Are there any HT game wardens out there?

teej89

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Oct 7, 2015
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West of the Rockies
I am a retired "game warden" from Arizona. My job title was Wildlife Manger and then I was promoted to Field Supervisor a few years before I retired. A degree in Wildlife Biology was required for the job. My job was a combination of law enforcement and biology. It was a great job! I got to work lots of hunts, meet some great people and even gave a few not so great people my autograph. Wildlife surveys and hunt recommendations took most of the winter and spring months. Other duties included capturing problem bears, occasionally jumping out of a helicopter to blindfold and hobble a net gunned desert sheep, post release telemetry monitoring of desert sheep and yes I had to occasionally check a fisherman. As far as hunting, I only hunted 5-6 weeks a year. We were given annual leave if we had a draw tag. In my retirement, I now own and run my own business. I sure do miss my Game and Fish truck and the fun times that I had!

I encourage Mr teej89 to seriously give a career in wildlife serious consideration.
Wow! That really shines a nice light on things, it seems talking to wardens I get a little bit of a different view.

I’d love to talk more with you, I’m going to send you a PM.
 

Gellar

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Jan 31, 2014
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The Driftless Area
I work closely with several state conservation officers as well a few federal wardens on occasion. I also get to work with a few engineers in the department of natural resources.
The state co’s work long hours during hunting and fishing seasons and very rarely get an actual weekend. Typically they are supposed to take Monday and Tuesday off during these times. But usually have to use part of the time for paperwork or get called out. They can work all hours of the day or night as game law violators do the same. Their roles are evolving and every year they make more and more cases via Facebook and social media versus catching crimes in the act while in the field. Most of them worked 1-3 years as a seasonal officer, May-September, for low pay long hours and no benefits or gaurantee of full time employment before they landed a full time gig. Be prepared to move to a new part of your state or even another state to gain full time experience with the goal to end up back where you are at now or where you want to be.
The engineers I work with oversee construction projects from building boat landings with pit toilets to designing new buildings at campgrounds to lowhead dam removal. As far as I can see they are more of a project manager as most of the work is completed by private contractors and the Dnr engineer ensures it is completed on time, on budget, and to specs in the original bid.
 

BOHNTR

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Dec 23, 2003
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White Mountains of Arizona
I can only offer you advice based on my personal and professional experience. I recently retired from law enforcement (one year ago) after serving 30 years to the community and state. I began my law enforcement career as a state game warden in the Land of Fruits and Nuts (CA). I learned almost immediately, that I was not able to take the amount of time off I wanted to bowhunt.......as such, I left the organization and went to a very large agency (5000 sworn). It ended up being a good move for me, as I was able to take time off during hunting seasons, and advancement (promotional opportunities) within the organization was much greater due to its size and diversity of assignments. Additionally, the rate of pay and certain benefits were also more lucrative. The negative; I was no longer in the woods, but instead, the concrete jungle of Southern Cal. I survived 30 years on the job and retired since I was maxed out. Best move I could have made, as I was able to go on some really good hunts and adventures throughout my career that I possibly would not have been able to complete as a game warden......and I'm young enough to still do more. IF time away to hunt is a priority, you should seriously reconsider a game warden.....your 'busy time of year' is generally the hunting season. JMO

If I had to do it all over again, I would have been a state fireman/paramedic for CalFire.......they make A LOT of money, great benefits/retirement, AWESOME schedule for hunting, and get to learn how to wax a fire engine superbly......and everbody likes firemen not cops or wardens. :)
 

MJE2083

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Oct 12, 2015
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Central PA
I see you're in PA so I assume that you're considering joining the PA Game Commission?

I'm not a warden, and I don't mean to discourage you, but I will tell you that it is very very competitive. Their most recent announcement indicated that they're seeking to hire 35 people and the cut off for applications is 1000. I wouldn't be surprised if they hit that 1000 application mark, or at the very least the high hundreds. It all comes down to civil service test scores. The vast majority of those selected will have military experience(veterans preference). Those with veteran's preference automatically receive extra "points" added to their test scores. There is no way to realistically "study" for a civil service test. You seem to have the education to apply right now if you wish, no need to go back to school. So take the test and see where you score, nothing to lose. As others have stated, you must be prepared to move virtually anywhere in the state if you are fortunate to be hired. You can also kiss most of your hunting goodbye. It's a lifestyle, not a job. The other thing I will say is that many in "conservation" law enforcement will find that they can make better money and have more benefits by being a State Trooper or a cop.

You may want to consider applying to be a volunteer deputy to get a taste of the work before you go all in. Of course even that requires significant personal expenses and roughly 2 years of training, but it would give you some great experience. Most of the people I have talked to in the field said that it took years and years of volunteer work or low paying seasonal jobs before they were able to get in. Of course there are a few that simply got lucky and tested well right out of the gate. If you're set on going back to school, and trying to get into the field, I would suggest going for more of a wildlife management/biology field with perhaps a minor in criminal justice.

