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Arrests Made in ‘Operation Head Hunter’ Deer Poaching Case
ABILENE, Texas — Two men face multiple felony poaching charges after a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department undercover investigation that spanned two states and 1,100 miles and which involved antlered deer heads being sold via the Internet.
“Operation Head Hunter” began in October of 2003 and involved TPWD game wardens going ‘hunting’ with the suspects. During the last 15 months, the wardens built their cases against Jerry Neil Schmidt, 38, and Matthew Ross Cates, 33, both of Abilene.
The two are also accused of poaching a buck from Caprock Canyons State Park, home of the Texas State Bison Herd.
Both men were arraigned in Abilene on March 16.
Schmidt faces a total of seven felony charges and five Class A misdemeanors in Texas and one felony charge and three misdemeanors in New Mexico. His bond was set at $275,000. Schmidt had some past hunting violations with overdue civil restitution and had a suspended hunting license at the time of these current alleged violations. Schmidt is accused of violations in Shackleford, King, Motley, Briscoe, and Jones counties and at Caprock Canyon State Park. The charges include hunting from a public road, hunting at night, hunting without landowner consent and felon in possession of a firearm.
Cates faces five felony charges and five Class A misdemeanor charges. His bond was set at $74,000 and he made that bond March 16. Cates is accused of violations in King, Motley, Briscoe, and Jones counties and at Caprock Canyon State Park. The charges include hunting from a public road, hunting at night and hunting without landowner consent.
Col. Pete Flores, TPWD law enforcement director, said this should serve as a warning.
“The people of Texas have made the activities that these men are accused of illegal and do not tolerate this. Texas game wardens will always work hard to apprehend those who flagrantly disregard the law. Hopefully, this case will deter others that have the same idea,” Flores said.
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