Back to the Magazine Index

ODWC & State Game Wardens
A Historic Pictorial

ODWC & State Game Wardens Wildlife market hunters found lucrative "work" to hunt out the game and ship it to the bigger cities for profit. Oklahoma's first game and fish laws were passed in 1895, under territorial government. At that time no state administrative office for game and fish existed, so local county and township officers enforced the game and fish laws. While fish and game had seemed an inexhaustible resource to exploit, at the turn of the twentieth century many people recognized these were limited resources that needed to be conserved.
ODWC & State Game Wardens These early market hunters show over 60 turkey's in this turn-of -the-century picture. Then as a 'response' to this plunder in 1903, the Territorial Game and Fish Protective Association was organized. In 1909 the association presented the second state legislature with a bill asking the governor to appoint a state game warden. The law passed, creating the Office of the State Game Warden, later called the Game and Fish Department (now the Department of Wildlife Conservation). Hunting licenses were also created this same year, but separate fishing licenses would not be come available until 1925.
ODWC & State Game Wardens The 1930s and early 1940s brought refinement to the fish and game management techniques, and sport fishing continued to grow as a popular leisure-time activity for Oklahomans. The game and fish statutes were updated in 1949, with fees for fishing and hunting licenses rising to $2 each, or $3.50 for a combination license. The 1950's brought about newer and more effective equipment such as quality lake-ready boats. Note the emergency searchlights & siren equipment on the roof.
ODWC & State Game Wardens ODWC & State Game Wardens
Although hunting licenses had been available for fifteen years, the first separate fishing licenses were issued in 1925, at a cost of $1.25. Funding led to the new agency becoming more 'official' as uniforms, guidelines, and documentation reinforced professionalism among game wardens. As deer species began to rebound, limited hunts were sanctioned and check stations were extremely important. Game Warden George Hargrave, of the Antlers area sets up signage to alert all hunters that this 'shall be' their first stop after a successful harvest.
ODWC & State Game Wardens ODWC & State Game Wardens
I&E division got busy in the 50's gathering an archive of 'wardens at work' and drew attention to wardens having and using binoculars. Law books and badges from the 50's, 60's, and 70's.
ODWC & State Game Wardens ODWC & State Game Wardens
There weren't many deer in the 1950's but this sign photo taken in the dead of winter could signify an improved population in this particular area that caused concerns for public safety... or maybe for the safety of each member of a fledgling deer population. The 1950's found the ODWC leading the way for all state enforcement communications systems. We established a 'tower system' that blanketed the state with radio contact that was second to none. However, some of the hills and valleys of remote SE Oklahoma continued to prevent a good signal so Game Rangers Ralph Rose, AD Haley, and Homer Johnston seen here in 1953 began seeking an ideal location for more towers by using a taught rope and temporary antenna to make contact with others.
ODWC & State Game Wardens ODWC & State Game Wardens
In the early days, everything was hunted in every way available - no rules. Here a coyote was hunted from horseback. Then to make things worse, the young agency had its accumulated funds taken by the state and they were closed from 1913 through 1914. But the state game warden's office was reinstated in 1915 and funds were returned (after a huge sportsmen outcry). This 1950 Game Ranger sports his "Sam Brown" (a law enforcement name for this gun belt) and a set of captain's bars. Rank was something the agency evidently did, but got away from and returned to in the mid 90's.
ODWC & State Game Wardens This picture might seem odd but does signify a significant change in the ODWC. In about 1945 the agency began revamping its image following the end of WWII and illustrates the study of a new uniform image. But, the big item it signifies is the addition of a new division within the agency - the Information and Education or I&E team. They began documenting the agency, its programs and personnel giving us all a better record of our history from the 40's on. Here they "played" with new photo-imaging techniques.
ODWC & State Game Wardens In about 1945 the agency began revamping its image following the end of WWII and illustrates the study of a new uniform image. But, the big item it signifies is the addition of a new division within the agency - the Information and Education or I&E team. They began documenting the agency, its programs and personnel giving us all a better record of our history from the 40's on. Here they "played" with new photo-imaging techniques.
ODWC & State Game Wardens ODWC & State Game WardensHistorically, there have been numerous warden-duo's related to each other in the law division. Some are found as far back as the 1920's and usually occur as brothers or father and son. Can you guess who the two related wardens in this picture are?
Still called the "Game and Fish Department" through most of the 50's, this group of wardens pose in their "class A's" which was a dress suit for the most part. ODWC & State Game Wardens
The largest hiring class of wardens in modern times was this group in 1978, and what a collection of characters they are. One quit early on but the rest went on for many years. Only 4 are still working - can you name them? The other 5 have since retired - can you name them? Answer on page 103.
A 1961 group photo of the rangers of NW Oklahoma shows a couple of officers that were still working when many current wardens hired. Ray Tillery, (2nd from right) was a young man here and later went on to be district chief in the NW. Pat Weldon, (center on back row) later became a dear friend after leaving a 2nd term as sheriff of Cimarron County to begin his Ranger career. The rest of the men in the group are known to be 'long-timers' with ODWC dating back to historic times. ODWC & State Game Wardens

