunner. My son Ted in turn got his buddies involved. We need to continue that kind of tradition here in Kansas, and everywhere.”


Augustine's son Ted (right) has in turn brought others, such as friend Logan Shetler, into the hunter-conservationist fold.
 

BUILDING ON THE MISSION

Nobody knows that better than Brandon Wilmoth, Regional Representative for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever in Kansas. “Programs like this one, with 24/7 Stores work to bring important funds in for the organizations’ traditional habitat mission, but also critical programs that create new hunters.”

“For example, we now have three ‘shooting trailers’ here in Kansas that PF and QF chapters, and other organizations, can use to hold youth shooting events,” says Wilmoth. “These trailers are filled with clay throwers, shotguns, .22s, archery gear, sling shots, you name it. The trailers travel to fairs, schools, festivals, hunter safety classes and other outdoor events. The goal is to expose kids to the shooting sports, which can in turn lead to creating new hunters.”

Without hunters, Kansas – and everywhere for that matter – will lose wildlife and habitat conservation, as well as their most vocal and active advocates.

PF and QF do extensive work in support of R3 (retaining, recruiting and reactivating hunters) in Kansas, says Wilmoth. He rattles off a series of impressive statistics from just 2018:

443 outreach events
23,091 youth participants in all
6,076 adult participants in all
58 high school trapshooting teams, many supported financially by PF/QF chapters
28 outreach hunts held
16 in-the-field habitat projects completed with youth

And that’s just a sampler list. “A well-rounded hunter is the final goal,” says Wilmoth. “We don’t just want one-and-dones. You only get there through financial support to keep programs going, to offer the next step. Local companies like 24/7, they get how important hunting is not only to business, but to Kansas itself and our culture.”


With events and opportunities, PF and QF in Kansas lead a strong charge in getting youth involved in the shooting sports ... and ultimately hunting.
 

FAMILY AFFAIR

Back near Salina, where Augustine lives and his family farm is located, habitat is understood as the critical tie between abundant wildlife and making a hunter. In fact, Augustine is slated to receive Ellsworth County's 2018 Wildlife Award, from the Ellsworth County Conservation District, for habitat stewardship on his lands.

“I grew up in the country but wasn’t necessarily a country boy,” Augustine laughs. "But there were places to hunt. That has become more of a challenge. Habitat that is on public land, private land, you name it: Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever do so much in this state. We want to help and give back.”

“On my farm, CP33 buffer strips, plum thickets, smart haying and grazing practices … they’re all proof that agriculture and wildlife can coexist, even thrive together,” he says. “We went from having just a few gamebirds to lots of pheasants and quail. That can happen anywhere people care. And hunters care.”

"The other person that has been instrumental in getting me in tune with nature is my farmer Alan Pflughoeft," says Augustine. "He has helped me implement all the habitat plans, and is a hunter and angler himself."  

“For instance,” he continues, “this year we started rotational haying, which in any one year will leave one-third of the meadows uncut. It’s so surprising how little wildlife really asks for, to thrive.”


Yet another generation begins the journey: Augustine's nephew Brandon Vandervoort holding his first doves.
 

A HUNTING CULTURE

That’s why Augustine and 24/7 Travel Stores are so eager to help. 

24/7 Store personnel talk hunters’ language. “Many of our managers and employees are hunters,” says Augustine. “For many Kansans, that’s just our way of life. But we educate and train employees who don’t hunt, too, to understand it and talk the language. They know what it means to have a hunter walk through the door. We care.”

That makes any 24/7 Store in Kansas a great place for any hunter to stop when they need to fill up with gas, grab something to eat and stock up on supplies. “We want to help PF and QF give back to conservation, and to keep the hunting tradition alive,” says Augustine.

Kansas is a just a magical place to be in November, whether you’re chasing cackling roosters, coveys of bobwhites, elusive prairie chickens or even trophy whitetails. As you cross the state, stop in 24/7 Travel Stores and support Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, habitat … and the hunting tradition itself.


Left to right, Ted Augustine, Bill Newcomb from Kentucky, Ed Owlet from Pennsylvania and Mark Augustine take a break from the hunt.