There’s a John Wayne quote that I like to pass along to anyone who I think needs it, especially relatives or good friends who I might someday have to bail out of jail. The saying goes something like, “Life is hard…even harder when you’re stupid.” It’s in that vein that LSC seeks to shine a spotlight on a special kind of Texan today, what a gentlemen friend of mine categorizes as the state’s less astute citizenry.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department publishes something called Game Warden Field Notes, which are short reports of Texas poachers, thieves, liars and other general miscreants apprehended and/or cited by our overworked and underpaid public servants. The Field Notes are always good reading, and they certainly showcase the morons amongst us, but then you throw in outdoor drunkenness, elicit drug use, general debauchery and a stout dose of stupidity, and what you have is must read Texas outdoors material. In 2012, TPWD release five Field Notes, and from those five, I’ve culled what I think are the best reports. As you read them, notice the sly commentary added to the titles. You gotta love a public servant with a sense of humor. So, in no particular order, here are the Best Game Warden Field Notes of 2012, compiled from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
- Game warden helps DPS trooper in struggle: Palo Pinto County Game Warden Cliff Swofford was flagged down on Jan. 17 by a UPS driver, who said a DPS trooper on a traffic stop on I-20 was wrestling with a man in an attempt to get him handcuffed. Warden Swofford responded and assisted the trooper with detaining and controlling the subject while a search of his vehicle was conducted. A large amount of marijuana was found in the vehicle, and the man was arrested.
- Photo Finish: A Guadalupe County game warden was called out at around 10 p.m. for a boat wreck/hit-and-run on Lake Dunlap. Comal County wardens got the original call and called Guadalupe County for assistance. It was reported that around dark, a ski boat ran over the front of a kayak. Fortunately, the man on the kayak suffered only minor injuries and the impact put both boats against the bank in some trees. The kayaker attempted to get the ski boat operator’s identification and insurance information and had no luck. The kayaker was holding on to the ski boat as he tried to reason with the driver. The ski boat driver took a swing at the kayaker who then took a picture of the operator and the Texas boat registration number with his iPhone. The ski boat operator then sped off dragging the kayaker more than 100 yards before he let go. A Comal County game warden ran the TX number and it came back to a resident on the lake. The game warden provided the Guadalupe County game warden with the information and he went to the residence. After a brief interview, the ski boat operator was placed under arrest for assault causing bodily injury. Other charges may follow pending further investigation. The ski boat did have transfer marks from hitting the kayak.
- Facebook helps tag illegal hunters: NewtonCounty wardens Ellis Powell, Brian Srba, Landon Spacek, Bradley Smith andJasperCounty warden Morgan Inman executed a search warrant on aLouisiana resident living inNewtonCounty on Jan. 21. The warrant came after a four-month investigation, with warrants also being served on the subject’s Facebook account for e-mails and photos. As the interview was taking place,Louisiana game wardens were interviewing other subjects implicated by the man’s Facebook account. The subject admitted killing eight deer in the last few months and named several other subjects with numerous deer kills. None of the four main subjects have had a hunting license since 2004, with no deer taken in daylight hours during that time. Numerous charges filed with more interviews of other subjects pending.
- Warden sinks boat theft plans: Fayette County Game Warden Calvin Harbaugh apprehended an adult and two juveniles in the act of stealing a 14-foot aluminum boat on Jan. 24. The boat had been chained to a tree on the edge of theColorado River. The defendants had broken the lock, loaded the boat into the bed of a truck, and were about to drive off with it when apprehended.
- Spotlighting arrest “illuminates” outstanding warrants: While conducting a nighttime patrol Jan. 22, Game Warden Harry Rakosky observed a vehicle intermittently shining a spotlight into area farm fields. A citation was subsequently issued. The next day the court called the game warden to report that the subject had outstanding warrants. In response, the game warden went to the offender’s residence, arresting him for 3rd degree felony intoxication assault and 1st degree felony intoxication manslaughter.
- Wardens make oyster cases: Game Wardens Raul “Pinky” Gonzales, Danny Kelso, Scott McLeod, and Derek Reeder checked numerous commercial oyster boats in Hynes andSan Antonio bays on Jan. 27. Four captains were cited for undersize oyster loads. Approximately 98 sacks of oysters were returned to their reefs.
- If The Shoe Fit: An Ellis County game warden was travelling along I-35 when he witnessed three male subjects pass what appeared to be a marijuana blunt back and forth to each other as they drove. The warden and a deputy constable pulled the car over and the driver and passengers denied smoking and possessing any drugs. After searching the vehicle, the warden found a bag of marijuana stuffed into a shoe box. The driver was arrested for possession of marijuana.
