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Texas Game Warden Field Notes

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

The Power of Love

After a Falls County Sheriff’s Deputy was killed in the line of duty in October 2019, a Falls County game warden began planning a hunting trip to help give members of the Sheriff’s Office an outlet to get a break from the tragic event. The warden reached out to a Lampasas County game warden to assist with setting up the hunt. The Lampasas County game warden reached out to local landowners and businesses and found a venue and accommodations for the hunt. In late January, Falls County deputies, the father of the fallen deputy and the Fall County game warden traveled to a ranch in Lampasas for the hunt. A local deer processing business also donated rib eye steaks for all the guests. Nine deer were taken during the successful hunt.

A Hunk, a Hunk of Burning Love

In December 2017, a Wise County game warden received a call about a boat on fire near a rural road away from any lakes. Once firefighters extinguished the fire, the wardens were able to piece together what was left of the Hull Identification Number and found out the owner was an individual from Kaufman County. The warden contacted to boat owner to confirm the boat was theirs but was met with hostility. The next day, the warden contacted the insurance company and learned that the claim had already been flagged as suspicious. In the early stages of the investigation, firefighters and a Palo Pinto County investigator believed the fire was intentionally set with the aid of an accelerant. The warden was able to pull the security footage from several gas stations along IH-20 and found an SUV pulling a bass boat about 20 minutes before the fire was reported. In the following days, the warden was able to find a possible suspect after multiple interviews and collaborations with the insurance company’s Fraud Investigative Unit. The warden was then assisted by a game warden captain who drove by the suspect’s residence in an unmarked vehicle. They confirmed that the SUV was there and was the same vehicle in the security footage. Wardens then contacted the suspect and after a lengthy conversation, they admitted to setting the boat on fire to help his friend collect insurance money. The suspect was promised $5,000 to make it look like the boat was stolen and then set on fire. The insurance fraud unit conducted several sworn depositions with the boat owner, but they never admitted to knowing anything about how the boat ended up where it did. Later, wardens met with the boat owner in January 2019 and received a full confession about his part in the case. The owner had purchased the boat for $38,500 and had it insured for $60,000. Charges were filed for 2nd degree felony arson on both individuals for their part and they received grand jury indictments in early 2019. In early 2020, both individuals pled guilty to arson and received 10 years deferred adjudication and a $2,500 fine.

Heartbreaker

Kerr County game wardens recently completed an investigation into a commercial hunting operation at a Managed Lands Deer Program ranch where hunters from five different states were filed for hunting without a license going back to December 2017. The non-resident landowner was also filed on. A total of seven exotics and 12 whitetail bucks were seized in the investigation. The whitetail bucks scored between 113” and 249” on the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system, with several in the 190-220” range. Wardens located the right contacts, and game wardens with the Connecticut Environmental Conservation Police, Rhode Island Environmental Police, and the Massachusetts Environmental Police assisted with seizing the illegally taken animals and shipping them back to Texas. Wildlife Division biologists assisted with scoring the whitetail for restitution.

Tainted Love

Harris County game wardens were called to assist the Houston Police Department with a traffic stop involving a vehicle that had multiple untagged animal heads. After speaking with the occupants of the vehicle, the wardens discovered that the two people in the vehicle were from Louisiana and had been working in El Paso County with another individual who had already returned to Louisiana. In their spare time, two of the subjects decided to go on a Texas safari and shot an elk, gemsbok and an untagged 8-point white-tailed buck that they were transporting home. The driver claimed the animals were shot legally on public land. However, a follow-up with the landowner in El Paso County confirmed the suspects had been hunting on private land without landowner consent. One of the occupants had no hunting license, and it was discovered a .22 caliber rimfire round was used to kill all the animals and the meat had gone to waste. It is illegal to hunt a white-tailed buck with rimfire ammunition. The driver shot the white-tailed buck and simply cut its head off. Working quickly with an El Paso County game warden, the animals and rifle were seized as evidence in anticipation of felony and multiple Class A and C charges being filed against the suspects.

Drunk in Love

An Atascosa County game warden was on routine night patrol when a dark colored, full sized dually truck pulled onto the highway in front of his patrol unit without headlights almost causing a major accident. The warden initiated a traffic stop for not having headlights on at night, an expired vehicle registration and defective tail lamps. Upon making contact with the driver, he detected a strong odor of alcohol. The driver’s license had been suspended and expired since 2012. The warden asked for assistance from a nearby DPS Trooper and the driver was ultimately arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated and an open container. Felony charges are pending.

Caught in a Bad Romance

A Bexar County game warden was checking fisherman on the southside of San Antonio when he heard gunshots coming from near IH-35. The warden patrolled the area looking for vehicles parked on the side of the interstate when he saw a grey Ford Focus with the driver’s side door open and a woman sitting in the passenger’s seat. The driver was not in the vehicle and the woman had multiple butane lighters on her lap. The driver then emerged and was walking back to the vehicle from a wooded area but exhibited signs of a person under the influence of narcotics. The warden asked the driver if they had any weapons and he said he had a .22 in the vehicle. The warden then asked if he could search for contraband and the driver consented. During the search, he discovered 2.3 grams of crystal meth and a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle. The driver admitted he had shot at a fox but had missed. He was arrested for possession of controlled substance and transported to the Bexar County Jail.

