Column: Retired officer played a vital role in the county

Photo Provided by Tom Jahn
Sportsmen Against Poaching was a group that retired local conservation officer Tom Jahn was instrumental in founding. The group played a key role in wildlife conservation and the state adopted the idea in 1984.

By Larry LaGrange

In previous columns I’ve mentioned conservation officers. As law-abiding sportsmen, we owe these valiant soldiers a lot of thanks. They are out there at all hours in all situations doing their best to conserve our valuable game resources and assist in all kinds of emergency situations. Retired local officer Tom Jahn is typical of these fellows.

This is from the intro to his book, “Keeper of the Gifts”:

“When individuals put on the badge of a conservation officer, they are immediately tossed into a world of specialized natural resource enforcement where there will be high expectations from the public, fellow officers, and themselves. The “Thin Green Line” of law enforcement is that of a take charge, fix the problem, show no emotion-type of person who regardless of the situation or tragedy, can adapt and do the job. Then, they are somehow expected to be able to disconnect from the tragedy to move on to the next potential “big deal.” Sometimes this is possible. At other times, the experiences and relationships that are bonded with people through tragedy and suffering change forever how they live and do business. Over the years there have been many such occasions in which the people I’ve met have touched my heart and literally brought me to tears.”

Tom’s book about these occasions will touch your heart and sometimes tickle your funny bone. You can pick one up at the Great Outdoors in Southgate, the Jasper Mill, the Dubois County Museum, or at many state park inns.

To do what Tom did for as long as he did requires backing from home. Barbara Jahn did just that. When you discuss her husband and her family with her today, you can see the pride in her eyes. She grants that it was a tough road, with a lot of late night phone calls and emergencies in the middle of family time, but eventually she adjusted. Barbara told me she was honored to have an opportunity to share her wisdom about being a conservation officer’s spouse with wives and girlfriends of newly graduated officers at their ceremonies in Indianapolis. Tom and Barbara are the proud parents of four: one of them, Ryan, is a conservation officer himself.

Tom was also instrumental in forming a local group to stop illegal harvests of wildlife. In 1976 he met with Wes Settle, Bob Verkamp, Norm Fromme, Don Scherle, and Lt. Gene Huffines, ICO District supervisor, in Don’s office above Siebert’s.

According to Tom, “from this meeting, a formal public meeting followed at the Legion in Jasper where over 200 people were in attendance, including some of the local poachers who were the reason for forming the organization.”

The group came to be called Sportsmen Against Poaching. Settle served as president for five years and then Verkamp for six. This group has played a key role in wildlife conservation down through the years. They provided reward money for Turn in a Poacher (TIP) in 1978, and the state adopted the idea in 1984. They were a force behind hunter education and the 4-H Shooting Sports program. They provided local officers with an ATV before any other officer had one. They purchased body armor, spotting scopes and listening devices to help officers do their jobs better. And perhaps most importantly, they provided friendship and encouragement to these underappreciated public servants.

Today that club, Sportsmen Against Poaching,  has become the Dubois County Sportsmen’s Club.  Led by President Steve Lechner, it boasts 188 members. Dues are $10 a year or $25 for three years. The club meets January through May and August to November, usually on the third Monday of the month at a variety of locales around the county. The club is a major sponsor of 4-H Shooting Sports since it provides ammo for the program.

According to former president John Toy, around 30 individuals serve as instructors. Some former grads are now teaching. Toy, who served from 2008-2015, was a leader in getting the club finances to the point where multiple contributions to good outdoor causes could be made.

Another sponsorship is the Karl Kelley Indiana Conservation Officer Youth Camp for fifth and sixth graders. The club sends four to seven kids a year to West Lafayette for this hunter education, fishing and camping experience.

A youth pheasant hunt at Glendale is a club activity, as is the Paul Klem Memorial youth fishing tournament, this year to be held at the Outdoor Rec lake. Another project which has club backing is the Archery in the Schools program, led by State Hunter Education  Coordinator and Jasper native Tim Beck. 

The DCSC’s 15 committees pursue a wide variety of goals, from gun raffles to participation in Hunters for the Hungry, which for several years has been led by Gene Kunz. Usually around 100 deer are donated and the club pays for processing with the meat going to food banks.

Conservation, hunting and fishing clubs are a good way to get involved in worthwhile outdoor programs, to socialize with fellow enthusiasts, and to play a part in protecting the precious natural resources entrusted to us.

To send questions or story ideas to Larry LaGrange, send him an email at

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