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Game Warden Field Notes

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

Sneaky Snake

On Aug. 18, Presidio County game wardens used a rubber grey-banded king snake decoy to sack a couple of subjects violating reptile and amphibian hunting regulations. After dark, the wardens deployed the fake snake along a stretch of river road in the southeastern part of the county popular among reptile collectors. Several vehicles had driven by the decoy without reaction before one took the bait just before 11:00 pm. The driver drove by the snake, hit the brakes and then reversed quickly while the passenger shined a flashlight out of the window. The wardens watched from bushes nearby as the driver jumped from the vehicle with a flashlight while the passenger attempted to capture the snake. The passenger realized the snake was a fake, and let his partner know, but was told to pick it up anyway. As the passenger picked up the decoy, the wardens came out of the brush and announced themselves. The snake hunters had a hunting license with a reptile and amphibian endorsement but were told they had violated several laws including hunting with artificial light from a motor vehicle, hunting from a public roadway, no reflective safety vest, and stopping on a public roadway. Appropriate charges were filed and are pending.

One Thing Leads to Another

Game wardens have long memories and hoodlums tend to have a habit of repeating bad choices. While assisting the Sabine County Sheriff’s Office in a search for allegedly stolen sound equipment at the residence of an individual who had purportedly killed an alligator illegally a year earlier, a Sabine County game warden discovered pieces of an alligator hide. When questioned about the hide, the subject claimed he and a friend had found a dead gator floating in Toledo Bend Reservoir and kept some of its hides. The man was informed it is illegal to possess any alligator parts without proper documentation and a hide tag. After located more pieces, the warden also looked inside a cooler and found a live baby alligator. The individual received several citations. The investigation is still ongoing.

Poor Night Vision

On Aug. 25, shortly after midnight, a Hidalgo County game warden came upon two men standing on a county road about 100 feet in front of their pickup truck. Their rifles were affixed to tripods and outfitted with night vision scopes; one with a suppressor attached. When confronted about hunting on a public roadway being illegal, one of the men explained that they were simply scanning for feral pigs and would have actually entered onto private property they had permission to hunt and then taken a shot if the opportunity had presented itself. He provided the game warden with the contact information of the person who granted permission. The following morning, the warden contacted the consenting party only to learn that the two men were not even near the correct property. The warden issued both men citations for hunting from a public roadway and educated them about two more serious potential violations of hunting without landowner consent and criminal trespass with a firearm.

How Not to Hunt Doves

Each September at the start of dove hunting season, game wardens come across the same illegal practices and some cases that leave them shaking their heads. Here are a few opening weekend follies:

In Titus County, for example, game wardens checked three young men in a field, one of whom claimed he wasn’t hunting and had no shotgun. After a brief series of questions, the young man admitted to hunting without a license and retrieved his hidden shotgun. Two of the three also had not completed the required hunter education certification. A short time later the warden drove by the same field and saw another truck had arrived. Two mourning doves were found dead on the ground beside the truck and were covered in fire ants. The warden located the hunters and warned them about rules against the waste of game. Four additional young men were also checked and the warden discovered two were using unplugged shotguns capable of holding more than three shells and two had no hunter education certification. Citations for the violations were issued.

In Red River County on opening weekend wardens followed shots to the back of a hay field. While approaching a group of hunters, one of the wardens discovered a mix of corn, milo, and sunflowers spread on the ground near several dove decoys. All hunters were filed on for hunting migratory game birds over bait, placing bait to attract migratory birds and multiple hunting license violations. Cases are pending.

Meanwhile, in Upshur County, game wardens heard some shooting well after sunset east of Gilmer at the end of opening day. By the time they arrived the shooting and hunting had stopped, but they recovered multiple spent shotgun shells from the scene. The following evening, the shots began again after sunset, but the wardens were much closer. In addition to the late shooting, they observed three hunters riding a golf cart across the field shooting from the motor vehicle. The wardens confronted the hunters and educated them on proper means and methods. The cases are pending.

A Harris County game warden came across a dove hunter who left evidence of his illegal activity on his face. The warden had observed two hunters in the middle of a cattle field hunting dove, and upon greeting them, noticed bits of cracked corn were stuck to the man’s face. Suspecting a baited field, the warden looked in the bed of their truck and found an empty bag of cracked corn. Trying not to laugh, he asked the guy if he had been eating corn. The subject looked puzzled, then felt his face and brushed the cracked corn off. The two individuals sadly showed the warden where they had placed the corn. Citations were issued, and weapons were seized to hold them accountable to show up for their hearing. Charges were filed, and civil restitution is pending.

Safe and Sound

On Sept. 2, game wardens were alerted that two 15-year-old females had gone missing after last seen on a jet ski on the bay at dusk. A length search involving several game wardens, U.S. Coast Guard, Lower Colorado River Authority and the Matagorda County Sheriff’s Department ended up locating the girls. A Coast Guard helicopter was able to pick them up off of the Jet Ski and drop them off with game wardens who reunited the girls back safely with their family.

Stranded

On the evening of Sept. 3, an Upshur County game warden received a call from dispatch concerning a stranded individual on an island on Lake O’ the Pines. The individual had gone out earlier in the day but had lost his way in the darkness. Wardens responded and could see a dim light across the lake upon arrival, but due to the shallow depth of the water in some places, a boat could not be used to reach the area where the light originated. The wardens commandeered a nearby canoe to retrieve the individual and bring him back to shore in the stump-filled, choppy waters. The individual was dehydrated and drained mentally and physically, but relieved and very appreciative.