Rollercoaster of Love

A Sabine County game warden received a call from a neighboring Louisiana State game warden looking for information about a Texas resident that had been hunting ducks in Louisiana. The warden found some posts on Facebook from the suspects that could lead to potential cases in Texas. After contacting the suspect and their spouse about the pictures and posts on Facebook, wardens discovered that the pair had hunted several white-tailed deer without a hunting license. The suspect was also cited in Louisiana for hunting ducks without a license, no state migratory stamp, hunting over bait and placing bait to attract ducks. The individual and his spouse were also issued several citations and warnings in Texas including hunting without a license, improperly tagged deer, criminal responsibility of minor and harvest log violations. Cases and restitutions are pending in both states.

Where is the Love?

A McMullen County game warden received an anonymous call about a man that was hunting without landowner consent. The man worked at a drilling site on a ranch and had posted a picture on Facebook posing with a deer on a production site near where he worked. The caller noted that the picture was posted several weeks ago but had since been deleted. Over the next week, the warden gathered enough evidence to have a warrant issued for the suspect’s arrest. The issue, at that time, was that the suspect was out of state. During the course of the investigation, the warden gained the cooperation of the company the suspect worked for and they told him the suspect was scheduled to work at the same drilling site and would be arriving to the location soon. The company added that they did not want the suspect on the property but would put off firing him until the arrest was made. When he arrived on the property, the suspect was placed under arrest and transported to jail where he later confessed to hunting without landowner consent. Cases for hunting without landowner consent, hunting at night and hunting with artificial light are pending. The assistance and advice of La Salle, Duval and Atascosa County game wardens, along with McMullen County Sheriff’s Office, were crucial in these cases being filed.

Fly Like an Eagle

A Comanche County game warden was contacted by a concerned fisherman about a possible injured bald eagle near the dam at Lake Proctor. The warden arrived on scene and contacted the fisherman who confirmed through a photograph that it was in fact a bald eagle. The warden contacted the veterinarian at the Abilene Zoo and they agreed to take the eagle in for treatment of its injuries. The eagle was severely dehydrated and had an infected wound on one wing. The next day the eagle was transported to South Plains Wildlife Rehabilitation Center where it will stay until it can be released back at Lake Proctor.

Love the way you lie

Two Trinity County game wardens received a call about missing boaters, two adults and one child, on the Neches River. When they arrived at the ramp, the wardens found two trucks and an empty boat trailer. Accompanied by a Trinity County Deputy, the wardens searched the river for the missing boat. After a couple of hours, they noticed a light on the deck of a floating cabin. Wardens made contact and confirmed it was the two missing men and child. The men were fishing from the floating cabin and said they had boat trouble earlier but had since fixed the boat. Once the wardens confirmed that everyone was okay, the men were asked to present their fishing license, and neither’s was current. Additionally, the boat was not registered and only had one inflatable life jacket. The warden also found a dead woodpecker the men were using for bait. The men said they were about to head back to the ramp, so the wardens followed them back to the ramp after they loaded their gear. A small amount of marijuana was found on one individual while the other attempted to start their boat. The warden asked the man to step back out of the boat. While exiting the boat, he intentionally fell into the water. The wardens grabbed the man while he was underwater and could feel his arms underneath him trying to get rid of something. Once they detained him, they noticed an empty holster in his belt. The wardens then found a large amount of meth, marijuana and Xanax. In the meantime, an Angelina County warden travelled through deer leases to attempt to get close to the floating cabin. The warden was able to get within a few hundred yards of the cabins and transported the two men and child back to the boat ramp by truck while Trinity County wardens collected evidence. After a second look in the cabin a loaded handgun was located underneath a cot. Both men were arrested, and the child was transported to relatives. Several felony charges will be filed including manufacture and delivery of meth, felon in possession of a firearm and tampering with evidence.

Crazy in Love

A Tyler County game warden was flagged down by a Jasper County Sheriff’s Deputy that was responding to a call from a landowner about a trespasser on an ATV that had just stolen six game cameras. The warden, deputy and a DPS officer followed the ATV tracks and were able to locate where the subject lived. The landowner’s property was located and after a short interview, a full confession was obtained from the subject. He had just gotten out of jail a few days prior for theft of property and was currently on probation. He was arrested for felony theft and trespassing and transported to the Jasper County jail. Cases are pending.

We Belong Together

Two Throckmorton County and Haskell County game wardens were patrolling near Lake Stamford when they saw a truck suspiciously parked on the county road with its doors open. From a distance, the wardens saw a man walk out of the bar ditch and get into the truck. They approached the vehicle and saw a rifle in the passenger’s seat and nearly a dozen snares in the bed of the pickup. The man was interviewed and admitted that he was placing snares and hunting from the county road. A dead coyote that was caught in his snare was discovered a short distance away. The man was also a convicted felon. In addition to multiple class C misdemeanors, cases were filed for hunting from the public road and the man was arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.