Dan Burgette (1947 - ) grew up near Ft. Wayne, Indiana and earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in Conservation from Purdue University. He retired from the National Park Service in 2004 after working as a park ranger in Grand Teton National Park for twenty-seven years. After retiring, he moved over the hill to Teton Valley, Idaho. He can still see the Grand Teton out of his window. While doing his ranger duties, including as a climbing/rescue ranger and as the wilderness coordinator for the park, he escaped the office to spend many days in the park’s backcountry. Observing and interacting with wildlife was a regular part of his life. And those experiences inform his art. He continues to add to his wildlife encounters during outside activities near his home and during canoe trips to the arctic.
Without any formal art training, he assumed that he didn’t have any artistic talent. That started to change in the spring of 1981 when he was thirty-four years old. He was working at George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes, Indiana. Part of his duties was to dress as a frontiersman and sit under a tree while he whittled and talked to the visitors about the Revolutionary War. He had a new boss that had come from Redwood N.P. The boss’s wife had a duck decoy that had been carved with a chainsaw. Having a duck decoy sounded neat, so he went to the woods, cut off a tulip poplar limb and carved his first duck with his historically accurate tomahawk. He didn’t have a very good idea of what a duck looked like. He still has it, and it’s crude. But based on that, his wife bought him some Exacto knives. That fall he was lucky enough to get transferred to Grand Teton National Park. A dispatcher at the park knew about bird carving because her folks sold carving supplies and the family went to the Ward World Wildfowl Carving Championships in Ocean City, MD, each year. Her folks pointed him in the right direction and they entered birds in the Ward show that he sent them. In 1989 he drove his family to see the show. His entry’s habitat was good, but his bird anatomy needed work. During this early learning curve time he won a second place in Novice class.