INTERVIEW WITH PA. GAME WARDEN OFFICER SHUSTER by Joshua Shaw
What is it like to be a game warden? I was given an opportunity to talk with Officer Schuster who is a Pennsylvania Game Warden in Fayette county. We started by talking about degrees and how different degrees will benefit the type of work you can do in the Basic Academy for the training of Game Wardens. Officer Schuster holds a degree in criminal justice. I asked him about a degree in environmental science. He revealed many people he knew in the academy entered with this degree. Environmental Science greatly benefitted them when it comes to the wildlife side of the job.
Officer Schuster also went into detail about his experience at the Basic Academy. He was able to give me a small glimpse into something I knew very little about but so desperately wanted to learn. He described aspects of his year at the academy as very serious and militarized, yet it was very positive and impactful.
One of the most interesting parts of the discussion with Officer Schuster was his description of the 50 week Game Commission Training School (he referred to it as the Academy.) The first 30 weeks living in Harrisburg and attending classes on things like Unarmed self-defense and firearms training, Wildlife management, Land management, Wildlife regulations and laws, and Public relations. After the first 30 weeks, you go spend 10 weeks with a field training officer. Officer Shuster traveled a lot for his 10 weeks, including Wade County, Clearfield County (elk hunting!), and Union County. Then, he traveled back to Academy for the last 10 weeks, where you take your finals, graduate, then move to assignment. Officer Shuster is currently assigned to Fayette County,
The academy life is very strict, military style. They are off on weekends (most times). Back at 9 pm for meetings on Sunday. PT (physical training) starts at 5 am (wake at 4:15) and runs for an hour to an hour and a half. Then a shower, dressing, and details (ironing, shining)... Classes were at 8, 9,10, and 11 before the lunch break. It was back to classes at 1,2,3, and 4 before a 5 pm dinner and 6 pm testing and more details. It is much more military style than I expected but I liked what Officer Shuster said he was learning; “I learned to look for little details in any type of investigation. I also learned to pay attention to how I spoke, and the weight of each word in speaking to others.”
Office Shuster described some flexible paths to becoming a game warden. Criterias include 60 college credits, 4 years of military service, OR 2 years and 400 hours in their part time deputy program. All of the different avenues available to become a game warden offers rich diversity amongst game wardens.
There are existing internships available at warden offices. You should contact your local warden for information. Wardens are regions. Follow the link to find yours! https://www.pgc.pa.gov/InformationResources/AboutUs/ContactInformation/Pages/default.aspx
When asked to describe an unusual day at work, Officer Schuster told the story of rescuing a deer. Evidently, the deer had gotten stuck in a sewer line. Instead of backing up if went forward into a tighter and tighter bottleneck. He was able to work with a team of others to pull the deer out.
Game wardens and much of the same power as state trooper. They can place people under arrest and can work to enforce the law. Unlike other law enforcement jobs, Officer Shuster is often outside. One of the great aspects of his job is that nothing is ever the same. He described planning an investigation around a deer shot during archery season and being interrupted by a call about a coyote that was left to languish several days in a trap. Officer Schuster spends some of his time teaching others about hunting and environmental concerns, including local scout troops.
The web resources for the PA Game Commission are excellent. You can find out how they select and train wardens and what their duties are. One of the most fascinating things in searching for this information online is how you stumble upon information you didn’t expect! I hadn’t realized how many State Games Lands are in Pennsylvania and spent some time looking at the maps. There is more than 240 square miles (that's over 150,000 acres) of State Game Lands in my County (Fayette)! You can visit their website https://www.pgc.pa.gov/ and look under careers and volunteers part of the Information Menu tab.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear his story. He validated many of my plans for the future and made me excited to face graduation and my future.
Thank you Officer Schuster.
Joshua Shaw - Adventurous, curious, motivated, productive, and logical.