April 26, 2018

Game Warden Field Notes

 

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

Crossing the Line

On opening weekend of mule deer season, game wardens were patrolling an isolated stretch of backroad near the Texas/New Mexico border in Cochran County when they observed suspicious activity in the distance; a red pickup truck had suddenly turned around on the two-lane highway to go southbound, and then came to a stop in the bar ditch. The wardens quickly turned into the nearest county road to observe. Using binoculars, the wardens detected a rifle sticking out the window of the truck. They quickly moved in and made contact with the occupants in the red truck, which was still in the ditch. The occupants, from New Mexico, admitted to shooting at feral hogs, but claimed that because they were in New Mexico, the Texas wardens were out of their jurisdiction. Asked how they had determined their location, the individuals pointed to the yellow centerline in the highway, believing that was the state line separating Texas from New Mexico. Charges for hunting on a public roadway, in Texas, and discharging a firearm on a Texas public roadway are pending.

OMG, LOL, SMH

Harris County game wardens monitoring a development property for illegal hunting activity encountered two individuals emerging from the woods riding a UTV. It was readily apparent to the wardens that the suspects had been hunting, as both carried rifles and blood was visible on their clothes and the utility vehicle. During initial questioning, wardens determined neither suspect had written consent to hunt on the property, and both claimed the blood stains were from a feral hog they had shot earlier. As is common during law enforcement interrogations, the duo was questioned separately to establish consistency in their story. While pressing one of the subjects to clarify the time of day the hog was killed, the individual opened his cell phone to display a text message string with the other suspect. While thumbing through texts looking for the time of day his buddy had notified him about the kill, he, unfortunately, scrolled upon a photo of a large 8-point buck his friend had sent at the time he claimed the “hog” had been killed. At that point, both confessed to poaching the deer, and taking it home for processing without tagging or logging it on the shooter’s license. The deer head and meat were seized at a nearby home. Multiple citations were issued and civil restitution is pending.

Just Doin’ My Job

A Webb County game warden was investigating a deer carcass that had been dumped on the side of an easement road. During his investigation, he came in contact with a landowner who said he had allowed some unidentified friends to come out onto his property some months prior. The landowner suspected these individuals could have returned to his ranch without his permission and might be responsible for the dumping of the deer carcass, as they had a history of poaching. The landowner refused to provide contact information on these so-called friends of his, and instead told the warden to “go do his job and figure it out.” Because of the landowner’s suspicious behavior and refusal to cooperate in the investigation, the warden now considered him to be a person of interest. While looking deeper into the landowner’s hunting activities, the warden discovered that the landowner had illegally harvested a 10-point buck in 2016, as had his mother, as neither possessed a valid hunting license. The warden subsequently seized both deer and issued both the landowner and his mother separate citations for hunting white-tailed deer without a license. Civil restitution on the deer is pending. As the landowner was being issued the citation he exclaimed, “When I told you to do your job, I didn’t mean for you to investigate us.” The warden then took the time to educate and explain to the landowner that no one is exempt from any game law. The dumped deer carcass is still under investigation.

CSI Don’t Lie

A Red River County game warden received DNA results stemming from a road hunting case during the 2016 deer season. The warden was on a stakeout of a popular road hunting location when he heard a shot fired less than 100 yards from his position. The warden made contact with two subjects, who informed him they had shot a coyote. The warden discovered blood, but no animal was retrieved. He collected blood and tissue samples from the scene and submitted them to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s forensic lab for testing. The test results came back positive for white-tailed deer. The cases are pending for hunting deer at night, hunting from a vehicle, and hunting deer with artificial light.

All in a Day’s Work

During the second weekend of deer season and the opening weekend for duck season, Trinity County game wardens had their hands full. Among nearly two dozen citations issued included game law violations on four illegal bucks, untagged/improperly tagged deer, and illegal possession of lead shot, no migratory game bird stamp, no hunter education, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Trinity County wardens also located a heavily baited area, an abandoned ATV, and a substantial number of violations in the Davy Crockett National Forest.

