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Game Warden Field Notes

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement recent reports compile the following items.

Judge Orders No Hunting Weekends

A district court judge in Grayson County recently ordered a man convicted of poaching a big white-tailed buck to spend every weekend of hunting season in jail for the next five years. In addition to five years of probation, and over $18,000 in civil restitution penalty, John Walker Drinnon, 34, of Whitesboro, must report to the Grayson County Jail each weekend of deer season starting Dec. 30 for the full term of his prolonged judgment period. Drinnon cannot purchase a hunting license while on probation. Drinnon admitted to killing a 19-point buck with a gross Boone & Crockett score of 202 inches with a rifle (in an archery-only county) while trespassing on private property that is a state jail felony. (A photo of Drinnon and the deer can be found here https://tpwd.texas.gov/newsmedia/news_images/?g=grayson_county_big_bucks&i=drinnon_2–.jpg )

Getting Off to an Early Start

Opening day of deer season a Smith County Game Warden was visiting a local meat processor when a young man showed up with a nice buck he claimed to have harvested earlier that morning. What he failed to mention was just how much more previously. A month later, the warden received an anonymous tip that the deer the young man shot had been harvested well before legal shooting hours on the season opener. The warden tracked down the hunter, and after a short interview, the young man admitted he had shot that deer at about 3:00 am while hog hunting. The warden seized the antlers, remaining deer meat, and multiple citations were issued for illegal harvest at night and hunting deer out of season. The cases are pending.

Did You Find Your Dog?

In early November, a Harrison County a landowner contacted a Game Warden after she came upon a suspicious man on her property while she was bow hunting. The man told her he was looking for his wife’s dog and departed. Later that evening the landowner reviewed her game camera footage and saw the same guy lurking about on two previous occasions. On the first event, the game camera caught the person shooting at a white-tailed doe and missing. A couple of days later, the same subject returned and shot a white-tailed doe. Wardens questioned area residents and based on images from the game camera were able to identify the suspect at a nearby residence. After an interview, the man admitted to trespassing and shooting the deer. Numerous charges and restitution are pending.

The One That Got Away

On Nov. 25, Terrell County Game Wardens received a phone call reporting suspicious deer at a hunting camp. When the wardens arrived at the location, they found three hunters. The trio claimed a bunch of deer showed up near their hunting blind that they assumed were white-tailed bucks, so all three individuals took shots. When the hunters walked over to retrieve the deer, they found they had shot two antlerless mule deer. Since they did not possess the required permits, they panicked and attempted to hide the carcasses. The third hunter, who failed to make his shot on the deer, gave no excuses for his poor marksmanship and was just happy he missed. The wardens educated the hunters about proper game identification and issued citations for taking antlerless mule deer without a permit. The cases are pending.

Failure to Hide the Evidence

Officers with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office were at a residence serving warrants for a recent burglary when they noticed a large number of deer guts scattered all over the front yard and notified game wardens. A warden responded to the residence to investigate. After collecting evidence and conducting a lengthy interview, the warden obtained confessions from two individuals who admitted to shooting two deer from a public roadway on two different occasions. Charges for felon in possession of a firearm, hunting from the road, waste of game, hunting with illegal means and methods and no hunting license are pending.

Can’t Fool Me Twice

Earlier this month a Navarro County landowner contacted game wardens regarding a second road hunting incident in as many weeks where someone shot a deer that came off his property from the road. Wardens had investigated the first event but were unsuccessful in locating enough evidence to identify a suspect. With backup from the Navarro County Sheriff’s Office, wardens were able to catch the individuals responsible for the second poaching incident. Once alerted by the landowner, officers immediately converged on the scene. Sheriff’s deputies made a traffic stop on a vehicle in the vicinity that did not match the description of the perpetrator but did have a freshly killed deer in the bed. As it turns out, the subjects had switched vehicles after making the kill, and stashed their hunting gear before returning to pick up the deer. Officials obtained a full confession regarding both violations. Eight Class A misdemeanor charges, along with restitution, are pending. The rifles were located and seized.

Still Filling Last Year’s Tags

While inspecting a local meat processing plant, a Cherokee County Game Warden discovered a recently executed deer tag from last season’s license. After running the subject through the department’s database, he determined the person did not currently possess a valid hunting license, nor had he completed mandatory hunter education certification. A couple of days later, the warden met with the hunter at his residence and requested to see the subject’s hunting license. While looking examining the expired hunting license, the warden determined that he had also taken a buck a few days prior, which the officer asked to see. In addition to being tagged with an expired tag, the buck’s antlers did not meet the county antler restrictions. The game warden issued citations for taking deer with an expired hunting license, taking a buck deer that did not meet county antler restrictions, harvest log violations, and no hunter education. The cases are pending.

Not a Duck Hunter Video Game

While patrolling Limestone County, a game warden heard several shots coming from a nearby tract of land. Upon further investigation, the warden located an individual who was using his .30-30 rifle to shoot at ducks as they flew. The subject did not possess a hunting license. The officer gave him a brief lesson on bullet trajectory and firearm safety, among other things. The cases are pending.

Caught Gaming the System

On Dec. 9, Trinity County Game Wardens found a van parked at the end of a county back road. The wardens noticed a hunter coming down a trail toward the vehicle, and then disappear after spotting them. The wardens attempted to chase the man, but before they could reach him, he emerged back onto the trail. The wardens made contact and asked the man why he ran into the woods out of sight. The hunter stated he was walking around a washout. While one warden checked the man’s guns and hunting license, the other warden started walking down the trail where the hunter had emerged. At that point, the hunter admitted to shooting a doe and hiding the meat in a backpack he ditched near the path after seeing the wardens. The hunter produced an active military hunting license, although he was not currently nor had he ever served in the military. The hunter had also used a tag on another deer he had taken earlier in the season. They filed multiple cases for civil restitution.

