WINSLOW – Reggie Hammond of Rangeley makes a living upholding Maine’s fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation laws by frequently catching violators off guard.

On Wednesday morning, it was Hammond who was surprised when the Maine Warden Service named the 17-year game warden Maine’s 2007 Warden of the Year at the annual award ceremony in the Winslow VFW Hall.

“I’m not normally caught off guard, but I was caught totally off guard by this,” Hammond, 49, said after the ceremony, still bewildered about seeing his wife, Janet, there and son Luke, who placed the Warden of the Year pin on dad’s shirt, and getting the award.

“I’m very proud of him and I know he feels that it’s a true honor,” Janet Hammond, Rangeley’s librarian, said. “I feel that he’s very deserving of this. It’s wonderful that the warden community feels that way as well.”

Reading from a prepared speech, Hammond’s supervisor and friend, Warden Sgt. Rick Mills of Andover, recognized Hammond for his service to the sporting public, the service itself, and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

“Warden Hammond has consistently conducted himself in a manner that displays an exceptional expertise in the area of conservation law enforcement, management of fish and wildlife, community service and all aspects of a warden’s duty. … He’s a game warden’s game warden,” Mills said.

“It means a lot coming from Rick, because I was fortunate enough to work with people whom I consider very talented people who are excellent game wardens,” Hammond said of Mills and Wardens Chris Simmons and Charlie Atkins, now retired.

“No one knows more about being a game warden than they do. They should be the ones receiving this award, because they were the driving force regarding how I perform,” Hammond said.

Earlier during the ceremony, Simmons, now a sergeant, was named the service’s 2007 Supervisor of the Year.

In January, Mills nominated Reggie Hammond for Warden of the Year. But when it came time to read his five-page nomination letter citing Hammond’s many accomplishments, Mills struggled with emotions.

“Reggie’s a phenomenal asset,” department Advisory Council member Steven Philbrick of Oquossoc village said of his friend after the ceremony. “He’s a good guy. Violators fear him and they should. He’s tenacious as hell.”

Mills agreed.

“He’s a top-notch warden. He does what he thinks is right. He’s a go-getter. He really has a knack for catching people. You break the law, he catches you, you pay the price. He has a real thirst for fish and wildlife enforcement.”

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Roland Danny Martin said, “Hammond has done a remarkable job protecting the state’s valuable fish and wildlife resources. He knows these assets belong to the people of Maine and he does his utmost to ensure that poachers do not steal them from present-day outdoor enthusiasts or future ones.

“His dedication to the Rangeley region is demonstrated daily by his outstanding educational outreach on state laws and his enforcement of those laws. It is an honor to have Warden Hammond as a member of the Maine Warden Service team.”

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