Ever wonder what it’s like to be a game warden?
The Thin Khaki Line, standing between nature, red-in-tooth-and-claw, and the unsuspecting but well-meaning folk just out to enjoy the outdoors. A combination police officer and naturalist, serving both people and wildlife as you protect the sacred trust of the public lands.
A hard job for hard people, rescuing stranded boaters, wrasslin’ wild alligators, clutching the shivering form of condor chicks to your chest as you warm them with your own body heat. At the end of the day, you lean against the grimy tailgate of your government pickup truck, the dust of the day clinging to you as you watch the sun sink redly beneath the horizon, a single stalk of grass clenched between your teeth as you contemplate another day’s work well-done.
Actually, though, it would appear that mostly game wardens are busting people for smoking weed on public land, shining deer along roads, and failing to obey fishing regulations. Not nearly as romantic, of course, but important none the less.
The TPWD periodically publishes “Game Warden Field Notes” online, and they tend to read like the “police reports” section from your smaller, more rural newspapers. This, of course, makes sense, on account of most public lands with game wardens are, in fact, smaller and more rural areas. Still, there are some real gems on there.
I guess the temptation to just ignore fishing limits must just be too great for a lot of folks, since it seems like a lot of the game warden field reports deal with folks getting stupid about fish. The most egregious, I reckon, is this piece, from the July 30th edition:
“With a Little Help From My Friends
A Tarrant County game warden was checking bank fishermen at Benbrook Lake, when she noticed a man walking carrying an ice chest full of fish quickly to his truck. After contacting the subject, the warden found two ice chests full of white bass. The man said he was told by his friend that the limit was 75 white bass per day. The man insisted that he was under his limit. A total of 56 white bass were in the man’s possession. The warden seized 31 white bass, issued citations, and gave the man a copy of the Outdoor Annual. Cases pending.”
Please note, the daily limit in Texas for white bass is 25.
I also like the stupid excuses people try to use to explain away there anomalous catches. The following is pretty great:
“It Wasn’t Me
Two Taylor County game wardens received a call about a man at Lake Fort Phantom with undersized crappie. They began to patrol the lake and made contact with the man, who said he had caught a few fish but not many. A fish basket was located nearby that contained seven crappie, four of which were undersized. The man claimed he leaves his fish basket at that location and sometimes people generously leave fish in it for him. Citations were issued for undersized crappie.”
That is such a versatile excuse! “Sometimes, I leave these sacks around, and people just, you know, fill em up with TVs and shit. You know, folks just being generous.”
Stupid excuses are not relegated to fishermen, however; hunters can be just as dumb. Another incident from the July 30th report:
A Starr County game warden and a state trooper made a traffic stop and noticed the passenger had fresh blood on his hands. The man said they had just cleaned a deer, but the driver said it was a lamb. One thing they agreed on was that they were going to buy ice and put the meat in a cooler. After the stop, the trooper and warden followed the vehicle back to the residence of one of the men and saw the men packing meat in an ice chest. After a few questions, the two admitted to having just cleaned a whitetail deer. Criminal charges were filed.”
Just out butchering lambs, like ya do, officer.
Of course, sometimes you don’t even bother with excuses:
“Slip of the Tongue
A Real County game warden was talking to a hunter in a store parking lot about a nice buck in the bed of the hunter’s pickup truck when the hunter admitted that his buddy shot it, but he put his tag on it. The hunter, realizing what he just told the game warden said, “I guess I’m in trouble now.” Cases pending.”
I guess it’s good to make a clean confession, really clear your conscience, you know?
And Holy Smokes, there are a lot of folks lightin’ up out there. Just sacks and sacks of weed, and occasionally peyote:
“South Texas Peyote Bust
Two Starr County game wardens were notified about hunters trespassing on a ranch. When the subjects returned to their vehicle, the wardens, who were waiting on scene, discovered that they were harvesting peyote on the property. The subjects were found in possession of 32 pounds of peyote and admitted that they were harvesting the plant and were intending to deliver it. The two subjects were charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, a first-degree felony. “
It’s not all bad news, though; occasionally there’s a nice story about helping some poor critter. Let’s end on a happy note about rescuing a sea turtle:
“Sea Turtle Given a Second Chance
Three Aransas County game wardens were in an airboat checking duck hunters, when they saw a green sea turtle struggling in the water. The turtle was rescued from the cold and shallow waters and relocated to deep water in Aransas Bay.”
It all makes for some interesting, and occasionally baffling, reading, and maybe lets you experience a little sympathy for Game Wardens, who have deal with that sort of stuff all the time.