SHERIDAN — When the owl hoots, it’s lunch time. And when the goose honks, it’s time to go home.
For Warren Mischke, information and education specialist for the Sheridan Region Game and Fish Department, the goose has honked. Come Monday, he will pull on his coat and turn out his office light for the last time as he retires from a 36-year career with Wyoming Game and Fish and dives headlong into the next adventure — whatever that may be.
“The people up front said they will miss my clock,” Mischke said.
In all honesty, though, the folks at the office will miss much more than Mischke’s clock, which features a different bird call for each hour.
“I think everyone agrees that we will miss his positive and cheerful attitude,” Office Manager Kathy Boyles said. “It’s been a joy to work with Warren as he is always willing to jump in and help out when needed. I have learned so much from him and yes, we will miss his bird clock that chimes every hour.”
Many residents in Sheridan, Johnson and Campbell counties have benefited from Mischke’s knowledge of science and the outdoors and his contagious sense of wonder.
In his 18 years as information and education specialist in Sheridan, Mischke has worked with nearly 1,000 students every year in the three counties, teaching about Wyoming watersheds, wildlife habitat and safe interactions between animals and humans. Mischke has also been instrumental in teaching hunter safety courses throughout the region.
Recently, in fact, Mischke popped into The Rock Stop gas station below the Game and Fish office to grab a coffee, and the clerk greeted him by name. Surprised, Mischke asked how he knew him.
“He said, ‘I remember you from fourth grade. You did a stream investigation project in my outdoor lab,’” Mischke said. “That really hit me, and I thought, ‘Wow! Maybe I do have an impact!’
“It’s not about me, though,” Mischke said, quick to jump out of the spotlight. “I hope it’s about the programs, about people learning to co-exist with wildlife.”
For Mischke, his career with Game and Fish has been the perfect way to blend his love of people, education, wildlife and the outdoors.
“I’m so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work all around the state and live my dream of what I’ve always wanted to do: work outdoors with wildlife,” Mischke said. “It doesn’t seem like a job if you like what you do. I mean, I’m not driving a cadillac, but it’s been a good life.”
Mischke gives much of the credit for his fulfilling career to his co-workers.
“I have learned the dedication of the people I work with and the Department as a whole. Everyone with different responsibilities works for the same goal, which is conserving wildlife and serving people,” Mischke said. “It’s like a family. It’s hard to retire because it’s like a family.”
The feeling is mutual.
“Whether it is a school needing a wildlife program or a coworker needing a hand with a project, Warren is always there to help,” Sheridan Region Wildlife Supervisor Joe Gilbert said.
Mischke said the highlights of his career have been working with outdoor mentors like Sam Mavrakis, who co-owned Ritz Sporting Goods Store in Sheridan and advocated for outdoor issues and access all his life, and Bill Grunkemeyer, a renowned wildlife photographer and videographer, and being a mentor to so many youth. He said he especially enjoyed being able to help nominate Mavrakis and Grunkemeyer for the Wyoming Outdoor Hall of Fame.
As he leaves, Mischke knows the Game and Fish Department is in good hands, he said. However, he does hope it is able to solve its money shortfalls soon so the department and its programs can be revived. Over his career, Mischke has worked at two fish hatcheries that had to close to due budget cuts and has seen several needed positions eliminated. He is glad that morale has remained high, though.
“The people I work with are very dedicated and positive and have a passion for what they do,” Mischke said.
Mischke started his Game and Fish career as a temporary fish culturist at Wigwam Rearing Station near Ten Sleep. He was promoted to a permanent fish culturist at the Auburn Hatchery in Star Valley in 1978 and to assistant superintendent at the Como Bluff Hatchery near Rock River in 1983. He transferred to the Ranch A Hatchery near Beulah in August 1988 and was promoted to his current position in January 1995.
He is a native of Crofton, Neb., and earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from Wayne State College in Wayne, Neb. He earned a master’s in science education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, previously serving as a science teacher, outdoor education program leader and coach in Omaha.
Mischke and his wife, Patricia, who works as a home economics teacher at Tongue River Elementary and High schools, have three grown children: Sadie, Jake and Mike, who is also pursuing a wildlife career. Mischke hopes to continue working with youth and education but also looks forward to pursuing a hobby in wildlife photography and plenty of hunting, fishing and time with his wife and children.
• Help give Warren Mischke a proper send-off at his retirement reception from 2-4 p.m. Friday at the Sheridan Regional Game and Fish Office, located at 700 Valley View Drive across from the Chamber of Commerce. Cake, cookies and punch will be served. Please contact Lori Roe at 672-7418 with any questions.