But Officer, Those Drugs Came with My Fishing License…and Other TX Game Warden Reports
Every so often, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department releases a compilation of some of the more interesting and compelling recent field notes from Texas Game Wardens.
License Holder Makes Handy Stash
While on patrol, a Willacy County game warden made contact with a fisherman at Fred Stone Pier in Port Mansfield. The warden asked the angler if he had caught anything, to which the man shook his head and said, “No, nothing.” When the warden asked to see his fishing license, the angler readily complied, pulling from his pocket a handy plastic license protector pouch commonly provided by some license retailers. While removing his one-day fishing license from the pouch, a small bag of cocaine fell out. The suspect stated he had just purchased his fishing license and that’s how it was given to him. Suspect was arrested for possession of a controlled substance; case pending.
Hunting for the Right Story
A common retort by game wardens when they know they’re being played, “It’s your lie, buddy, tell it however you want.” Such was the case when wardens were called to investigate an alleged hunting accident that occurred in the Sam Houston National Forest. Game wardens responded to a Houston hospital to question a subject who claimed to have shot himself in the leg while target shooting. His buddies were out hunting deer at the time, he said. The wardens observed numerous inconsistencies in the man’s testimony, and Montgomery County sheriff’s deputies were called in to interview the subject as well. Pressed further, the man then claimed he was shot during a drug deal that went bad. Inconsistencies with the new story led to more questioning and yet another tale about how the gun belonging to a girl he had picked up. It had discharged while he was showing her how to use it. Finally, the man admitted the gun was his and he accidentally shot himself while sitting in his car in the hospital parking lot. Although not nearly as entertaining as previous versions, the story ending remained the same. The man, a convicted felon, was arrested for being in possession of a firearm and transported to the Harris County Jail.
Tampering with Evidence
An Atascosa County game warden received a complaint about possible illegal hunting and the theft of a game camera from his property. The warden opened an investigation and developed a person of interest. On April 27, the warden made contact with the suspect at his residence in Charlotte. The suspect admitted to hunting hogs on the complainant’s property without permission, and taking the game camera because he feared it had captured evidence of his trespass. The case was turned over to the Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office and the stolen game camera was returned to its owner.
Easy Trail to Follow
Usually, game wardens have very few clues to go on when they discover deer remains dumped alongside a roadway. Fortunately, a recently wrapped up investigation in Live Oak County gave them an easy trail to follow. Last September, wardens were made aware of several deer carcasses and other items dumped in a bar ditch. Among the discarded animal parts, wardens discovered blood-stained clothing and a backpack. Inside the backpack were check stubs belonging to an individual who resided near the area in Chambers County. Wardens interviewed the subject, who eventually admitted that he and another person shot several white-tailed deer over several nights. One particular buck, a huge 17-pointer, they shot after entering a high-fenced ranch. Wardens recovered the buck’s antlers, which scored 176 3/8 B&C, and made numerous cases against both subjects. Over a period of three nights, it was determined that eight deer (four doe, three fawn, and one buck) were shot from, and loaded into, their truck. The confessed to shooting at and wounding many more deer that were not recovered. Charges for hunting without landowner consent, hunting from a vehicle, hunting at night, hunting with artificial light, and failure to retrieve or keep in edible condition were filed and both subjects arrested.
Caught in the Act
Willacy County game wardens responded to a call regarding possible trespassers fishing within the historic El Sauz Ranch. While searching the area, a warden observed two individuals fishing from a canoe. Contact was made and a water safety/fishing inspection was conducted. After a short interview, the two individuals admitted to fishing from the bank within the El Sauz Ranch not long before the warden arrived. On top of criminal trespassing charges, other violations were also discovered such as harvesting an alligator gar without a valid Texas fishing license, no personal identification and insufficient number of life jackets. Citations were issued and one 54-inch alligator gar was seized. Restitution totaling approximately $700 for the gar and cases are pending.
Responding to a Call for Help
At 10 p.m. on April 11, Hunt County game wardens responded to a 911 call from an elderly man whose boat had capsized in heavy winds on Lake Tawakoni. The man was trapped under the bow of the boat and in distress. As they launched their patrol boats and were joined by local fire rescue, wardens requested assistance from a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter. The DPS helicopter located the overturned boat and as the helicopter hovered overhead providing light for the rescue below, game wardens and firemen pulled the victim from the water. An examination of the elderly man revealed he was suffering from hypothermia, having been in 61 degree water for more than four hours, and soaked in gasoline. On the way back to the shore the victim advised wardens that his 72-year-old brother had also been on the boat when it capsized and was now missing. After offloading the man at a waiting ambulance, rescuers headed back out onto the lake to search for the other missing man. Very high winds made the search difficult, but shortly after midnight wardens located the second man clinging to a large jug. Like his brother, the second man was also very hypothermic from exposure. Both victims survived the ordeal but not without consequences. The first man was diagnosed with second degree chemical burns and his brother suffered a heart attack after being admitted to the hospital.
Some Folks Never Learn
In the early morning hours of April 12, a Briscoe County game warden on patrol spotted a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed. After clocking the vehicle at over 90 miles per hour, the warden initiated a traffic stop. The warden ran the subject through Hale County Dispatch and learned that his license was not valid and he had multiple convictions for driving while license invalid. As the warden explained to the driver that he would be placed under arrest, the driver pulled a pair of brass knuckles out of his pocket and handed them to an assisting Hale County sheriff’s deputy. A subsequent inventory search of the vehicle, prior to impounding, uncovered a variety of narcotics and drug paraphernalia. The subject was transported to Hale County Detention Center and charged with third degree felony possession of controlled substance and Class A misdemeanor possession of a prohibited weapon, along with other violations.
Snapped Up Again
On April 16, Cameron County game wardens received a call from U.S. Coast Guard Station South Padre Island regarding a Mexican fishing vessel that was caught illegally fishing in Texas state waters. The Coast Guard stated that after a 10 minute pursuit, the fishing vessel was stopped and the four man crew was taken into custody by a Coast Guard boarding team and transported to the South Padre Island small boat station. Wardens met the Coast Guard boat crew at the station and took custody of the 26-foot fishing vessel, the catch on board and its crew members. Three bids by local fish houses were collected and the seized catch of approximately 750 pounds of red snapper were sold to the highest bidder. The crew of the fishing vessel admitted to having been caught illegally fishing in U.S. waters numerous times in the past. The captain of the vessel was cited for operation of an unregistered vessel, illegal means and methods, and fishing without a commercial fishing license. The three crew members were cited for illegal means and methods and fishing without a commercial fishing license.