Workin' It: Taking a walk on the wild side
By Laura Collins
Published in News on January 11, 2010 1:46 PM
Wildlife Enforcement Officer Joshua Hudson talks with reporter Laura Collins Jan. 2 on the banks of the Neuse River.
The Job: Game warden
The Company: N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
The Location: Wayne County
It's possible state Wildlife Enforcement Officer Joshua Hudson regretted giving me his phone number.
In the days leading up to me working with him, I had several last-minute, "important" questions.
"Hi. I'm not going to get shot and/or attacked by hunting dogs am I?"
"Not if we can help it."
"OK, thanks. Bye."
Not quite the resounding "No" I was looking for, but I'll take it.
Then I had another thought. I worked at Mounted Memories Taxidermy only a couple days before and, though I had showered, I was worried that the smell of animal blood was still on me. An editor told me that a bear has 600 times the smelling ability of a bloodhound.
"Hi. I have another question. Are bears like sharks?"
"Can they smell blood from miles away? Because I don't want to get attacked by a bear, either."
"Well, they probably can, but you should be fine."
After that, my calls went straight to his voice mail.
When Saturday rolled around, I was ready for anything, aside from hunting dogs and bear attacks. I rode with Hudson, Sgt. Kelly Brantley and enforcement pilot Joey Deal.
We started off by checking boat ramps around Wayne County.
Later, Hudson and Brantley got a tip that there might be late duck hunters in the area. The three of us parked in a wooded area while Deal parked in another location. We got out of the car to listen.
"OK Laura, next time, try to be as quiet as you can," Hudson said in reference to me slamming the car door. Apparently, I need to work on my stealth.
Shortly after we got out of the car to listen, we heard shots ring out. It was interesting to see that based on just a couple shots in the distance, Hudson and Brantley could almost pinpoint the location of the hunters. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the area the hunters were gone.
The job description for the game wardens is wide and varied and changes constantly. Depending on the season, they're checking for fishing or hunting licenses and enforcing hunting and fishing guidelines. One startling realization is that, unlike traditional law enforcement, nearly everyone a game warden encounters is armed.
Brantley said their job centers around keeping people safe and keeping hunting sportsman-like. He said they work hardest against night hunting.
It's easy to see why the guys like their job. Trying to track down the night hunters is a hunt in and of itself. We sat for hours in the woods, looking for spotlighters and listening for shots. It was a rush when you saw one, though I could have done without the 18-degree weather.
"That's what it is," Brantley said. "It can be five or six hours of boredom and monotony and then all of a sudden you see a flashlight beam."
In North Carolina, deer hunters are allowed to hunt until 30 minutes after sunset. People are allowed to spotlight until 11 p.m., though they can't have a weapon in their vehicle at the time.
Attention night hunters: Shooting an animal in the dead of night from your pick-up truck after blinding it with a spotlight does not make you a master hunter. It makes you a chump. Man up and accept the increased competition the daytime offers.