Tales from former game warden – a peek behind the scenesMost authors, when they write a book, are anxious to hear what people think about it. Not Bill Callies. He didn’t want his printed until after he’d died.
Most authors, when they write a book, are anxious to hear what people think about it. Not Bill Callies. He didn’t want his printed until after he’d died.
So, with that in mind, Callies was able to name names and give details when telling his stories. The result is a two-volume set titled They Used to Call Us Game Wardens, and it was printed after he died in 2003 at age 86.
When he was 43, Callies left his career in the floor covering industry for one prowling the woods and waters, enforcing the game and fish laws, and living a dream. He did this from 1969-1980, serving in Waskish, Crosby-Ironton, Orr and Baudette. While he worked, he took notes and in his spare time, he wrote about his adventures.
Someone once said that among law enforcement people, the conservation officers are the ones who are the most apt to run into people with weapons. It can make their job more dangerous on a daily basis. But dealing with people who think that game laws don’t apply to them can also result in some humorous situations.
Like the man who was mad at the state for reneging on a deal, and got back by actually advertising in the paper, ‘venison for sale.’ Or the two old codgers who Callies caught with gill nets - after spending a cold night in the outdoors waiting for them - who were simply trying to relive youthful days.
“It was good while it lasted,” they said good naturedly, when fined $300 for their one-time misdeed.
He talked about his decision to get a spotting scope so he could watch from a distance when he suspected someone was violating the laws. Usually the perpetrators caved in immediately as he recited chapter and verse about what they did, what they used, where they put the results - even whether they’d had a smoke or taken a bathroom break.
Eventually, after demonstrating to another warden how those scopes could help their job, he convinced the state to provide spotting scopes for all their conservation officers.
Each of the stories in the books are self-contained and don’t rely on the others. Each of the volumes stands alone, too, so it isn’t necessary to read Volume I first. The stories are written in a straightforward style, backed by a keen sense of humor. While Callies obviously took his job seriously, he could laugh about the antics of the people looking to thwart the law.
The story called ‘College Break,’ for instance, relates his run-in with a group of young men, either drunk or on ‘dope,’ who surrounded his car and harassed him enough that he began to worry - until the young women who were with the group began to chastise the men. They actually shamed them into leaving Callies alone.
“I also put down eight hours on my daily report,” he wrote. “I didn’t physically do the eight hours, but mentally I felt like I had put in twelve hours.”
Anyone who hunts or fishes will enjoy these stories about one of the men who keep the sport honest. I suspect, though, that anyone else who just enjoys the outdoors will enjoy seeing what it takes to be a conservation officer. And the officers themselves will identify completely.
These books, which are also filled with photos from Callies’ life, were put together and published by his son and daughter. They are available by calling 218-258-7831 or writing to Callies/Hanson Publications, 3308 1st Ave., Hibbing, MN 55746.