If all the TWRA’s approximately 100 state-wide game wardens are as committed and conscientious as Wilson County’s Hunter Daniels, our fish and wildlife, fields and streams, are in good hands.
“This the job I’ve always wanted,” says Daniels, who has been patrolling the county’s woods and waters for almost two years.
“I get up every morning and can’t wait to get started,” he says. “There’s no such thing as an ‘average day.’ Every day brings difference experiences. That’s what I like about it.”
Daniels is a native of Dayton, a graduate of Tennessee Tech, single, and a 2018 graduate of the TWRA’s training academy.
He was briefly assigned to Davidson County, and shortly afterwards transferred to Wilson.
“I like everything about Wilson County, from the people to the diverse outdoors opportunities,” he says. “This is my home.”
As such, Daniels takes pride in protecting it.
Through random patrolling and acting on tips, he issues about 100 citations a year – from serious offenses like spot-lighting deer to relative minor infractions like fishing without a license.
Daniels says recent months saw an increase in deer poaching, “for some reason I can’t explain.”
Other frequent complaints involve trespassing on private land, baiting deer and turkeys and shooting from public roads.
His duties also involve patrolling Old Hickory Lake and parts of the Cumberland River, where violations include improper boat registration and failure to comply with safety requirements – such as having a life jacket aboard for each passenger or operating a boat after dark without proper running lights.
Daniels takes no pleasure in issuing a citation.
“I’m not out there to be mean and hateful,” he says. “I don’t like to go around writing a bunch of tickets and giving people a hard time. I want them to get out and enjoy the outdoors, but to do it legally and safely.”
Game wardens, like all law-enforcement officers, have a certain degree of discretion. A dad and his kid caught with an under-sized crappie might get off with a warning. Or someone cited for bank-fishing for bluegill without a license might be given a chance to purchase one and bring it to court, at which time the charge is dismissed.
On the other hand, a spot-lighter nabbed with a poached deer, or someone caught killing turkeys out of season will probably get hammered. They face stiff fines and – for repeat offenders – potential jail time.
Daniels says every case is “situational.”
Some game wardens have had confrontations with poachers that turned violent, but Daniels has yet to be involved in one.
“Most of the people I’ve dealt with have been cooperative and compliant,” he says. “Some didn’t even realize they were committing a violation. I explain that I’m just doing my job, which is to protect our natural resources and make it safe for everybody to enjoy.”