:i wanted to get ahold of some garter snakes for a project i am doing.
Check the laws for where you plan on collecting. There may be restrictions, if not downright prohibitions, on collecting garters in some states. You may be able to get special dispensation if your project is affiliated with a university.
And by all means, purchase the required licenses where applicable. Not only does it save your bacon in the event a game warden stops you, the money is in many cases the only source of funding for the state wildlife agencies which are charged with sustaining wild populations.