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MC wildlife officer retires

Posted on Thursday, March 28, 2024 at 1:38 pm

Wildlife Officer Russell Vandergriff is retiring after 33 years of serving the citizens of Tennessee. Vandergriff’s commitment and dedication supported improvements in turkey populations, advanced outreach initiatives, and upheld the TWRA mission.

Vandergriff was hired in 1990 in Marion County and spent the entirety of his career there. Although an avid hunter, angler, and trapper, Vandergriff had an affinity for turkey hunting.  He won five state turkey calling competitions and enjoyed being part of a trapping and relocation program in the early 1990’s that resulted in countywide turkey populations.

He enjoyed not just the law enforcement aspect of the agency, but also biological work. He helped band doves and Canadian geese and performed surveys for wood ducks and other wildlife. Additionally, Vandergriff worked to help educate youth through hunter education classes, school and community programs, youth deer hunts at Prentice Cooper Wildlife Management Area and fishing events.

Vandergriff’s outstanding career is reflected in the many awards he received, including a lifesaving commendation, National Wild Turkey Federation Officer of the Year, Area Officer of the Year, Safari Club International Officer of the Year, Hunter Education Officer of the Year, and more.

“Russell has been a friend to Tennessee sportsmen and women, and he’ll be missed,” said Captain Jeff Bishop. “Thirty-three years of knowledge in one county will be irreplaceable.”

When asked what he’d miss in retirement Vandergriff shared, “I’ll miss working with other officers. They’re amazing, dedicated people.” Vandergriff communicated his thankfulness for the partnerships and supportive people in Marion County.  He voiced how supportive his parents, his wife Melisa, daughters, son-in-law, and grandsons have been. He said, “They’ve all encouraged and supported me in this career, and I’m blessed and grateful.”

Vandergriff looks forward to more time hunting and fishing. He’ll also captain a boat for his grandson’s fishing team, participate at tractor pulls with his father, and spend quality family time making memories through travel and time outdoors.

The Marion Tribune – December 28, 2023