A walk on the wild side

Clovis resident Wes Robertson, a former game warden, retired four years ago but shows no signs of slowing down. Robertson and wife Linda, who also has a degree in wildlife management, climb mountains every chance they get. Robertson enjoys educating people about the outdoors and exercising and hunting with his dog, Maya.

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On his 50th birthday, Wes Robertson and his daughter, Michelle, conquered the 14,500 feet summit of Mount Whitney, in California, the highest point in the lower 48 states.

Why did you become a game warden?

When I was little there was a show called "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom." I saw that and I thought, 'that's what I want to do for a career.' I was interested in the outdoors from when I was real little. I grew up in southern California and my dad built a trailer for my Sting-Ray bicycle when I was about 12 years old. In the summertime I would put my surf board and fishing gear in the trailer on my bike and go to Belmont Pier or Huntington Beach, about eight miles away. By the time I was 16, I was taking off for three-to-five day backpacking trips. My parents figured they'd better send me someplace to teach me how to do it properly, so they sent me to a 30-day-long mountaineer survival school in Lander, Wyo.

When I was a game warden in Las Cruces, doing an elk capture in the Gila mountains, "Wild Kingdom" came and filmed an episode there, so I actually got to be in an episode of "Wild Kingdom."

What's an elk capture?

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Robertson and wife Linda at Niagara Falls, N.Y.

The antelope and elk captures were the most fun times for game wardens. We would pull in manpower from all over the state and get a rare chance to visit with each other.

We would string up several hundred yards of netting and use a helicopter to drive the elk into the net, then we would jump on the elk and hold them down until they were tranquilized and we could collect the materials we needed from them. We were aging them, putting radio collars on them and, if they were female, we were pregnancy testing them. We were just collecting general biological information. It was pretty exciting.

Tell me about your dog.

My golden retriever, Maya, was my retirement gift from my wife, so my project is raising her. I got her when she was a puppy and I've had her four years. She's my personal trainer and my therapist. She gets me up every morning about 5:30 a.m. and we walk from two to five miles. Her job in the morning is to go out and retrieve the paper. She's a really good hunting dog. She learned to retrieve with doves. I like to hunt with a muzzle-loading shotgun and when she hears that hammer kick back, she's all business. She's looking for that bird and dashes out to get it. She loves the water. When we go to California to visit family she loves to swim in the ocean. I have to lock the bathroom door when I'm in the shower or she'll get in the shower with me. On our walks, she goes into the duck pond. If there are sprinklers going, she's running through them and rolling.

With a golden retriever and a tennis ball, how can you be depressed or sad?

Did your kids inherit your love of the outdoors?

Both my kids on their 10th birthdays, respectively, climbed to the top of Wheeler peak near Taos, the high point of New Mexico. On my 50th birthday, they took me to California and we climbed to the top of Mount Whitney which is the highest point in the lower 48 states. When we got to Mount Whitney, we hiked into base camp at about 12,000 feet. My wife couldn't go any further so she stayed at the camp and my son, daughter and I took off for the top. At about 13,500 feet, my son got altitude sickness and went back to base. My daughter and I made it to the top on July 17. It was snowing on the summit, at about 14,500 feet elevation. My wife and I have been to 31 state high points including Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Tell me a game warden story.

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From left, Christopher, Wes and Michelle hiking up Mount Whitney in California

We used a robotic decoy deer to catch spotlighters hunting at night. My supervisor didn't believe in it. He thought we were creating a situation for people to violate. The first night he worked with us down near Carlsbad we ended up catching five spotlighters. We had a cabin there, and when I woke up in the morning I heard someone whistling to themselves. My supervisor had taken the decoy deer and set it up in the living room. He propped up all the rifles we had confiscated next to the deer and hung all the confiscated car keys from the antlers and took a picture of it. He was sold on it after that. One of the decoys was called Bingo, because when someone shot at it, the operator would yell "Bingo!," so we'd know to come in and catch them.

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