Pete Soukup is from Cottage Grove, but he can look toward Lanesboro to see the product of his good works.
That is where T.U.N.E. Camp is held at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center in summer, giving young people ages 11 to 16 a chance to immerse themselves in the outdoors. They experience everything from trap shooting and canoeing to learning about the benefits of prairie grass and its protective qualities against storm runoff.
Soukup, 47, was honored in July 2013 by Field & Stream magazine as a “hero of conservation” for several years of planning and running T.U.N.E. Camp (The Ultimate Nature Experience), a joint venture between Pheasants Forever and Trout Unlimited.
A sales director with Greater American Ribs, Soukup spoke about his legacy and the award in a recent e-mail interview. Here are edited excerpts:
Did the recognition as a “Hero of Conservation” have any immediate effect on your life?
Having the recognition was nice. It brought some additional attention to the T.U.N.E Camp and message the camp gives.
How has the T.U.N.E. evolved or changed in the years since? Your involvement?
T.U.N.E Camp has grown and is on pace to have its biggest year next summer. I have stepped back as the organizer, and a volunteer named Bruce Gockowski has taken over. Bruce has taken it to new levels, and it continues to grow.
Any notable current projects/efforts of your own?
I continue to teach firearms safety with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and coach the Park High School trapshooting team in Cottage Grove. We started the first youth Pheasants Forever chapter with the team. We are working with high school youth and developing their interest in the shooting sports and conservation.
Any other state nonprofits or groups that you admire that also work to engages young people in the outdoors?
The groups in our community are our local Pheasants Forever chapters, the Capital City Strutters chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Minnesota Clay Target League. All the groups are passionate about getting youth engaged in the outdoors.
What’s a personal favorite trip or activity in Minnesota’s outdoors or beyond?
Spending time in the outdoors with family and friends and introducing them to what I enjoy is a great day for me. Most recently a group of coaches from our team introduced some kids to pheasant hunting. We had a great time and built lasting friendships.