Texas Game Wardens: What You Need to Know

Hi, I’m Richard Hayes, newest Independent Program Attorney with Texas LawShield®. As a former felony prosecutor, I worked closely with several game wardens and the Texas Department of Parks & Wildlife. After speaking with them and other folks, I saw there were some common re-occurring misconceptions that you need to know about. [Transcript below video.]


Game Wardens Are Police

First, game wardens are police. That means that they’re licensed peace officers in the State of Texas, and, arguably, they are some of the most powerful police in the state. They can inspect, search, seize, and arrest just like a regular police officer. And while most of the time they’re enforcing the Texas Parks & Wildlife Code, they have the full authority to enforce all other Texas criminal laws, including the penal code.

So, remember, when you’re dealing with a Texas game warden, you’re dealing with the police.

Game Wardens Have Broad Search Powers

Next, Texas game wardens have broad search powers.

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We’re all aware of our Fourth Amendment, Constitutionally-guaranteed right against unreasonable search and seizure. But what does the Fourth Amendment mean when [you are] confronted by a Texas game warden? When can they search you or your property?game wardens

If a Texas game warden reasonably believes that you or someone else is engaged in a regulated activity, they can inspect any device used to hunt or collect a wildlife resource. Also, they can search any container or receptacle that is capable of concealing a wildlife resource or those devices. This includes vehicles, boats, game bags, freezers, coolers, or even something as small as an Altoids box that could contain a lure.

Game Wardens’ Jurisdictions?

But what about a Texas game warden’s jurisdiction? Well, just as wildlife go between city and county lines, so does the jurisdiction of a Texas game warden. Texas game wardens’ jurisdiction is statewide.

Also, they can go on to not only public, but also private, property to enforce game and wildlife laws. Texas game wardens are also one of the primary law-enforcement officers for enforcing boating laws in Texas. That means that they can board your vessel to make sure that your water-safety equipment is in compliance.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re engaged in hunting or fishing. What it comes down to is the wildlife code is complicated, and it can feel arbitrary at times. What that means is well-intentioned hunters and anglers sometimes find themselves on the wrong side of the law, as the saying goes.

The eyes of Texas are upon you, and Texas game wardens will go to great lengths to catch hunters and anglers who are hunting and fishing unlawfully.


Hunter Shield Protects Hunters and Anglers

Did you know that more than 16,000 violations are recorded by Texas game wardens every year? Mistakes in the woods and on water happen, and while unintentional, you could still be breaking the law.

If you have questions about year-round bird hunting regulations, Texas LawShield is here to help. Members of Texas LawShield’s HunterShield program have access to attorneys to get the answers they need concerning not only year-round game, but hunting and fishing laws in general. In addition, members are granted discounted entry to Sportsman Law Seminars. Seminars include access to former game wardens and attorneys who are also seasoned hunters. Add HunterShield to your existing Texas LawShield membership for only $2.95 per month.

Not a member of Texas LawShield? Join today to expand your education as a sportsman and ensure your hunting and fishing questions are answered by trustworthy sources who know the law.


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Comment section

4 comments on “Texas Game Wardens: What You Need to Know

  1. Excellent educational information on Texas GWs. I wonder how well the mandate and relationship works in regard to border enforcement on Tex/Mex parks where US BP (I believe) are prohibited to patrol, something to do with the ’66/69 Wilderness Act ???

    Keep up the great work.

  2. Does a game warden need a search warrant to enter a home.

  3. I know that a Game Warden has a job to do, but sometimes they are not fair and just! Few years ago, I was at Roll Over Pass fishing on bank like a lot of others! A group of illegals pulled up next to me and started fishing and catching and retaining undersized Red Fish! In fact they were filling up the cooler with them. I told them after they put the first one in their cooler that they need to put that Red Fish back because it was too small and illegal. A Game Warden Truck pulled up across the cut and two Game Wardens got out and started checking people’s catch and fishing license. Most fishinman were legal but a few were wrote up for some reason. Finally one of them Game Wardens got to me and check my catch and license. I was legal, he told me to have a good day and started walking off without checking the group next to me. I kinda holler at him while he was walking off and said. Hey you not going to check these people next to me out? Just knowing he was going tear them up. He just smile at me and finish walking off and both officers got back into their truck and left! I guess the law just contains to citizens and not to illegals since they broke the law entering our country illegally anyhow! They fail to uphold the law!!!

  4. Hello I am a texas game warden as well as a TCOLE instructor and thought I may clear up a few things. First off to answer the gentleman’s question; no a game warden cannot enter a home without a warrant or without the effective consent of the owner unless exigent circumstances exist or the game warden is in fresh pursuit of a suspect that’s committed a criminal act. The same goes for every peace officer in the state of texas. The reason behind this is simple. Searching someones house without consent or a warrant is a clear violation of your 4th ammendment right afforded by the constitution (see Supremacy Clause US Constitution Art. VI, Clause 2).
    Secondly the “broad search powers” talked about in the article isnt a special authority that only we game wardens have. Its specific to tpw code and certain case law. Although it is our primary responsibility to enforce the code, any peace officer can enforce the tpw code. Section 11.0191 tpw code clearly states that ANY peace officer may enforce ALL provisions of the code. A peace officer is a peace officer in the state of texas…period. Code of Criminal Procedure 2.13 titled Duties and Powers mandates that every peace officer shall preserve the peace and execute lawful process (along with a few other things). It doesnt say “its every peace officers duty to preserve the peace plus game wardens have additional super powers.” We have no more authority than any other peace officer. There is no code in the texas criminal and traffic law book that is restricted to being enforced solely by one agency. There are certain specialized peace officers commissioned for very specific things such as officers commissioned by the state board of dental examiners, railroad peace officers and special rangers (they specifically assist local law enforcement with investigations regarding theft of livestock related property). But those officers are specifically outlined in the CCP along with whatever restrictions they may have. Good article otherwise.

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