SENIOR WRITER SUZANNE FREEMAN
Game wardens are conservation officers for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, often coming to the aid of other law enforcement, including sheriff’s deputies and police. They are first responders at major disasters, whether on land or water.
Of the 500 officers who cover the 268,580 square-miles of Texas, three of them keep Burnet County safe from poachers and flagrant hunting and fishing violations year-round.
Two recently talked about their jobs to The Picayune Magazine.
RONNIE LANGFORD, 53
Served 11 of his 29 years in law enforcement in Burnet County, nine years as a police officer in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.
I ALWAYS went hunting and fishing with my dad. Being a game warden was something I wanted to do as a teenager. I have always loved to be outdoors.
OUR MAIN RESPONSIBILITY, “protection of wildlife and natural resources,” to me, means the enforcement of fishing and hunting regulations to ensure those opportunities for future generations. Without regulations and enforcement, fish might be fished out, wildlife killed off.
MY FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR starts September 1 with dove season. We will be out in the field throughout, then for archery deer season, general deer season, duck season. When it warms up, fishing becomes more popular. Summer, we concentrate on the lakes with water safety and boating while intoxicated enforcement. That’s the same charge as a driving while intoxicated, DWI. Same penalties.
IT’S A DANGEROUS JOB, especially during hunting season. Just about everyone you encounter is armed, and we work a lot at night. We run into a lot of wanted individuals; we arrest dopers all the time.
WE COUNT ON THE PEOPLE in the field hunting, on the water fishing to be our eyes and ears and report stuff to us. We can’t be … everywhere at the same time.
MY DAD AND I were checked by game wardens twice fishing when I was younger. As a teenager, I got checked by myself. It was a good experience. It reinforced what I wanted to do.
THE BEST PART OF THE JOB is the flexibility, and I get to be outdoors all the time.
BRAXTON HARRIS, 34
In his 10th year as a game warden, serving the past seven in Burnet County. His first three years were in Travis County.
I GREW UP on a ranch. We did a lot of hunting and fishing. My dad and my brother are both in law enforcement. I’ve wanted to do this since I was little.
OUR SLOGAN is “conservation for future generations.” We are conservation officers, although our title is game warden. I love to hunt and fish. My wife does, too, which makes it even more fun.
DEER SEASON IS MY FAVORITE; after that, dove. I enjoy working at night. I like the cold weather. The busiest time of year for us is June and July. The lakes keep us, hours-wise, a lot busier than hunting season.
WHEN YOU SAY DANGEROUS, you automatically think of people with guns, but I would say more game wardens have died being on the water, flooding situations, swift water. It’s dangerous.
YOU HAVE TO BE A PEOPLE PERSON to do this job. Most of the time, it’s in a good setting. We’re checking hunters, their hunting license, their gun, what they’ve killed, hunter education. They are not in trouble. Usually an enjoyable experience for both sides.
I’VE BEEN CHECKED dove hunting twice, once on the coast fishing. They were good experiences. I didn’t run, didn’t get a ticket. I wasn’t cited for anything!
A BIG PLUS ON THIS JOB is all the equipment: the boats, the four-wheel-drive trucks. Our trucks and our boats are our office. If you love to be outdoors, love hunting and fishing, being on the water, it’s an enjoyable job.
OPERATION GAME THIEF HOTLINE
Report suspected hunting, fishing, and boating safety violations to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s game wardens by calling 800-792-GAME (4263). Learn more at ogttx.org.