Living the wild life

BY MARK BEASON
Daily Journal

TUPELO – In 28 years, Randall Miller may have lost some hair, but he hasn't lost the love for his job.

The Ripley native has been with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks since 1976 and every morning he still enjoys putting on his uniform and heading to work.

He's the assistant chief of field operations, working out of the District 1 office at Elvis Presley Lake. It's one of many titles he's worn over the years, working a job he's enjoyed from the start.

“It's just something I've always wanted to do,” Miller said. “Growing up I always loved to hunt and fish, so this is just something that seemed to come natural.”

Miller joined the MDWFP in 1976, working in the hunters education division. He was responsible for 33 counties, overseeing the hunters' education projects.

After nine years he switched positions to enforcement captain in District II, which then covered Tippah County. When the position of chief of enforcement came open in Jackson he took the opportunity to advance. But over time, he was beckoned home and the opportunity came available and took his current position in December of 1999.

MDWFP fisheries biologist Larry Pugh worked under Miller for three years. Pugh says Miller was an easy boss to work for.

“I think the main thing was he let me do my job and run the programs the way I wanted to,” Pugh said. “If he had a question about something or a problem came up we talked it over and worked things out.”

During his tenure as a conservation officer, Miller has seen a lot of changes. Not just the changes in the MDWFP, but changes in people, too.

“The attitudes of the hunters has changed a lot,” Miller said. “Now we are seeing hunters getting more and more interested in wildlife management. There's not as much illegal hunting as there used to and hunters are caring more about the wildlife.”

Not only the hunters changing, the conservation officers are changing as well. New cadets in the MDWFP are learning about everything from farm pond management to forensics. Keeping up with the times has been a staple for the MDWFP and Miller enjoys moving right along with it.

“You have to step up and meet the demands of the public,” he said. “We aren't just out writing tickets, we do a lot of work in education as well. A big part of what we do is teaching hunters education and boating safety classes.”

These days he spends his off time tending to cows and hunting when he can. Although with his responsibilities there isn't much time for leisure, nevertheless he doesn't mind the workload.

“This is a job you have to love if you want to make a career of it,” he said. “Even though some days are better than others, I still look forward to coming in every day.”