Game wardens spend an enormous amount of time in the field. They are intimately familiar with the areas that they patrol, the behavior of the game that live there, and how hunters and other recreationists use the area. They know what you want to know, and often times you can get an opportunity to gain from their wisdom.
Get In Touch
To contact a game warden, I contacted the Parks & Wildlife office for that area of the state that I was researching. Thankfully, the Parks & Wildlife staff quickly sent me to the voicemail of Chris, the game warden that patrols the unit I’m trying to learn about.
That initial call was easy, but actually getting in contact with the Chris took some work and patience. By the nature of their job, game wardens don’t spend a lot of time sitting around the office fielding phone calls. It took several voicemails for me to get a response from Chris, and when he called me back, I missed it. Luckily he left me his personal cell phone number – but even then, getting him on the phone proved to be difficult. When I finally was able to get Chris on the phone I didn’t want to waste the opportunity, or his time, so I was prepared.
Don’t think for a second that you can cold-call an officer and expect to receive any sort of specific information regarding hunting in their area. Ask an open-ended, vague question, such as, “Is this a good unit?” And you’ll get a comparable, generic response. The burden is on you, the caller, to do homework before you place the call and be prepared with some very specific questions that the officer can answer for you.
Specific questions yield specific answers.
How to get good advice when calling a game warden…
Step One – Use Your Manners
Quickly and politely state the reason for your call, and ask if they can assist you…
Example: “Hi, my name is Mark. I am interested in learning more about hunting elk in unit 123. Do you have a couple of minutes to answer some questions?”
Step Two – Introduce Yourself
If the officer has some time to help you, then continue to introduce yourself and briefly explain your hunt. Give the officer some context by answering these questions…
- Where are you coming from? (Location)
- When are you planning on hunting? (Season)
- What method (archery/rifle/muzzleloader) are you hunting with?
- Do you have any experience hunting the species that you are inquiring about?
- What are you after?… Any animal of the species? A specific trophy class?
Example: “Thank you for taking the time to help me out. I will be coming out to Colorado from Missouri, and I am looking to hunt the archery season in unit 123. I’ve never hunted elk before, and I’m just hoping to fill my freezer, so I’ll be happy with either a bull or a cow.”
Step Three – Present the Plan
Show the officer that you have done your research. Talk about specific plans and places that you have for your hunt. You obviously don’t have everything figured out, but you want to show the officer that you are trying your best.
Example: “I’m looking to hunt the last week of the season, and my research has led me to the Elk Park and Wapiti Ridge areas of unit 123. It seems like there are some good feeding and bedding spots in those areas. I was wondering…”
Step Four – Question with Confidence
Alright, so you’ve introduced yourself, explained your plans, and talked about some specific details – now it is time to get to the real reason for the call! What specific questions do you have?
I can’t tell you what questions you’ll have about the hunt you are planning, but some of the common questions/categories might include…
- Access – How are the roads? Do you need 4-wheel-drive to get to the spot that you are trying to reach? What trail(s) provide the best access to your camp/hunting location?
- Population – Most population data is available on each state’s wildlife website, but you could ask about some specific trends/patterns, or recent events (dry years, harsh winters, etc) that would have affected the area.
- Pressure – This is a great question to ask wardens about. For example, in planning my hunt I was curious how the muzzleloader season (which takes place during archery season) might affect the plans that I had for my archery hunt. You may also want to know how many outfitters/guides work the area or have camps near your intended location. Also, many hunters consider hunting pressure, but neglect to account for other recreational activities that can affect your hunt, such as fishing, backpacking, day-hiking, etc. Ask about how the area is used by other recreationists.
- Weather/Habitat – How would a particularly wet or dry year affect the areas that you are interested in? Have there been any recent natural, or management burns in the areas that you are looking to hunt? What food sources will be “hot” during the time-frame that you are looking to hunt?
- Elevation – What elevation range should you expect to find cows/bulls at during the exact portion of the season that you are looking to hunt?
That is just an example of some specific questions – you will likely want to ask about something that I didn’t mention above. However, please keep in mind that you should try to answer as many questions as possible by doing your own research. Remember that this call is supplemental, and you should everything you can to respect the game warden’s time. Make sure you that use all other resources, reports, and publications that the state provides, and then call a game warden.
Step Five – Open the Door
Hopefully you’ve received some helpful information by this point – but before you say your “thanks” (you are going to say, “thank you,” right?) – you want to make sure that you get all of the information you can out of the call. Wrap up your call by asking an open-ended question or two…
Example: “This has been really helpful. Thank you so much for sharing your time and knowledge with me. Do you have any other advice or tips for me? Would you suggest any changes to my plans?”
Be patient, yet persistent. Be informed, yet inquisitive. And above all, be polite.