The Public Are Our Partners

Just because you don’t see us doesn’t mean we aren’t there.

An article from WWA’s Words From The Wardens.

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s May, 2019 eNewsletter.

By WDNR Warden Ed McCann, a member of the Mississippi River Warden Team 

DNR Conservation Warden Ed McCann of La Crosse was just about to take his first bite of his Thanksgiving dinner with his family when the phone rang.

Hey Ed, someone just shot a swan.”

Fork goes down, hand grabs truck keys and Warden Ed is off to one of the biggest water enforcement areas around – the Mississippi River and its pools, basins and marshes. This is where Warden Ed works as a member of the Mississippi River Warden Team, based in La Crosse.

As luck would have it on this Thanksgiving, another DNR warden was going to call it a day when Warden Ed arrived and relayed the news that the warden’s Thanksgiving shift was not quite a done deal.

And the two wardens took off in their boat because, “somebody shot a swan.”

“Hey,” a guy in a boat yells to the passing wardens. “Someone shot a swan. He’s down there.”

The wardens motor on.

Another waterfowl hunter yells to the wardens about someone shooting a swan and points the wardens in the right direction.

This escort of sorts, courtesy of alert hunters and strategically pointed fingers, leads the wardens to the shooter. “Happens every year,” Warden Ed said, “Somebody shoots a swan… or swans.”

Violations like these, Warden Ed says, make the law-abiding hunters look bad. “The public wants us to get these law-breakers as much as we do,” he said. “And wardens really rely upon the public’s eyes and ears to help us because there are more of them than us.”

What other violation tips does Warden Ed get from the public? “Hunting in a closed area. People shooting wood ducks during the teal season. And another big issue that really bothers people is not retrieving game.”

To the law-abiding waterfowl hunter, if you are following the laws and hunting in an ethical manner – Warden Ed says you may never have an encounter with a warden beyond the friendly banter of the occasional license check.

To the person out to skirt the laws, possibly harm the resource, put others at risk and interfere with the enjoyment of other hunters, you should know this: wardens are out there even if you don’t readily see them.

“What may keep this certain population honest – the ones thinking about getting away with something – is not seeing us on duty. It’s not knowing where we are,” he said.

Consider this, he adds, a group may be checked without ever knowing it.

“We may sit and observe a hunting group from a distance for a while. If we don’t see a violation, we move on. In essence, we did a check without any direct contact. On the other hand, we may sit and observe a group break a law – and then approach them to talk about the violations they have no idea we have witnessed.

Best advice?

“Enjoy your time afield and obey the regulations. It really is that simple.”

And, if you do observe a violation, wardens are only a phone call away (or might be watching already!).

If you have information regarding natural resource violations, you may confidentially report by calling or texting: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay report information to conservation wardens.