Drive-by Poachers, Mule Deer Deception, and Self Defense Hunting – Texas Game Warden Field Notes
The following items are compiled from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
Up on the Rooftop Mule Deer Paws
‘Twas the season for deer hunting Dec. 10 in Crosby County, just not for mule deer; whitetails were still fair game, but mule deer season ended a week earlier. So, when a game warden received a text message with an image of an SUV being driven through Crosby County with a deer trussed to its roof like a Christmas tree, it was the antler “branches” that caught his attention. One physical trait muleys possess that differentiates them from their cervid cousin, the whitetail, is a distinctive branched antler. After a quick run of the vehicle’s license plate, the warden contacted the registered owner on his cell phone, and asked if he was driving down the highway with a dead deer strapped to his roof. The man acknowledged, and claimed it was a whitetail he had harvested in Floyd County. When pressed, however, the man could not offer details on exactly where in Floyd County he hunted. The warden told him to text a photo so he could verify the deer was a whitetail, and at that point the man confessed he had shot the mule deer earlier that morning. The warden later met with the man, gained a verbal and written statement, and seized both the deer and rifle used in the crime. Criminal charges for the out-of-season mule deer and for having illegally tagged it as a white-tailed deer are pending in Floyd County, and civil restitution for the mule deer are pending.
In Self Defense
Some hunters believe commercial scent attractants to be effective at luring in white-tailed deer, particularly during the rut. A Smith County man argued recently that these products work too well, and caused him to have to shoot two undersized bucks in self-defense. After a logging crew reported finding two buck heads on top of a shed hidden in the woods, a Smith County game warden began asking around. Upon hearing the law was investigating, a subject called the warden and confessed, but claimed there were extenuating circumstances. The subject stated he was hunting in a ground blind and decided to spray a commercial scent attractant out the window. Moments later, a 5-point buck with a 9 inch inside spread appeared. He claimed the buck took several steps toward him, and then charged at his ground blind. The subject said he shot the buck at 30 feet away in self-defense. After dragging the buck to his blind, the man claimed he left the area to get his truck, and later returned to collect the deer and his hunting gear. While exiting his blind with his gear, the subject said a 6-point buck with a 6 inch spread came charging at him and he was forced to shoot in self-defense again, this time from 36 feet away. The subject stated he put the deer heads on the shed with the intention of turning himself in, but never got around to it. Multiple charges are pending.
Shared and Not Liked
Scofflaws are not bashful about posting their exploits to social media, and game wardens regularly scan the “bragging boards” for clues into illegal game and fish activities. In December, game wardens gathered intelligence from a Facebook post of a man with two white-tailed bucks he claimed to have harvested at the same time near Lubbock. Wardens identified the individual in the post and questioned him about his feat. The man admitted to taking the two bucks in a one buck limit county. Over the limit and tagging violations were filed along with civil restitution. The cases are pending. In an unrelated case, a Trinity County warden found a social media post of an untagged 8-point buck, and began investigating the individual who claimed to have shot it. As it turned out, the young man did not possess a hunting license. Multiple citations and civil restitution are pending.
Deer stands offer hunters a unique elevated view of the landscape, and enhance their ability to go undetected while observing nature. You never know what you might see. Case in point: in the late afternoon Dec. 9, a Frio County game warden got a call from dispatch advising that a hunter in his deer stand had just witnessed a white van stop, discharge a firearm from a public road and load a deer in the back of the vehicle. The warden responded to the location and made contact with a white van. The subjects admitted to shooting a deer from the public road, as evidenced by a freshly killed doe in the back of their van. They were transported to the Frio County Jail. The cases are pending.
Just Making Matters Worse
It was not enough that a couple of guys from Arizona got caught by a game warden in Terrell County trespassing with a deer rifle, but the reason why they were on private property to begin with gave the warden pause. While on patrol Dec. 15, the warden observed a vehicle parked alongside State Highway 285. As he drove past, the warden noticed two men walking out in the pasture; one held a rifle. The warden stopped and made contact, asking what they were doing. The pair stated they had seen some deer and were out looking for them. The warden advised they were on private property and asked did they have permission from the owner to hunt. The men replied they did not know the owner, but it was okay because they had shot at the deer from the highway, and it had jumped the fence. There was no evidence they had hit the deer. Appropriate charges were filed.
Trinity County game wardens conducted an interview with a subject who supposedly shot a deer on his one acre property in December. The wardens suspected it could have been harvested on a bordering landowner’s property and wanted to express their concerns to the hunter. The hunter had a buck head in his freezer and showed it to the wardens. He claimed to have found the buck dead on the roadway after it had been struck by a vehicle. The buck had an 11 ¼-inch inside spread, which made it an illegal buck in the antler restricted county. The subject gave consent to check his cell phone photos of the deer, and that provided the wardens with a different account. After reviewing the images, and the date/time stamps, the wardens concluded two deer were possibly shot at night. Following a lengthy interview during which the wardens shared their evidence with the individual, the subject finally admitted to shooting the illegal buck on his property. He also admitted to shooting a doe at night and not placing a tag on it. The subject also trespassed on neighboring property to retrieve both kills. Other violations included harvest log violations, improper tagging, no hunter education certification, criminal trespassing, and driver’s license violations. Also, another buck whose images were captured on the subject’s mobile device is still under investigation. The cases and restitution are pending.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department encourages hunters to pass along the state’s rich hunting heritage to the next generation. As an incentive to provide young hunters with opportunities, TPWD conducts special youth/adult-only hunts on some of its Wildlife Management Areas. Adults can accompany youth on these hunts to provide mentoring on various aspects of hunting, including hunter ethics and firearms safety, and may participate as long as youth are part of the hunting group. Unfortunately, some folks choose to leave the kids behind in violation of the spirit and letter of the law. A couple of incidents in December on the Richland Creek WMA illustrate the point. Notified by WMA staff that a group appeared to be hunting illegally, a Freestone County game warden came across a group of eight adult hunters hunting the special youth-adult weekend, but with no youth present. Citations were issued and civil restitution was charged on 36 ducks. Four days later, wardens received a complaint from a concerned hunter regarding a pair of hunters who continued to duck hunt after the noon-time closure on the Richland Creek WMA. The morning hunt was a youth/adult only hunt and once contacted, it was realized both hunters were adults and had no youth hunters with them. Neither hunter had the required annual public hunting lands permits, migratory game bird stamps, nor other endorsements needed to hunt ducks, nor had they checked in at the WMA registration station. Additionally, one hunter did not possess proof of having completed hunter education. Numerous citations/warnings were issued. The cases are pending.
Out Walking the Dogs
Bexar County game wardens recently filed multiple cases on two men from Frio County and a San Antonio man who were hunting hogs with dogs on City of San Antonio park property in the southwestern part of the county. The three individuals initially claimed they were just out walking their dogs in the park, near midnight, but couldn’t explain the blood stains on their hands. After being cited by park police for violating the site curfew, the individuals faced intensive scrutiny by the game wardens and eventually admitted to hunting hogs and killing a javelina. The men had driven into the park after curfew and released their dogs. Two of the men followed the dogs from the park’s paved walkway, while the third stayed behind with the vehicle as a lookout. Multiple cases are pending along with civil restitution.