Tom Matus's enthusiasm pervades every aspect of his life, but nowhere is it more prevalent than in the partnered arts of decoy carving and duck hunting.
Born in 1962, Tom went on his first duck hunt at the age of five. His father took him duck hunting on the Connecticut River, where Tom remembers the sky darkening with the sheer number of black ducks flying overhead. Looking back on that first hunt, he knows he was a waterfowler even back then. There was something about the cold weather and the adventure of it all that captured his young heart.
As he grew up, his father instilled in Tom a love of the sport and a respect for the birds. Together they partook in a weekend ritual of shooting skeet at the Colchester Fish and Game Club in Connecticut. They traveled extensively, always making time to stop at the local sporting good stores. It seemed to Tom that he and his father never passed a swamp or marshy pocket of land without stopping to look for some sort of goose or duck.
Tom continued to hunt much of the Connecticut coast until he joined the Navy upon graduation from high school in 1980. His first duty station was in Newport News, Virginia, where he had the opportunity to hunt the Back Bay area and much of the James River. Hunting the diving ducks that populated the area was a new adventure. Tom had little knowledge then of decoys, but started to gain interest as he learned about the decoys and decoy makers of the area.
In 1982, Tom used his father's new bandsaw to cut out a green-winged teal that was a copy of a Herters style decoy. He had no idea how to paint a decoy, so he stained it and added a little color here and there, ending up with what he was sure was a work of art. That teal marked the beginning of a new venture for Tom, an offshoot of his love of duck hunting into the world of duck decoys.
The rest, as they say, is history. Tom attributes his current day success to his early introduction to some of the most talented men in the modern decoy carving community - from Wednesday night carving get-togethers in carver Don McKinlay's garage to watching decoy legend Al McCormick make cork birds to long chats with decorative decoy carver extraordinaire, Keith Mueller. From his first entry in a decoy carving competition at the US National Decoy Show in Amityville, New York, in the mid-80's to the present, Tom Matus has won more than 125 Best of Show ribbons and garnered a number of awards and accolades, including:
- 5 time winner of the Shang Wheeler Division at The New England Wildlife exposition - 5 time US National Decoy Show Winner in Shore birds - 2000 Ward Foundation World Champion - 2000/2002 California Waterfowlers Gunning Pairs winner - 2001 Nevada Carver of the Year Cinnamon Teal - 2001/2003 California Ducks Unlimited Carver of the Year - 2002 International Wildfowl Carvers Assoc. National Champion - 2002 Ward Foundation Gunning Pair Champion - 2002 PSWA IWCA Best of Show winner - 2002 PFDA IWCA Winner - Featured artist in Wildfowl Carving magazine