Cooper’s Hawk Down

A Facebook group notified game wardens about someone killing a protected Cooper’s hawk. The concerned citizen sent in screenshots of a Facebook post where a suspect posed with a dead Cooper’s hawk and stated, “Killed my first hawk today. I found him in the pigeon coop eating this pigeon. I picked up the shovel and killed him! Normally we let them go, but I’m tired of them killing my chickens and pigeons.” The actor then posed in several pictures holding the dead hawk. Wardens located the actor and the hawk. Citations and restitution are pending.

Additional Damages Incurred

On Dec. 9, a game warden got a call regarding a vehicle being towed down a county road with a mule deer buck in the bed of the pickup. Since the mule deer season in this region had been over for several weeks, the warden headed to the last known location seen by the reporting party. After arriving in the area, he located a truck behind a residence that appeared to have sustained significant front-end damage. While investigating the buck, the driver of the vehicle walked into the backyard and was surprised to see a game warden standing at the back of his pickup. After investigating further, the officer determined the man had been involved in an accident with the deer earlier while driving on a nearby highway. The warden asked the man if he reported the incident and the driver informed him that he did not because of his suspended license. The warden addressed the license issue, then cited the man for possession of an illegally taken resource.

Caught in the Act

On Dec. 8, a Williamson County Game Warden was patrolling U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public land near Lake Granger for illegal hunting. He noticed a truck driving by slowly and used his night vision goggles to follow the suspicious vehicle. The warden was about 100 yards away from the suspects’ truck when there was the sound of a gunshot. He slowly rolled up to the scene, parked his patrol truck 50 yards away and observed a man and a woman trying to remove a white-tailed buck deer from the fence. At that point, the warden turned on his emergency lights and drove up to the scene. He identified himself, and they put their hands up. When the warden asked what they were doing, the man replied, “Shooting deer.” The couple confessed to shooting the deer, a 10-point buck. The officer notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office at Lake Granger, and they agreed to pursue charges of taking a wildlife resource without landowner consent. Both were charged and booked into the Williamson County Jail. Criminal and civil restitution charges are pending.

That’s Not a Party License

On Dec. 2, a Tom Green County Game Warden observed a group of individuals skinning a deer behind a residence. She contacted the hunters and asked who shot the deer. No one replied, and the owner of the property came out and told her the hunter who shot the deer had left for work. The warden was invited inside to inspect the shooter’s hunting license log kept in the house. A woman inside the home pulled out an envelope containing seven hunting licenses, cut a tag off of one, and told the warden it was the tag for the deer outside. When the warden inspected all the permits and noticed eight missing without any of the required harvest logs being filled out, she pressed for answers. Finally, the property owner admitted to not only shooting the deer in question but also all the other deer with tags missing from the various licenses. He stated he purchased the permits for the other guys and used them to hunt. Citations for hunting under the license of another, improperly tagged deer, and exceeding the annual bag limit were filed, along with civil restitution.

Good Cell Phone Coverage

On Thanksgiving night, Henderson County Game Wardens were on patrol when they heard a shot fired near their location around 10:30 p.m. Initially, no violators could be found, but they did locate a damaged cell phone in the road. A vehicle was soon observed stopping along the side of the road near the wardens’ location. The wardens made contact with the vehicle’s occupants, a man and a woman who initially denied shooting the buck from the road. When the wardens produced the cell phone and asked if it belonged to them, the couple eventually admitted to the crime. They had taken their gun home before returning to get the deer and the cell phone that the female suspect dropped, which ended up being run over and destroyed. The charges are pending.

Rush Hour

At about 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 25, a Houston County Game Warden received a road hunting complaint, with information that two individuals had been dropped off to retrieve the kill. He arrived on location and hid approximately a quarter mile down the road to await the return of the “pick up” truck. An hour had passed when the warden heard a gunshot believed was from the men in the brush dispatching their kill. Less than a minute later a truck went by, and the warden, believing he had his road hunters, initiated a traffic stop. The truck’s occupant, a woman in her late 60s, was upset and stated that as she came out of her gate, she saw a flashlight in the woods across the road and got scared, so she fired a pistol in the air to run the “poachers” off. The warden quickly returned to his set to await the return of the truck from the original complaint. Shortly, a vehicle matching the description came slow rolling by; the warden followed from a distance and then parked along the edge of the county road. The truck returned and, believing this time surely he had his poachers, the warden stopped them. Despite seeing blood in the bed of the pickup and on the passenger, the warden learned this group was out dumping guts from a deer they had killed earlier in the day. The warden followed them back to their camp where he learned they had killed two deer; one head, hidden in an old toilet, and the other they had just thrown out in the creek. There was a host of hunting violations as well as for littering. After finishing up at that camp, the warden returned to his set to close the gate as there was no way the original violators were still waiting in the woods with all the commotion over the last hour. After a brief visit with the landowner who initiated the original complaint, the warden headed out. He had made it about two miles when the landowner called him to say there were now two cars parked at the gate he had just left. The warden then returned to find a man and a woman sitting in marijuana smoke in their vehicle. Upon finding additional narcotics and drug paraphernalia, and learning both had extensive criminal histories, the warden arrested both subjects. In all, the warden issued 17 tickets and warnings in an hour and a half for various hunting violations and penal code violations. The cases are pending.