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The Game Trail

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The winners enjoy their championship. The winners enjoy their championship.

Sharing the woes... and the joys!


I had a refreshing break from my job duties when I attended the North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association annual conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the third week of July. I’m a huge Steelers fan so it was an added bonus to be in Black and Gold Country! 

NAWEOA is a conglomeration of wildlife officer’s associations across North America, representing almost all 50 states and provinces of Canada with approximately 8,000 members. The association began at a meeting of 16 Wildlife Officers from the U.S. and Canada in Great Falls, Montana in 1980. Other associations for wildlife officers existed; however, this was the first to actively solicit membership from all officers in North America. Idaho was one of the founding fathers of NAWEOA and we continue to be one of the more active officer associations in the group. This year we sent eight officers from across the state to represent Idaho.

Each year a different state or province hosts the annual conference to allow wildlife officers to exchange information and for the hosting agency to show off their home jurisdiction. In addition there are some valuable training sessions; for example we attended classes on man tracking, field forensics, and electronic surveillance, etc. For side trips some of us traveled the countryside taking in the beauty of hardwood forest, corn fields, and the Amish folk. We all visited the Flight 93 crash site and subsequent memorial to the 40 souls on board that flight during one of the worst attacks on American soil since Pearl Harbor.  Aboard that flight was a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agent by the name of Rich Guadango and it is believed he was instrumental in stopping United Flight 93 from crashing into its intended target of the U.S. Capitol.

We had the honor of attending the memorial and dedication of Pennsylvania’s game land to the United Flight 93 passengers and Agent Rich Guadango. There were over 500 wildlife officers plus family members attending the dedication that has named the 660-acre tract of woods and riparian areas as PA Game Land 93. 

Following the dedication we participated in a 5k run, known as the Torch Run, in honor of wildlife officers in North America who gave the ultimate sacrifice on the job—their lives. A total of 80 conservation officers, game officers, games rangers, game wardens, or conservation police officers have lost their lives in North American protecting our natural resources.

Each NAWEOA conference has a day where the game wardens of each state or province go head to head in a competition known as the Game Warden Skills Game. It’s a grueling but fun rivalry that involves utilizing our everyday jobs skill to compete such as shooting, trapping, swimming, wildlife identification, and others that you could imagine. At the conference in Pittsburgh this year there were 21 teams and I’m proud to say the Idaho boys took home the first place trophy!  

While I enjoyed the Torch run, the memorial service, and winning the Game Warden Skills Competition, my favorite part of the conference was being with other game wardens from across North America. Knowing that conservation officers from Wisconsin, Mississippi, or New Mexico are going through the same budget woes, and the same on-the-job frustrations is eerily comforting and somewhat motivating to get back to our patrol areas and do our jobs, and do them well.

The weather prediction for this weekend has temperatures in the 90s, summer might finally be here. If you’re like me, I enjoy summer but really cry like a baby when it comes to oppressive heat. Some might say “Matt, 90 degrees is not oppressive.” Well, it is to me and that drives home my point. Don’t let the heat take away from your outdoor activities. It’s a great time to grab the kids and head for a mountain lake, the temperatures will be cooler, and the berries might be ripe.

In your travels let me know how your berry patch is doing this year.  I have noticed a pretty spotty outlook on huckleberries; some areas are doing well while others look pretty bleak. My friend accused me of trying to locate his huckleberry honey hole, and like I explained to him: I’m trying to monitor berry supplies for the bears. That way we can determine areas that are going to have bear problems more than others. Besides, he must not be that great of a friend if he’s not sharing his berry patch.

Get those kids outside for some mountain lake fishing and berry pickin’!  But please leave some for the bears.



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Author info

Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

Tagged as:

outdoors, wardens, Pennsylvania, United Flight 93, conservation

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