In our new series, Ask a Warden, we’ll be interviewing 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 Kentucky, Wisconsin, Alaska, and Oklahoma about what day of the year they write the most citations.
The South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks recently posted on Facebook that a check station for pheasant and duck hunters resulted in a 54% violation rate. While this is certainly their busiest time of year as hunters descend on the state’s pheasant fields, that’s not the case for officers across the rest of the country.
As it turns out, the “busy season” varies greatly from state-to-state and county-to-county, but openers always seem to generate the most violations.
Lieutenant Greg Watts | Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife
“My single biggest day was always the Saturday before Memorial Day. The weather would be nice, people would begin to see others out enjoying the outdoors, and it usually created a rush. It was always fishing license tickets, because in a hurry to get out and enjoy the day people would forget to renew their fishing license. That includes a guy who I wrote a ticket to so many years in a row for no license that one year I had the citation book out and nearly complete before we even got to his boat. Sure enough, he didn’t have a license.
“There were other tickets I could count on writing every year, like hunting rabbits without a license on Thanksgiving morning. Every year someone was at their grandparents’ house on Thanksgiving, and an uncle or cousin would take other family members out hunting. Usually there’s someone in the party that doesn’t have a license or plug in their shotgun.”
Lieutenant Robin Barnhardt | Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
“Where I work in the west-central part of the state, I issue the most warning and citations on the opening weekend of the gun deer season, which runs in mid to late November. The state of Wisconsin issues around 500,000 gun deer hunting licenses annually, and almost all of those half-million hunters hit the woods during the opening weekend, so it is a very busy time for the WDNR Conservation Warden Service.
“The Saturday of the Memorial Day holiday weekend often comes in as a close second due to the large numbers of people recreating in the outdoors by camping, fishing, and operating ATVs and boats.”
Lieutenant Matt Dobson | Alaska Department of Fish & Game
“I am not sure there is a specific day of the year that generates more tickets than others, but the most activity usually takes place on the third Sunday in June. That is the official opening of the commercial salmon season in southeast Alaska. Enforcement officers will usually deal with large numbers of commercial gill net vessels, commercial purse seine vessels, and commercial trollers. The summer commercial Dungeness crab fishery starts during this same timeframe.
“During these patrols, enforcement officers are looking to make sure commercial fishermen are in compliance with licensing and registration requirements, as well as obeying the laws regarding fishing times and locations. On top of the commercial fleet, the sport fish season in the southeast is in full swing with anglers looking for king salmon and halibut, as well as other bottom fish and shellfish.
“During sport fish patrols we are looking to ensure fishermen are properly licensed and obeying bag limits as well as any applicable size restrictions. Sundays, in general, tend to be the busiest day of the week throughout the year, not only because of the commercial fisheries, but that’s the day when most ‘weekend warriors’ are coming back to the docks from their hunting and fishing and might be trying to sneak home with an illegal take.”
Lieutenant Dru Polk | Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
“Oklahoma has 11 different ecoregions, tying Texas for the most in the nation. The geographic locations and specialized seasons determine our busiest time period. From the wardens in the south-central part of the state working striper fishermen in the summer, to the wardens of northwestern Oklahoma checking pheasant hunters, our enforcement practices are very specialized.
“I personally write the majority of my citations in October and November, with opening day of modern gun being the greatest number of citations written on any one day. We are blessed in Oklahoma with enormous Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), and in my district alone these WMAs span well over three quarters of a million acres. I have on occasion in my career written well over 70 citations in the month of November, far surpassing the average number of citations many wardens issue in the entire year. Federal lands, as well as large timber companies, allow our sportsmen and women to hunt in unmolested remote areas. But this also brings with it poachers who think there’s slim chance they’ll run into a warden.
“We will contact close to 50 vehicles given any general patrol day. On average, 10% of all contacts result in citations being issued—like loaded guns, license infractions, and illegal deer.”
Feature image via Captured Creative.