Robert Fleenor spent forty years as an Oklahoma game warden, retiring at age 67. His final seven years on the job were spent as the chief of law enforcement for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. He was recently interviewed about his retirement and his career as a game warden.
Fleenor believes that most people don’t understand the dangers involved with jobs in the Department of Wildlife Conservation, including interacting with armed violators on a regular basis. The most common violations he says, however, are not having the proper licenses to fish or hunt. Fleenor says that there are currently only 114 game wardens within the 77 counties of Oklahoma and that there is always a need for more.
In his forty years Fleenor has seen many changes in his field. Most notably is the use of smartphones instead of the old 2-way radios and payphones that were used when he first started. Technology advances also brought in the use of robotic decoy deer to catch poachers. Game wardens now also use websites like Craig’s List and Ebay and social media sites to catch wildlife violators. Wardens search for violators that put animal parts for sale such as deer heads. They also search social media for illegal activity that may be posted on such sites.
When asked about the most difficult aspect of his job, Fleenor immediately noted that missing weekends and holidays with his family was indeed the hardest thing. Despite those missed times with the family, Fleenor says wouldn’t have traded for any other career.
Fleenor says he can still clearly recall his first day on the job back in September of 1976 and the pride he felt, and still feels. “I can even remember the smell of that new Chevy pickup…,” he said.