PUNXSUTAWNEY — Just as western Pennsylvania has been inundated with deer hunters this week, it’s the job of Jefferson County’s new Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) to protect the lives of deer hunters and make sure they follow rules when it comes to the two-week rifle season.
“This is my dream job, the best job in the world,” said Andy Troutman, of Summerville, the new WCO for the southern portion of Jefferson County.
The post of a WCO is a civil service position. For nine years, Troutman served as a deputy WCO in Clarion County. He qualified for training school and was later assigned to the third district in Bradford County as his first full-time WCO assignment.
A 1992 graduate of Clarion-Limestone High School, Troutman, a Limestone Township native, grew up participating in outdoor activities, especially hunting and fishing. His favorite types of hunting are archery and waterfowl hunting.
“Waterfowl hunting is very exciting and very expensive,” he said.
Hunting is still his No. 1 passion, Troutman said, and he enjoys turkey hunting in the spring, but not so much the fall.
“I encourage parents who hunt to take their kids out with them in order to get them interested in it, he said. “I went hunting with my dad since I was three years old. Naturally, I wasn’t allowed to pull the trigger until I was 12 years old, but I always enjoyed going out with him. I didn’t go with him to turkey hunting camp, but every other chance I could I went.”
The Pennsylvania Game Commission established its youth mentoring program in 2006, which provides additional means for youngsters to nurture their early interest in hunting and allows them to take a more active role in those formative trips afield with mentoring adults.
The program increases hands-on use of sporting arms and can promote a better understanding and interest in hunting and wildlife conservation that will help assure hunting’s future, as well as reinforce the principles of hunting safely through the close supervision provided by dedicated mentors.
Troutman said even if someone is interested in hunting, he or she should not force a young person into something that he or she doesn’t want to be a part of.
“When my daughter was eight years old, I took her and my four-year-old son small-game hunting,” he said. “Toward the end of the day, we finally saw a squirrel, so I loaded the gun for her and let her take a shot, which she didn’t want to. I said that was OK, she didn’t have to. I asked my son if he did, and he said, ‘Yes,’ and shot the squirrel. I didn’t force my daughter to shoot, so I hope parents aren’t forcing their kids into it.”
Troutman said the only downfall of his job is his kids.
“I grew up anticipating every season, and I would go with my dad,” he said, but he can’t do that with his kids because of his job with the game commission.
Troutman’s first day of each season is a working day for him. For example, for the opening day of rifle season, he anticipated working 21 hours.
He said he and his five deputy WCOs are in the wild working for the sportsmen.
“They shouldn’t be afraid of us. If they are, there’s a reason for that, because they aren’t following the rules,” Troutman said.