FAIRBANKS - It's not every day that you get to pull one over on a state trooper.
That said, Sgt. Scott Quist had no idea he was the guest of honor at an awards luncheon at the Westmark Hotel on Monday.
The 46-year-old Alaska Wildlife Trooper had a deer-in-the-headlights look when Maj. Steve Bear announced Quist was the recipient of the Shikar-Safari Club International's Wildlife Officer of the Year for Alaska.
"No clue whatsoever," said Quist, who thought he was attending a luncheon to honor his old boss, Lt. Gary Folger, who was coming to town.
Quist's wife, Karen, meanwhile, breathed a sigh of relief that the undercover operation was over. A phone conversation with Quist's boss, Lt. Lantz Dahlke, a few days earlier nearly blew their cover.
"I almost gave it away," she said, sitting next to her husband. "(Dahlke) called me the other day, and Scott came home when I was talking to him. I knew he knew who I was talking to."
But when her husband asked her who was on the phone, Karen Quist said she gave him "the duck and weave."
The Shikar-Safari Club is an exclusive worldwide organization that works to enhance and preserve wildlife and has placed particular emphasis on endangered and threatened species through the promotion of enforcement of conservation laws and regulations. Each year, the club sponsors an award for the Wildlife Officer of the Year in all 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces and the territories of both nations.
"That's really something for anyone involved in wildlife conservation," Quist said.
His name will be added to a plaque on display at trooper headquarters in Anchorage.
A group of about two dozen troopers were on hand to honor Quist, including public safety commissioner Walt Monegan and deputy commissioner Jon Glass, both of whom flew up from Anchorage for the luncheon.
A 16-year veteran of Alaska's wildlife enforcement division, Quist was nominated for the prestigious award by Dahlke, who heads the Fairbanks detachment of Alaska Wildlife Troopers. There is not a trooper in Alaska - wildlife or otherwise - who is more loyal or dedicated than Quist, Dahlke said. His nomination wasn't because of any one act but rather was a "culmination of things," he added.
It's not the first time Quist has been in the spotlight. In 2000, Quist received a "Top Cops Award" from the National Association of Police Organizations for saving two snowmachiners in Southwest Alaska in December 1999 while stationed in King Salmon. The snowmachiners had been missing for four days and Quist, a pilot, was involved in a search to find them.
The search had ended for the day because it was getting dark and Quist was heading back to King Salmon after flying searchers out of the field. Rather than fly directly back to King Salmon, however, Quist decided he had enough time to spare to search one more valley. He found the two men in the valley, one of whom, a 70-year-old man, was so hypothermic that Quist had to carry him to the plane.
"There are people who would have died if he wasn't out there pounding the ground," Dahlke said.