Pinned Selfie Leads to Arrest…and Other Game Warden Reports
About once a month, we get an update from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department featuring a compilation of some of the more interesting field notes from state game wardens and law enforcement officials. Here are the latest stories for January.
Social Media Tip #39: When posting photos of yourself with the deer you falsely claim to have just harvested, be sure to pin the location; it helps game wardens when they come to investigate. After spotting Facebook photos of a woman with a mule deer buck she claimed to have shot, game wardens ran a quick check, and learned she did not have a hunting license. The pinned location of the posted images appeared to be a ranch in Brewster County enrolled in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Managed Lands Deer program, which carries certain tagging and harvest log requirements. After identifying the individual’s boyfriend, who also appeared in the photos, the wardens went to the hunting camp to sort things out. When questioned, the boyfriend told wardens he had killed the buck, legally, and showed them the deer head and MLD tag with his name on it. He then confessed his girlfriend made the initial shot on the deer, and he dispatched the buck due to her misplaced shot. She only claimed it to show off because she is a city girl, he said. Upon further investigation, it was found only the backstraps were saved and the remaining carcass was dumped because “the deer was old.” Multiple citations were issued and the deer was seized.
An Illegal Commercial Fishing License, Please
On Dec. 8, an individual came into the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Victoria Law Enforcement Office to purchase a general commercial fishing license. One of the office clerks was attempting to complete the transaction, but the computer system didn’t recognize the individual’s social security number. A game warden on hand was handed the individual’s Texas ID card, which he immediately recognized as a fake. The warden verified through dispatch that the individual didn’t have any documentation on record with the Texas Department of Public Safety. After questioning the individual regarding his fake ID, the subject admitted he bought the social security card, Texas ID card and a Mexican ID from an individual in Pasadena. The subject was transported to the Victoria County Jail and charges are pending.
Baiting the Roost
On Jan. 7, an Ellis County game warden heard shooting on a soil conservation lake well after sunset. Legal duck hunting hours end at sunset. The warden was able to walk to and observe the group of hunters shooting at a duck roost on a small island in the lake. After making contact with the hunters, the warden also discovered corn scattered around the subjects’ gear. He pulled one of the hunters aside and when asked how much corn was located on the island they were hunting, the hunter dropped his head and said, “Fifty pounds.” Citations for hunting after sunset and placing bait to attract migratory waterfowl are pending.
On Christmas morning, a Houston County game warden received a call about trespassers on a piece of property near Kennard. The warden arrived, found the vehicle, and tracked the suspects. He located an adult and a teenager hunting deer on the property without permission. The adult stated he had not killed anything during the year. As the warden inspected his hunting license, he noticed a turkey tag missing. His memory jogged, the man did recall shooting a turkey. Asked if he was certain he hadn’t harvested anything else, the man then remembered a doe he had killed earlier in the year, but had forgotten about it. He’d also forgotten how to tag it and enter it in the harvest log. The cases are pending.
Working on Their Night Moves
Game wardens received information about two subjects that had allegedly killed several deer at night near Grapeland, in Houston County. After obtaining IDs through TPWD’s databases, the wardens were able to locate the residence of one of the subjects, and were fortunate enough to catch both subjects there. The subjects initially denied killing any deer other than what was logged on their hunting licenses, but once the questioning revealed inaccuracies in their accounts, they admitted to poaching several additional deer. Wardens discovered several deer heads in various locations on the property, and two more deer heads at another residence. Through their investigation, the wardens learned one of the illegal deer was shot by a third subject, who admitted to the crime the following day. So far, 21 citations and warnings have been issued for various violations involving the five bucks and two does seized. The investigation is ongoing.
When Duty Calls
A Freestone County game warden was enjoying his day off duck hunting at the Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area when he observed a game law violation. The warden watched as a vehicle stopped on a designated public hunting lands road, the driver exit and shoot at ducks. The warden cut his hunt short, switched hats and was eventually able to make contact with the subject, charging him with hunting from a designated roadway. His passenger was charged for not having the required Annual Public Hunting Lands permit. The driver was also part of a group recently apprehended by the warden on Richland Creek WMA for hunting when the area was closed.
Playing Leap Frog
While patrolling Galveston Bay, game wardens aboard the PV Captain Murchison observed two commercial oyster boats operating and harvesting oysters in a closed area. Despite an outgoing tide, north winds and the fact the PV Captain Murchison drafts 4-5 feet, the Murchison carefully approached the first violator, made contact and one of the wardens boarded. As the Murchison held its position, the warden onboard the oysterman’s boat informed the captain of the violation and directed him to approach the second vessel. The warden then boarded the second vessel in violation. Both captains and crews were arrested for harvesting oysters in a restricted area and transported to the Chambers County Jail. This marks the first time in the 30-year service of the PV Captain Murchison that a restricted oyster case was made off this deep water platform. The cases are pending.
Caught in a Hog Trap
At the end of December, a game warden received information from an Abilene City Marshall Lake Patrol Officer of hog traps being located on City of Abilene property near Lake Fort Phantom, which is an area closed to the public and off limits to hunting. Game cameras were set up and monitored to gather evidence on possible suspects using the traps. After reviewing the photos from the camera, the warden determined that a suspect was coming in around noon each day to check the traps. On Jan. 4, the warden and the marshal sat in a nearby location to try to catch the suspect. After a short while, both officers witnessed a red pickup enter the property, and quickly confronted two subjects inspecting one of the hog traps. When questioned who gave them permission to trap on the property they replied they had never seen anyone on the property and just assumed it would be okay to trap hogs there. Both subjects were filed on for hunting without landowner consent, and three hog traps were seized as evidence. The cases are pending.
Caught in the Act
January 4, a Red River County game warden was patrolling for night hunters down a country road when he witnessed a subject shine a light out of a truck window, and then fire a high-powered rifle. The warden initiated contact and learned through dispatch that both male subjects in the vehicle were convicted felons. The pair admitted to shooting a deer. The warden was able to locate a large 8 point buck that appeared to have been shot with a rifle. The subjects were transported to the Red River County Jail and booked for hunting deer at night, hunting deer with an artificial light, hunting deer from a public roadway, discharging a firearm from a public road, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. An investigation is ongoing involving multiple deer and hogs having been shot from the road at night.
While enjoying a day off at his deer lease, a Cherokee County game warden was checking some of his game cameras when he heard a shot nearby. Thinking his neighbor had taken the shot and might need help retrieving a deer, the warden called to check. His neighbor informed him that he was out of town, but would check with his neighbor to the east. It was quickly learned that the neighbor to the east had shot a small 8-point buck. Curious as to how small, the warden contacted the other neighbor and asked for a cell phone image. He recognized the young buck as the same one he had seen on his game camera previously, and he knew it did not meet the county’s 13-inch minimum antler requirement. That afternoon, the warden contacted the subject at his home, confirmed the deer did not meet the antler requirement, and also learned that he had purchased his hunting license after he killed the deer. The individual also had not completed mandatory hunter education certification. The cases are pending.
No Herding Allowed
On Jan. 14, Sabine County game wardens were patrolling Toledo Bend Reservoir for duck hunting violations when they heard a group of duck hunters shooting nearby. As they motored close by to check for compliance, the wardens observed another hunter in a mud boat traveling towards a group of coots and canvasbacks. The hunter rallied the ducks and proceeded to shoot the birds as they attempted to fly. While the boat was rallying the ducks, the other hunters began firing as well. Multiple citations were issued for hunting from a boat and rallying ducks.