Game Warden Ride-a-long with Kegan Gould
Protecting the natural resources of Texas is an important function of conservation. That's the daily charge of Texas Game Wardens and why we have laws on hunting, fishing, and boating in our state. On the podcast, we'll ride along with Texas Game Warden Kegan Gould as he patrols Llano County during the opening weekend of White-tailed Deer season for rifle hunters.
Under the Texas Sky: S3E12 - Game Warden Ride-a-long with Kegan Gould
If you hunt, fish, or recreate in Texas, there's no doubt you've seen the diversity of fish, wildlife and natural areas our state has to offer.
Protecting those natural resources is an important function of conservation. That's the daily charge of Texas Game Wardens and why we have laws on hunting, fishing, and boating in our state.
You'll see Game Wardens in trucks, boats, all-terrain vehicles, and even on horseback in some areas of Texas. And sometimes you don't see them, but Game Wardens are in the air, on the backroads, and on the water in every region of the state.
[KEGAN & STRANDED HUNTERS]
[KEGAN] Are y’all heading to camp or?
[STRANDED HUNTERS] No, out.
[KEGAN] Heading out of camp. Alright, well did y’all have any luck this weekend?
[STRANDED HUNTERS] We did.
[KEGAN] Good. Y’all mind if I take a look?
[STRANDED HUNTERS] No, go ahead.
On the podcast, we'll ride along with Texas Game Warden Kegan [Key-ghin] Gould [Gooled] as he patrols Llano County during the opening weekend of White-tailed Deer season for rifle hunters.
We'll learn why Kegan chose to become a Game Warden and about his passion for the outdoors. We'll also get to witness how he interacts with the public he serves, and get a first-hand account of just how dangerous and unpredictable the job of a Texas Game Warden can be.
Stay with us.
From Texas Parks and Wildlife…this is Under the Texas Sky …a podcast about nature…and people… and the connection they share…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
[KEGAN & STRANDED HUNTERS] How many did y’all get? Two? Here, let me help you out. Three? Uh-oh, story's already changing.
While many people know that Game Wardens enforce the hunting, fishing, and boating safety laws in our state, they may not know that Game Wardens are fully commissioned state peace officers and are responsible for the enforcement of all Texas criminal laws. From search and rescue to investigating environmental crimes, a Game Warden's jurisdiction is not confined to an office or roadway. Their beat is the entire Lone Star State.
Last fall, Producer Randall Maxwell rode along with Llano County Game Warden Kegan [Key-ghin] Gould [Gooled]. It was the opening weekend of deer season for rifle hunters, but as we'll find out, Officer Gould encounters a lot more than just hunters during his patrol.
[KEGAN] So I grew up not far from here. I actually grew up in Hays County in Wimberley, Texas, where I spent most of my life. What's kind of ironic is the Game Warden that was in that county when I was growing up was Jake Scott, and he's now my partner here. And then in high school I moved to Lockhart. I spent my whole entire youth hunting and fishing. In fact, I played some football and baseball. Sports started cutting into my outdoor activities and I kind of gave myself the ultimatum, it was either going to be hunting and fishing or it was going to be sports, and so I stopped playing sports and kept hunting and fishing.
[RANDALL] There's no wonder why Kegan Gould loves being a Game Warden. It has everything to do with his two favorite pastimes, hunting and fishing. But Kegan was influenced by Game Wardens at an early age because his dad was a guide and outfitter. Witnessing his father's respect for Game Wardens helped Kegan understand their role in protecting the natural resources. It's the part of his job he truly loves.
[KEGAN] Protecting the resources is an extremely important part of our job. Where there's so many places in the world where we don't have Game Wardens and the resources have been just completely wiped out. So that's one of the things I love about doing this job is we get to help out in protecting those resources, and making sure they're around for generations to come.
[MUS—LOVE MY LAND]
[RANDALL] Kegan began his career in Web County near the border just outside of Laredo. But now he's back in the heart of Texas, and the heart of deer country.
[KEGAN] Llano County is right smack in the heart of Texas. It's beautiful hill country, rolling granite mountains, and Llano is known as the deer capital of the state, meaning that we've got more deer per square mile here than anywhere else in the state of Texas. That brings in a lot of hunters to this area. A lot of people want to come to Llano in the fall for the hunting and the outdoor activities, and then we also have a lot of rivers and lakes that run though Llano and that brings people here in the summertime for all the water recreating too.