Impulse Purchase

Whether from a guilty conscience or simply feeling he may have pushed his luck, an East Texas man recently tried to avoid getting busted for hunting deer without a license by purchasing a permit after the fact. When game wardens got wind of a big buck with an impressive 19-inch antler spread possibly being harvested illegally near Gilmer, they started looking into it. It didn’t take long to find the hunter responsible, and wardens learned he harvested the trophy at 7:40 a.m. on Nov. 12. Problem was, according to dispatch, the guy didn’t purchase his license until three hours later. When wardens confronted the man later that evening, he confessed to hunting without a license. He was also found in possession of another deer he admitted to taking the previous week. Numerous charges and civil restitution are pending.

A Crappie Thing to Do

Game wardens were patrolling for duck hunters on Lake O’ the Pines opening weekend when they noticed a large group of bank fishermen nearby. When the wardens pulled up, they witnessed one of the subjects kick a fish back into the water. Further investigation resulted in several undersized crappie in their possession as well as crappie hidden in the woods behind the fishermen. Several charges are pending including no fishing license, possession of undersized crappie and failure to allow inspection.

Got Brass, In Pocket

Trinity County game wardens responded to a tip about possible deer hunting violations in the Davey Crockett National Forest. While scouting, a hunter heard two shots close to his area, and located the carcass of a buck that didn’t meet the 13-inch minimum antler spread requirements. The deer had been shot twice, once in the back and again in the neck. The hunter also found a spent .308 cartridge casing nearby. Wardens arrived on the scene and determined the initial shot likely incapacitated the deer, and a second shot to the neck dispatched the animal. The wardens were able to locate a brushed blind and multiple fresh boot tracks nearby along the Neches River bank, as well as boat skid marks. The wardens knew several hunters using boats to hunt this area, and decided to conduct a routine check of the camps. During a casual conversation, a hunter at one of the camps told the wardens he had seen an 8-point buck earlier in the day that was illegal and shortly thereafter heard two shots close by. He also told them he shoots a .308 with Remington Core-Lokt ammo. One investigator was curious what Core-Lokt ammo looked like, so the hunter brought out a box and, lo and behold, it matched the spent cartridge recovered near the dead deer. After a brief interview, the warden advised the hunter of the evidence they had found, including the .308 brass, boot track pictures, and boat marks on the river, not to mention the fact he was in the area that morning. The subject then admitted to shooting the illegal buck. Multiple cases are pending for illegal buck less than 13-inch inside spread, untagged deer, waste of game/failure to keep in edible condition and multiple warnings. Restitution has been filed.

Running a Head

During the Thanksgiving holiday, wardens in Jasper County responded to a call about trespassing where the landowner was able to capture an image of the suspect with his cell phone. The wardens recognized the individual as a Jasper resident and went to the violator’s house to confront him about the trespass claim. When they pulled into the driveway, the wardens noticed several men at the corner of the property. When the men noticed the wardens, two guys took off into the woods with the head of a buck. A brief pursuit ensued and both individuals were placed into custody. It was confirmed they had just taken the white-tailed buck, which also did not meet the 13-inch minimum antler width restrictions, without landowner permission. The cases are pending.

Should’ve Passed the Buck

Game wardens responded to a call about a possible case on a subject exceeding his annual bag limit on buck white-tailed deer. For the season in Brazos County, hunters are allowed only one buck with an inside antler spread of 13 inches or greater. The wardens went to the subject’s residence and during the interview discovered he had harvested an 8-point buck earlier in the week, and a big 10-point buck that evening. Citation was issued for exceeding the bag limit on white-tailed deer and multiple tagging warnings were given. Civil restitution is pending.

Have We Met Before?

A Montgomery County game warden checked a man on Lake Conroe who was fishing without a fishing license. While issuing the citation, the warden discovered that the man also had two active TPWD arrest warrants. He was arrested and transported to the Montgomery County Jail.

Prison Property Poachers Pinched

It seems no property is off-limits to poachers, including prison grounds belonging to the Luther Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections. Game wardens acting on reports of night hunting by trespassers received earlier in the week initiated a stakeout and soon observed a vehicle shining a spotlight out of the passenger’s window. The wardens watched the vehicle for about 15 minutes and then initiated a stop. Five individuals were in the vehicle, along with two loaded rifles and two spotlights. The guns and the spotlights were seized and the driver and passenger were placed under arrest for hunting without landowner consent. The other three passengers were released without incident. The cases are pending.

