Fish or hunt for long enough, and chances are you’ve been checked by a game warden — maybe they pulled up in their powerboat on the lake, or stopped their truck beside yours at the boat ramp.
What you may not have experienced is being approached by a kayaker — and having him identify himself as a game warden.
“Folks aren’t expecting us, so it’s surprising to a lot of people — we’ve had some funny reactions,” said Gillespie County game warden Scott Krueger. “There will be a look of shock in their eye.”
With the use of a kayak, Krueger can not only keep a lower profile, but areas of a lake or river that are not as accessible can be more easily reached.
“It’s a very effective tool,” he said. “You can get into tight spots you don’t usually get to. You can also find deer camps you didn’t even know about.”
When patrolling from a kayak, Krueger said wardens still have on their normal uniform and cap, along with a life jacket that identifies them. The kayaks, however, are not marked.
Officers are using kayaks on Boerne Lake, the Llano River, the Guadalupe River and others, Krueger said.
“One time we came around a bend in the river and a group of kids were drinking under a bridge — we pulled up to them, found out they were underage and had marijuana.”
If he had been in something other than a kayak, the kids would have hidden everything, Krueger said.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Capt. Alan Teague of Kerrville said the implementation of kayaks was to be able to access areas by water where traditional boats couldn’t go.
“The wardens are hitting areas of the river no one has ever seen and they may find any number of things we wouldn’t have been able to before,” he said.
Teague said wardens generally only use kayaks on nonmotorized lakes or rivers, and there are at least a dozen counties in the Hill Country using them, in addition to some west Texas counties.
“You are more in a stealth mode because you aren’t easily recognized and are paddling with everyone else,” he said. “There’s no noise given off, so you round the bend and there’s no telling what you’re going to come across.”
The absence of gas and oil costs is another major benefit, Teague said.
Guide Kevin Hutchinson of Bastrop has been checked by a kayaking game warden before while on the Llano River, and said it wasn’t hard for him to recognize the law enforcement officers, in his experience.
“When fishing, kayakers will intentionally get out of your way, and these guys were making a beeline for us, so it was real obvious.”
Hutchinson said he is glad the wardens are out there patrolling, but is unsure if their goal is to be less noticeable or not.
“I wonder if they’re trying to be more stealthy or trying to blend in more,” he said. “Then why they are wearing game warden polo shirts?
“The part of the river I was on, there was no other way to get there other than a kayak.”