Recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s law enforcement reports compile the following items.
Operation Lights Out
In December, 20 game wardens took part in Operation Lights Out, which focused on illegal activity in Red River, Bowie, and Lamar Counties. Their efforts over a weekend resulted in a total of 37 charges filed, three arrests, one felony arrest, and one impounded vehicle. The violations consisted of hunting from a public roadway, possession of an open container, hunting duck over a baited area, possession of drug paraphernalia, and discharge of a firearm from a public road, of naming a few.
Puff, Puff, Crash
Two Henderson County game wardens received a call in the evening from a local landowner who said he and members of his church were conducting a bible study when an unknown vehicle sped through his front gate and crashed in the pasture behind his property. As the wardens arrived on the scene, the driver fled on foot. However, the driver left behind his wallet and identification card in the car, along with other personal items. After searching the area with no success, the wardens decided to continue the investigation the next morning. Early the next day, the landowner called the wardens, saying he had gone deer hunting, and as he was leaving the deer stand when the driver appeared out of nowhere, smoking a cigarette. The driver asked him, “Where am I? How did I get here?” The wardens responded to the call and found the landowner and driver sitting down by a fire having coffee. The driver told the wardens he decided to smoke some Kush cannabis after leaving his parole officer’s office. The impaired driver had spent the night outside in freezing temperatures and had no clue how he got to this ranch or where his car was.
A Limestone County game warden was contacted by a landowner who was concerned about an undersized white-tailed buck deer head found on his front porch. He told the warden he believed his dogs took the deer head from his neighbor’s house across the street. The warden spoke to the neighbor and found the man who harvested the small buck. The man admitted he knew he made a mistake but was afraid to call the game warden because he didn’t want to get in trouble. The warden filed several cases, including taking an illegal buck under 13 inches, untagged deer, and a harvest log violation.
Let Minnow How That Works Out
A Navarro County game warden received a call from a local fisherman about multiple people cast netting and keeping everything they caught. The caller told the warden they had been recording them with their cellphone. When he arrived, the warden found the people and a white five-gallon bucket. The bucket was nearly full of fish. The warden asked them about the fish, and one person said they were just minnows. The warden told them most of the fish were undersized crappie. When asked for fishing licenses and identification, one of the individuals said they would “just throw them back” and attempted to reach for the bucket. The warden stopped them and said the fish was now evidence, and many of the fish looked dead. Upon further inspection of the fish within the five-gallon bucket, he identified nearly 100 fish. Of those fish, more than 70 were undersized crappie of which 61 were either dead or too injured to be released back into the water. There was also one catfish, numerous sunfish, shad, and yellow bass. Many of the crappie measured between three and five inches in length, with the longest being nine inches long. Non-game fish were returned to the individuals, as they had current fishing licenses. The game warden issued multiple citations to the individuals.
A Cherokee County game warden was patrolling near Rusk when he found an open gate and fresh tire tracks. The warden continued into the property until the road ended at a gas well. He found a man and a young girl dressed in camo, preparing to go hunting. After speaking with the duo, he found out they had been hunting the area for the past few weeks. When asked for their hunting license, the man handed the warden his license and said, “I haven’t tagged the deer I got two weeks ago yet!” The warden asked if he could see a picture of it, and the man was happy to show it. A citation was issued for an untagged white-tailed deer and harvest log violation.
Two Hood County game wardens were alerted by a TPWD Criminal Investigation Division (CID), that a motion-activated camera triggered at 6:00 am by two men in camouflage walking with bow and arrows on Acton School property. The camera was there in an attempt to catch illegal hunters. When they arrived on the scene, the wardens spread out through the wooded area to search for the men. At 10:00 am, the camera tripped again, capturing a photo of one of the men exiting the property. One of the wardens ran to a different part of the property and found a vehicle driving through the school parking lot at a high rate of speed. The driver saw the warden and slammed on the brakes. Thinking the warden was one of their buddies, the driver stopped to pick him up. The warden approached the vehicle, and the woman who was driving said she wasn’t in the area to pick up anyone hunting. After being interviewed further, she revealed she was picking up her boyfriend and his friend. The game warden instructed her to call her boyfriend and tell him to meet her. The boyfriend informed the woman he had left the property and went to the parking lot of a Kroger. While detained, he admitted to hunting on school property with his friend. He said he told him to run when they saw the game warden. They deployed the TPWD K9 team, and the second man was tracked for a long distance until his scent was lost. An investigation revealed the second man was on parole and had previous convictions for hunting without landowner consent, and he had suspended hunting license. Evidence was collected, and they later arrested the subject on a blue parole warrant. The investigation is ongoing.
A local landowner contacted a Henderson County game warden about some duck hunters who had been hunting during the closed season split. The landowner was able to provide the warden with the license plates of the suspected duck hunter’s vehicles. The wardens responded to the location but were unable to find the alleged duck hunters. As the investigation continued, the wardens were able to track down the hunters at their residence. During an interview, one of the hunters admitted to duck hunting and was proud to say it was his “best morning ever.” After the investigation was over, it was clear the hunters were new to duck hunting and were unaware of the split.
With the assistance of CID, Bexar County game wardens set up a buy with an individual attempting to sell six steaks of yellowfin tuna for $200. They set up a time and a location, and the wardens waited outside an HEB for the seller. As they waited, they saw the seller standing outside the doors with a dog and a blue bag in a basket. As the wardens approached the man, he gave the dog to a woman and went inside the store. The woman then began to walk into the parking lot with the blue bag. Wardens then went up to the woman and asked where the man went. She said the man went inside the store to shop. The wardens found the tuna steaks in the blue bag. One of the wardens went inside to retrieve the man, and once outside, interviewed him. The man did not have the proper licenses to sell aquatic species. The individual was educated about the sale of marine species and issued a citation. They seized the tuna to be donated. Cases pending.
Fast and Furious
A Bell County game warden received a call from a fisherman on Lake Stillhouse about a boat driving around and shooting at ducks. The warden, with assistance from an additional Bell County game warden, was able to stop the individuals as they were pulling out of the boat ramp. Upon further inspection, the individuals had more than 20 violations and had killed two buzzards along with three coots. Some of the violations included no hunting license, utilizing lead shot, rally and disturb, hunt from a watercraft, and no migratory duck stamp, to name a few. Wardens issued multiple citations.
Stop Lying. It’s the Pits
A Hardin County game warden and a game warden cadet were fueling up at a gas station near Kountze when they noticed a man in a nearby truck putting ice in a cooler and struck up a conversation. They learned the man was putting ice on a quartered deer he had just harvested, so they asked to see the head and the tag. The man explained he had left them back at his hunting camp. When asked for his hunting license, he produced a permit without any missing tags. The warden followed the hunter back to his deer lease to retrieve the deer head and complete the investigation. The warden issued a citation for possession of an untagged deer and a warning for failure to complete the harvest log. Case pending.