[RANDALL] Kegan is heading out to check on a few deer camps. Along the way he tells me that one of the biggest threats to wildlife, even outside of deer season, are poachers. To my surprise I learned there are different types of poachers and reasons why they choose to break the law.
[KEGAN & RANDALL]
[KEGAN] There's quite a few walks of life of poachers. There's your meat hunters that are substantially hunting. They need the meat to feed their families, and there are trophy poachers who poach big deer just because they don't have access to a hunt or can't afford to hunt somewhere else. And then the worst of all kinds are your thrill-killers. And those are the guys that just drive around and shoot animals off the road just because they can. See there, somebody's just dumped a carcass right there, I'll have to take a look at that.
[RANDALL] Sure enough, there's the body of a dead deer lying in the ditch. Kegan stops the vehicle to take a look.
[KEGAN] Yeah, so this was a deer that was obviously shot somewhere. You can tell it was a buck. They sawed the top of the head off to keep as a trophy. They took some of the meat. They cut the meat, the back straps out, but they've wasted a lot of meat here. And they've left a lot of meat on the back legs and they've left all of the shoulder, so we've got multiple violations here. We've got illegal dumping, which at this point, with this amount is going to be a class B misdemeanor, and a waste of game, all this meat that they've waste, which is going to be a class C citation.
[RANDALL] Yeah they took the antlers.
[KEGAN] Yep. And you see at one point they cut slits in the back legs to hang it so they could take the back straps and get the pieces that they want out and then they just dump the whole animal here. Generally, what we see with a deer carcass dumped like this is they either shot it somewhere where they didn't have permission, they didn't have anywhere to clean it. Or they cleaned it and they didn't want to properly dispose of it on their property and they just, on their way home going back to the house, they just kick it out on the side of the road here.
[RANDALL] Kegan looks for evidence that might link the deer to a specific hunter. He told me sometimes a tag is actually left with the deer or a receipt might have blown out of the suspect's vehicle. But on this occasion, there is nothing left except a meal for the local predators.
[RANDALL] Back on the road Kegan explains that a Game Warden must be mentally prepared when walking into a deer camp. While his approach is always friendly, he keeps his head on a swivel, watching everything.
[KEGAN] It is sometimes dangerous for Game Wardens to go in because in all actuality we are walking into a group of people that we don't know and they are all armed with either a pistol, a rifle, or at least a knife.
[RANDALL] We've made our way to a county road that runs alongside the Llano River. It's a main thoroughfare used by both landowners and hunters. Kegan is quick to notice the All-Terrain Vehicle tracks leading down to the river and says that fostering relationships with landowners goes a long way in narrowing the opportunity for would-be lawbreakers.
[KEGAN] So, here's another area that I've been watching. This is the Llano riverbed and you can see where people have been driving ATVs all up and down the riverbed here which is against the law. You can't operate a motorized vehicle in a protected waterway. And that's to protect the environment. So if they are leaking oil or gas, or doing damage to the riverbed there harming the ecosystem and the animals and critters that live down there, so I'm trying to catch whoever it is that's doing this. Part of our job is building those relationships with the landowners. I was able to run into the people that own this property, and they've got some T-posts up here painted purple which is one of the indicators to tell people to stay off, this is private property. And these people actually are accessing their property illegally so they're committing multiple violations, so they're criminal trespass and they're doing damage to the protected waterway.
[RANDALL] A few feet off the road sit a couple of make-shift sheds that has caught Kegan's attention.
[KEGAN] So somebody hung something up here. We talked about that buck a while ago having slits in his back legs. This is what it's cut for. You know, hang 'em up, so that they can clean them and process them and not get any dirt on the meat. Looks like an old barn of some sorts, some old tools, and dirty dusty equipment in the background. Right here in the middle you have a skinning rack which is a metal pole hooked up to a rope and a pulley system. Directly underneath is a puddle of dried blood and some deer parts that somebody has recently hung a deer up here and done some cleaning.
[RANDALL] As Kegan inspects the area, he explains that Game Wardens have a dual role in their observation.
[KEGAN] As Game Wardens, we're patrolmen and we're investigators. Unlike other agencies where patrolmen and investigators are separate. We're always just constantly seeing and processing, and so, generally people are doing the right things, but we're always expecting that somebody may lie to us too, or may be trying to hide something. But I know that this is an active camp and I need to come back and check these guys again at some point.
