Agents in Action
you want to see this," she says. Guntli thanks her, looks at it and returns the white piece of paper. He then turns to the grandfather and requests his fishing permit. "I'm 65 and don't need a permit," he says. "Here, look at my license. I'm too old to need a permit."
While Guntli looks at the license, the grandson spots a school of small fish in the river. "Look mom, I can get those fish with my BB gun." Embarrassed, his mother leads him away from Guntli and puts her arm around his shoulder. "Now, honey," she says, "you can't do that with the game warden here. It's illegal!"
Guntli, an agent since 1979, has seen a lot of illegal activity, but he says that most are misdemeanors that are not life threatening. "Police officers tell me that they would not want my job because we work with guns during hunting season, but I don't think of it that way," he says.
However, Guntli says he wears a bullet proof vest "just to be safe." He says that he used to wear one only in special circumstances, but began wearing one on a daily basis after hearing several agents speak about the vest saving their lives. "I have two young children and I figure this is just one extra safety step," he says. "I know a lot of guys who don't wear vests because they are uncomfortable, but I think they make you more aware of what you are doing. The vests don't necessarily make you feel invincible, but when I wear one, I am reminded that sometimes I do deal with violent people."
Before becoming an agent, Guntli had no law enforcement background. He entered the training class immediately after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor's degree in wildlife and fisheries. "My degree is useful for this job, but I think it's only one aspect," he says.
"We deal with so many different kinds of people that it's really a communications job mixed with law enforcement. A lot of people get through the agent training and end up not liking the job because of all the law enforcement work."
Raisch agrees that law enforcement is the most important aspect of an agent's job. "We do a variety of things each day that are law enforcement-related. When we patrol in our uniforms, we are a deterrent for people who would otherwise ignore Missouri's Wildlife Code, and when we work on covert operations in plain clothes, we catch more serious violators," he says.
"In addition to this type of police work, we also teach classes and answer questions from the public, which educates people about wildlife enforcement. This in turn helps us get to know them and makes the public feel comfortable reporting violations. It is important that we have this type of relationship with the public. To conserve Missouri's resources, we all need to work together as a team."