MARYVILLE, Mo. — The 2021 Missouri bowhunting season had something different in store for new county residents Kris and Madeline Smith.
A typical season might see Kris Smith deep out in the woods waiting with his bow for the right prey, but this year he’ll be traversing the trees in search of code violations and hunters to help, as Nodaway County’s new conservation agent.
Smith and Lt. Eric Abbott stopped in at The Forum to introduce themselves Monday afternoon.
A graduate of Northwest Missouri State University, Smith took his bachelor’s degree in park management and a minor in criminal justice down to Tabor Rock State Park where he served as assistant superintendent for a few years. When the conservation agent academy was held, he pounced on the opportunity. The academy involves six months of intense training in all facets of law enforcement, resource management and conservation stewardship. He graduated Oct. 12 and began his first day in Nodaway County last Friday.
Abbott explained that agent classes aren’t offered every year, but last year saw 20 openings throughout the state, so a class was held.
He said that all counties have one agent, but some have two, thus about 160 agents handle various conservation duties throughout the state. He said most of those openings were from agents retiring.
With regard to the 20 openings, Abbott said around 300 to 400 people applied for the positions.
“We do have interest,” he said. “But it’s just because of the timeline between the six months in the academy and the interview process in selecting their correct candidates, we’re still down probably 20 agents for the state.”
Nodaway County is not one of those anymore.
Growing up in the St. Louis area, Smith said he didn’t have a lot of opportunity to get out into nature, but through friends and mentors he was introduced to the outdoors and exposed to fishing and bowhunting, where he gained a deep respect for the natural beauty of Missouri wildlife.
“Maybe it’s because I didn’t have access to it, but it was pretty valuable to me, that first exposure,” he said. “It really motivated me. I wanted to go into a field to help connect people with the outdoors and protect and conserve it just so all the future generations can continue to enjoy it.”
Smith said while out on the job, he’ll be looking for wildlife code violations, such as permit fraud, overlimits, etc., but that as conservation agents, their main goal is to increase voluntary compliance with the code.
He said the “Mo Hunting App” available on app stores for cellphones has absolutely helped with this, making it considerably easier to check permits.
“It’s a different age for someone of my age because I grew up with paper permits. ...,” Abbott said. “It’s been very handy for the public and us as well.”
Abbott said with the academy just ending as the fall archery and firearms turkey and deer seasons are beginning, it’s putting a bit of a quick turnaround on Smith getting settled into his new position. Some of the typical duties Smith will start handling for Nodaway County include: enforcing wildlife laws; handling code compliance issues; collecting data on wildlife, fish and bird populations; as well as educating the public about conservation issues.
Smith said he and his wife, Madeline, another Northwest graduate and teacher, moved from Branson just last week. He said they are looking forward to fishing out at Mozingo next summer and getting in some bowhunting for deer.
“I enjoy fishing and bowhunting and (I’m) fortunate enough to have this job where I can get out and interact with people who are doing that all the time,” he said.
To contact Smith with a code violation or information, call 816-261-1245. To contact Operation Game Thief, call 800-392-1111.