From Texas Parks and Wildlife…this is Under the Texas Sky …a podcast about nature…and people… and the connection they share…I’m Cecilia Nasti.
Game Warden Kegan Gould is on patrol in Llano County during the opening weekend of White-tailed Deer rifle hunting season. Llano County is one of the most popular counties in the state when it comes to deer hunting. Producer Randall Maxwell is riding along with Kegan and we pick up our story as they continue traveling the backroads along the Llano River.
[KEGAN] What's great about this job is every day is different. You try to make a plan but inevitably your plan always gets changed. You know some days I may be working the lakes. Some days I may be checking people fishing on the river. Some days I may be checking dove hunters or deer hunters in camp, and then some days we may be responding to natural disasters, floods, hurricanes, you know, some of my best cases that I've made, I had every intention of going down, you know, road A, and for some reason I decided in the last second I'm going to turn down this side road.
[RANDALL] Kegan Gould and I are on one of those side roads that runs along the length of the Llano River. We're on our way to visit a deer camp, but on the way Kegan makes a colorful observation in the middle of the road, and it's yellow.
[KEGAN] These hunters use these roads to travel to and from their blinds and I think a lot of times they don't realize, this being a county road, there's no difference between this and a paved highway. And we've got a lot of corn poured on the road here. And that could be by accident. That may have just been spilling out of one of their ATVs or something. But the other problem is that we do have people who will bait this road and hunt on it, and that's something that they can't do, that's a violation. I see stuff like that and it definitely peaks my interest up, and if they don't hunt it, just that corn being there is going to attract other animals out here and someone else driving down the road may just take an opportunity shot and shoot at something too.
[KEGAN] There are things that Game Wardens start to investigate or look into that other people don't. As you can see the corn is continuously poured, this is, as much as it's spread out, this is not something that's leaking out of like an ATV. This is, somebody's got a machine, an activated machine on the back and it's spreading it as they're going. So whoever hunted this area, they corned this road intentionally. There's a blind right there. And I see ATV tracks in the road that match the ATV tracks going to that blind.
[RANDALL] Kegan tells me that chances are, it's the lease holder who is putting corn on the roadway because most landowners along this road don't hunt their own property. While there may be a contract for a lease agreement, it's not up to the landowner to educate the hunters on what they should and shouldn't be doing. Ultimately it's up to the hunter to know the rules and regulations.
Just down the way, Kegan notices a truck pulling out of a deer camp.
[KEGAN & HUNTERS]
[KEGAN] How's it goin' gentlemen?
[HUNTERS] Doin' good. How you doin'?
[KEGAN] Doin' good. Enjoying the day. Y’all had any luck?
[HUNTERS] We got one 8-point, and ain't seen a whole lot since.
[KEGAN] I would have thought this weather would have had them moving pretty good. Are y’all heading out right now?
[KEGAN] Who has the one deer in camp?
[KEGAN] Is he there?
[KEGAN] Okay, I'll just check in.
[HUNTERS] Go ahead and pull in, they're just sittin' right there.
[KEGAN] Alright y’all have those licenses with you right?
[HUNTERS] Yes sir.
[KEGAN] Alright I'll take your word on it?
[HUNTERS] Okay. Hey if you're out here, stop in and have a cup of coffee or something with us.
[KEGAN] I appreciate that
[KEGAN] Good luck guys. Let's go in that camp and check his deer. (Pulling a few feet forward, Kegan parks and gets out of truck at the deer camp.)
[KEGAN] Hey guys!
[HUNTERS] How ya doin' sir?
[KEGAN] State Game Warden, good, how are y’all doin'?
[HUNTERS] Pretty good, fixing to go out and sit in the stand. (laughs)
[KEGAN] Good. Lookin' for a guy named Cullen.
[HUNTERS] Cullen? Right there.
[KEGAN] Cullen, let's take a look at your deer real-quick.
[HUNTERS] Yes sir.
[KEGAN] Oh, that's not a bad deer at all.
[KEGAN] Alright. You got your license with you?
[HUNTERS] Yes sir.
[KEGAN] You can hang that back up. Alright, you got the back filled out. Good.
[HUNTERS] Yeah I messed it up. (laughs)
[KEGAN] Yeah, that's alright. At least you knew how to fill it out.
[HUNTERS] I have a question for you.
[KEGAN] What you got?
