Amazing and inspiring stories from a South Dakota game warden

DB McCrea, the author of The Forgotten Law Men – The Life and Adventures of a South Dakota Game Warden-  has written a wonderful account of his 23 years as a game warden in South Dakota.

Actually, shortly after McCrea began his job they changed his title to conservation officer, something he never liked. Starting his career in a location that had not had a warden for a long time, he found himself in the land of poachers, some of whom were very dangerous.

Here’s how McCrea described his job: “A first-class game warden has to understand human nature and know how to deal with its many complicated facets. He has to know the bad people from the good people. The first group is dangerous. The second group can be trusted.”

It took McCrea a long time before the good people in that second group decided they liked him and would help him. But he was relentless and almost eliminated poaching in that area over his long career. Some of his stories about catching poachers are amazing.

His job was never easy. He got seriously injured, destroying three discs in his lower back. He suffered six nerve blocks. And nine years after he got injured he underwent emergency surgery to prevent permanent drop leg. The main nerve root running down his right leg is slowly dying. His right great toe was amputated. The other four toes were fused. And he now has drop foot and walks with a limp.

Yet somehow, he still loved his job. I really enjoyed his positive stories about the wonderful things he did for people. One of the best was stocking an elderly gentleman’s little pond with blue gills. Three deputies and a state trooper helped McCrea catch the blue gills which were transported to this gentleman’s farm.

Every one of the 180 blue gills was alive and swam away with a splash of their tails. McCrea then sat down next to the elderly gentleman who was quietly thrilled. That gentleman died less than six months later. McCrea wrote, “I know he died a happier man. He died knowing the local kids were already catching blue gills from his pasture dam. Godspeed my good and faithful friend. How I do miss our conversations.”

Toward the end of the book, McCrea describes another long day. “It was after midnight. I was hungry and exhausted. Supper was going to be another microwave TV dinner.

“I started the day writing tickets and I ended the day writing tickets. In between I had killed a suffering deer, helped the farm family keep their date at the lake, said goodbye to a dying friend, met with members of the Lake Association, and investigated the smelly skunk case.

“I spent time with a warden from Madison setting nets at Lester Anderson GPA. We checked the nets two days later as agreed we caught a few carp and smallmouth buffalo but no game fish.

“I opened a criminal investigation that I and many others hoped would send a message to the Chester community before it lost any more of its young people to the dangerous and deadly scholars of alcohol abuse.”

And here is how McCrea summed it all up. “The job was about to get even more challenging and more dangerous. The poachers had been put on notice their childish tricks had largely failed. Their lies were now falling on mostly deaf ears. The game warden was out there, waiting and watching and continuing to build his base of support and countywide network of trusted informants.

“The poachers could no longer kill with impunity. They had to start looking over their shoulder. Even if they made it home safely they had to worry about someone knocking on their front door or showing up at their place of work. More and more names were appearing in the magistrate court section of the local newspaper. The biggest and best cases lay ahead. The telephone was ringing. Time to gear up. There was work to do. Knock knock!”

I’m going to drop the book off at the Augusta headquarters of the Maine Warden Service. I know they’ll really enjoy this book. And maybe be inspired to write their own stories for us.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.