By Doug Leier
Leading off with, “It seems like yesterday” is pretty good qualifier to acknowledge I’m not a kid anymore.
Fact is, it’s been 20 years since I took my final college exam, and also took the North Dakota Game and Fish Department game warden exam, which is the first step in the process for becoming a North Dakota district game warden.
I can remember the reality of the situation. In a state with fewer wardens than counties, and a heritage of hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation, interest in a career as a game warden runs high. While the odds aren’t quite the same as making it in professional sports, I wasn’t very optimistic when I took the test, as more than 100 other prospects were in the room with me, vying for what turned out to be one position.
The process proved me wrong, however, and I was fortunate to spend the first five years of my career at the Game and Fish Department as district warden.
The warden test remains the initial procedure for filling a vacant position amongst the 3 dozen or so North Dakota game warden positions. The tests don’t come around all that often, but the next one is on the calendar for Dec. 29 at 10 a.m. at the Game and Fsh Department’s main office in Bismarck. It’s a great opportunity for anyone who has envisioned a career as a game warden.
To begin the process, applicants must register to take the exam by submitting an online application through the North Dakota State Job Openings website.
No doubt a background in hunting, fishing, trapping and conservation will serve a candidate well. Many current wardens have degrees with a natural resources or law enforcement focus, but others come from a variety of educational backgrounds as well.
Applicants must be at least 21 years of age and have a bachelor’s degree. Other requirements are a current North Dakota peace officer license, or eligibility to train for a peace officer license, and a valid driver’s license. Candidates must have excellent interpersonal skills in communications and writing, and must not have a record of any felony convictions.
The work of a warden continues to focus on enforcement of game and fish laws and related regulations in an assigned district and other locations throughout the state. Wardens often work alone under varied conditions, and sometimes experience work days that can extent to all hours of the day.
In addition to law enforcement duties, wardens assist in the areas of public relations, education programs, and hunter and boat safety education.
While the test is the first step, the selection procedure following the test may include an evaluation of the application, a structured oral interview, background and reference checks, and psychological and medical examinations.
While the next game warden exam is scheduled for Dec. 29, there is no guarantee on when the next one will be held. They typically are only scheduled when there is an open position, which may or may not occur on an annual basis.
So if you’ve ever considered a career as a game warden, or know someone else who may be interested, don’t be apprehensive like I was. You just never know what might happen. And you certainly will never know unless you start the process.