SAN PATRICIO COUNTY – It was in Wimberley that a young Kally Marbach found her love for the outdoors. With her father taking her hunting, fishing and camping she found a kinship with the outdoors that would reintroduce itself years later as the little girl grew into adulthood and enrolled in college.
She attended Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to study marine biology because of her love of the water, but after a ride along with a game warden, she had a change of heart – and focus.
“I also minored in criminal justice so I had the opportunity to do an internship with a law enforcement agency,” Marbach said. “I thought being a game warden sounded pretty cool. I’ve seen game wardens and met them before so I kind of knew what they did.
“But it was my first ride along I knew I was absolutely hooked. I was amazed that they got to do this every day and get paid for it.”
In a moment of serendipitous coincidence, March’s ride-along partner was not only another female, she had graduated from the same high school in Wimberley 10 years prior.
“For me, that was a sign that I’m in the right place, this is where I need to be right now,” Marbach added. “She was really one of my first mentors that was a game warden and took me under her wing.”
Never one to want a normal 8-5 job, and her love for the outdoors fully revived, she made a decision to try to become a game warden, a task easier said than done.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in 2018 of the 524 game wardens in Texas, only 39 were female.
Stack on top of that the fact that they only hire once a year and out of more than 1,000 applicants only 42 were accepted to Marbach’s academy class with 30 actually graduating.
The academy involves a psychological and medical exam as well as grueling fitness test consisting of running, push-ups, pull-ups and swimming.
Marbach said another major issue is that once you graduate you can be placed in any county in Texas with some game wardens getting sent to an area they don’t like so they simply quit.
“We’re stat peace officers so we can work throughout the state, but you have to live in your home county basically,” she explained. “They tell you when you apply you have to be willing to be stationed initially in any county throughout the state.”
Marbach spent her first year as game warden in Live Oak County, just north of San Patricio, when she got to meet one of Choke Canyon’s residents firsthand.
“When I was in Live Oak County we have a part of Choke Canyon which is a pretty good sized lake,” she said. “What a lot of people don’t know about Choke Canyon is there’s quite a few alligators, especially where the Nueces River comes in.”
She got the call that some hunters who had drawn a tag to hunt alligators were pulling one in and did she wanted to come and see it. She jumped at the chance and saw two men in a little Jon Boat hauling in a massive gator. It was so large it was nearly sinking their boat.
“How they got that thing in the boat I’ll never understand,” she said laughing.
They called someone who lived nearby and had a tractor to come over so they could hoist it in the air and get some pictures.
“Looking up at it lifted on a tractor is a whole different perspective,” Marbach said. “I will never forget seeing that and how that made me feel.”
The alligator was more than 13 feet long and weighed around 750 pounds.
She added that whenever they capture alligators they usually find a neighbor nearby with children and take it over to show them and educate them on the dangers of the animal, or if they rescue something like an injured hawk, they will allow the kids to get an up-close look at the wild animal and learn more about nature.
She said that educating children about nature and the wild is one of the best perks of her job.
“We do so many outdoor programs for kids and young adults,” she continued. “We’re trying to get that next generation interested in natural resource conservation because if our kids don’t know about it or care to be involved in those things, there’s no future for my department.
“Before COVID we held fishing programs for kids and would do hunting trips for kids as well – just trying to get them involved and give them opportunities to actually go out and experience what it’s like.
“That’s one of my favorite parts about the job.”
In her second year Marbach now calls San Patricio County her home. A Portland resident, she has no issue jumping on a boat to check shrimping boats, duck hunters or even the occasional alligator sighting. At home on sea and land, she undoubtably loves her job and can talk about it for hours.
“It’s great because we do have a lot of freedom as far as territory,” Marbach said. “If you want to live in a certain place you can move around and experience different parts of Texas.
“Another thing I like about my job is all the interesting people I get to meet. We work with other agencies, especially here I work with the police departments, the sheriff’s office and especially the Coast Guard. You also get to meet a lot of people from different parts of the world that are visiting the coast.
“So, yeah, my job’s pretty neat.”