As he was growing up in the small coastal town of Refugio, Texas, Kyle Hendley wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he grew up. He loved hunting, fishing and the outdoors, and in high school he got to know a Texas Game Warden.
“I had some other career ideas in mind, but as I progressed through high school and got to know more about what game wardens were and what they do, it seemed like that was something I’d want to spend the rest of my life doing,” said Hendley. “From that point on, I was totally focused on becoming a Texas Game Warden, because that’s all I wanted to do.”
The game warden he met in high school has since retired and now serves as Refugio County Sheriff.
“Kyle was such a polite and respectful young man and he loved the outdoors,” recalled Refugio County Sheriff Pinky Gonzales. “You could tell his parents raised him right. He was very intrigued with my work life and when he graduated from high school, he told me that though he hadn’t planned on going to college, he would pursue a degree if that’s what it took to become a Texas Game Warden. I’ll never forget that. And sure enough, he followed his dream, and now he’s a great asset for the state of Texas.”
It took Hendley two tries to get accepted into the highly competitive Texas Game Warden Academy. The second time, he was accepted as an alternate, and thought he would have to wait another year to try again. But a slot unexpectedly opened up, and with less than a week to get ready, Kyle began the grueling seven-month training regime to become a Texas Game Warden.
His first duty station in Corpus Christi took him right back to the Texas coastal waters he loves.
“There was a lot to learn, but it was like coming home,” said Hendley. “My wife found a great job in Corpus, and family is less than an hour away. I hope to spend the majority of my career in this region of the state.”
Kyle has emerged as a leader in his district and is honing his skills in many different areas. He’s on the State Forensic Reconstruction and Mapping Team, also called the STORM team, which investigates boating accidents to determine their cause. He is also a licensed drone operator, as well as an airboat operator who works on joint operations with the Coast Guard.
As a Texas Game Warden, Kyle works with all manner of gear and equipment, some of which has been provided through TPWF’s Gear Up for Game Wardens program. Recently, his district received two new pieces of equipment through Gear Up for Game Wardens, including a UTV (Utility T Vehicle) and airboat trailers specifically modified for a coastal environment.
“We have so many beach areas to patrol, and the UTV allows us to get to areas we couldn’t get to before,” said Hendley. “We’ve been able to use it to find trespassers hunting or fishing without landowner consent, and also for search and rescue operations. During the winter season, we often have to deal with cold-stunned green sea turtles, and this equipment is going to help us save those creatures when they are in distress.”
The airboat trailers are likewise modified for use in soft sand and other coastal condition.
“Before we had these new trailers, we were limited in where we could load and unload our airboats,” said Hendley. “Every time we’re out with it, we’re learning new spots that we can use. That’s vastly increased the range of areas that we can work, whether it’s enforcing hunting and fishing laws or helping in search and rescue operations.”
Hendley is deeply grateful for the support from generous donors to the Gear Up for Game Wardens program.
“It’s nice knowing you have that support, and that it’s coming from all over Texas,” said Hendley.
After several years on the job, Kyle’s passion for his work has not dimmed.
“I absolutely love my job,” said Hendley with a laugh. “I just had four days off and I was chomping at the bit to get back out there, because I love it so much. I feel very fortunate that my boyhood dream of becoming a Texas Game Warden has come true.”