By Robert Lucke
There are some people who are born and dream most of their early lives about fishing and hunting. Such a person is Joe Knarr, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden who shares those duties in this part of Montana with Shane Reno.
Knarr said that his early life was dominated by fishing and hunting as he grew up in a small California town.
"I knew I wanted to be in an outdoor job all my life. I was one of those kids who grew up and knew exactly what he wanted to do," Knarr said. "And I had always been outdoor oriented. Hunting and fishing was a part of my family. My father always made an extra effort to make hunting and fishing a part of my life. When I was in elementary school I went to a parochial school and the nuns let my dad take me hunting a couple of times a month during school if my grades stayed up."
That continued into high school.
"I went to a public high school in a little town called Paradise, California. We still fished and hunted for a day every so often. That continued all the way through high school," he said. "You know, I was not a good student in high school. I just wasn't focused. I can understand kids today not being focused. That didn't happen until I went to Humboldt State College in Northern California. They had lots of outdoor programs."
Not only that but Knarr had programmed himself to best achieve a career in the outdoors.
"It is a tough business to get in now but it was even more competitive then. I worked every summer as a seasonal aid, because I wanted to be more competitive when the jobs came open. It is really important for a kid to get a foot in the door because there are few jobs and lots of interest. It is good to be known."
Job applications for outdoor jobs have dropped through the years. It used to be that there were hundreds of applications for each job. Not anymore.
"There is a different focus these days," Knarr said. "I think that kids do not see the outdoors as a vocation as much as they used to, and remember, these jobs are not jobs to make money. They don't pay well and lots of kids are looking for ways to make money so this program does not have the enthusiasm that it used to."
The jobs were available as soon as Knarr graduated from college.
"I went right to work for (California) Fish and Game. I was lucky. Of several hundred who graduated, there were only three of us who had a job right away," he said. "Again, it was those contacts I had made. Good recommendations go a long way."
Knarr spent some nine years in California as a warden in the San Diego and Sacramento areas.
But then entered the lure of Montana
"I love to hunt and fish and another boyhood dream I always had was moving to Montana. When I finally visited Montana in the late '80s, I knew I had to move," Knarr said. "I got a job as a warden in Helena with the Montana FWP. I gave up a lot of money but the quality of life is outstanding. I just couldn't go back to California for anything. Couldn't pay me to go back!"
This is Knarr's sixth year in Montana as a warden. Five were spent in Helena, and in February of this year he was made a warden working out of Chinook and Havre.
"There were lots of reasons I wanted to work here," he said. "This is Region 6 and there is an excellent resource base here contrasted with very few people. Not only that but the people here are very friendly and open. This was a very good move for me."
The very best part of the job for Knarr matches one of Havre's slogans.
"It is the people. It really is. The communities make or break you in my kind of a job and these communities have wonderful attitudes. Whether it is ranchers or sportsmen, everyone is open. That and there is so much game. Some people say we have too much even," Knarr said with a laugh. "I have found a great balance here what is good for the department and what is good for the people."