On just about any frosty morning in autumn, you’ll find Wildlife Manager Ken Clay III bunking at the Vincent Ranch Wildlife Area so he can get up early and patrol the big game hunts in the Mogollon Rim area.
Clay is a top wildlife manager training officer. Those who work with Ken Clay will not find it surprising that he has been named the 2010 Shikar-Safari wildlife manager of the year.
Clay has been with the Game and Fish Department for 15 years. In 2000, he transferred to Unit 4A stretching south of Winslow.
“Ken’s dedication and enthusiasm are high and his activity level is contagious to other officers. He makes those around him better,” said his field supervisor, Bob Birkeland.
In January 2009, Clay started the first winter archery deer hunt for Unit 4 and even initiated a special deer decoy operation for the archery hunt. It proved immensely successful. On the first day, an individual used his .223 rifle to shoot the deer decoy during the archery-only season.
He is also very involved in improving his unit’s wildlife habitat. Working with local ranches, Clay coordinated the High Point Well project. “His persistence and coordination has led to 29,000 acres of grassland restorations totaling more than $1.5 million dollars,” Birkeland said.
He also drafted the first district habitat management plan encompassing 482,000 acres that even detailed 30 years of precipitation data, vegetation mapping, land use identification, habitat condition and trends, wildlife occurrence, and potential land partnership opportunities. His herbaceous monitoring data, especially on elk, are a key ingredient in setting hunt permit levels for the district.
Clay also proposed over-the-counter elk permits for parts of Unit 4A/B a few years ago.
“This was a bold step in a long process of managing elk in some Limited Elk Zones. It was almost an evolutionary approach where he proved that our traditional methods were not working and our landowners were not happy,” Birkeland said.
Each year, the Shikar-Safari Club International honors one wildlife officer from each of the 50 states for service over the previous year that demonstrated outstanding performance and achievement.