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Game Warden Field Notes

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Note: This item is more than two years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references.

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

A “Dead” Giveaway

Circling buzzards are usually a “dead” giveaway, so when a Smith County game warden responded to a call about a suspicious personal watercraft beached on an island at Lake Palestine with vultures in the trees around it, he came prepared for the worst. The caller had stated that the watercraft looked abandoned and due to the presence of vultures he was concerned someone may be deceased nearby. Once on scene, the warden determined there was nothing for the vultures to scavenge other than the watercraft, which had recently been stolen from a Wood County lake and parked near a vulture roost. The craft was recovered and information forwarded to the Wood County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation into how it ended up on Lake Palestine is ongoing.

Another “Dead’ Giveaway

A kettle of vultures circling a few hundred feet above the highway caught the attention of a Val Verde County game warden on Sunday morning patrol in mid-October. He was able to locate their target carrion, two freshly killed white-tailed deer fawns hidden in the brush that appeared to have gunshot wounds. His investigation into the deaths of the young deer led the warden to a nearby house where he found a doe hanging on a skinning rack with what also appeared to have a gunshot wound. After meeting with a subject located on the property, the warden obtained a confession on the shooting of all three deer out of season. Cases and warnings for waste of game, illegal means and methods, untagged deer and harvest log violations were issued.

Bad Intentions, Worse Results

Houston County game wardens were investigating a large, fresh blood spot in the middle of a county road indicative of a roadkill when a truck came around the corner and stopped short of their location. Inside the truck were two teenagers from New Caney, and in the bed of the vehicle was an ice chest containing a freshly quartered white-tailed deer they claimed to have killed in the Davy Crockett National Forest. The teen claiming to have arrowed the deer had improperly tagged it with a mule deer tag, and failed to complete the required hunter harvest log on his license. After a brief interview about evidence the wardens had gathered from the scene, the teenagers admitted to running over the deer then stabbing it with an arrow.  They then carried it to their camp, cleaned it, and tagged it with the mule deer tag. The cases are pending.

A Sore Loser

A Lubbock/Hockley County game warden was on patrol for dove hunters the afternoon of Oct. 14 when she observed a pickup truck slow rolling on a county road in front of her. The truck then turned toward the warden, swerved, and then drove into the ditch. She activated her lights and sirens and had a low-speed pursuit for approximately three miles to the suspect’s home, where he finally stopped. During the chase, the subject tossed his 32-ounce cup of whiskey and water out the window. She found the suspect to be highly intoxicated and questioned him about his condition. The suspect stated that he was mad at his Texas Tech Red Raiders, who gave up 22 fourth quarter points in a 46-35 loss to West Virginia earlier that day. An empty half gallon bottle of Canadian whiskey and two loaded pistols were found in his back seat. The suspect was booked in to the Lubbock County Detention Center for DWI and unlawful carry of weapon by license holder after a blood draw. The case is pending.

Salty About the Pepper

On Oct. 12, a Johnson County game warden received a call from a landowner complaining of dove hunters peppering his barn with birdshot. Upon arriving in the area, he was able to track the shots to a group of dove hunters in a backyard who were positioned around a small tank. During the contact, the warden noticed some of the hunters had near limits of dove, which was suspicious given there were nearly no birds flying in the area. A closer inspection revealed milo spread along the water’s edge in clear violation of a law prohibiting the baiting of migratory game birds for hunting. Multiple citations were issued for hunting migratory birds over bait and unplugged shotguns. Thirty-six mourning doves were seized and donated.

A Repeat Offender

A Titus County game warden wrapped up a criminal trespass and theft investigation with the arrest and confinement of the third of three suspects involved. Two of the suspects gave full confessions and were cited for trespassing on a local ranch and stealing a couple of game cameras. The second camera had caught them on tape. The third suspect refused to turn himself in so warrants were issued. The warden eventually located this suspect when he was caught trespassing again on the same ranch. He was arrested on warrants for criminal trespass, theft with prior conviction, and revocation of parole — aggravated robbery. Additional misdemeanor charges were issued for evading arrest and criminal trespass.

Asleep at the Wheel

On Oct. 24, a Hunt County game warden was patrolling back roads when he encountered a vehicle parked in the roadway. He observed a man, apparently asleep, sitting in the driver’s seat. A tour around the vehicle revealed several empty beer cans lying in the ditch a few feet away. The warden awakened the man and asked him to step out of the vehicle. It was readily apparent to the warden that the man was intoxicated. Further investigation turned up more empty beer cans inside the vehicle along with a bag of marijuana. The man was arrested and several charges are pending.

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 the other hunter to return back to the scene. The hunter stuck to his story, but after a brief interview, finally confessed he did shoot the buck and stated he wasn’t going to continue any longer with his story. 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 long-standing 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 and 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 archeologists 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, both did not have 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.