"I can remember, as early as 5 years old, going to my grandfather's farm in Virginia and watching him hunt. And even though I couldn't participate quite yet, I can distinctly remember being captivated by it. When I was a teenager, my father started to take me hunting and that's when it took off for me. To this day, I still go hunting with the kids I grew up with. It's rare that people stay in touch with their childhood friends, but we're together almost every weekend throughout the winter, from sunrise to sunset. It's really something special.
This bonding aspect is just one of the reasons why it's unfortunate that there are a lot of misconceptions about hunting. The public is only exposed to the bad guys. And I understand that. What kind of news day would it be if we heard on television that, 'Today, everyone obeyed the law'? But we check a lot of good hunters and fishermen out there who are safe and doing the right thing. Hunters have been stereotyped as lazy, but in reality, they're very educated, influential, and dedicated people.
That being said, the small percent that don't follow the rules are generally what we call 'weekend warriors' who are not familiar with hunting practices. At the same time, when a person applies for their hunting license, they receive a guide filled with everything they need to know about regulations, so there's really no excuse then for illegal hunting practices. Everyone knows that they need to wear 250 square inches of blaze orange. Everyone knows what species are on- and off-limits.
It's always interesting to me that most of what the public perceives about hunting is not true at all. I'm sure many people think that most hunting accidents that occur are like the incident with Vice President Cheney when a hunter's aim might be a little off. But actually, the leading causes of hunting accidents nationwide involve the misuse of tree stands and harnesses.
The best cases are the undercover ones when I'm out there hiding out and watching illegal activity covertly. I'll never forget the time when I got a call about some clammers clamming illegally on oyster bars. It was the middle of the summer, so I just took my little johnboat out there, set up my crab trap, and acted like I was a crabber. I was fraternizing with the crabbers and no one was the wiser. I notified a police officer and he came out on the waterways and issued them violations.
Another time, I was out there hiding in some bushes videotaping some poachers setting up illegal traps and they actually unwittingly looked right into the camera and said that they'd cleaned up their bait so nicely that it would be impossible for us to catch them. That didn't bode so well for them at the pre-trial hearing.
But what I do is not based solely on catching poachers, and issuing violations. A real mythbuster is that we don't gain any extra commission for writing tickets. However, the Department of Natural Resources does have statewide jurisdiction. So when you see me, I'm in our state forests, I'm in the state parks. We're out there on the waterways and even in the air. A lot of people will say, 'Oh that's just the game warden. He can't do anything.' But I can actually nab you for speeding, DUIs, and OUIs, as they're called out on the water because you don't drive a boat, you operate one. At the heart of it all, my job is really about conservation. It's about wildlife management, habitat preservation, and protecting our natural resources.
And, we as Marylanders are fortunate to have the natural resources that we do. We have some of the most diverse species of wildlife here and we can get from the ocean to the mountains in less than five hours. Observing black bear in Garrett County or the migratory birds when they first come into the Eastern Shore is pretty indescribable. You don't have to enjoy hunting to enjoy being outdoors in Maryland. And of course, the Chesapeake Bay is world renowned for waterfowl hunting. Babe Ruth used to hunt duck there, as well as President Jimmy Carter. This unique resource attracts a lot of tourism and brings revenue into the state, which reinforces why we work so hard to protect it."