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Game Warden Field Notes

The following items 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-looking 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 craft looked abandoned and due to the presence of vultures, he became 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. He recovered the craft and forwarded the information 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 suffered 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 be a gunshot wound. After meeting with a subject located on the property, the warden obtained a confession to the shooting of all three deer out of season. The Warden issued cases and warnings for the waste of game, illegal means and methods, untagged deer and harvest log violations.

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 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 using an arrow to kill the deer and the tag was improper with a mule deer tag. He 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. They 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. He 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 in his back seat. The Warden booked the suspect into the Lubbock County Detention Center for DWI and unlawful carry of a 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 around a small tank. During the contact, the Warden noticed some of the hunters had near limits of the 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. The Warden issued multiple citations 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. One of the cameras 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 trespassed again on the same ranch. They arrested him on warrants for criminal trespass, theft with a prior conviction, and revocation of parole – aggravated robbery. Additional misdemeanor charges were 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 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 empty beer cans inside the car along with a bag of marijuana. The Warden arrested the man, 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 significant 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. It 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. They issued citations, 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 someone 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 before 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 criminal 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. They observed individuals behind a camp house who appeared to be cleaning a deer. Upon closer inspection, two white-tailed bucks were being cleaned, and neither were tagged. A 15-year-old hunter, whose father and friends had taken him hunting, had killed both deer. 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, they issued the father 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 permit 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 first-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 officer 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 discover the dead deer and removed 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 famous 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 seatrouts. Both received multiple citations as well as restitution for the fish. A further inspection of the fishing pier resulted in the 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 safe condition, were donated.