Each month, Gooseneck will feature an employee who takes an active part in volunteering in the communities we serve. The purpose of this feature is to highlight our employees independently of what they do at Gooseneck. This is not meant to promote any organizations or non-profits in specific.
Written by Tim Eisenzimmer.
I recently sat down with Justin Hughes. Justin has been a Lawn and Garden and Set-Up Tech at our Minot store for over six years. The purpose of our meeting was to talk about what Justin does for his community when he isn’t working.
In his spare time, he is a member of Pheasants for the Future, a nonprofit pheasant conservation club out of Minot. Founded in 1982, the club’s mission is to conserve pheasant populations so that future generations of hunters can enjoy the same outdoor opportunities that hunters currently enjoy, and to educate youth on the importance of being good stewards of the land.
I asked Justin why he decided to join Pheasant’s for the Future. Not unlike the ties Gooseneck has to the communities we serve across North Dakota, his ties to the club run deep. “We always went to the annual banquet,” he says reflectively. Justin went on to elaborate as memories of his youth came back to him. When he was young his family raised pheasant chicks that they got from Pheasant’s for the Future. He still fondly recalls attending their yearly youth hunt as well but there is more to his ties than his youthful experiences. It was his brother-in-law and former club president Mike Gietzen that nudged Justin and his father Jon to expand their relationship with the club. “My sister (Stacy) volunteers to work the banquet and my nephew attends it,” he says. Like I said, his roots with the club and the community it serves run deep.
In Pheasant’s for the Future, the Board of Directors, composed of volunteer members, run the day-to-day operations of the club as well as the many club programs the club promotes. It has been fifteen years since Justin and his dad decided to become board members and over that time he has helped contribute to Minot and the surrounding communities in a variety of ways. His primary role in the club is as the Habitat Coordinator. That means he is the primary point of contact for Farmers and Ranchers that are interested in developing habitat to sustain pheasants and other wildlife. It
is an excellent role for someone that works in the Ag Industry but that isn’t his only role.
Justin has taught a hunter safety class every year since 2005. When he isn’t teaching them he is assisting with several classes as well. After being pressed he says “I’ve trained, give or take, about 1,400 kids”. That is an impressive number of young hunters, all thanks to his efforts, one he was far too humble about. In 2016 he, his father Jon, and fellow club member George Babcock even won the Hunter Safety Instructor Team of the Year award.
Coming full circle he now helps out with the yearly club youth hunt that he so fondly remembered from his youth. Once again his career and his club cross paths. Phillip Brandvold, a Gooseneck customer, hosts the youth hunt on his property. The night before the hunt Justin and the club release 200 pheasants on Phillip’s land. The next morning roughly 60 kids come out, practice shooting clay pigeons, run through a hunter education overview for safety and proper hunting procedures, then they go on their first pheasant hunt! After the hunt, they are treated to grilled hotdogs and hot chocolate. As an added bonus, if one of the kids shoots a banded bird they get entered to win a shotgun at the annual club banquet.
That brings us to what Justin is up to right now. He is excited about Pheasant’s for the Future’s 38th Annual Banquet which takes place March 20th in Minot. This year he was in charge of building a winner takes all deer hunting package that will be raffled at the event. “It’s a pretty extravagant package, I went a little overboard on it this year,” he says with a smile. He went as far as to declare he thinks it is the best value package he has
ever assembled, beating out his prior deer hunter packages. Proceeds from
the banquet will be used to support various school trap shooting teams, fund
conservation and outdoor projects, and support Minot and the surrounding
communities in a variety of additional ways.
I asked Justin what he would be doing once his table had been raffled off. He said he plans to have a cold drink, take in the event’s festivities, and lend a hand where it is needed. That is something I have a hunch he is known for in the club and at Gooseneck. With that, I thanked Justin for his time and we parted ways.
Gooseneck would also like to thank Justin for going above and beyond in both his professional life at Gooseneck and in his personal life by supporting his community through Pheasant’s for the Future.