Roger Guay was a great game warden, and his book, A Good Man with a Dog, contains thoughtful, insightful, frightening, and entertaining stories of his 25 year career. With the help of Kate Flora, one of my favorite authors, Roger has delivered a book that you will read and share with friends, and then put upta camp to read again.
One of my favorite chapters involved wild animals, from blind owls to sick moose. The moose was actually leaning on a car when he arrived. The owl was attacking people. Wait until you read his story of the raccoon that attacked him! Roger had several impressive dogs in his career, and those stories are really good too.
In addition to being entertained, you will learn a lot from this book. For example, in the chapter titled Protecting Fish and Wildlife, he reports, “It’s hard to explain to people the why and how of some of these regulations, and how flouting the laws can make a long-term difference. But there are a bunch of ways that flouting the laws can completely destroy a trout-fishing pond.”
As an example, he writes about the “No Live Fish as Bait” rule on our best brook trout waters. “I would sit across the pond in spring,” he writes, “watching, and inevitably someone would start putting out live bait like a live shiner. These ponds don’t allow you to do that because they don’t want the illegal introduction of bait species and the harm that results.”
This has been a contentious issue in Maine, but Roger notes that “Quebec… took a really hard stand many years ago, and did away with live bait altogether. Maine said, we have people who make their living selling bait and catching bait, so we can’t do that, we’ll just restrict the bodies of water that are vulnerable. And that didn’t work.
“Now the Moose River, out toward Jackman, is full of bass. It’s the beginning of the end for bodies of water that interconnect with each other, because once the more invasive species gets in, it affects the whole drainage. So the only thing that’s left are these pristine little mountain trout ponds that sit on their own. In my mind, they’re the most precious gems the state of Maine has left, and worth serious protection,” Roger concludes.
And I agree with him. I’m particularly proud of the work we did, at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine through the leadership of SAM’s Fisheries Committee, to recognize and protect our native brook trout in waters that have never been stocked.
You probably know that the work of a Maine game warden has changed significantly over the past 25 years. In the chapter, Chasing Those Infernal Machines, Roger blames some of this on snowmobiles and ATVs. “In the 1990s,” he tells us, “we began to see an explosion of recreational vehicle use with resulting impact on fishing, hunting, the peacefulness of the wilderness – and on us to police the off-road population and deal with all of the OUIs, accidents, and drownings.”
“Over time, as the whole recreational vehicle thing became popular, it really changed – I might almost say destroyed – a great job. In the wintertime, when I was first a game warden I could patrol ice fishermen all day. I was kind of a free bird. I didn’t have to check in on the radio every few minutes or be completely connected to any emergency. Then the use of ATVs, Jet Skis, and snowmobiles exploded, and dealing with them became a large part of the job. It totally changed things… We became more snow traffic police than everything else, with little time for fish and game enforcement… To me, as someone who’d become a warden to protect fish and wildlife resources, that was the beginning of the end. We were no longer the guys who could go out and do what we’d signed up to, and it just got worse and worse every year.”
Something to think about.
In the chapter titled Outlaws, Boat Crashes, and a Wild West Shootout, you will read amazing stories, some of them frightening. Yes, the job of Maine game warden can be dangerous. Roger’s story of his “knock-down drag-out fight one night with two very drunk members of the Iron Horsemen motorcycle gang,” is one you won’t forget, as is the story about the shootout north of Beaver Code on Moosehead Lake.
Roger dealt with a lot of death and destruction, including two trips to New Orleans to search for people who died in Hurricane Katrina. That was such a horrible experience that Roger ended up with PTSD, and the story of what that did to him and how he dealt with it is sobering.
At a minimum, we owe Roger Guay a sincere thank you for his outstanding service as a game warden, and another thank you for sharing his stories with us.