My Conservation Story: Jarad Luchka of Big Game Waterfowl

This article first appeared in Fish and Wildlife
February 2024
by Jarad Luchka

In all honesty, I have to begin my first blog post by coming clean. Somewhat selfishly, I first imagined Big Game Waterfowl because I could not afford a Super Cool Duck Boat on my base salary as a firefighter. For years I had asked myself, “How can I hunt ducks every day?”

My answer may not have been the simplest solution, but here we are, at the tail end of our sixth successful season as one of Rhode Island's waterfowl guide services. In these last six seasons, my not-so-simple solution to everyday duck hunting has grown into something that I am truly proud of. Evolving from my own hunting desires to an amazing community of like-minded hunters from all over the country. That said, I want to give a little history on how I came into starting my own charter business. It's a little odd, but I think it may resonate with more hunters than not.

As a youth, I was heavily involved in the Boy Scouts, eventually working my way up to Eagle Scout. During my early years as a Scout, I learned a love for everything involving the outdoors. From camping, hiking and skiing, and then eventually to shooting sports. I was heavily into archery by the time I was 14, training 3ish days a week and competing regionally.

Seeing my love and aptitude for shooting things, my father enrolled me in a hunters education class. Around this time, my soon-to-be mentor, a man named Steve, knocked on my parent’s door to ask permission to hunt on our property. In exchange for permission to hunt, Steve offered to teach me how to hunt with a muzzleloader (it was the ‘90’s, before ‘stranger danger…”), and my folks were happy to oblige. Steve became a good friend, mentoring me through my youth and he and my parents contributed to me getting my first deer.

Hunting remained status-quo for years, for the most part. After college I was hired by the fire department. The Training Academy was intense, and I made some amazing life-long friends. One of them got me into rod and reel commercial saltwater fishing. Randomly, he rang me and asked if I had a shotgun, and wanted to go out and get some ducks. He commandeered a friend's quahog vessel, floated our way out into the bay, and had one of the more memorable experiences of my adult life.

outdoor instruction
group photo
I could not believe how many birds were out there. From then on, myself and a few other self-taught duck hunters from the Training Academy kept up on the waterfowl hunting, with a little less pirating…mostly. I then got involved in charter fishing and went to get my Captain's license through the US Coast Guard.

After years of charter fishing, duck hunting in 14 foot aluminum boats, and dragging kayaks for endless miles, I decided some changes needed to happen. And they finally did, one drunken night at a bar after charter fishing with Big Game Sportfishing for the day. We came up with the idea of starting the “Duck Division” of Big Game Sportfishing. The guys basically said to run with the idea. They helped me with some startup costs, I got a business loan, and I ordered a custom hull from TDB. I had finally designed the Super Cool Duck Boat I always wanted! At this point there was a bit of a holding pattern during the build. But what would any major life-changing purchase and business venture be without the inevitable panic and forced reflection?

I asked myself what was I really doing? What was my goal in starting this business, and how do I set myself apart from other, similar businesses? I thought back to my own personal journey, and to where I had ended up.

I thought about how the population and habitat of ducks in our area had changed over the last decade. I thought about the perception of hunters, and how it has changed, not necessarily for the better. I had my own little existential crisis. Was I doing the right thing? Was I going to be helping anything with my business?

indoor instruction
successful hunters
Then two things happened to put things in perspective for me: Doug Duren said on “MeatEater,” “It’s not ours, it’s just our turn.” Shortly after that, I listened to a podcast by 2% for Conservation. Every doubt that I'd been wrestling with got a little clearer. Simply, I made the decision that no matter what, before even booking my first trip that my focus as a business owner and hunter HAS to be about the future of this amazing sport and its conservation.

With those thoughts in mind, I have made it a goal to be a business with values. Every year, I donate guided trips to BHA, SCI, and other 2%-affiliated organizations like RMGA. I am involved with RIDEM and their Youth Waterfowl Hunting Program, as well as their goose and duck banding. Big Game Waterfowl is my business and my passion.

Through doing what I love, I have met some amazing, like-minded people who I consider to be more than just customers. During a Youth Waterfowl Day, I was told by one of the kids that duck hunting was the most fun he had ever had. Running a business based on doing the right thing, and not just making the most money, has both positively impacted myself, and the local hunting community. And the icing on the cake…I still have that Super Cool Duck Boat that I always wanted.

conservation efforts

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
Two Percent
New England Safari Club International