Waterfowl QA with Mark Reed

Conservation Agent, Missouri Department of Conservation

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Photo © Michael Furtman


* Recently named "Conservation Officer of the Year" by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the "Mississippi Flyway Officer of the Year" by the Mississippi Flyway Council for his exemplary dedication to protecting and preserving wildlife.


What got you interested in the outdoors early on and later a career in conservation?

I was raised in an outdoor family and my brother and I were encouraged to chase our dreams. My brother is a fisheries biologist for Missouri Department of Conservation and my dad works on a wetland conservation area. Friends and family members took me on fishing and hunting trips when I was a kid. Growing up, I thought everyone spent Christmas afternoons and Thanksgiving mornings hunting quail or ducks. Later I met conservation agents and other employees of the MDC who taught me the importance of preserving our natural resources for future generations. 

I'm interested in becoming a conservation officer. What kinds of classes and activities should I pursue to reach that goal?

The first step is to contact an officer in your home state. My first ride-along with my local conservation agent hooked me and I set my sights on a career with MDC. Find out what the requirements are to become a conservation officer with that agency and follow their advice. The MDC requires a four-year college degree in fields of study such as fisheries and wildlife management or criminal justice.

How much of your time is spent inside in the office versus time spent in the outdoors? What is a typical day like for you?

Most of the year, I spend more time outdoors than indoors. Of course I have agency paperwork, court reports and other work which requires office time but usually no more than a couple of hours each week. Describing a typical day is pretty tough since I don't have those! Every day can bring new issues such as a midnight telephone call reporting poachers looking for trophy deer or someone needing advice on how to remove a snake from their bath tub.

As a law enforcement officer, have you ever been in a dangerous situation? How did you handle it?

I have been a conservation agent for 22 years and I have encountered a few dangerous situations. My method for dealing with these situations is pretty simple. I put my faith in God and my training and they have gotten me through every time. Most folks I meet are honest outdoorsmen wanting to relax as they enjoy their day, but I always have to be prepared for the person who may try to hurt me or others. Working outdoors can bring other challenges such as severe weather or dangerous environmental conditions. These situations also require me to be alert.

Your assignments take you through rivers, wetlands, hills, and forests. Where are you favorite places to be when you are performing your duties?

My favorite place changes with the season. Of course wetlands are the best, but it's hard to beat standing in a Missouri woodland listening to a turkey gobbler thundering out his morning greeting or drifting down a clear Ozark stream hoping for a strike from a hungry smallmouth bass. Every month on the calendar brings new adventures and places to visit and I enjoy them all.

What are the rewarding aspects of your job?

I have to be honest; catching a poacher who sets out to steal wildlife from the citizens of Missouri is very satisfying. Another very rewarding aspect of my job is watching beginning hunters experience the outdoors and develop a love and appreciation for wild things. Each year I take beginning hunters on duck hunting trips and watch as they step into the world of duck hunting. Each time I see a new hunter begin to develop a passion for waterfowl I know the ducks have gained another supporter who will help keep hunting traditions strong.