Taylor J. Knash remembers his first shots from a BB gun, the surprising kick of a shotgun, and the 9-point buck he took when he was 11 years old during a mentored youth hunt.
The Honesdale man is 23 now and will be checking the guns and game of other hunters as the new game warden for Adams County’s southern district.
“T.J.” graduated in the 32nd Class of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Ross Leffler School of Conservation on Feb. 13. Getting the job assignment he wanted fills a void in what has been a long line of distinguished wardens in Adams County that in his district included Larry Haynes, Kevin Anderson, and Dave Grove.
Warden Darren David has been patrolling northern Adams for nearly 17 years and Knash says David has been an invaluable mentor, showing him some of the ins and outs of running a district not taught at the academy. Officers Gary Becker, Mike Dubaich, and Dick Karper preceded David in the upper end of the county.
During 10 weeks of field training, Knash rode with wardens in Erie, Lawrence, and York counties for on-the-job training.
It was in high school, after a state trooper visited the school, that T.J. first knew he wanted to be in law enforcement.
It was while studying environmental science biology at Kutztown University that Knash decided that he wanted to work with hunters and trappers and enforce the Game Law.
College roommate Ryan Zawada’s enthusiasm for being a game warden sold T.J. on the career. Zawada enrolled in the 31st class, but Khash was too young at the time. So, he got into the 32nd class.
Warden Zawada is patrolling Berks County.
Knash says the toughest part of the 45 weeks of training was being away from family on the weekdays. Family is in Honesdale and his fiancé was in York at the time.
He and fiancé Shelby Beck, who is an accountant in York, now live in Gettysburg.
The 32nd class, enrolled on March 29, 2020, was known as the “COVID Class,” for the training challenges that included mealtimes, that it faced during pandemic restrictions. The first six weeks were held remotely, and the cadets used the internet service Strava to track physical training.
The warden in training enjoyed the outdoors aspects of the academy. “I couldn’t stand sitting in a college classroom,” T.J. says. “A lot of training at the academy was hands-on outdoors and didn’t feel like training.”
The new warden knows he will have challenges.
He plans to address poaching that takes place in the county, with vigilance.
Knash is familiar with the eastern part of the county. Getting to know the lay of all of his district will be important. “You have to know roads, especially in a law enforcement capacity,” he says. “A lot of time we are on those back roads that people don’t travel. Just knowing where I’m at at all times will be a challenge.”
Knash will soon start the process of recruiting deputies. Anyone interested should contact the Game Commission’s regional office at Huntingdon at 814-643-1831.
He sees himself as a prideful person and looks forward to a career that combines law enforcement and hunting.
“The dedication and heart that you have to have to be any law enforcement officer has always interested me,” T.J. says. “Once I do something I do it full bore.”
What kind of warden will he be?
“I’ve been a hunter before and there a lot of laws that people don’t necessarily know,” Knash says. “So, I’ll be a fair one and think from a hunter’s perspective because I’ve been in their shoes.”
T.J. knows he has another one big pair of shoes to fill.
In November 2010, Dave Grove lost his life in the line of duty while patrolling the same southern district Knash has come to serve.
“Dave ultimately gave the greatest sacrifice for this job, and me, being a passionate person, I respect that immensely,” Game Warden Taylor J. Knash says. “Being able to say I’m attempting to fill his shoes, hopefully I can, I’m not sure if I will, is just an honor to me.”
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