Meet the third woman who works on the Pheasants Forever team in North Dakota, Melissa Shockman. It’s heartening to read her life story and how she finds herself afield with North Dakota farmers – some of the world’s best, in our opinion.
The WON: Name and title (job)
Melissa Shockman: Southeast Precision Ag & Conservation Specialist.
The WON: What type of training did you need for this job?
Melissa Shockman: My college degree and previous work experience involved wildlife and natural resources management in North Dakota on public and private lands, so my knowledge, experience and connection to federal, state, NGO’s [non-government organizations] and programs have prepared me well for this job. I am also part of a farming family, so being immersed in a farming lifestyle, while also working with farmers, has been very beneficial for the agricultural aspect of the position.
The WON: Location of job
Melissa Shockman: I reside near LaMoure, North Dakota, but I cover 4 counties in the southeast: Dickey, LaMoure, Ransom and Sargent.
The WON: If you had to break down your job into percentages, how would that look?
30% – communication with farmers and landowners
20% – data analysis and coming up with alternatives on low ROI acres
20% – networking with ag and natural resource professionals and partners
20% – education and outreach
10% – research and professional development
The WON: When did you realize you wanted to work in the outdoor industry?
Melissa Shockman: Right before I began my first year of college. I cared a lot for animals, so my first thought was veterinarian, but I realized I wanted to be outside for my career and make a more ecological impact, so I knew then and there that I should change it to wildlife management. I am still able to care about animals in the wild from a landscape and habitat management perspective.
The WON: Did you do any internships or other jobs along the way to this job?
Melissa Shockman: Yes. During college I worked a couple summer jobs for US Fish and Wildlife Service up in northwest North Dakota at Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge. Once I graduated college, I was then able to get a more permanent position at that refuge as the Wildlife Refuge Specialist. I also worked just shy of a year for The Nature Conservancy doing wetland and grassland easement acquisitions with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Waubay, South Dakota, before I moved up to LaMoure, North Dakota, where my husband’s family farms and my job is located.
The WON: What’s your history with hunting?
Melissa Shockman: I am the first-born child of my family from southern Minnesota, so my dad introduced me to fishing and hunting as soon as I legally could. Thanks to him, he introduced me to pheasant hunting out in the back 40, deer hunting in the tree stand, turkey hunting on a bucket and duck hunting over our little pond.
The WON: When girls ask how they can get into the same field that you’re in, what advice do you give them?
Melissa Shockman: First, find a college that fits them, as well as offers the course work and experiences they need for this career path. Second, add some minors in other fields that you think might be handy to know. Third, be flexible with where they want to work in the beginning of their career, because being too selective with where you want to work will end up shorting yourself of great learning opportunities and life experiences. Get out, explore, meet new people, work some college summers out west, east, south, or even up north to Alaska. Building a diverse resume for yourself, and you can then be equipped with the knowledge and experience you need to be where you want to end up.
The WON: What’s your favorite pheasant recipe?
Melissa Shockman: Still trying to find that out!
Follow North Dakota Pheasants Forever on Instagram.
Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. She is a contributing editor at "SHOT Business," and her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications. She also is a travel writer, and you can follow her at ozarkian.com. View all posts by Barbara Baird