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Columns November 28, 2017  RSS feed

Game Warden Field Notes

The following items are compiled from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.

Not in Our Backyard, Either

A Titus County game warden was patrolling the White Oak Creek Wildlife Management Area recently when he discovered a large amount of trash dumped in the WMA parking lot at the end of a county road. A thorough search of the garbage identified only one note with names on it. The note was from a landlord telling a tenant to remove all the trash from his backyard. A brief investigation revealed the identities of the two litterbugs. Citations were issued, and the suspects were persuaded to clean the entire parking lot.

The Truth of the Matter

A Trinity County game warden got a call from the local constable in regards to an illegal buck that had been harvested in a subdivision bow hunting program to control deer numbers. Upon arrival, the warden observed not just one carcass, but two from illegal bucks that didn’t meet the 13-inch antler spread minimum requirements. The constable advised the warden that one hunter had registered a spike in the harvest log book the evening before, which did not match the 5-point buck carcass at the collection site. The constable called the hunter to the site prior to the warden’s arrival in hopes of clearing up the issue. The hunter advised the constable that the 5-pointer was not his deer and that he shot a legal spike. After the warden cited the first hunter with an illegal buck with less than 13 inch inside spread, he called and asked the other hunter to return to the scene. The hunter stuck to his story, but after a brief interview, finally admitted to shooting the buck and stated he wasn’t going to continue any longer with the false narrative. Citations and civil restitution are pending on both illegal buck cases. The hunters also received other warnings.

A Teaching Moment

Passing down Texas’ hunting heritage to the next generation is a longstanding tradition, and the memories last a lifetime. Unfortunately, sometimes those memories become tainted by those who make poor choices. Such was the case in late October while Houston County game wardens were patrolling the Davy Crockett National Forest on a trespassing complaint. They observed individuals behind a camp house who appeared to be cleaning a deer. Upon closer inspection, there were two white-tailed bucks being cleaned and neither were tagged. Both deer had been killed by a 15-year-old hunter whose father and friends had taken him hunting. The youth had no hunting license and the adults were attempting to tag the deer with the father’s tags. After explaining the regulations to the teen, and the adults, the father was issued citations for allowing another to hunt under his license and exceeding the bag limit on deer, along with several warnings for other violations. The teen was allowed to obtain a license to tag and keep the first buck he had ever killed. The cases against his father are pending.

Digging Deeper

Texas game wardens aren’t just responsible for enforcing wildlife laws; they also protect the state’s cultural resources. Recently, Kerr County game wardens completed an investigation involving desecration of a well-known Indian midden on private property. A grand jury returned indictments on two individuals for 1st degree felony criminal mischief based on cases made by the wardens, who caught the duo in the act of digging up artifacts at the midden back in January. The damage to the site, based on assessments by archaeologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Historical Commission, exceeded $400,000.

Headed for Trouble

During a traffic stop, an untagged deer head in the bed of a truck caught the attention of a DPS state trooper, who notified a Dewitt County game warden. The driver told the trooper that he had cut the head off a deer he had found dead. Upon follow up, the warden was able to ascertain there was more to the story. While the subject did actually find the dead deer and remove its head, he failed to mention he was the one responsible for its demise, having killed the buck with a rifle during the archery-only hunting season. The deer head in question, which was no longer in the bed of the man’s truck, had been buried in the backyard for most of the week, and then stashed in some brush across the street. Apparently, while the warden was interviewing the subject at the front of the house, another individual had uncovered the head and attempted to get rid of it. The cases and restitution are pending.

Smells a Little Fishy

Shortly after midnight on Oct. 19, a Cameron County game warden received a call from the Operation Game Thief crime stopper hotline about two fishermen believed to be over their daily bag limit and in possession of undersized spotted seatrout at a popular fishing pier. The warden arrived just as the individuals were walking up to the parking lot, and placing the fish in the back of their vehicle. The two individuals stated they did not know that trout had a number or size limit. One admitted to not having a license while the other claimed to have purchased one within the year. After a check, the warden confirmed neither of the men had a current fishing license, and were in possession of 25 undersized spotted seatrout. Both received multiple citations as well as restitution for the fish. A further inspection of the fishing pier resulted in discovery of a bucket full of fish that no one would claim. An in-depth conversation with one group led to admission they had placed the bucket of fish near a trash can when they saw the warden coming. They received multiple citations and restitution. The fish in edible condition were donated.

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 whitetailed 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 whitetailed 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.

No Sale

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.

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