|Game Warden Field Notes
AUSTIN, November 23, 2017 - The following items are compiled from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
The Naked Truth
Hunters rely on camouflage clothing to mask their appearance and avoid detection in the field, but an Upshur County man recently took “going commando” to the next level. He was arrested by a Gregg County game warden while hunting in the nude along a state highway. Obviously, he did not have a hunting license on him. The well-known nudist/activist later contested the charges. During the trial, his case fell apart when the warden’s bodycam footage was played to the county judge. After hearing testimony and viewing a few seconds of the undressed violator in action, the judge abruptly stopped the video and walked out ruling in the state’s favor. The activist promptly cancelled all appeals and settled the citations, which included: hunting without a license, shooting across a property line, and disorderly conduct.
Chicken Hawk Down
On Halloween, a Bowie County game warden received a call in reference to an individual shooting a hawk. The warden responded to the individual’s residence and observed what appeared to be a Cooper’s hawk lying on the back of a vehicle near the suspect’s house. He made contact with the homeowner, who admitted he knew hawks were protected but he didn’t want it to get his chickens. The warden educated the subject on legal and non-lethal options to protect his chickens from birds of prey and other predators. The hawk was seized and the subject received a citation for taking a protected bird species. The case is pending.
Reason #27 to Leave Wildlife Alone
A Titus County game warden responded to a mobile home community where a young white-tailed buck deer reportedly attacked an individual. The deer was well-known in the community after one of its residents had illegally taken possession of it as an abandoned fawn. The well-intentioned person who originally caught the deer could no longer take care of it as a pet so he attached white tags to its ears and released it on a nearby ranch. Absent natural instincts to avoid humans, the deer returned to its “home” except now with a full set of antlers and raging hormones. The game warden captured the deer, removed the tags from its ears, and relocated it to a high fenced game ranch where, hopefully, it will learn to avoid people.
Raging on the River
Game wardens received a call alleging an intoxicated person was waving a gun at passing boats. While responding, they received a second call that the suspect’s behavior seemed to be escalating. He was very agitated and either aiming a gun, or acting like it, as boats passed. The wardens launched their patrol boat and located a very intoxicated fisherman anchored in the middle of the channel. He stated he was upset that bass boats had passed him and caused his boat to shift. The suspect was not observed operating the boat so he was arrested and charged with public intoxication. No gun was found.
Leaving a Trail
Trinity County game wardens were patrolling Alabama Creek WMA opening weekend of deer season when they noticed a truck parked on the side of the road with three hunters standing next to it. As the wardens approached, the three hunters jumped in the truck and started driving away. The wardens made contact with the hunters and noticed a deer carcass in a game carrier on the back of the truck. While one warden checked the deer and licenses, the other warden walked back to where the truck was originally parked, walked down a trail about 30 yards, and found a dead white-tailed buck hidden in the brush. The three hunters were interviewed and denied shooting the buck, which did not meet the minimum antler restrictions, and further claimed they did not see the deer. The wardens instructed the hunters take them to the area where they were hunting. A K9 game warden was called to assist and, with the dog’s help, wardens were able to track where both deer were shot. Evidence of the shootings was found at two of the hunters’ stands, along with the path used to drag out the dead deer. The wardens also found photos of the harvested animals on the hunters’ cellphones. After three hours of investigating, numerous citations were issued including restitution. Cases are pending.
Recreational Poaching Vehicle
Comal County game wardens investigating a complaint about the possible illegal killing of a white-tailed deer on the west end of Canyon Lake discovered the animal’s abandoned carcass. An area resident walking his dog had spooked an individual who was in the process of cleaning the deer, and the suspect fled the scene with just the deer’s head and tenderloins. The resident recognized the man cleaning the deer and was able to provide a name and the location of the suspect’s RV. The wardens made contact with the man and after a few questions, the individual admitted to killing the deer from his RV using a .22 caliber rifle; it is unlawful to hunt deer with a rimfire cartridge. The man denied keeping the deer’s head and antlers, but during subsequent interrogation confessed to having stashed the head in a nearby tree. The 63-year-old man stated he had never seen a deer that big, and felt compelled to shoot it before someone else did. The man was cited for hunting deer with illegal means and for waste of game. The man also faces civil restitution on the 14-point white-tailed buck deer. The cases are pending.
Return to Sender
A Comal County sheriff’s deputy notified game wardens of the discovery of what appeared to be an animal carcass in an illegal dump site. The deputy also stated he had found a blood-stained cardboard box in the pile with a shipping label that included the address of a home less than five miles from the dump location. The wardens confirmed the carcass was that of a white-tailed deer, and decided to travel to the address listed to see if there was any link between the home and the illegal dumping. The wardens met with the homeowner, who declared adamantly he did not allow hunting on his property. The wardens observed kernels of corn in the driveway, typically used to bait deer, but the homeowner denied any knowledge of how the golden nuggets got there. The wardens looked around the property and soon found a pop-up blind, a mineral block and a 50-pound bag of deer corn. The homeowner was completely flabbergasted by the findings. A subsequent investigation led to a friend of the homeowner’s son, who had set up the blind, hunted and killed a white-tailed buck deer without the knowledge of the homeowner. The 20-year-old “friend” admitted to having killed the deer and dumping the carcass. He had quartered up the deer, but the wardens discovered that the meat had been left in a garage refrigerator for eight days and had spoiled. The man was cited for possession of an illegally-killed game animal, littering and failure to keep game in edible condition. Additionally, civil restitution will be assessed on the 11-point buck. The cases are pending.
