Game Warden Field Notes
AUSTIN, December 19, 2016 – The following items are compiled from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
More than Junk in the Trunk
A 911 call to the Pecos County Sheriff’s Office the night of Nov. 3 claimed someone had discharged a firearm from a car stopped in the road. Deputies on patrol located the suspect vehicle with two occupants inside. The deputies discovered a 12 gauge shotgun in the backseat and a dead mule deer buck stuffed into the trunk. State game wardens were called to the scene. The driver did have a valid hunting license and hunter safety certification, while his buddy had no identification at all. Both men were cited for hunting at night and hunting from the road, along with possession of a mule deer in a closed season and booked into the Pecos County jail.
Captured on Camera
A Red River County game warden received information from a landowner about possible theft and trespassing. The landowner noticed he was missing two game cameras, but a third game camera that was still in place had captured an image of an individual on his property holding what appeared to be the other game cameras. The warden recognized the individual in the photo and, based on the evidence and the number of people who came forward during the investigation identifying the subject in the photo, was able to obtain a warrant for the subject’s arrest for theft and criminal trespassing. Cases pending.
Tracking the Decoy
Working in cooperation with the Texas Department of Public Safety, a Red River County game warden set up a GPS-monitored ATV and trailer in an area where there had recently been several calls relating to property theft. During the night of Nov. 3, the warden received information via the GPS tracking system that the ATV had been moved to a residence in Lamar County. With assistance from other law enforcement agencies, wardens executed a search warrant for the property and found three adults. The stolen ATV was recovered along with narcotics and drug paraphernalia discovered at the scene. All three were taken into custody and transported to the Lamar County jail. Multiple cases pending for felony theft, possession of stolen property, engaging in organized crime, child endangerment and criminal trespassing.
Crossing the Line
On Nov. 20, a Bowie County game warden conducted a traffic stop on a hunter crossing into Texas from Oklahoma he observed to have a whitetail deer in the bed of his truck. The hunter claimed he killed the deer in Texas and used tags issued with his Texas hunting license, but that didn’t explain why he was traveling into Texas from Oklahoma. The story soon fell apart and the warden determined the deer was killed north of the border and the hunter did not possess an Oklahoma hunting license. An Oklahoma game warden responded to Texas to follow up on his state’s violation. Citations were issued in both states and the deer carcass was returned to Oklahoma for donation.
Tagging is not Optional
On opening weekend of deer season in Angelina County, a game warden made contact with a group of hunters in Huntington where he observed a deer in the back of an ATV that did not meet the minimum 13-inch antler restrictions and another in the back of the truck that did. Neither deer was tagged. When the ATV operator was questioned about the illegal buck, he said he was going to tag it when he saw the game warden pull up. The warden explained that at that point it’s too late. Citations issued for taking an illegal buck and untagged deer along with multiple warnings. Civil restitution also pending and the deer were donated to a needy local family.
No Deer, Just Dope
While on patrol the night of Nov. 5, a Tyler County game warden observed a vehicle behind him driving with a bright LED light system. The warden pulled over to allow the vehicle to pass and as the vehicle pulled alongside, the driver stopped and rolled down his window. The warden explained to the driver that the light was not permitted on the county road due to traffic code statutes. Since the two men were wearing camouflage, the warden asked if they had harvested a deer and where they had been hunting. During the conversation, the warden observed the two were acting extremely nervous and overly courteous, plus, the drive began to sweat profusely. After checking their hunting licenses and noting neither had the required hunter education certification, the warden asked to inspect their vehicle. Although he found no evidence of a harvest, the search of the subjects vehicle revealed multiple drug paraphernalia items, two bags of marijuana and a small baggy of crystal meth. Multiple drug-related charges were filed, along with an additional charge for tampering with physical evidence after it was discovered that one of the men hid two baggies of marijuana in the brush when he had to relieve himself from an upset stomach.
Like Father, Like Son
While on patrol opening weekend of deer season, a Shelby County game warden approached a house after dark and saw movement from behind the house. Upon backing up his patrol vehicle and pulling in the driveway, the warden was met by a hunter who claimed someone was trespassing on his property and had fired a shot. The man provided directions to a location where the warden should go patrol, but before leaving, the warden proceeded to check behind the house where he immediately discovered a buck strapped to the back of an ATV. The buck’s antlers measured 12 inches wide, which did not meet the minimum restrictions for the county and also was untagged. The hunter claimed he’d left his hunting license inside and while he excused himself to go retrieve it, the warden did a quick search on his mobile app and found the man did not have a hunting license. The man returned and handed the warden proof of a hunting license purchased online three minutes earlier. The illegal buck and firearm used were both seized. The warden also noticed a nearby ice chest and inquired about the venison inside, to which the man replied that his son had shot a nice buck and given the meat to his mother. Because a wildlife resource document is required to transfer harvested game, the warden contacted the son, who verified he had killed a deer on opening day, Saturday, Nov. 5. On a hunch, the warden followed up on Monday and discovered the son did have a hunting license, but it had been purchased at a local store on Sunday, Nov. 6, the day after he admitted harvesting a deer. Multiple citations and civil restitution filed on both hunters and the investigation is ongoing.