Not Going Down that Rabbit Trail

On Nov. 14, a Duval County game warden received a call from the Freer Police Department stating someone had reported a man shooting at deer off the road. He arrived with two Freer PD officers and discovered a man with the hood of his vehicle up and trunk popped open. The warden interviewed the individual while the officers searched the vehicle. A .22 caliber rifle with a discharged casing in the chamber and a .223 rifle, along with marijuana and suspected narcotics were discovered. As the warden was talking with the man, he noticed movement coming from the brush directly across from where the man’s car was parked. A wounded white-tailed buck was discovered thrashing in the brush. The man denied any knowledge of this, and stated he just had car trouble and pulled over. The man claimed he had been hunting rabbits on a ranch in Freer earlier that day, which was corroborated later by the landowner, and must have forgotten to eject the round after his last shot from the .22. Because the vehicle didn’t match the description given for the suspected shooter, the man was arrested only on possession of controlled substance charges and transported to the Duval County Jail. Suspecting miscommunication between the witness and dispatcher, the warden interviewed the witness, who confirmed that was the right vehicle and the arrested driver was responsible for shooting the deer. She stated she was watching deer with her son when she saw that vehicle pull over and shoot at the deer, and then flee. She stated the same vehicle returned shortly. A second witness, who pursued the vehicle after the driver shot and fled, corroborated the first witness’ statement in a separate interview. The warden interviewed the suspect a second time in the jail and he admitted to shooting the buck from his vehicle, on the public roadway, with a rimfire rifle and without a hunting license. Class A and Class C misdemeanor charges along with civil restitution are pending. The buck was donated to a needy family in Freer.

You Can Run, but You Cannot Hide

In addition to enforcing game and fish laws, wardens are certified state police and routinely assist other law enforcement. At about 2 a.m. on Nov. 25, a Frio County game warden was patrolling the county in search of illegal road hunting activity when a call came through about a high speed chase involving a DPS state trooper. The trooper advised dispatch that the suspect was headed south on I-35 from Medina County into Frio County, and the trooper was unable to catch up to the evading vehicle. Coincidentally, the game warden was working on the northern end of the county about four miles east of I-35, responded and headed in that direction. The warden soon came upon an abandoned BMW sports car, and called it in. As other law enforcement arrived on the scene, the warden began searching the area and soon discovered an extremely intoxicated individual hiding near the fence line in a brushy area. The subject was placed under arrest for felony evading arrest.

Don’t Make Me Chase You

On Nov. 22, a game warden received a tip that a man, or men, had just shot a mule deer buck from a Crosby County property and the caller knew no one had permission to hunt there. Armed with the license plate of the suspect vehicle and the names of two possible culprits, the warden located a cell phone number for one of the men and called him. The warden had heard enough information to tell the man not to make him search for him in Crosby County, but suggested that he and his friend drive to Lubbock to meet with him and to bring the rifle used and the mule deer buck with them. The men later arrived in Lubbock and gave confessions as to having hunted the deer without landowner consent. The deer and rifle were both seized. The charges are pending.

Dropping a Dime on a Buck

On Thanksgiving, game wardens met with a man who had been reported as having killed a large white-tailed buck under suspicious circumstances earlier in the week. Although the man had told a local law enforcement officer that the deer had been killed lawfully, the warden was able to gain a confession from the man that he had trespassed and shot the buck from the roadway. The warden seized the man’s rifle, deer head and antlers, and the carcass. While gaining that confession, the man mentioned a mule deer buck his friend had shot on the previous Sunday and had also been killed on the same unauthorized property. The warden then met with that friend and questioned him as to the legality of his deer. The man confessed that he had shot from a public roadway and into the same property illegally, killing a large mule deer buck. The warden also seized that man’s rifle, mule deer head with antlers attached, and already-processed deer meat. The charges and civil restitution are pending.

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