Game warden’s job no mere walk in the woods

Story by Bryan Brasher
Scripps Howard News Service
May 21, 2012
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The events of the past week -- with Mississippi game wardens being the ones who finally found murder/kidnapping suspect Adam Mayes in the woods -- remind us once again that being a conservation officer -- a game warden -- is a far different endeavor than some people like to believe.

We grow up with our loved ones urging us to choose a career in a field that we’ll enjoy -- and for kids who love the fun and fellowship of the hunting camp and the general beauty of the Great Outdoors, game warden seems like a perfect option.

They figure they’ll spend the majority of their time outdoors. They’ll rub shoulders with hunters and fishermen and never spend more than a day or two in the same spot.

That’s all true. Those are real characteristics of the job.

But so are fugitives, like Mayes, who’ve ducked into the woods because they’re desperate and they’ve run out of places to hide.

Do you think those Mississippi conservation officers, when they chose their career path, expected to someday be main characters in the story of an alleged murderer and kidnapper who killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being added to the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted List?

They likely didn’t expect it. But after years of doing that particular job, they probably weren’t terribly surprised by it either.

Conservation officers deal every day with things that don’t have anything to do with hunting or fishing.

They find, report and destroy methamphetamine labs. They discover huge stashes of illegal drugs and stolen property. They deal with gun-toting individuals more than any other branch of law enforcement.

They do all of the above-mentioned stuff way out in the middle of nowhere without much backup. Then in between those miscellaneous dangers, they have to check hunting licenses to make sure people aren’t abusing natural resources and administer sobriety tests to keep the waters safe during the busy summer boating season.

As if the daily expected beat of a conservation officer wasn’t tough enough, they’re also called on sometimes to be “regular” law enforcement, just like the dedicated police officers that patrol our streets and back alleys keeping the peace every day.

Think about all this the next time you get aggravated at a conservation officer who asks to see your hunting license just as the doves really start flying in September.

If you’re a young person considering a career as a conservation officer, you should think about all this and then think about it some more.

Don’t be discouraged. The career is everything you’ve heard it is.

But it’s also much, much more -- and a simple love for the Great Outdoors is just one of many qualifications you’ll need.

Contact Bryan Brasher at brasher(at)commercialappeal.com.

Bryan Brasher

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