Moody Ranch Outfitters hosted Gear Up for Game Wardens, Sept. 20, a fundraiser for Texas Game Wardens across the Brazos Valley.
Gear Up for Game Wardens provides specialty equipment Texas Game Wardens need to maintain safety and ensure the highest level of service for the people of Texas. The state provides basic necessities for wardens to do their jobs, but there is still a critical need for additional equipment.
During the event $37,650 was raised for Region 4 District 5. The money raised was $13,000 short of their goal. “Our game wardens work tirelessly to protect and preserve our natural resources, ensuring that we can all enjoy the great outdoors,” said Gear Up Program Manager Austin Taylor. Since 1991, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation has raised more than $235 million in private philanthropy to ensure the future of Texas’ wild things and wild places.
There are eight regions in the state with approximately 551 total game wardens.
The evening featured a fried fish dinner donated and prepared by M-Beaux’s Crawfish and Cajun Seafood as well as free drinks from Jack Hilliard Distributing. Other event sponsors included Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, NT Ranch, Yankees Tavern, Flemings Game Processing and Taxidermy, Rancho Kautumari and more. Numerous sponsors also donated live auction items including fishing and hunting trips.
“We put on these events and it helps bridge the gap between budget constraints and the equipment we need locally,” said Brazos County Game Warden David Thorne. Brazos Valley consists of seven counties. “All this stays local,” he said.
Thorne said although this is a fundraiser, it is a great way for game wardens to interact with the community. “It is a great way to get the community involved and let them know more about what we are doing. And what you see here is the people coming out and supporting what we are doing and wanting to help every way they can.”
Game Wardens showcased several pieces of equipment that are vital for them to do their jobs. The equipment ranges from items that help manage wildlife to essential equipment for search and rescue efforts.
There is equipment that helps on land such as ATV’s, game cameras, cell boosters, through the air using drones with state-of-the-art imaging, at night with night vision goggles and thermal imaging units as well as in the water with various boat styles and side scan sonar units and more.
One of the major needs in the Brazos Valley due to two major rivers is a shallow water boat, which are approximately $22,000 each. There is limited boat ramp access on the Brazos and Navasota rivers, which is critical in rescue efforts. Shallow water boats allow game wardens to launch easily without an accessible boat ramp.
“There is not a boat ramp on either of these rivers for almost 200 miles,” said Thorne. “So, when we’re working and doing rescue stuff, we’re having to launch remotely no matter where we are. Without the proper equipment it is really hard to get that kind of stuff done.”
Sgt. Forrest Schmidt, a former Grimes County Game Warden, is now in the investigation division. He said there are many items each game warden needs such as night vision goggles, thermal imaging units and game cameras.
“Probably the thing we use the most at this point are game cameras,” said Schmidt. “These game cameras are text cameras, so as soon as they go off it dings our phones. I’ve personally in Grimes County used these cameras multiple times, and they really do a good job. As you can imagine, in Grimes County with there only being one game warden, there is a lot of country to cover and we can’t be everywhere at once. So, if we are having issues, we can put these cameras up and they can tell when something is going on that is not supposed to be going on in that area. It allows us to bounce from place to place knowing exactly what is going on, when it’s going on and where it is going on.”
I’m the guy who deals with the district budget,” said Captain Johnny Heaton. “I’m the guy who buys equipment for the game wardens and I spend most of my time frustrated because of lack of resources. They’re struggling to get the job done in the trenches and I can’t get them what they need.” He said what donors are able to do to raise money via Gear Up for Game Wardens is something he is unable to do and he appreciates their heart.
Donations are still being accepted by visiting https://secure2.convio.net/ pwft/site/Donation2?df_ id=3005&3005.donation=form1&mfc_pref=T&utm_ source=gearupforgamewardens. org&utm_medium=region- 4-page&utm_campaign= gearupforgamewardens. org or emailing Austin Taylor, firstname.lastname@example.org.