By Russ and Tiña De Maris
What comes to mind when you think of game wardens? Fellows that ask to see your hunting or fishing license? A fellow who sits in his truck at the edge of the fishing hole, nodding off? In some places, maybe. But Texas game wardens evidently live an active and frequently challenging life. Witness a few tidbits from the lives of Lone Star State wildlife officials.
Too much of the wrong equipment
Part of Texas game wardens’ job assignment is making sure boaters stay safe. That includes having the right safety equipment, and enough of it. On patrol on the Neches River, a warden “pulled over” a small boat for not having working navigation lights.
Of the three men on the boat, two appeared to be fairly lively, but one was on the floor of the boat – out cold. Pointing to the reason, beer cans and whiskey bottles littered the boat. The helmsman admitted maybe he’d had a little to drink: several beers and a two shots of whiskey. A field sobriety test led to a “boating while intoxicated” charge. And, by the way, they also received a ticket for not enough life jackets.
Use your noodle
For many years, noodling was illegal in Texas. That all changed in 2011, and now the sport is fair game. What’s noodling? The noodler gets down into the water with catfish, uses his or her fingers as bait, and when the cat opens its mouth to grab the fingers, the noodle grabs that catfish by the mouth, hauling it to the surface. Since cats don’t have teeth, it isn’t as dangerous as it sounds – unless you’re a catfish.
But two game wardens were skulking out in the bushes beside the Brazos River when they spotted an airboat approaching the shore. The boat stopped, and a man and a woman jumped off for a swim. Still hiding in the bushes, binoculars revealed the pair might have been noodling. Fair enough, but when the pair brought the boat closer to where the wardens were hiding, the man jumped off the boat with a pole – with a hook in it. Use your noodle, don’t use illegal equipment like a pole hook. He earned himself a ticket for illegal means and methods.
While game wardens probably have “seen it all,” it doesn’t necessarily mean they wished they’d seen it. On patrol near Lake Sam Rayburn, imagine the surprise of a game warden who spotted a man running across the road from the water to a tent. Not surprising until you take into a account the man was buck naked. We wonder if buck naked was in season, but anyway …
The man came out of the tent, this time wearing some much-oversized trousers. A quick radio check revealed the revealer was wanted on felony warrants. On questioning, the man seemed a bit suspicious, and a request to search the man’s pickup was flatly turned down. That didn’t stop a canine narcotics dog from sniffing up the truth. Methamphetamine in the truck bed gave the pantsless profligate a free ride to jail.
Aside from taking bad hombres to the lockup, it’s an unusual day for a game warden to report for duty to a jail. But wardens were recently directed to a Cameron County detention facility. An inmate gill netting in an irrigation ditch perhaps? Not that easy! Seems that when a staff member stepped out of their car on arriving for work, they stepped squarely on an alligator’s tail. The wardens, with backup from prison staffers, corralled and “relocated” the eleven-foot gator.
Finally, in Colorado County, at least one alligator has special skills. A resident called for help after they spotted a “large alligator” reposing in their back yard. How did the thing get there? The big critter had scaled the fence and made itself at home. No doubt the warden had a story to tell, but so, too, his backup man – state trooper.