The week prior to deer season, a concerned citizen reported seeing deer legs sticking out of the back of a pickup truck. The caller knew the owner of the vehicle and provided Hardeman County game wardens with an identification. Upon arrival at the suspect’s residence, the warden observed a man take off running with a set of antlers in each hand. The warden caught up to the suspect after a short foot pursuit. After detaining and securing the subject, the warden discovered a second suspect behind the residence washing blood out of the back of a pickup truck that fit the description given to him by the complainant. During interviews, the suspects admitted to shooting six deer the previous night, and selling five of them to a local deer processor. They planned to keep the sixth deer for themselves. The two subjects offered to take the sixth deer back to the processor and attempt to sell it. A Childress County game warden was called in to assist with the sting operation since the processor was located in his county. The subjects sold the deer to the processor for $50 as planned and, once the transaction was complete, the wardens made the bust. During questioning, the processor admitted these illegal sales were common and had occurred in the past. A total of 60 citations and warnings were issued to all involved, including: hunt for hire, buy/sell game animal, possess illegally taken wildlife, possess without wildlife resource document, improper cold storage books, possess in closed season. Several more cases are still being investigated. Tickets and restitution are pending.
His Tag, You’re It
Crockett County wardens on patrol entered a hunting camp with several vehicles, but no one present. The wardens found two fresh deer carcasses that, based on the tags, were killed by the same individual a day apart. One of the two deer was tagged incorrectly. Knowing the occupants of the camp were likely out hunting, the wardens left and returned to the camp the next morning where they encountered a hunter at the gate leaving the property. The hunter said he was headed to town to buy ice and a hunting license. He claimed he had not yet been hunting, even though he had been in camp for three days. As the warden drove into the camp, he saw two men cleaning a freshly killed, but untagged, white-tailed deer. He began questioning the hunters about the two deer that were tagged differently; one correctly and one incorrectly. The hunter, whose license tags were on both deer, began making excuses and telling contradictory stories. The warden became suspicious that the hunter who left to buy a license had killed the second deer, and used a tag off of his father’s license. He asked the father to provide a handwriting sample and after comparison, determined the tags on the two deer were completed by two different individuals. Only one of the tags was completed by the father, yet his name was on both of the tags. After several hours of questioning, the father admitted that his 27-year-old son had killed a deer without a license the previous morning. The father had given his son a deer tag from his license. The son, returning to camp after purchasing ice and a hunting license, discovered that his father had confessed. The wardens counted more than 10 violations committed by the three Houston men. Appropriate cases were filed against all three men in camp for possession of untagged deer, improperly tagged deer, and hunting under the license of another. The deer were seized and donated to several Ozona residents. The 10-point antlers were seized for evidence. The cases and civil restitution are pending.
On opening night of deer season, Nov. 4, Sabine County game wardens deployed an age old tactic for catching road hunters, Bucky the deer decoy. The dummy deer was placed alongside the road in the Moore Plantation WMA within easy range of opportunist night hunters. While waiting, a white SUV slow rolled to a complete stop and the driver took a shot at Ol’ Bucky. Once he realized the deer was fake, he proceeded to drive off. The warden jumped out and ran towards the vehicle yelling “Texas Game Warden” and “Stop.” The vehicle accelerated away from him and was immediately pursued by the other wardens. Local law enforcement from Pinehill and Hemphill located the vehicle on a dead end county road and detained its occupants, a male and a female. A single shot .223 caliber rifle was discovered in the back floorboard with a spent shell casing still loaded in the chamber. The female passenger was cited and released to her mother. The male driver was arrested for evading detention and arrest with a motor vehicle, hunting deer at night, hunting deer with a light, and hunting from a vehicle. All the cases are pending.
In January 2017, a Montgomery County game warden received a call about deer parts that had been dumped on private property. He made contact with a suspect and found that he had killed two deer, not tagged either and dumped their remains on the private property. The suspect pled not guilty, went to trial, and was convicted of possession of untagged white-tailed deer and littering. Recently, the warden got another call from the private property owner about deer parts dumped on the property again. The warden made contact with the same suspect and once again found him to be in possession of an untagged deer. The suspect admitted to catching the deer in a trap before killing and processing it. He further admitted to dumping the deer remains at the same location as last January. The suspect received four citations for littering, illegal means and methods, hunter education violation, and unrelated charges. The cases are pending.
On Nov. 6, a Karnes County game warden received a phone call about a local resident that had killed a white-tailed buck deer and was not planning on tagging the deer. The warden found posts on Facebook of the suspect with the deer, and verified the individual did not have a valid hunting license. During a brief interview, the suspect told the warden he had purchased a license and tagged the deer. The warden then informed the hunter that he had already verified that he did not have a license. Hunting without a valid hunting license was filed and the 10-point buck was seized.
A Wheeler County game warden noticed a vehicle shining a light from a county road coming from Oklahoma into Texas. Once the vehicle passed, he followed and he heard two shots fired. The warden stopped the vehicle and separated the two female occupants. They denied knowledge of any weapons in the vehicle or any shooting from the road. The warden retrieved a rifle from the back seat with a spent cartridge still in the chamber as well as ammunition, two cans of beer, a head lamp with the red light still on, and a cell phone with a text displayed on the screen that read "Cop got us." Adamantly denying any involvement of shooting, the two stuck with their story of being the only two occupants of the vehicle. After further investigation, it was found that two other subjects had gotten out at some point and made it back into Oklahoma. Charges of Class A hunting from a vehicle were filed on both females and the passenger also received a public intoxication citation. The warden is currently working with Oklahoma game wardens for possible illegal hunting from the same group near the state line