Burkett’s action-packed memoir of a four-decade career within the Game and Fish Department in North Dakota.
Burkett offers this book, his first, as a tribute to his colleagues in conservation and law enforcement, dedicating it to, among others, a colleague whose death in the line of duty comprises a chapter of the book. The work of game wardens—or rangers or conservation officers, as they are known in other states—is little understood, says Burkett. Few realize what widely ranging skills are required to do the job safely and effectively. The author provides ample information about an all-consuming vocation that requires focus and dedication. This is particularly evident in the chapters in which he describes how game wardens are often called upon by other law enforcement and emergency response agencies—drug enforcement, border patrol, homicide, search-and-rescue—to apprehend perpetrators and safeguard citizens. Burkett’s work developing a protocol for a search-and-rescue dive team is impressive, the result of a poorly handled recovery mission that made him aware of the need for better procedures and equipment. Descriptions of flight missions that helped track down missing persons or fleeing robbers can be exciting, though the accounts, written in a dry reportorial writing style, sometimes read like police testimony. The memoir might also have done a better job of advocating for a ranger’s core duty: protecting native wildlife from illegal hunting. It’s clear to any reader, of course, that those who shoot deer or ducks out of season, or without licenses or take too many, are poor sportsmen and are certainly lawbreakers—but it’s less clear why such a remarkable amount of resources—covert operations, DNA testing (for deer), decades-long investigations—are directed to apprehending such malfeasants when it’s perfectly legal to hunt these animals within certain guidelines. “Hunters who exceed the limit effectively steal from the rest of us,” Burkett explains, but he never really discusses the larger issues of wildlife or ecosystem conservation. Animal lovers will weep when they read about the lair of illegal fur-traders, but there’s a sense that the primary focus here is about getting the proper permits.
Nature tales in a plainspoken style that will appeal to hunters and law enforcement officials.