The 50's and 60's brought about a different "Ranger" patch and frequent use of vehicle radios requiring a whip antenna.

--------------------------------------------

Answer to question on page 101:

(L-R, back row) - D. Howser, C. Carlson, T. Johnson, G. Roller, R. Roundtree. (L-R, front row) - D. Cagle, D. Kirk,

R. Olzawski, M. Virgin, J. Edwards, Sr.

ODWC & State Game Wardens
Often heard these days when officers discuss danger is the phrase "times are not like they used to be," referring to a wardens likelihood to come face to face with murderers and the like. The 60's had their own similar dangers and after numerous incidents where (unarmed) wardens were assaulted, sidearms were issued and training was held. A state trooper gives a group of rangers their introduction to 'fast draw' in 1966. ODWC & State Game Wardens
ODWC & State Game Wardens
The agency built the first state fish hatchery at Medicine Park near Lawton after funding was restored by the state. Other subsequent hatcheries were built near Durant (1916-17), Tahlequah (1924-26), Heavener (1925-26), and Cherokee (1929). At the beginning of the twenty-first century Oklahoma's four hatcheries (Durant, Holdenville, Byron, and the J.A. Manning Hatchery near Lawton) annually produced millions of fish to be stocked in reservoirs and ponds throughout the state. Fishing in some areas was closely watched to give the resource time to recover from its abuses.
ODWC & State Game Wardens
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 1937-38 Oklahoma issued 119,263 fishing licenses, which escalated to 360,204 resident licenses in 1948-49. Military discharges following the war began to 'crowd' the forest and fields like never before and hunter-accidents became a concern. So, I&E division also began working on a big safety promotion for our agency and its people to help reduce such incidences.
ODWC & State Game Wardens Market hunting had decimated the deer and turkey with much of the remaining small game species close behind. Quail and prairie chickens were such a delicacy and easy prey (especially when covey-shot on the ground) their price climbed to outrageous values for the day and they were being shipped to the cities by the thousands.
ODWC & State Game Wardens Following retirement in the late 80's Pat Weldon, (and before the passing of his wife, Hope) would attend as many annual national warden conferences (NAWEOA's) as they could. Hope was a retired school teacher who was famous for her gentle way and awesome collection of game warden-related lapel pins. When asked "how is Hope," Pat would always reply "meaner 'n acre uh snakes!"
ODWC & State Game Wardens ODWC & State Game Wardens ODWC & State Game Wardens ODWC & State Game Wardens
Throughout our state's wildlife recovery, trap and transplant was a staple activity that well into the early 90's, contributed heavily to the turkey re-inhabiting all 77 counties of Oklahoma. (Photo courtesy NWTF) The early stage of archery equipment matched the early stage of our state's deer herd. This 1951 photo illustrates the enthusiasm experienced when a young bowman realizes the reward of his efforts.
J.B. Dowell was one of the early wardens interviewed in 1959 about his historic work carried out to establish wildlife law enforcement. He spoke of how tickets were simply wrote out on paper, not ticket forms, and "whatever had to be done to get the job done- was done."
Arguably the "father of the 5-State" Pat Weldon, seen here from the late 50's, guided many a young warden to wiser perceptions as they entered their careers. He would serve the sportsmen of the panhandle area for over 30 years and also acted as auctioneer in OKC whenever the agency held an auction to clear out our warehouse of outdated equipment.

 

Back to the Magazine Index

Wildlife Law Enforcement in Action
COPYRIGHT 2004-2005 The Oklahoma State Game Warden Association