When Mentors Guide a Child, You Never Know Where It Might Lead

By Troy Treasure

  Growing up outside of Salisbury, Missouri Department of Conservation agent Kevin Lockard fondly remembers raccoon hunting with his maternal grandpa, the late Wilfred Henke. There were also turkey hunts, among others, and fishing with his father, Ron, and older brothers.

  “Before I was old enough to pack a gun, I was still out there walking with them, watching the dog work and watching how they hunted,” he said recently.

  Lockard discovered he loved the outdoors.

  Later ride-a-longs with Chariton County MDC agent Clay Creech while a senior in high school were significant in determining Lockard’s career choice.

  “I knew right then and there, that’s where I wanted to be,” Lockard said.

  The resultant professional pathway brought him to Shelby County on September 1, 2012.

  “Kevin was a natural to be an agent and he’s a good one. There was never any doubt that’s what he wanted to do,” Creech, now in his 31st year as an agent, recalled by telephone.

  “I tried to impress upon him there was a time to write a ticket and when to give them a break. Kevin’s always had good people skills,” Creech added.

  Lockard understood a college education was required to be considered by MDC. He obtained an associate’s degree from Moberly Area Community College in 2006. From there, Lockard transferred to Missouri State University earning a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Conservation and Management in 2008. He minored in criminal justice.

  Becoming a conservation agent is not easy. MDC has a thorough vetting process, though Lockard indicated many law enforcement agencies have experienced a decline in applicants. He endured multiple applications and interviews.

  In the end, Lockard was one of 12 individuals from a field of approximately 1,200 applicants accepted to the organization’s academy in Jefferson City for six months of training that began March 1, 2012. 

  Lockard emphasized an agent’s role encompasses more than enforcing Missouri’s hunting and fishing laws. His responsibility involves keeping a check on the county’s entire ecosystem.

  Regarding citations, Lockard stated people in northern Missouri are, by and large, respectful of fishing and wildlife laws. He described the compliance level as “outstanding.”

  To that end, outreach to schools is important. It is also one of Lockard’s favorite aspects of the job.

  “Growing up, how do you know what is a law and what isn’t until someone tells you?” Lockard asked. “Interacting with the kids is the best thing.

  “If the law is broken, I do my job. Now, people think I write tons of tickets,” he continued. “I may make contact with anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 people in a year and I might write anywhere from 30 to 50 tickets.”

  There are exceptions, however. Lockard recalled the story of an individual banned by court order from setting foot in Ralls County.

  “He was an older gentleman. He got caught three times in one summer of going over the limit of crappie at Mark Twain Lake,” Lockard said. “That guy, I don’t know if he’ll ever learn. I mean, three times in one summer you would think …”

  Spring turkey hunting season began Monday, April 20 and scheduled to conclude May 10. Lockard was unsure how turnout would be.

  “It could be more people coming out because they’ve been cooped up in their houses for the last several weeks with the stay-at-home order. We’ll see. It will be interesting to see what happens in the state of Missouri,” he said.

  What follows is the Missouri Conservation Agents Oath:

  I do solemnly swear to protect and conserve Missouri’s fish, forest and wildlife resources and to uphold the Constitution and the rules and regulations set forth by the Conservation Commission and the State of Missouri.

  I will never betray my badge and will serve the people of Missouri with fairness and integrity, without fear or favor.