Schmidt born to be wild
Erik Schmidt's office is the front seat of a pickup truck.
And he wouldn't have it any other way.
As a Game Warden for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, Schmidt's typical day consists of driving around to follow up on tips, check hunters and fishermen, and keep an ever-watchful eye on the thousands of square miles under his jurisdiction.
It's not a bad gig for someone in love with the outdoors.
"I always said growing up that I could never work in an office," said Schmidt, a 2000 graduate of West Fargo High School. "Now, I never know what the next day is going to bring; every day is a different day."
He also has made quite an impact after just five years on the job. So much so, in fact, that Schmidt recently was named the 2011 North Dakota Wildlife Officer of the Year by the Shikar-Safari Club International, a private conservation organization that annually recognizes outstanding wildlife officers in each state.
"He has a real desire to do the job and a real strong work ethic," said Corey Erck, Region 1 Game Warden Supervisor. "He's very eager to take on whatever is asked of him, and he seems to approach every day with a positive attitude."
As most of the state's game wardens do, Schmidt covers a lot of square miles for one individual. In his jurisdiction, which is based out of Linton, lie all of Emmons County and the western halves of McIntosh and Logan Counties.
"I put a lot of miles on my work truck, that's for sure," he said.
In a nomination letter sent to Shikar-Safari, North Dakota Game and Fish chief warden Robert Timian said Schmidt's district in south central North Dakota provides some of the best hunting and fishing opportunities in the state, which attract a lot of attention.
"Warden Schmidt is relentless in his pursuit of violators, and at the same time maintains his professionalism," Timian said. "He has demonstrated the ability to document many violations, yet maintain good judgment and uses his discretion appropriately."
Schmidt said the area he covers offers a lot of variety to his workday.
"One day I'll be checking people fishing on Lake Oahe, and the next I'll be checking deer hunters," he said.
After graduating from high school, Schmidt went to North Dakota State University for a degree in zoology, and then to Valley City State for a degree in biology education.
Combined with a love for the outdoors, Schmidt had all the tools needed to be a game warden. And just as he was awarded for his overall abilities and dedication, Schmidt also earned an honor for something a bit more specific.
In addition to his Wildlife Officer of the Year award, Schmidt received the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Officer of the Year award for North Dakota. Each state in NASBLA selects a person for a national award. Among the criteria for receiving the award is boating activity in regards to law enforcement, education, search and rescue, outreach and training.
"Officer Schmidt has become skilled at detection, field testing, arrest and prosecution of impaired boat operators," said Nancy Boldt, boat and water safety coordinator. "He is always willing to work when times are busiest on the water, and because of his hard work and dedication the people of North Dakota have a safer environment to enjoy."
It's been said that, people who love what they do for a career never have to work a day in their life. Chalk Schmidt up to one of those people.
"I work in a great region and I have a great boss," he said. "It's something I've always wanted to do since I was a little kid."
Being a warden also allows the avid outdoorsman to get an idea on where to find game of his own. With pheasant season winding down Jan. 8, Schmidt said he hoped to get out at least one more time.
"It'll be nice to get the dog out again, too," he said.
Erik Schmidt's parents, Brad and Suzanne Schmidt, live in West Fargo.