By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer
Wesley Robertson drove on a Curry County road keeping his eye on the road for spent shotgun shells, bullet holes and tire tracks — signs of hunters. Small game hunting season opened on Sept. 1 and he was looking out for hunters to make sure they had the licenses and followed the bag limit for doves.
As one of 48 game wardens in New Mexico, Robertson, 54, covers a large territory during hunting seasons, from the Texas state line to Taiban, and from I-40 to Milnesand.
Robertson said part of his duties as a game warden are to deal with farmers who have problems with the wildlife disturbing their livestock. He also looks out for poachers and people hunting out of season.
“It’s funny, people don’t realize what I do,” he said. “They see the color of this uniform and think, ‘Since when do firemen carry guns?’”
Last week, he patrolled the Curry county region in his Ford F-150. The pickup still had its new car smell since he’s only had it since June. But the game warden of 25 years isn’t going to use it for long. He’s retiring in December, he said.
Robertson started working as a game warden in New Mexico in 1981. He earned a degree in wildlife management from Humboldt State College in 1978. He signed up with the Game and Fish Department because it kept in line with his degree.
“This job sounded fascinating,” he said. “It’s one of the best kept secrets in law enforcement. I get to mess with boats and snowmobiles; it’s really a great job, you don’t do the same things day after day.”
When he started training for game wardens had more to do with law enforcement than anything else, he said.
“They gave us a pistol, handcuffs, and a badge and turned us loose,” he said.
Robertson said training has changed over the years and involves more communication skills and better firearms training.
“It’s kind of nice that they give us other things to work with,” he said.
At sundown, a disappointed Robertson still hadn’t seen a hunter in Curry County. Robertson, a hunter himself, said dove hunting season is a good time for parents to teach their children about gun handling and safety.
“It’s a target rich environment,” he said of eastern New Mexico. “You can do lots of shooting if you find a good spot to go to.”
After retiring, Robertson said he plans to stay in Clovis, though he is still not sure what he plans to do with his time.
“It’s been too much fun,” he said. “I’ve discussed with my sergeant to stay on as a reserve.”