Bailey, Upshur County’s only game warden, is among only about 500 game wardens in the state. He spoke to 11 persons at Angelo’s Pizza in Gilmer.
Besides explaining his duties, he also detailed some laws regarding fishing and hunting.
Bailey said protecting fish and wildlife, which belong to the state, is game wardens’ “primary mission,” and that “I’m not doing anything that the people of Texas. . . say I can’t do.”
He described his profession as “state peace officers that specialize in fish and game,” and who deal with hunting, fishing and border security. The department has a dive team to recover bodies from water, he added.
Citing the enforcement powers in the state’s Parks and Wildlife Code, Bailey noted he can enter any land or water from which fish or wildlife are “known to range and stray” and could be taken. He can’t legally be hindered from that, even on posted land, as “we can go in and inspect that,” he said.
Bailey said he doesn’t think most game wardens “abuse that privilege,” but “you’re going to hear horror stories about anybody.”
He also said some believe “game wardens can go anywhere—well, not really. . . We can’t just go into someone’s house.”
Despite the emphasis on fish and game, Bailey said the crimes he most often deals with are “probably water safety violations.”
He checks to see if boaters are intoxicated, and noted that by law, children age 12 and under must wear their own “personal floatation device” when a boat is moving.
Game wardens can also stop motorists for traffic violations, but are usually looking for park and wildlife violations when they do, Bailey told the GOP women’s group.
However, having worked in Zapata County near the U.S.-Mexico border earlier in his career, “you don’t really feel like a game warden down there,” he observed. He said he had several frightful experiences there, where he dealt with “drugs and human trafficking.”
In fact, while some Texas counties have one game warden, Zapata has eight, Bailey said. But many people don’t know there is one in Upshur County, he added.
The speaker said that “nine times out of 10 (when there’s a problem to deal with), it’s concerned citizens who call us.” He said he receives calls at 2 a.m. from people complaining that somebody is on their land with lights, and that he will then find poaching. (His cell number is 903-305-8841.)
Illegal hunters are “hard to catch,” since they have such modern-day equipment as night-vision goggles, Bailey said.
Asked what fish/game law people seem most unaware of, Bailey replied, “I’d say the number one (problem), especially during whitetail season, is untagged deer.” Those animals must be tagged “immediately upon kill,” he said.
During a question-and-answer session, Bailey also explained what citizens can and can’t legally do in dealing with animals. Some examples:
• “You can always defend your life and property,” he said, when asked about defending against wild pack dogs.
• “We’ll give you the green light” to deal with “any nuisance animals” like beavers and otters—but people can’t sell beaver pelts or otter pelts without a trapper’s license.
• Someone can catch any fish they want from his/her private pond with no fishing license nor legal limit on the number of fish caught. But if a public creek runs through your land, you must have a license to fish there “because it’s public water.”
• A hunter can’t take the backstrap and leave the rest of the animal in the woods because that is illegal “waste of game.” But someone can legally hunt depredating feral hogs on his/her own land without a hunting license; “Just give us a call” first.
Bailey also revealed that when a vehicle kills a deer, any salvageable meat is given to needy families.
A game warden for the past three years after serving 20 years in the U.S. Army—most of that time in special forces —Bailey said of his current work, “I think I found my niche. Love the job.”
After his talk, he told The Mirror in an e-mail, “I guess you’d say I can’t get away from serving the people. After serving my country for 20 years, I look forward to serving the people of Texas now.”
A Florida native, Bailey told Tuesday’s meeting he entered the police academy at age 40 upon finding that his post-military career of doing contract work overseas was unfulfilling. He said 99 percent of the people he meets now are great Americans.
Bailey was introduced by Joyce Dolle, who was presiding over her first meeting as the Cherokee Rose group’s new president. She announced the organization will hold a Feb. 12 planning retreat in Marshall to discuss such items as fund-raising.