In his career with the DNR, Conservation Officer Dean Olson has been named the Mississippi Flyway Council's Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, DNR Waterfowl Officer of the Year, was the first recipient of the Willard Munger Wetland Achievement Award and, most recently, was named the National Wild Turkey Federation's Conservation Officer of the Year.
So which award does Olson cherish most?
"Each has been the highlight of my career to that point," said Olson, 41, a 12-year DNR veteran. "It's always nice to be recognized by the hunters and fishermen of Minnesota."
In presenting the award, the NWTF called attention to Olson's work with JAKES, an educational program that teaches young people about the outdoors. The Rochester program has won four national awards, but Olson deflects credit for its success from himself to his helpers.
"All I do is show up and talk," he said. "We have a very active group of people who do all the coordination. I bring my fur collection, talk about predator-prey relationships and teach them as much as I can about animals."
Olson's normal workday beat requires the steady patrol of a 500-square mile area of southeastern Minnesota that includes Rochester. About 120,000 live in the patrol area.
"Officer Olson's professionalism and service to the community are a constant reminder of the DNR's commitment to managing the state's natural resources," said Bill Bernhjelm, DNR enforcement chief.
Winning an award from the NWTF is apropos for Olson, who counts turkey hunting among his favorite pastimes. He's hunted the birds in Minnesota, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Iowa, and has a 27-pounder with 10.5-inch beard to his credit.
"I love to hunt upland birds," said Olson, who also archery hunts for deer. "Turkey hunting and grouse hunting are tied for my favorites."
The NWTF will bring Olson to North Carolina with all expenses paid for the organization's national convention later this month. At that time the national conservation officer of the year award will be announced. Should Olson win the prestigious award you can bet it will be the highlight of his career to that point.
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