BURLINGTON, Wis. - Dale Hochhausen is living proof that there is much more to being a conservation warden than checking hunting and fishing licenses.
The 38-year-old warden assigned to southwest Racine County and far western Kenosha County maintains a hectic schedule of community relations and hunter safety and education programs, as well as patrol of wildlife areas and local lakes.
His day-to-day efforts, as well as assisting in the successful location of a lost child hunter in December 2006, has earned Hochhausen Wisconsin and International Hunter Education Association awards for being the Outstanding Professional of the Year in Hunter Education for 2007.
"Dale brings a spirit of community policing to his position and has rallied others to help undertake projects that are a benefit to the ultimate future of the sport of hunting," said Joe Jerich, Hochhausen's supervisor. "Dale's people skills and ability to build teamwork has had great results."
But Hochhausen, who has been a warden in this area since 2002, is quick to point out that he alone does not deserve credit for any successes.
"I could think of a lot of people who could share in this award with me," Hochhausen said. "I don't think I'm doing anything special. I think I'm doing just what's expected of me."
Hochhausen, a Burlington resident, is based at the Richard Bong State Area in Brighton. His patrol jurisdiction consists of the Rochester and Burlington areas in Racine County, and Wheatland, Randall and Twin Lakes in Kenosha County. It's an area that includes 10 inland lakes and stretches of the Fox and White rivers.
A native of Cassville in Grant County, Hochhausen grew up in a family that spent many hours outdoors hunting, fishing and camping on the Mississippi River and in the nearby environs.
"When I was younger I probably hunted it, be it rabbits, squirrels or ducks," Hochhausen said.
After graduation from Cassville High School in 1988, Hochhausen attended UW-La Crosse for a year and half until he learned about the natural resources program at UW-Stevens Point. He transferred there and majored in wildlife management and biology and minored in wildlife law enforcement. During his time at Stevens Point, Hochhausen took part in an internship with a warden in the Cassville area.
Following college, Hochhausen took jobs with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in La Crosse and as a natural resources technician with a county conservation board in Iowa.
Along the way he took a ranger civil service exam with the Wisconsin DNR and began work with the agency 10 years ago as a park ranger at Peninsula State Park in Door County. When a warden's spot became available, he jumped at the chance. He was assigned to the Bong command after a year of training.
When not out in the field patrolling, Hochhausen visits local schools, meets with Scouting troops at Camp Oh-Da-Ko-Ta in Wheatland, and meets with local conservation clubs like the Buck Trail Archers and the Burlington Conservation Club, both located in the Town of Burlington.
"The sportsman's clubs out here are really proactive. I can't say enough good things about the clubs," Hochhausen said.
In addition to hunter education programs with youth, Hochhausen has also worked with disabled hunters, including leading some on a pheasant hunt April 5 at the Halter Wildlife area in Pleasant Prairie. He also meets with snowmobile clubs in the winter time and keeps in contact with the local sheriffs' departments.
"I get to know the people in my community and they get to know me," Hochhausen said.
His knowledge came in handy in December 2006 when a 12-year-old boy became separated from his hunter party in the New Munster Wildlife area in Wheatland. Hochhausen assisted in a massive search of the area by area law enforcement, fire departments and DNR staff. Aerial photos he had of the wildlife area helped coordinate search parties and the boy was eventually found all right except for some hypothermia.
"I have to admit that the most rewarding feeling was when I heard on the radio that they had found him," Hochhausen said. "I don't know if he would have made it through the night."
Last year Hochhausen put in 650 hours of weekend work and schedules many of his off days on weekdays because he believes that weekends are when "the public expects you to be out there."
Still, Hochhausen finds time to pursue such interests as trap shooting, golf and duck hunting with his brother.
And while some day he might be interested in an assignment closer to his hometown, Hochhausen said he has grown very fond of the western Racine and Kenosha county area and enjoys working with his fellow wardens based at Bong.
"We work well together," he said. "I know the wardens down here have a good work ethic and are real go-getters."