Another piece of advice I have been given is to get into the agency any way that you can, and it might be easier to eventually "transfer" into the position that you want. Not sure if that really works or not.
 
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Jappenz617

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Aug 12, 2017
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Location
Decatur, Illinois
Just to add my .02, I'd agree with what the others stated above, Game Wardens have limited hunting but a pretty cool job. I wanted to be game warden but fell into City Policing running around in the concrete jungle. Now above the age limit and too close to retirement to start over! But I believe it was the right decision since I can hunt when I want and take my time off to do so....As a Game Warden, that wouldn't be an option for a while (if ever). If you are so inclined, Illinois (where I'm at) has a big push to hire Conservation Police Officer's with testing dates in June. They are competitive as well and are only hiring up to 20 for next year. (Be aware, IL is not a great state but the LEO pay is decent). I personally wouldn't over-educate or spend money on another degree, you have a masters and the academy (and FTO's) will teach you what you need to know.
 

hank4elk

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Jan 8, 2015
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SW NM
I am retired Park Ranger who worked closely with wardens for 20 yrs & my best friend was a CA warden for 35 yrs.
He did get to hunt once in a while with me, but was a supervisor too and involved with the county Sheriffs posse....so his time was limited anyway. He loved his job. I loved mine. Stability & diversity was key.
He did die one year after retirement eating lunch at home,never made it out to my place to hunt either.....

I know several NMG&F folks.
Local warden & his wife are friends, a young couple. They both drew elk again this year & will hunt when he can find time. They usually fill tags.
He is working on his biology degree now & hopes to become a biologist for NM G&F.
NMG&F just had some info on jobs on FB page I believe. Check the NMG&F website.

I know the LEO part is fairly easy to pass if you are bright. I know if I could get my PC832 & such,anyone....lol
 

ElkFever2

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Mar 4, 2019
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Iowa
I considered the GW career path when I was in high school. I quickly dropped this idea after interviewing GWs and learning about their experience. The downsides for me were: competition for desirable posts is high and may take 20+ years to attain, work on weekends, and high work volume during optimal times to hunt and fish. I learned that some GW's outdoor recreational time suffers (or ends) because of wanting to counterbalance work life and/or becoming disillusioned about outdoor recreation after seeing the worst that humanity is capable of (homicides, careless fatal accidents, poaching, etc.).

My outdoor recreation time is too precious to me to have a job/career eat it up. I have worked in public safety 10 years, but it is completely unrelated from my hunting lifestyle, which works best for me.

Best suggestion I can think of is applying your existing skills/experience/credentials to a new arena such as engineering/construction for habitat, conservation, or outdoor recreation. Opportunities abound.

If you're looking for a more dramatic career change, take a careful look at the criminal justice vs. wildlife biology education paths - "cop or scientist." One will likely be a better fit for how your brain works.
 

Hunting Wife

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Nov 18, 2014
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Almost North Dakota, not quite Canada
Any way you slice it, there is extremely high competition for just about all wildlife-related jobs. A large number of people are attracted to this field, though many don’t understand the jobs other than what they see on TV (which typically doesn’t at all portray the daily realities). Good that you are doing your research beforehand. Good luck finding your niche.

FWIW, back when I started with the feds, most LEOs had a wildlife background, but lately most of them have no wildlife background and are almost all former military. It’s been an interesting change in culture.
 

ClearCreek

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Jul 13, 2017
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286
There has been a lot of good advice posted here, and some not so good advice if you want to become a game warden. The one piece of poor advice is for you not to go back to school to get an additional degree(s). If you want to work in the Rocky Mountain west as a game warden and be competitive you will need a degree in Wildlife Biology or closely related field. A minor in Criminal Justice will help.

Competition can be severe. In the state I live in a game warden applicant has to pass a written test, this eliminates about half of the applicants. If you pass the written exam, then you take an oral exam, the oral exam eliminates another 50-60% of the applicants. If you pass the oral exam then you take a psychological exam, this exam will eliminate a bunch more applicants. Then there is the lie detector test that will eliminate some more. If you make it through the testing process there will maybe be a job opening for a technician job that will be the "testing ground", your chance to show you have what it takes to be a game warden. Some get done with the technician job and are not rehired for a second stint as they are determined to be "not suitable". From start to finish the described process can be a year and a half to three years.

If you get through all this, and a permanent position opens up it will be in a part of the state that is, well, lets say, not the first choice place to be. But, new game wardens take the position and then wait for a better, more desirable place to open up. If you have done a good job in your first warden district, you will be considered for a lateral move to the more desirable location. It may take 3-4 years to get to a "good" place or it may take 15-20 years, it all depends on the number of positions that open up.

If there are 100-150 initial applicants that take the written test there will probably be 6-8 that will make it to the point they will be considered for a permanent game warden position. As I mentioned, this is in the state I live in, other states may be different.

Good luck to you if you decide to pursue this field.

ClearCreek
 
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