Reporting for duty
Law enforcement off the pavement
“I’m going to be spending a lot of time on a boat,” said brand new Orange County Game Warden Phillip LeDoux. Reporting for work Aug. 14, LeDoux fills the position vacated by the recent retirement of “Big Mike” Keeney. “I live pretty close to him actually,” said LeDoux.
The 28-year-old joins Clint Caywood, the other game warden for Orange County.
It takes seven months to complete training for game warden at the academy located in Hamilton County west of Waco. “It’s out in the middle of nowhere, but the school, the campus and everything was nice.”
Before embarking on his new career, he worked for a big time gun dealer in Houston, Carter’s Country. “I didn’t do a lot of sales, but I did a lot of operations, shipping, receiving, transportation, I worked wherever Mr. Carter needed me to work. I really enjoyed working there, but [being a game warden] is what I wanted to do, so I left the company. They were sorry to see me go, I was sorry to go, but I’m glad I got into this. It’s something I wanted to do for a long time,” said LeDoux.
“It’s not easy to get in [the academy], so I was just proud to be a part of that.” The number of classes depends on need said LeDoux. The last few years, they’ve had a class every year, but it’s not guaranteed. LeDoux said there have been stretches where they only have a class every three years. It depends on budget and what they need. “Right now I think there’s around 530 wardens in the state.”
“The application process is long. They take applications into February and May, then you have to take a physical fitness exam, have to take a doctor’s physical, you have to have an extensive background check; it’s a long process,” said LeDoux. He believes another class will start at the end of this year or the beginning of the next.
“Nobody in the academy knew where they were going until early July. The academy started Jan. 4 and we went all the way until the 7th or 8th of July before they even told us where we were being stationed,” said LeDoux. “All we knew was we were going to be stationed somewhere in Texas. We had a big exam to pass in July, then they were ready to tell everybody where they were going. The department fills positions based on need.
“There are more positions open than we had cadets. Orange only had one warden, they need two up here. There is lots and lots to do.
“Out of my class there were 15 positions created by the federal government on the border with Mexico, so 15 of the students in my class were destined for the Tex-Mexico border no matter what. Brand new positions, brand new wardens and they got brand new equipment because their positions were funded by the federal government. So despite how many transfers have been away from the border, 15 are going for that purpose alone. They have a lot of enforcement down there right now.”
LeDoux is not only in a brand new career, living in a brand new town, but he also has a brand new family. LeDoux and his wife, Katie will celebrate their second anniversary next month, but Friday they can celebrate the 11th week since the birth of their son, Zane.
Previously living in Houston, Katie is experiencing a little culture shock with life in Orange County. She’s used to the hustle and bustle of city life with access to almost anything close by and crazy traffic. Orange is more laid back than she is accustomed to.
LeDoux is hitting the ground running. The are a lot of things game wardens do in addition to the hunting enforcement. “Dove season opens on the first of Sept. There are also all kinds of water enforcement. I’m required to have a certain number of hours per month, per year on a boat,” said LeDoux. “There is just lots to do. There’s lots of fishing, lots of recreational boating people, in the river and in the lake, pulling skiers, pulling tubers, people swimming, and lots of alligators. We get lots and lots of alligator calls… because they are wandering up on people’s property. It’s our responsibility to take care of that. People call police or call animal control, who ultimately call us, because it’s our responsibility,” LeDoux said.
“Just general enforcement, keeping bad people off the streets. It’s not typically our job, but if we run into something like that, we’ll certainly take care of it. We don’t want to step on the police’s toes, but just listening to the radio, Orange County and Orange PD certainly have their hands full doing their jobs, so any help they can get is welcome. Any help we can get from them is welcome. We work pretty closely, keeping the peace. There’s a lot to it, but mainly we keep an eye on the water and water safety in general, make sure everybody is following the rules, wearing life jackets, things like that in addition to fishing within the rules. The major part of our job is water safety, especially in this part of the state where there is so much water to cover.” Wardens are required to spend 60 hours a month on the water.
Eventually, LeDoux hopes to get the opportunity to enjoy some hunting and fishing of his own on his days off, but right now, his spare time is spent working on the house they are renting.