[HUNTERS] In the book, we got the tag on the horns, in the book it says it's got to be on the meat, so how does that work?
[KEGAN] It's gotta be, well, with the meat, and is the meat still here?
[KEGAN] Ok, so the tag has to stay with the meat. So if the head is going to stay here or you're going to take the head to get mounted, the tag goes with the meat. If you need to and you know if you go to a taxidermist they'll write you a wildlife resource or receipt, or if you're going to give the head to your buddy, you'll just fill that out. But technically yeah, the tag stays with the meat, but you'll need proof of sex too. When you go home, usually people take the head and the meat together. The tag doesn't have to be on the meat in the cooler, as long as it's somewhere with it, in the truck or something like that. Any other questions I can help y’all out with?
[HUNTERS] No, no.
[KEGAN] Y’all get out there, it's time to go hunting okay?
[HUNTERS] Okay, it was good meeting you.
[KEGAN] It was nice meeting you all. If you have any questions or help you with anything, give me a call.
[HUNTERS] Alright, thanks.
[KEGAN] Y’all take it easy.
[HUNTERS] Thank you.
[MUS—LIGHT IN SIGHT]
[KEGAN] Generally speaking, most of the people we're checking are good people. They're out there havin' fun just like we would like to be, enjoying time with their families, enjoying the outdoors and they're not out to harm anybody, and we're not there to make their day any worse. We just want to make sure that they're in compliance with the rules and regulations and they're being safe and having a good time, in the best way possible.
[RANDALL] It's getting toward the end of the day and Kegan has decided to check another access point to the Llano River.
[KEGAN] We'll swing by the, we've got an area over here with a bunch more of those little ranchitos. The public access point. Let's see if anybody's down there, see if I hear any shots. There's also a guy who's got a warrant I've been looking for over there. He's been evading law enforcement for a while.
[RANDALL] No sooner than Kegan had spoken, two people in a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction look suspicious as they hurry past us and disappear over the hillside.
[KEGAN & RANDALL & SUSPECT]
[KEGAN] That might be the guy that I have a warrant for. I did see he didn't have a front license plate.
[RANDALL] Yeah they kind of waved quickly didn't they?
[KEGAN] Yep. (sound of truck engine accelerating)
[RANDALL] Wasn't there two people in the vehicle?
[KEGAN] Yep. (sound of Kegan getting out of vehicle) State Game Warden, turn the truck off. Where'd your buddy go?
[SUSPECT] Where'd my buddy go?
[KEGAN] Get out of the truck. Do you have anything on you?
[KEGAN] Turn around and face the truck for me. Where'd you drop him off at? What's this?
[SUSPECT] It's a knife. I thought it was in the back. I'm sorry.
[KEGAN] Okay, so you didn't have anything on you, now you got a knife.
[SUSPECT] Well, I'm sorry, I didn't know. I forgot.
[KEGAN] Where'd you drop that guy off at? Look you need to be honest with me right now.
[SUSPECT] Okay, I don't know his name. He asked me for a lift. I was giving him a lift. He asked me to stop.
[KEGAN] Okay, you're not under arrest. Turn around right now. Turn around.
[SUSPECT] Yes sir. (sound of handcuffs)
[KEGAN] Hang tight. 7210 Llano. (sound of responding radio dispatcher) Do you have a deputy that can come and assist me in Rio Llano. We had a subject run off on me in the brush. It's going to be a male suspect, ball cap, dark shirt, blue jeans. I think he may have ran Eastbound. (sound of responding radio dispatcher)
[RANDALL] It turns out Kegan was right. His person of interest, who had several felony warrants from different counties, was indeed the other passenger in the vehicle. Unfortunately for the driver things just went from bad to worse.
[KEGAN & SUSPECT]
[KEGAN] Alright, you know who that guy is. I know you do. Who is it?
[SUSPECT] um, I'll be honest with you. Um, he's my neighbor. He uh, was at the river and he asked me for a ride. I was driving him back. He asked me to stop. I stopped. I didn't know anything else.
[KEGAN] Where did he get out at?
[SUSPECT] At the top of the hill. Like right in the road.
[KEGAN] Okay which way did he run?
[SUSPECT] I don't know.
[KEGAN] You know which way he ran.
[SUSPECT] Okay, he ran to the side, but I don't know where.
[KEGAN] He went that way? (Kegan pointing Eastbound)
[SUSPECT] I think so.
