Matt Kucharski is the President of Padilla, a Minneapolis-based public relations and communications company. That’s how we met. I invited Matt to lunch to make a connection with his agency. About two minutes into our lunch, we discovered we were both lovers of the outdoors. For the remainder of our lunch, instead of business, we talked hunting, dogs, and pheasants. Matt is also the new Chairman of Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. Matt grew up in Wisconsin with a love for open spaces and he is a terrific advocate for hunting, wildlife, and habitat conservation. And he’s a great guy. Let’s meet Matt Kucharski.
HuntTested: How did a PR guy become the Chairman of Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors?
Matt Kucharski: I blame it on my old Ford Explorer. It was time for me to get something that was a little bit more reliable and I put an ad in the paper to sell it (yeah, this was before online ads). The only call I got was from a guy named Joe Duggan, who led corporate partnerships, marketing, and communications for Pheasants Forever, and probably one of the most connected guys in the outdoors. He finagled me into a coffee with him and his new PR guy, Bob St. Pierre (now VP of Marketing & Communications and one of my best friends).
That led to me advising the PF board and executive team on a range of brand, marketing, and communications issues, including the formation of Quail Forever. Eventually, I was asked to join the board and over time moved into the chair role.
And no, Joe didn’t buy the truck!
HuntTested: What’s your vision for the future of Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever?
Matt Kucharski: The board and leadership have a very good strategic plan to take the organization into the future. Some of the highlights:
- Expansion of habitat restoration opportunities so that we can continue to pursue our mission without being beholden to the strengths or weaknesses of any one program (e.g. CRP within the Farm Bill)
- R3 – which stands for Recruit, Retain, and Reactivate. It’s an industry-wide initiative to get more people involved in the outdoors, and it’s absolutely essential to our future. No hunters means no funding. No funding means no habitat. It’s all linked.
- Diversity and Inclusion – we’ve made great strides in making the field more welcoming to women and there’s been tremendous growth there. We have more to do, and in the meantime, we also need to make this field more welcoming to people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Diversity on the landscape is essential, and it’s also essential in the outdoors industry. It’s a key part of R3.
- Further development of Quail Forever – the impact we’ve made on the quail landscape with our partners has been really meaningful, and there’s lots more opportunity there.
HuntTested: Why should Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever matter to the average hunter, and non-hunter?
Matt Kucharski: Most avid hunters are among the most ardent conservationists because they see first-hand the impact of great habitat. It really frosts me that so many hunters are not members of a conservation organization – whether it be Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Ruffed Grouse Society, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, or any of the other great outfits out there. It’s a shame because they’re all working to deliver the habitat that’s essential to success in the field and forest.
The non-hunter should see Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever as an important contributor to an improved environment. You’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that’s doing more to improve soil and water quality, restore pollinator habitat, sequester carbon, deliver a healthier more sustainable prairie landscape, and create public access for all Americans.
HuntTested: How can the average person get involved in Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever?
Matt Kucharski: The first step is to join the organization. It’s roughly the cost of 2 boxes of decent shells, and that membership will do more to put birds in the bag than those shells will (especially with my shooting). Second is to get connected with your local chapter – meet some people who share your interests and passion. Third is to educate yourself. There’s a lot going on out there that affects the future of the sport, and our voices need to be heard.
HuntTested: I keep reading about how the number of hunters is shrinking. How can we get more people involved in hunting?
Matt Kucharski: You’re absolutely right – the numbers ARE shrinking and there are a lot of factors – loss of good hunting habitat, neglecting to get kids outdoors, urbanization of the landscape, struggling family farms, and rural communities. That’s what R3 is all about – to try to stem that tide. It happens by encouraging youth and young adults to experience the outdoors, welcoming a more diverse group of people into the field, and investing in the landscape in ways that increase quality hunting opportunities. If we don’t do this, we’re going to reach a cliff where the decline will be nearly impossible to reverse.
HuntTested: What’s your favorite hunt?
Matt Kucharski: Whichever one I’m currently on! If I were given the choice, I’d hunt combo pheasant/quail country with diverse habitat and a lot of “big air”. I also really enjoy walking along with newer hunters and helping them experience the sport for the first time.
HuntTested: Flusher or Pointer?
Matt Kucharski: Well I have one of each so that ought to tell you something about me. There’s nothing better about experiencing the thrill of a well-trained hunting dog. I did some volunteer work for NAVHDA (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association) a couple of years back and it really hit home for me.
HuntTested: What do you think makes the relationship between hunter and dog so special?
Matt Kucharski: A well-trained dog is like a well-behaved 3-year-old kid. Think about it – a great toddler is a joy to be around – always discovering, always interested, always excited – and potty trained! Same with a great dog – when the hunter and his or her dog are in sync, it’s just magical. It increases your chance of success, and you’re never lonely.
HuntTested: We’re all about gear at HuntTested. What are some of your favorite pieces/brands of hunting gear?
Matt Kucharski: Oh man you’re going to get me in trouble because I’m going to leave something out. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have some awesome sponsors who not only make great products but also contribute tremendously to the outdoors. I shoot Federal Ammunition, my dogs eat Purina, I’ve usually got something from Browning on my head or body, and I lust for a Polaris Ranger to help me manage this 150 acres I just bought out in Western Minnesota. And if you haven’t taken a look at Blue Nest Beef, they’ve got a tremendous story to tell and their products are amazing.
HuntTested: What question should we have asked?
Matt Kucharski: I guess the only question might be “what’s the end game here?” For me, I’d like to see a future where conservation doesn’t have to fight for its seat at the table – it should just be a given that it’s part of the mix. We can have our energy, our food, our housing, our infrastructure and do it in a way that keeps our forests, fields, and waterways clean, diverse, and healthy. It takes some work, but it’s worth it. In the end, we all need wild places for healthy bodies, minds, and souls. The embrace of the outdoors during this worldwide pandemic seems to prove that with each new season that passes.
Thank you, Matt! And thanks for the work that you and the team at Pheasant Forever are doing to help ensure we’ll be chasing roosters in wild places today and for generations to come.
Editor’s Note: If you care about our wild places and upland game, consider joining Pheasants Forever. Your membership matters! Over 91% of your membership fees go directly towards habitat projects, public awareness, and education.
Related Content: The Ultimate Pheasant Hunting Gear List