At heart, Marion County game warden Cody Morris of Peabody is just a kid playing outside, looking for adventure.
Only he’s not a kid anymore. The 2014 college graduate is a state trooper, the main deterrent against poaching and other wildlife crimes in Marion County and the western half of Morris County.
His job description is as vast as the wilderness itself. He received a call last week that he won’t soon forget: Two bucks had tangled their antlers together on some private property west of Florence.
It was Morris’s job to solve the problem, whatever that could mean.
“I’ve never done anything with that kind of stuff before,” Morris said.
Nonetheless, it was his job to figure something out.
“A few charges at me and I realized I was going to need some help,” he said. He called for backup from the sheriff’s office, and officer Derek Fetrow arrived to help.
Over the course of an hour and a half, Morris did what he could to get the bucks untangled without any humans or deer getting hurt.
Morris said usually deer who get tangled like that die of dehydration, being unable to access water. Morris said one of the deer had suffered some gore wounds on its head and was very dehydrated when he arrived. That deer “succumbed to its injuries.”
Morris and Fetrow cut its antlers off and the other deer was able to get away.
“He was tired and pretty stressed out, but he lived,” Morris said.
The variety of the job is its best asset in Morris’s eyes.
“That’s probably my favorite part of the job: You don’t know what the next call is gonna be,” he said. “It always keeps you on your toes.”
Morris was a self-described animal-lover growing up, and would watch “The Crocodile Hunter” with Steve Irwin. It was his father, Gary Morris, however, who had the greatest impact on his passion for the outdoors.
“He’d always be out fishing, hunting, just walking around the outdoors,” Morris said. “Every time I go home, we try to go fishing together, for old times’ sake.”
Morris and his father, a Vietnam era veteran, were fishermen first. Morris said he didn’t go hunting until his later high school years.
“But you grow up kind of with it — the culture of it, at least,” he said.
Morris lived for three weeks with former Marion County game warden Marvin Peterson while he was finding a place to live.
“It was fun. Marvin’s a great guy,” he said. “He helped me out tremendously.”
Morris said he likes his position in Marion County.
“It’s enough where you’re not sitting around, twiddling your thumbs,” he said. “At the same time, it’s not one of the busier counties like Butler or Reno or something like that.”
While he said he occasionally encounters poachers — usually “guys who get caught up” and are hunting out of season or using rifles in archery season — most of the people he encounters on the job are law-abiding citizens. Their passion is another part of his job he loves.
“I talked to a guy who harvested turkey, and he was so overwhelmed and excited, he couldn’t even write his name on the carcass tag because he was shaking so bad. I’ve been there,” he said. “Or you talk to the kid at the fishing docks who’s just overwhelmed at catching this little blue gill. I can remember when I was that kid. Those are definitely the high points.”