Skip to main content

Training Academy #12: Week 6

Oct. 9-14, 2023

Author: PCO Alex Peters, Marshall, Michigan

Training Academy #12 kicked off Week 6 Monday morning at the DNR’s Rose Lake Shooting Range in Bath. We started by learning about our field training officer program, which we will transition to after we graduate from the 10-week training academy. During the FTO program we will rotate working different areas of the state while being trained by a field training officer. FTOs are conservation officers who are dedicated mentors that trains new officers while conducting daily patrols. My classmates and I can’t wait to start doing the job that the academy has prepared us for. It was a huge help learning about the FTO program and what to expect. 

Later in the day, we learned how to use Axon, our photo evidence system, by taking photos and loading them into the system. We also learned how to prepare photos to present to prosecutors for our future cases.

Lt. Jeremy Payne, district law supervisor based out of Bay City, taught us about the history of conservation officers, the DNR Law Enforcement Division and our fallen officers (officers who died or were killed as a result of an incident that occurred in the line of duty). I love history and was very interested in this lesson; it was humbling learning about the origins of our division and the committed officers who came before us. Payne ended the lesson with words that stuck with us all: “Leave the badge better than when you received it; it’s much bigger than you and I.”

four officers standing in front of a memorial

Photo caption: During the academy, probationary officers learn about the rich history of COs who died from line of duty injuries. On National Peace Officers Memorial Day, the DNR and Michigan Conservation Officers Association host a ceremony at the Michigan DNR Fallen Officers memorial, located at the DNR’s Ralph A. MacMullan Center in Roscommon, where the DNR Honor Guard salutes fallen COs. Photo from May 2023 ceremony.

Tuesday, we learned about big and small game species in Michigan, including season dates, bag limits and methods of harvest. Big and small game are a huge part of a CO’s job. Even though I grew up deer hunting, I learned a lot from this lesson. Most members of Training Academy 12 started hunting small game with our fathers and grandfathers at a young age, which grew our passion for hunting and the outdoors. For me, growing up squirrel and deer hunting with my grandpa are some of the best memories I have.

pieces of fur on a table in a classroom

Photo caption: Probationary COs studied taxidermy to learn about small game species in Michigan, including season dates, bag limits and methods of harvest.

After the classroom instruction, we went outside to learn how to complete necropsies – autopsies that COs perform on wildlife to investigate how they died. We split into groups to perform deer necropsies, a valuable hands-on learning experience for the whole class. Everyone had field-dressed a deer before, but learning how to perform a necropsy was completely different and much more in depth.

men leaning over a dead deer on the ground

Photo caption: During the academy, probationary officers learn how to conduct necropsies, a skill they will use during wildlife investigations to determine cause of death and obtain evidence. 

Wednesday, we learned about the laws governing how to conduct commercial meat processor and taxidermy inspections. I enjoyed learning about the topic because I didn’t know much about it – now I feel much more confident. 

In the afternoon, we learned how to instruct hunter safety education classes and use the instructor computer system. By the end of the day, we were certified hunter safety education instructors! As COs, it’s our duty to protect natural resources and educate future generations on how to safely enjoy the outdoors. I’m excited to teach these classes to encourage future generations to get out into the woods.

Thursday, we learned about the Michigan State Employees Association, the union for COs, and how it can help us throughout our career. A representative from the Michigan Conservation Officers Association also spoke to us about MCOA’s fundraising efforts (through charity hockey games) for those in need, as well as the importance of giving back to the law enforcement community. 

Later in the day we learned about the Law Enforcement Information Network. Most of us used LEIN in our previous law enforcement roles, so it was a good refresher. We also continued our studies about conservation law – one of the most important academy topics, because it covers the laws we will be enforcing, including hunting, fishing, off-road vehicle, snowmobile and marine. 

black pick up truck on wet drive track

Photo caption: A student from Recruit School #9 drives on a skid track to learn how to maintain control of a patrol truck on a slippery surface. Conservation officers complete emergency vehicle operation training to learn how to safely operate their trucks in various terrains and weather elements, along with hauling trailers. 

We were off Friday, because of emergency vehicle operation training Saturday and Sunday at the Michigan State Police training academy in Lansing. 
EVO training teaches us how to safely drive and handle our patrol trucks when responding to emergencies, in inclement weather and on rough terrain. We completed cone courses, operated on the skid track and learned how to correct our trucks if we lose control in different weather environments. EVO was fun, despite the rain all day – but that helped make the training more realistic.
Read Week 7.