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Game Warden Field Notes

Recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s law enforcement reports compile the following items.

A Game Show Host

A Zavala County game warden recently completed a year-long investigation involving a ranch manager who was selling hunts without the consent of the landowner. The ranch manager even brought in a camera crew from a favorite outdoors television show to video the hunts. The unauthorized activities resulted in the illegal harvest of 11 white-tailed bucks off the property. A grand jury indicted the ranch manager on 11 state jail felony counts of hunting without landowner consent, along with multiple other charges.

Alexa, Where Does the Game Warden Live?

An Ellis County game warden responded to a call from a ranch manager who had witnessed two subjects shooting out into his pasture from the county road. The ranch manager and another farmer chased the subject’s vehicle down the highway, while the warden headed to their location from the opposite direction. The ranch manager advised the suspect was turning into a driveway, which just happened to be the warden’s private property. The warden arrived at his residence shortly and confronted the pair, a father and his 17-year-old son from Fort Worth. The dad claimed they were driving around, showing his son “how to load a gun, shoot in a safe direction, and you know, gun safety stuff.” After the warden issued a citation for discharging a firearm from a public roadway and provided a brief primer on firearms safety, the father asked, “Did I pull into your driveway?” The warden nodded and smiled. “That was kinda convenient,” replied the man.

Did You Lose Something?

An Ellis County game warden received a call from a landowner who had evidence of someone hunting on his property without consent. The landowner showed the warden an image from his game camera of a hog that a suspect shot under a feeder. The picture only captured the subject’s backside. The warden did find a bloody knife left at the scene. During his investigation, the warden learned that several individuals had permission to hunt on a neighboring property, and someone had posted photos of a couple of dead hogs to one of their social media accounts. The warden paid a visit to the residence of one of the teens who posted the images and spoke to his father, who confirmed his 17-year-old son and some friends had shot two pigs the previous weekend. The warden asked him if they cleaned the hogs at the house or on the property they hunted. The man replied it was out on the property, and unfortunately, his son said he lost his knife in the process. The warden told the father the reason for his visit, asked if this looked familiar, and showed him the lost item. The next day the boys gave a full confession. The cases are pending.

Anti-Social Media Behavior

Game wardens in Limestone and Leon counties recently completed a months-long investigation into an animal cruelty case. The suspect had used fireworks to torture a live, previously injured raccoon and posted the act on social media. A Limestone County grand jury recently indicted a suspect and warrants for his arrest were obtained. The suspect was arrested and placed in the Limestone County Jail. The case is pending.

Unintended Consequences

On March 22, a Matagorda County game warden received a complaint about several sick or dead eagles and buzzards on a local ranch. Upon arriving at the location, he observed a dead feral hog that the birds had apparently been eating. He located three dead bald eagles and a few buzzards in the immediate area. He found several more buzzards and a caracara that were too sick to fly. Suspecting the possibility that someone poisoned the pig, and because of the bird species involved, the warden contacted a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent and brought him in on the investigation. They made contact with a neighboring farmer, who admitted to soaking corn in poison and putting it out to get rid of the feral hogs in the area. The federally-protected birds had ingested the poison. The violations were turned over to USFW for prosecution.

Snakes Alive!

At about 1:00 a.m. on March 25, game wardens were on patrol when they encountered a pickup truck traveling through a remote area of Zapata County. After conducting a traffic stop on the vehicle, they found that the driver, a person with an extensive history of game and fish violations, was hunting rattlesnakes from the roadway. They issued two citations and seized two rattlesnakes. After traveling to the violator’s residence to retrieve other illegally harvested snakes, they discovered the violator had picked up another rattlesnake on the roadway immediately after receiving citations and being released from the first contact that night. Game wardens issued additional citations for hunting from the public road and seized 11 more rattlesnakes from the residence. The cases are pending.

Tag Team

In early March, a Smith County game warden received a call from a Virginia game warden concerning some Texas deer confiscated from a taxidermist in Virginia who was operating without a license. There were three sets of antlers, and two of the tags came back to Smith County. The third buck, a ten point, had a name but no card. The warden was able to obtain identity and interviewed the man whose name was attached to the ten point buck, and determined he stole the deer. The subject was coyote hunting and saw a deer he couldn’t pass up. The suspect had no hunting license. The warden then interviewed a second subject, who had a blank tag on one of the other bucks seized. He killed his deer legally, but he failed to fill out his card, harvest log and did not have the required hunter education certification. The warden filed cases and warnings for no hunting license, untagged deer, improperly tagged deer, harvest log, and hunter’s education violations. Civil restitution is pending.

Couldn’t Escape the Net

A Freestone County game warden had just checked and released a boat of Dallas area men fishing who were cast netting for tilapia and running jug lines on Lake Fairfield. Shortly after releasing the group, she discovered an illegal gill net near where she first made contact with the group. After hauling in the 500-foot net, the warden made her way back to the Dallas anglers to ask about the gill net. As she re-approached, the group quickly pulled up their jug lines and sped off toward the boat dock. The warden called a state park police officer for backup at the boat ramp, and after questioning, the suspects confessed to having placed the net out earlier in the day. Citations were issued for the illegal net and for taking game fish by illegal methods. Numerous largemouth bass and tilapia caught in the net were released back into the lake.