Gary Dumond Remembers (Maine Warden Pilots)
April 10, 2019 review by Jeremiah Wood
“Best job in the world”. That’s always been Gary Dumond’s response when he’s asked about his career as a Maine Game Warden Pilot. An eternal optimist with a razor sharp memory, Gary can captivate anyone with his stories about flying in the woods of northern Maine.Born into a flying family in 1950, Gary always wanted to be a pilot. Fresh out of high school he entered a military flight training program, and cut his teeth flying helicopters in Vietnam. When he returned to Maine, an opportunity to fly for the Maine Forest Service led to an eventual job as a pilot with the Maine Warden Service.
Dumond started as a warden pilot during a unique era. The vast logging road system hadn’t yet penetrated the woods of northern Maine, and flying was a necessity for much of the activity that took place in the region. For hunters and anglers, backwoods trappers, sporting camp operations, foresters and wardens, the bush plane and bush pilot were crucial.
Gary was also around early enough to experience the influence of the legendary post-World War II pilots that pioneered the early Warden Service aviation program. He flew with Mac Maheu, George Later and Andy Stinson, and had the chance to hear stories of their adventures and mishaps in early bush flying.
In “Gary Dumond Remembers: Maine Warden Pilots”, fellow pilot Jake Morrel interviews Gary about his experiences during a twenty year career as a pilot, as well as stories both men have been told over the years. They talk about a wide range of topics, from deep woods crash landings, working beaver trappers on the Canadian border, finding lost hunters, recovering bodies, stocking fish, and keeping planes running in the brutal weather conditions and remote setting of the Maine woods.
In addition to a bunch of airplane talk that you pilots can appreciate, we hear a wide variety of stories from Jake and Gary’s memory banks. Fatal crashes in small planes were all too common in those days. A number of folks used planes to access the remote backcountry, and with the convenience came a level of risk. Gary tells of trapper Bill Szabo, who was killed after landing on remote Brailey Brook, and legendary guide and trapper Jasper Haynes, who crashed in the Upper St. John River country when a weight of traps shifted toward the back of the plane.
A big part of a warden pilot’s job is finding missing people, and Gary located more than 200 during his career. Lost hunters were a common occurrence in the days before road networks and GPS, and most times the pilot would locate the lost hunter and use radio communication to direct a warden on the ground to his location.
Between the plane crashes, drownings, poachers and missing hunters, you’d think there wasn’t much about a warden pilot’s job that would be mundane. And you may be right. Bill Turgeon, George Later, Mac Maheu, Sleepy Atkins, George Townsend, Bill Snow, Andy Stinson, Dick Varney, Jack McPhee, Dana Toothaker, Jim Welch, Roland Tarr, Alan Ryder, Roger Wolverton, Jason Bouchard, Durward Humphrey, Charlie Later, Dan DuFault, Daryl Gordon, Jeff Beach, Jeff Spencer, Chris Hilton, and of course, Gary Dumond. It’s a short list of men who had a shot at what truly may be the “best job in the world”.