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Behind the Badge

Small Talk

District Game Warden Zane Manhart

One afternoon, a few years ago I was in an auto parts store buying a new battery for my patrol truck when a man that I knew came in and sat down on the stool next to me. He immediately started making small talk.

We discussed the weather and other usual topics when as usually is the case when people are talking to the game warden the conversation turned to wildlife issues.

This gentleman told me that he doesn’t do much with wildlife other than take home a roadkill deer occasionally.

The parts clerk immediately perked up and looked at me to see how I would react.

I told the man that he was required to have a permit to possess any deer even road killed ones.

I told him that either a game warden or a deputy could issue him a permit for a roadkill if he needed one.

He then told me that when he sees an injured deer near the road he stops and puts the deer down.

Again, the parts clerk looked right at me then she shot a glance at the man as if to say, “stop talking.” I then explained to him that he needed to be authorized by a game warden to put a deer down.

He didn’t seem to understand why that might be a good idea, but he kept on going.

He asked me if I was going to parent teacher conference.

I said that I was as soon as I got my battery.

He responded that he was also going to parent teacher conferences.

Then he started to lament that he had better things to do than go spend his evening in the school.

I asked him what he had to do that evening.

He then told me that he had been chasing coyotes with a snowmobile with his kids.

This time the parts clerk looked at him with an absolute look of surprise as if to say, “I can’t believe you kept talking.” I think that I must have looked a bit surprised myself because I certainly was.

I told the man that in North Dakota it is a misdemeanor to pursue coyotes with a snowmobile.

He got a funny look on his face and then didn’t seem to want to talk much more.

After leaving the store I checked the online records system and discovered that the man didn’t even have a hunting license.

I contacted my supervisor about the incident, and it was decided that warden Zachary Schuchard would investigate the case.

A day or two later warden Schuchard interviewed the man who admitted to everything that he had already admitted to me.

He was cited for his violations. To this day that must be one of the most interesting small talk sessions I’ve been a part of.

It’s not often that I have a person tell me about all the ways he breaks the game and fish laws in an unsolicited conversation, knowing full well that I’m a game warden.

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