In our series, Ask a Warden, we interview officers from across the country to learn about their role in protecting our game, fish, and other resources. In this edition, we asked officers from Ohio, California, Alabama, and Montana if most wardens are avid hunters, trappers, and/or anglers.
During my five years with the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, I worked with some wardens that were great guys, but not-so-great outdoorsmen. To me, it was like being a tattoo artist without any ink, or a chef who loves Hot Pockets. I wanted to see if my experience was out of the ordinary or any reason to be concerned.
Officer Tony Zerkle | Ohio Department of Natural Resources
“I don’t know any official numbers on how many of our 145 officers purchase a hunting or fishing license. Of course, that doesn’t qualify someone as an avid hunter or angler. If I had to guess, I’d say that 75% are avid and another 20% participate at some level. I don’t know of any of them that haven’t at least experienced hunting and fishing.”
Captain Patrick Foy | California Department of Fish & Wildlife
“Most of us either hunt, fish, or both. But I don’t have any solid numbers or percentages. Speaking for myself, I fish the ocean on long-range tuna boats and short range boats for rockfish, halibut, and salmon. I have spearfished the shoreline. I have harvested scallops and lobsters via scuba and free dove for abalone when that season was last open. I have trolled mid-elevation lakes and fished high elevation streams for trout.
“I have hunted doves, quail, turkeys, pheasants, ducks, and geese. I have hunted wild pigs, deer, elk, pronghorn, and have been lucky enough to have hunted and harvested a California bighorn sheep. So yes, most of us fish and/or hunt.”
Captain Heath Walls | Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
“During my 20-plus-year career, there has been a paradigm shift. It once seemed that being an avid hunter or fisherman was a requirement to be a game warden. That has changed for several reasons.
“The biggest reason is that there aren’t as many hunters and anglers as there were a few decades ago. Based on license sales, hunting and fishing has been on the decline for the last 30 years. We’ve also determined that if you hire good people, you can teach them what they need to know about hunting, fishing, and being an outdoorsman.
“Currently, I would guess about 30% of our wardens could be called avid hunters or fishermen. Most of our officers enjoy hunting and/or fishing. It’s just not at the top of their priority list. We’ve even hired men and women who have never hunted or fished. But, because of exposure to these activities on the job, they enjoy going now.”
Warden Kerry Wahl | Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks
“One the great virtues of being a Montana game warden is that most your fellow wardens are hunters and anglers. It’s awesome to have so many coworkers with the same interests in outdoor activities as me. Right off, I can’t think of another warden that doesn’t hunt or fish.”
Feature image via Captured Creative.