Save the Lifestyle

Save the Lifestyle

Dennis Brune, CEO of ALPS Brands

The Brune FarmGrowing up on a small farm in the '50s, '60s, and '70s in East Central Missouri, I soon learned I much more enjoyed being outdoors than any other place. Sure, farm work had me outside a lot… baling hay, cultivating fields, and digging fence post holes… but I also had plenty of fun times outside to play catch with my brother, search for special rocks in the creek, and trying to remember where the Big Dipper was. I think I was about 6 when I got my first BB gun, and probably 10–12 when I received my first real gun, which was a Mossberg bolt-action 20 gauge shotgun with a poly choke. Back then, one gun had to perform many tasks, because budgets didn't allow us to have a different gun for each season. So my trusted Mossberg helped me get plenty of rabbits and quail, and when it was time for deer season, we got out the slugs, and it also got the job done with our whitetail.

The pace of my life picked up as I got married, had three amazing children, and started my career in the outdoor industry. After 16 years of designing, marketing, and selling products for other brands, I figured out in the early '90s it was time to develop my own product lines, and ALPS Brands was born. Initially we focused on camping products, and a little over 10 years ago, we developed our ALPS OutdoorZ brand, focusing on packs, blinds, stools and chairs for hunters and outdoorsmen. Early on we developed hunter-friendly, high quality, and affordable turkey chairs, and the folks at the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) asked us to partner with them in a licensing program. Feeling an obligation for our company to give back to the industry we were selling to, we agreed to partner with them, and my journey to financially support conservation causes was started.

Dennis's First DeerBecause of the success we had with our friends at the NWTF, we soon partnered with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Quail Forever/Pheasants Forever, Whitetails Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, and the Quail & Upland Wildlife Federation. In addition to being a corporate sponsor and a life member with most of these conservation groups, I was also learning to manage my own small hunting farm. With the help of local biologists and conservation partners, I started planting food plots, doing timber stand improvements, and other simple conservation projects to improve and enhance my local habitat. So the habitat was improving, along with the quantity and health of our local rabbit, turkey, and whitetail populations, and I was feeling pretty good that I was doing my part for conservation.

Running our business and managing my small hunting farm doesn't allow me time to read as much as I'd like to, but luckily last December I did read Andrew McKean's articles in Outdoor Life on "How to make a hunter". Even though I've heard many times that the quantity of hunters was declining, there was something in those articles of Andrew's that opened my eyes a little bit more to how severe the problem really is. Over the Christmas holiday season I started figuring out that while I had been doing some good, helping conservation, habitat, and access issues, I wasn't doing enough to help with the hunter issue. I had heard my industry friends talk about R3 (recruit, retain, and reactivate) but now realized it was time to start taking a more active role. At the SHOT Show in January, I attended a Press Conference hosted by Becky Humphries, CEO of the NWTF, and met John Frampton, CEO of the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports. I also sat next to my friend, Eric Dinger, with Powderhook, where he reminded me "the most endangered species in North America" is the hunter.

Dennis and Jake Fishing
Dennis's grandson, Jake, was asked about his favorite thing about the farm. Mushroom hunting? Fishing? Boat rides?
"I love everything about the farm."

My journey is just beginning for what I'll call "R3 Focus". In 2016 we partnered with the NWTF and participated in their "Rise and Fly" campaign, by allowing anyone at ALPS Brands an extra day off work (with pay) if they went turkey hunting. We're planning to do this again this year, with more of a focus on "invite a non-hunter" to go with you. We're also kicking off our STL Campaign—Save The Lifestyle—where we hope to do some fun and successful things to bring awareness to saving this lifestyle that I, and so many of my friends, truly love.

Here are two quick examples of how just some gentle arm-twisting can work. Last Fall during our whitetail season, my middle son, Adam, and I hunted up at our family farm on opening weekend, and didn't have any luck. Monday night Adam came into my office and said, "Dad, how about going back up tomorrow and see if our luck can change?" My typical "boss answer" was, "Gosh, son, I'd love to, but I really have a lot to do." Being appropriately persistent, he convinced me I needed to go, and we headed up to the farm. We struck out again on Tuesday morning and at our lunch break, Adam informed me he was ready to shoot a doe, to be able to put some meat in the freezer. We headed back out to our stands, and right around 4:00, I heard Adam's shot, and assumed he killed his doe. It didn't take long for my luck to change either, because at around 4:15 a very unique buck we had watched on our trail cameras walked out broadside at 75 yards, and I was able to fill my tag. Filled with my own excitement, I ran as fast as my out-of-shape body would take me to Adam's area, where I saw he harvested an awesome 8 point buck. Persistence paid off.

My daughter, Sarah Kristin, has never been against hunting, but it also hasn't been at the top of her priority list. She sat in a blind last spring turkey season, just to observe, so I know she was more than just a little bit interested. This year, under the theory of "appropriate persistence," I convinced her to bring her gun and be the primary hunter in the blind, and she agreed. Our spring turkey season was one of the toughest in recent memories, because winter hung on and spring arrived very late. Even though it was tough, we had one crafty gobbler that kept our interest. After the first two mornings, I was wondering how long I was going to be able to keep her interest, with little shooting opportunity. About mid-morning, we had him unexpectedly gobble pretty close to our blind—close enough Sarah said it made her jump!—and that was enough to get her competitive juices to kick in. We went back the next two mornings, continued to hear him gobble, and while we didn't "close the deal," I'm pretty sure she's now hooked, and will be back again next spring. Persistence paid off again.

If we can all just add one new hunter a year, we'll start turning around the decline. So stay tuned, and if you have any suggestions or comments, please let us know.

More Stories

Madison Brune
Madison Brune
Sarah Eckelkamp
Sarah Eckelkamp