Mixed Up Bag
A hunter contacted game wardens in Houston County claiming to have witnessed a hunter on the neighboring property shoot two bucks. Wardens responded along the Trinity/Houston County line and attempted to locate the hunter. After searching neighboring properties for about two hours, the wardens noticed a light and some movement in a barn. Wardens walked onto the property and found two deer that had been tagged by two different hunters. After a short interview, one hunter confessed to killing both deer and tagging the second with another hunter’s hunting license. Citations were issued and the second deer was seized. Violations included exceeding the bag limit for whitetail, harvesting an illegal buck having less than a 13-inch spread, hunting under the license of another and allowing another to hunt under license. Cases and civil restitution pending.
Caught in a Snap(Chat)
Evidence in the form of a SnapChat video of four men with rifles and spotlights in their truck bragging about spotlighting (hunting illegally at night) reached a Shelby County game warden. Two hours after receiving the information, the warden received a call from dispatch advising there was a man with a gun at a nearby gas station threatening individuals. The warden was first on scene and was able to disarm and secure a pistol from the man’s back pocket. When asked what the man was doing he explained that those guys in the gas station had shot in front of his house and he had chased them to that location. Ironically, the guys he was chasing after were the four men the warden was looking for and had seen in the video earlier. The gunman was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and multiple hunting charges were filed and are pending on the four men.
A Harrison County game warden received a call from a landowner that someone had been hunting deer without consent on property owned by a railroad company and had witnessed the suspect dragging a dead deer down the middle of the railroad tracks bordering the property. The warden was able to pick up the blood trail on the tracks and followed it to a house where he found the deer and the suspect. The suspect admitting to hunting on railroad property. Multiple charges pending.
Bad Date Idea
A Real County game warden responding to a call about a vehicle stuck in the river bed found a two-wheel-drive sedan stuck in the river gravel about 200 yards upstream from the county road. The warden recognized the driver from a similar incident a few months earlier when the guy’s friend got stuck in the river, almost in the same spot. Asked why he was driving in the riverbed when his friend had gotten stuck and been ticketed for the same thing. He stated he just wanted to show his girlfriend the river. The driver was cited for operating a motor vehicle in the riverbed. Case pending.
Big Rig Rescue
On Nov. 7, game warden swift water rescue technicians responded to a high water rescue of an 18-wheeler driver who had been swept off a county road near the McLennan/Bell County line. The subject was trapped on the cab of his truck as water continued to rise. The driver was rescued by game wardens with help from several local firefighters after spending over an hour on the top of the cab.
Licenses not Retroactive
Following up on calls that someone was shooting a high-powered rifle in a Bell County subdivision, a game warden came upon two individuals taking photos of a 10-point buck next to a game feeder in their backyard. Upon checking the license of the hunter who claimed to have killed the deer, the warden noted that the hunting license had been purchased just 10 minutes prior to his arrival on the scene. Based on the timeline of the calls about shots being fired, the warden knew the deer had been killed at least an hour earlier. The hunters admitted they had shot the deer, didn’t have a hunting license and purchased one after the fact. Citation issued for hunting white-tailed deer without a hunting license, the deer was seized civil restitution charges filed on the hunter. Case pending.
Delayed Catch and Release
A Travis County game warden received an Operation Game Thief call about an individual keeping undersized largemouth bass and exceeding the daily bag limit on the upper end of Lake Austin at a popular fishing spot. Upon the warden’s arrival, a fisherman matching the description of the suspected violator indicated he was leaving and it was not necessary to check him for compliance. The suspect did possess a fishing license. The warden discovered a stringer of fish downstream and was able to revive and release them alive. Cases pending.
Scoping Out Preseason Prospects
On Oct. 30, wardens received phone calls from a Kenedy County landowner concerned about a freshly shot deer under a feeder on his property. Upon arriving at the scene, the game warden noticed a few hunters mulling around the house on the property. The hunters were relatives of the landowner. After a brief investigation and a "come to Jesus" talk with the landowner, the landowner’s brother came forward and admitted he accidentally shot the deer while “scoping” it under the feeder. He claimed the new gun he was using went off, shooting the buck right in the heart. Charges for hunting deer in a closed season and civil restitution for the 154 2/8 Boone & Crockett scored buck are pending.
While on patrol for duck hunting violations in Aransas County, wardens came across a group of three hunters, including one they recognized from a check the week prior who had been given several warnings for violations. One of the hunters had his shotgun taken apart, the second one said he was not hunting but handed over his license and the third one produced his license and shotgun for inspection. As the first hunter was reassembling his shotgun, the warden noticed he was in possession of lead shot, which is prohibited for waterfowl hunting. The warden then noticed an object in the water under the bench of the second hunter. After repeated requests to hand over the item, the hunter finally picked up his shotgun from under the water. The shotgun was in violation of waterfowl rules limiting to three the number of shotshells it can hold (unplugged). By this time, the first hunter had finished putting his shotgun together and handed it to the warden. It was also unplugged. Four citations were issued.