Behind the Badge
An Injudicious Walkabout
District Game Warden Mike Sedlacek
As a field training officer, there usually is never a challenge of coming up with something to cover or teach a game warden in training, but this last winter was a challenge at times with all the storms and cold weather that never seemed to end.
On one of the coldest days that we had in January, my trainee and I followed up on a call of a deer stuck in a fence.
When we arrived, the deer was no longer in the fence. We looked around the farmyard for the deer, thinking that it was likely injured at this point, and eventually found the deer.
The deer had been bedded down in some trees and when we spooked it, it ran deeper into the trees and looked healthy. Good news for us and the deer.
Next, I decided to show the trainee one of our wildlife management areas.
When we arrived, there was a pickup parked on the road.
As we looked around, we observed a male and his dog out on the WMA.
We both were curious as to what someone would be out doing with temps in the teens below zero and wind in the 15-20 mph range.
We grabbed our binoculars for a closer look and saw the male holding what looked like a yellow construction level. He would constantly push the level into the knee to waist deep snow, like he was stabbing it.
I looked at my trainee and asked him what he thought he was doing. He told me that he wasn’t sure what was going on. I added, I think he might be shed hunting.
I told my trainee that we should stick around to find out what he was doing and make sure that he made it back to his vehicle, because he wasn’t dressed for the weather at all. He was only wearing muck type boots, blue jeans and a hooded flannel shirt.
As the day went on, he kept getting further out on the WMA and his movements started getting slower and he looked like he was struggling to keep upright at times.
We kept an eye on him and his location for a better part of 5 hours.
Eventually, he started to make his way back to his vehicle. As he started walking back to where his vehicle was parked, we could see that he wasn’t wearing gloves and he would take a couple of steps and then fall over into the snow.
His actions were very lethargic, and we could see that he was struggling with just walking back to his vehicle and he was still carrying the level in his ungloved hands.
When he made it back to the road, we made contact with him.
I identified myself as a game warden and asked him what he was doing.
He was barely able to talk and answer me but eventually told me that he was shed hunting.
We followed him to his vehicle where he wasn’t able to unlock it because of being so cold and he seemed disoriented at this point.
I unlocked his vehicle for him, and he tried to start it. The battery was dead.
He asked if we could give him a jump start and I agreed.
Once we got his vehicle started, and he got warmed up a little bit, I offered him a water and suggested that he go to the nearest town with a gas station, which was 7 miles, to warm up and recover.
He declined the water but agreed that he should go to the gas station.
I told him that I would follow him to make sure that he made it.
When we arrived, he thanked me for helping him get his vehicle started and getting him warmed up.
I have no doubt that if we hadn’t stayed out there to see what he was doing, that his outcome could’ve been very different.