From the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
-- "You'll be surprised the number of questions a game warden will answer in a day," said Jimmie Henthorn, District 4 law enforcement chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Henthorn was referencing the day in and day out activities of a game warden for the Wildlife Department, whose job is not only to enforce the game and fish laws of the state of Oklahoma, but also to inform and educate the public about the importance of good stewardship of wildlife resources.
Though the responsibilities of a game warden sometimes include writing a citation or issuing a warning, Henthorn said most contacts with the public are positive and result in a win-win for both sportsmen and wildlife.
"We're giving information to the public as much as we check licenses," Henthorn said, although the department aggressively works to ensure compliance with game laws and to ensure sportsmen know the requirements of utilizing wildlife resources.
Recently Henthorn and other game wardens from District 4 carried out a 10-day special initiative at Lake Texoma emphasizing compliance with regulations, and as a result sold 73 non-resident temporary fishing licenses in addition to a large number of resident temporary fishing licenses to anglers who were not properly licensed. Through the effort, game wardens were able to make positive contacts with constituents while informing anglers of the importance of possessing appropriate fishing licenses when fishing Oklahoma's waters. Funds generated during the special enforcement emphasis went back into wildlife conservation.
"When sportsmen realize that they are the very reason we enforce the laws - when they realize that their license dollars are what conserves fish and wildlife for the future - they tend to see the value in that and get on board with us, working toward a common goal of wildlife conservation," said Robert Fleenor, law enforcement chief for the Wildlife Department. "That's why it's so important that we are out there every day informing sportsmen of the importance of their contribution to conservation - in the form of their fishing or hunting license, and in their compliance with hunting and fishing regulations."
The Wildlife Department receives no general state tax appropriations and is supported primarily by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and federal excise taxes paid by sportsmen when they purchase certain sporting goods. Additionally, when game wardens issue fines or sell temporary licenses such as those sold during District 4's special emphasis at Lake Texoma, those funds also go back into conservation by funding game warden training and other efforts.
"We want sportsmen to know we are out there working for them and with them, and if they ever have any questions or want to report a game violation, they shouldn't hesitate to contact us," said Fleenor. "We are on the same side, and together our efforts can go a long way in making sure our wildlife is conserved and our hunting and fishing heritage is preserved."
Each county has at least one game warden they can depend on to enforce game and fish laws and help educate the public about the outdoors.
Phone numbers for game wardens in each county are listed in the current Oklahoma Hunting Guide, available free anywhere hunting and fishing licenses are sold, or online at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/