Field Notes From Intrepid Texas Game Wardens: When Nature Strikes Back

Best-selling, award-winning author C.J. Box has written a critically acclaimed series of novels centered on his character Joe Pickett, a Wyoming game warden who meets all manner of people and odd happenings in the course of doing his job. Yes, many of his encounters involve murders, but an equal number concern the funny, bizarre and often incredibly stupid acts of hunters and fishermen prone to bend the law.

A recent report from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has the Houston Press thinking that Box might want to consult their field notes for inspiration for his next book if he’s ever short on ideas.

Take, for instance, the Rockwall County game warden called in when local law enforcement found three men shooting rabbits while driving around a public roadway. From the department’s September 14, 2017 field notes:

One young man was only wearing a trucker hat, boots, and some brightly colored underwear.

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When the warden arrived on scene, he found three young men standing around a truck with a bed full of dead rabbits. One young man was only wearing a trucker hat, boots, and some brightly colored underwear. The subjects said they had shot a skunk earlier in the evening and when the individual approached it, the skunk sprayed him. The others wouldn’t let him back in the truck with his clothes on. Citations pending.

Ever met someone who has taken up a hobby with limited success? Well, game wardens have.

Game wardens were patrolling for bank fishermen on Lake Ray Hubbard when they observed a vessel drifting away from the boat ramp that appeared to be sinking. Witnesses say they heard the boat’s operator yelling to call 911 after he forgot to install the drain plug. The wardens used their vehicle loud speaker to instruct the individual, who was seated in the bow of the boat, to put on a life jacket. He complied and the wardens asked another boat coming into the ramp to tow him to shore. Once the boat was back on a trailer and draining water, the owner confessed to the wardens that this was only his second time on the water. During his maiden voyage he had damaged his truck’s tailgate while attempting to load the boat on the trailer. The wardens provided some advice and a water safety digest to the new boat owner.

Some hunters take the by-any-means-necessary approach, which can end up costing them a lot of money, as in this Grayson County case where a deer was shot in an archery-only county.

Acting on a tip:

The wardens confronted the individual at his home and questioned him about the big buck. The subject eventually admitted he killed the deer with a pistol, after several shots, and then tagged the deer as being harvested in Fannin County. The deer was seized and several citations were issued. The cases are pending. The deer scored over 177 inches under the Boone & Crockett scoring system, netting a civil restitution value of over $10,000.

There’s more, such as hunters found baiting a field, which made easy pickings for the birds who flew in to eat the grain. Recreational fishermen filling up a boat with red snapper, going beyond their state-mandated limit. And the usual collection of fish that are under the minimum size of 20 inches long and should have been thrown back.

The thing these violators come to learn is that these game wardens are pretty much always on the job, no matter what happens otherwise.

Willacy County game wardens wasted no time patrolling the county upon returning from Hurricane Harvey disaster relief operations in Woodsboro and Rockport. During opening weekend of dove season, the wardens seized at least 80 mourning dove from various groups for violations ranging from no hunting license, to over daily bag limit and unplugged shotgun. They also even made time to surprise a couple of gill netters as they were retrieving their nets and catch out of the water. Over 30 citations were issued. The cases and restitution are pending.

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