If you’ve been involved in Louisiana outdoors for 30 years, and worked with literally hundreds of Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ biologists, managers and field agents through and during aftermaths of hurricanes, floods, oil spills, you, like me, would understand there’s no more dedicated state employees than these folks.

That’s why the call shortly after sunrise Friday was shocking: Sgt. Paul Stuckey was found dead near his truck. He had been shot, possibly by his shotgun — possibly an accidental shooting.

That Stuckey called headquarters at 2:30 a.m. Friday to report he was leaving his Zachary home to investigate a report of illegal night hunting near St. Francisville should be enough to explain his diligence and dedication — and how those traits are extant in this agency.

Standard operating procedure for these cases calls for working without lights, no headlights, no cab lights, nothing that could alert violators. Ever try to gather gear you need to pursue a criminal in the dark?

Even worse for LDWF agents is that during the hunting seasons, everyone they approach could, and likely is, carrying some sort of weapon. There are very, very few law enforcement folks in our state who work under those conditions.

Worse yet is that I met Paul Stuckey and knew he was a man who cared deeply for what most of us should cherish, family, co-workers and all the things that make our state “The Sportsman’s Paradise.” He was a much decorated 18-year veteran.

Losing men like him hurts to the marrow in our bones. Two days later, there are not enough comforting words in Webster’s to console his wife and three children.

Paul Stuckey will be missed — mightily. Sometime soon, something will be set up to help his family. For now, prayers will help.

More to mourn

Two weeks ago, another young Capital City area man died. Brian Boudreaux was found behind his boat in the Atchafalaya Spillway.

I’d met him at tournaments, and knew him only as a fishermen, not that he had a history of seizures. John Lamabe said over the years friends would make sure to join Boudreaux on fishing trips “just to be there if something happened.”

That mid-September Friday, Boudreaux was alone: Like his family, Brian’s longtime tournament partner, Ryan Wooten, grieves daily.

“Some people don’t understand the bond between fishing partners,” Wooten said. “It’s more than a friendship. It’s a brotherhood that can’t be broken. You talk about things in the boat that only you and your partner know about each other.

“It’s hard to imagine that I will not physically be in the boat with him anymore, but I know every time I crank up my boat he will be right beside me and his other buddies he fished with.”

While you’re remembering the Stuckeys, pray for Brian’s family, too.