[KEGAN] Okay. Where's your ID at?
[SUSPECT] I don't have one with me, and I don't have a driver's license.
[KEGAN] Okay then why are you driving?
[SUSPECT] I live three blocks from the river, so that's why. This is my brother's truck. It's just something we don't even drive into town.
[KEGAN] Okay is there anything in the vehicle I need to know about? (Fade out audio here)
[RANDALL] After receiving assistance from the Llano County Sheriff's Department, Kegan is able to turn his attention back to a nearby residence.
[KEGAN & HOMEOWNER] (knocking on door the dogs bark)
[KEGAN] Hello, State Game Warden.
[HOMEOWNER] (to dogs) Get back.
[KEGAN] A real killer there.
[KEGAN] You didn't have somebody run in here a while ago did you?
[HOMEOWNER] I saw you head back over the hill, that guy in the white Ford pickup.
[KEGAN] Yeah, where were you at?
[HOMEOWNER] Um, I was right beside my truck out here.
[KEGAN] You didn't see anybody jump out and run out here?
[HOMEOWNER] No, as soon as I saw y’all go there, I went to feed the horses and I haven't seen anybody run.
[KEGAN] Any brush breaking over there or anything?
[KEGAN] Okay I'm looking for a guy with warrants, bailed out of that truck, took off running through the backside of your property? I don't know if he came up here or anything. So he didn't run in your property?
[HOMEOWNER] No, not that I saw, uh. What's he wearing and stuff?
[KEGAN] Dark shirt, blue jeans, ball cap
[KEGAN] Alright, well if you see something, give the Sheriff's Department a call okay?
[HOMEOWNER] Alright will do.
[KEGAN] Alright, I appreciate it.
[HOMEOWNER] You bet.
[KEGAN] Have a good one.
[RANDALL] The suspect slipped away on this occasion. But Kegan knows with several warrants, it's only a matter of time before the suspect will be caught.
[RANDALL] Even with all the events of the day, there's no creature too small for Kegan to protect.
[KEGAN & RANDALL]
[KEGAN] Look at that snake. Is that a Coachwhip? That or a big Garter, one of the two. (sound of Kegan getting out of vehicle) Oh, it's a racer. Easy bud. It's one thing that's fun about the job. Just getting to interact with critters and all the animals in the outdoors.
[RANDALL] What is it? Is it a Coachwhip?
[KEGAN] Nope. This is actually a Garter snake
[KEGAN] Yep, pretty big one. He's pretty skinny though. See his skin is kind of folding up over the top of their head. He hadn't eaten in a little bit.
[RANDALL] Oh he's gotta find something.
[KEGAN] He's probably pretty hungry. Sometimes we'll stop and move critters out of the road if we need to just to make sure they're safe and someone doesn't come by and run them over. Alright big guy, there you go. Go on. Get off the road.
[MUS—FOLKLORE LAW] (*ride music under next soundbite to end of Randall's narration)
[KEGAN] I think I've got the best job in the world. I get to spend my days in the outdoors, whether it's working on the lakes or checking deer camps. I get to spend my time visiting with the people of Texas, being a part of their activities and doing the things that they love, because those are all the same things that I love to do.
[RANDALL] Kegan Gould has a love for the outdoors. He's a sportsman, conservationist, a protector of people and natural resources. He is a Texas Game Warden.
For Under the Texas Sky in Llano County, I'm Randall Maxwell.
Thanks to Randall Maxwell for producing this episode. Do you want to know more about our Texas Game Wardens and the work then do? Then visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website—and click on the tab marked Game Wardens. And if you're interested in becoming a Texas Game Warden, you can find information about upcoming Game Warden Cadet Classes, too.
[MUS—TO ORBIT YOUR SOUL]
And so, we come to the end of another podcast. Under the Texas Sky is a production of Texas Parks and Wildlife and is available at UndertheTexasSky.org or wherever you get your podcasts.
We record the podcast at The Block House in Austin, Texas. Joel Block does our sound design.
Susan Griswold and Benjamin Kailing provide distribution and web help. Whitney Bishop does our social media.
I’m your producer and host, Cecilia Nasti, reminding you that life’s better outside when you’re Under the Texas Sky.
[KEGAN] Protecting the resources is an extremely important part of our job. We get to help out in protecting those resources, and making sure they're around for generations to come.
Join us again next time for Under the Texas Sky.