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Texas Game Wardens Gear Up for Winter Work July 2024

As winter settles in, Texas Game Wardens are called upon to do their jobs, whatever the weather. When the temperatures drop, routine patrols can be more difficult, and search and rescue assignments become more dangerous.

Thanks to Gear Up for Game Wardens, Texas Game Wardens have state-of-the art equipment at their fingertips. Gear Up for Game Wardens is a Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) program that provides specialty equipment Texas Game Wardens need to maintain safety and ensure the highest level of service for the people of Texas. While the state provides the tools for game wardens to do their jobs, there is still a critical need for additional equipment.

A recent fundraiser in Tyler for Smith County raised $75,000, which immediately funded the specialty gear needs for Texas Game Wardens in that East Texas county, including a search and rescue thermal drone with a mobile command kit, three handheld thermal units, and a fully enclosed ATV for search and rescue operations.

  Gear Up Drone Kit  

“Equipment from Gear Up for Game Wardens has made a huge difference in how we get our jobs done,” said Captain Derek Spitzer, who leads 13 Texas Game Wardens in seven East Texas counties. “Especially during extremely cold temperatures, the thermal units can mean the different between life and death in search and rescue situations."

Gear Up for Game Wardens was launched in 2017, and since then, more than $4.6 million has been raised, putting critical specialty gear within reach of game wardens across Texas. Spitzer says the influx of gear has a beneficial trickle-down effect, too.

“With more than 500 game wardens spread across the state, it’s a challenge to keep everyone equipped with the latest gear,” he said. “Because of the new equipment coming in from Gear Up, we’ve been able to move older equipment around to other districts that may not have had access to it before. It’s a win for our game wardens and the people we serve."

Spitzer attended the recent fundraiser in Tyler and was deeply grateful for the show of support.

“It’s just phenomenal, and it makes me really grateful for the landowners, business owners, and general public who appreciate Texas Game Wardens,” said Spitzer. “We thank them from the bottom of our hearts." 

  Story #2: Meet Texas Game Warden Brad Clark  

Brad Clark grew up near Houston and spent a lot of time hunting and fishing with his dad and granddad as a child. Although he thought it might be cool to become a Texas Game Warden when he grew up, he didn’t seriously pursue it.

Everybody talked about how impossible it was to become a game warden, that hundreds would apply for just a few openings,” said Brad. “So, I set my sights on a more traditional career path."

After a couple of years of studying business management, he realized that being cooped up in an office was not what he wanted to do.

“The second half of my college career was totally focused on the end goal of becoming a Texas Game Warden. I met as many game wardens as I could and went on ride-alongs to learn more about it. I graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2007 with a Wildlife Management degree."

He didn’t get in the first time he applied, and he went to work for the Texas Department of Corrections while keeping his eye on the prize. He made it as an alternate the second time he tried, and he started his training in 2010. He was commissioned as a Texas Game Warden with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in July 2010.

Early in his game warden career, Brad was part of the statewide STORM team, a forensics accident reconstruction unit dispatched to all corners of the state to investigate boat accidents. After having two children, Brad decided it was too much travel for his young family, so he turned his attention to the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) unit and signed on as a drone operator.

  Gear Up Drone  

Brad recently received a new thermal drone after a Gear Up for Game Warden fundraiser in Tyler in October 2022. The successful event raised $75,000, which provided specialty gear for Texas Game Wardens in Smith County, including the latest thermal drone.

“These drones are just flying computers, which means the technology is constantly improving. The drone I’ve been working with is perfectly capable, but the newer technology just takes it to the next level. Both the daytime camera and the thermal camera are able to zoom in a lot further. It’s also more weather resistant and can fly in conditions we can’t with the older technology."

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  Story #3: Best Auction Ever!  

We’re still smiling about the record-breaking auction last September that raised an astonishing $225,000 to support the Gear Up for Game Wardens program and ensure TPWF can continue its work to get much-needed equipment in the hands of your Texas Game Wardens.

A Texas-sized thank you to all our donors, brand partners and supporters for making TPWF’s 3rd Annual Gear Up for Game Wardens Online Auction a huge success!

On behalf of the best-trained corps of conservation officers in the nation—and the many wild things and wild places they are sworn to protect—thank you!

We’re already plotting our next auction that will happen later this year. Stay tuned! 

  Story #4: Spotlight on Leadership Team: Meet Mac Abney  

Mac Abney has always been a supporter of Texas Game Wardens. He grew up in Marshall, and his best friend’s next-door neighbor was a game warden.

“I’ve been around game wardens my whole life, and I appreciate how they protect the land and serve their communities,” said Abney.

Abney also serves his community. He was a long-time board member of the Sabine River Authority and is currently serving as the Region III (East Texas) Chairman of the Leadership Council for Gear Up for Game Wardens.

“The Sabine River Authority has developed a great working relationship with Texas Parks and Wildlife and has made several contributions for equipment through Gear Up for Game Wardens,” said Abney.  “Texas Game Wardens do a great job in helping take care of our lakes and improving security, and it just makes sense to help provide the equipment they need to be more effective."

Gear Up for Game Wardens is fueled by citizen leaders like Mac Abney, and we appreciate everything they do to support Texas Game Wardens.

Learn more about our Leadership Council. 

  Story #5: Become a Friend of Texas Game Wardens Today!  

Sustaining the Gear Up for Game Wardens program ensures TPWF can manage the program and purchase the specialty equipment Texas Game Wardens need. Becoming a Friend of Texas Game Wardens helps us continue our work to enhance the capabilities of the best-trained corps of conservation officers in the nation. Become a Friend today and see the exclusive items you will receive so you can show your support of our Texas Game Wardens.

Become a Friend



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