Fish and game wardens hold a position comparable to a police officer’s, particularly when considering the scheduling aspect of the job. A common misconception is that wardens spend their days fishing or hunting for themselves while keeping an eye out for others. Instead, their shifts are filled with discomforting battles and endless hikes in search of any unwanted actions, such as an illegally set trapping device or an individual hunting without a license. Those with a personal passion for hunting, fishing or the great outdoors often find this position to be a fulfilling and rewarding career.
Fish and game wardens are employed by government agencies throughout the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the five states with the highest level of employment for this position are Florida, California, Georgia, Texas and Tennessee. Most of a warden’s time is spent outside, regardless of the season or the weather conditions. They constantly patrol a number of areas, from lakes to deserts to mountains. Whether on foot, in an off-road vehicle, on a patrol boat or covered with scuba diving gear, fish and game wardens often run the risk of encountering wild animals with minimal or no backup available.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department clearly states the necessity of an applicant’s willingness to work any hour of the day. Game wardens typically see shifts that are opposite those of the average worker and have a rare chance of getting a steady 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. They are also usually expected to be on call and ready any hour of every day with few exceptions. The exact stipulations vary depending on the state, but each department shares the same basic employment condition of accepting irregular hours.
Specific hours aside, wardens must work weekends in exchange for days off during the week. They also need to be able and willing to work on any holidays that are recognized either on a federal or state level, as noted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The California Employment Development Department confirmed this requirement for their employees, along with further guidelines explaining the increased necessity of fish and game wardens during any period that hunters and fishermen are known to flock to state or federal land. Depending on the area, this could be due to a particular change in season or the opening for a certain hunting season.
The benefit to an imperfect schedule is the compensation a warden receives. As of Sept. 1, 2013, wardens in Texas can make anywhere between $3,131 and $5,724 each month. This figure was almost exactly the same in California, with the minimum being $3,267 and the maximum at $5,642. Fish and game warden’s schedules are monitored on a 28-day rotation. For any hours logged over the average 171 in that period, the employee is paid time and a half. In some states, the position even comes with a bonus package that can include paid holidays or vacations, medical or dental insurance, sick leave or a retirement plan.