- Oops, We Did It Again: A Red River County game Warden and two Bowie County game wardens received information about a possible road hunting incident near a residence. The property owner and his wife were outside at the time and after hearing shots, the husband, who had been drinking, jumped into his vehicle and began to chase the hunters. While in pursuit, in an attempt to stop the hunters the man began shooting a pistol out of his window. The man rammed the hunters’ vehicle and in the process flipped his vehicle over and suffered serious injuries. The hunters had called 911 to report they were being shot at. When wardens contacted the suspected road hunters, they denied having weapons and shooting at anything. Unaware that their 911 call had not been dropped as they believed, in the background officials could clearly hear someone say, “hide the gun in them woods,” and “not that far, we’re gonna come back and get it tonight.” After hearing the 911 tape, the three hunters gave statements admitting to shooting at multiple animals from the road that day as well as committing multiple burglaries of habitations and storage buildings in the Dekalb area. Wardens also interviewed the hunters about a year-long investigation regarding the slaying of an 8-point buck last August inRed RiverCounty. The hunters admitted to being on the ranch illegally and shooting the buck leaving it to waste. A total of 24 cases were filed on the three individuals. Meanwhile, the overzealous property owner was filed on for DWI and deadly conduct.
- Misguided: Llano County game warden and a Lampasas County game warden were patrolling Lake LBJ when they stopped a fishing guide. The guide has been known to keep undersized fish in the past, and after a quick water safety inspection the wardens inspected an ice chest full of fish which included some that were undersized. The wardens took the guide and fish onto their boat and measured all the fish. They found eight undersized crappie and one undersized black bass. Citations were issued and all the fish were seized.
- Drive-up Service: A Polk County game warden was checking boat ramps on Lake Livingston when he saw someone motor his pontoon boat up to a local boat ramp at a high rate of speed. The warden watched as the subject got out of his boat and staggered up through the parking lot to retrieve his truck. The warden stopped the subject and conducted standard field sobriety tests. The subject failed the test and was placed under arrest for BWI.
- Falling Beer Can Leads to Arrest: Two Comal County game wardens were working water safety enforcement on Canyon Lake when they saw a man who was not wearing a life jacket while he was operating his personal watercraft inside the no wake area near a boat ramp. As the wardens approached they observed a can of beer fall from the PWC into the water. During a water safety inspection, the game wardens located two more empty beer cans. Due to the man’s confused demeanor, slurred speech, and the strong odor of alcohol on his breath, the game wardens decided to conduct sobriety tests on him. The operator was arrested for boating while intoxicated and was booked in the Comal County Jail.
- Smile, You’re on Candid Camera: Two Van Zandt County game wardens were contacted by a local ranch owner concerning a unique picture that was taken on his game camera. The photo showed a woman, with a very distinct tattoo, holding a baby white-tailed deer fawn. The time stamp on the photo said that this woman was on the ranch property in May on the same date and time the ranch was burglarized and several firearms, hunting equipment and a Polaris Ranger were stolen. The wardens then conducted a press conference seeking help from the public in naming the woman in the photograph. The wardens soon received multiple Operation Game Thief calls that matched the woman in the photo with her name and the warden’s received a tip to her current location in Smith County. The wardens, accompanied by a Wood County game warden, went to the location and found her. After being interviewed, the woman confessed to stealing from the ranch and identified her accomplice. The investigation led to a substantial amount of stolen items being recovered, including three guns and the missing vehicle. The case was turned over to the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office, where burglary of a habitation, trespass and unlawful use of a motor vehicle were filed on all subjects.
- The Chupacabra Is Innocent Until Proven Guilty: Two Val Verde County game wardens investigated mountain lion sighting reports that were called in from the outskirts of Del Rio. The first investigation was for a horse that allegedly had been attacked and the second involved a herd of goats. No indications or evidence was found that a mountain lion is roaming and feeding on pets inDel Rio. The wardens also ruled out a Chupacabra.
- I Want Chicken, I Want Liver, Meow Mix, Meow Mix, Please Deliver: Two Val Verde County game wardens responded to a call from a landowner who said there was a bear trying to break in to her storage building. Apparently, the bear was hungry, as it was trying to get to a bag of cat food inside. When the bear ignored the homeowner’s yells, she ran back into her house and retrieved her shotgun. A shot was fired in to the air and the bear ran off. The wardens provided the homeowner with information to try and prevent another encounter.
- It’s Raining Bird Shot: Two Taylor County game wardens received a call from a landowner claiming bird shot was falling on their house and even struck their horse. The wardens went to the residence of the landowner and while getting a statement from him, bird shot fell on the wardens. They located the shooters and had a very serious talk.
- Sooner or Later: A Gonzales County game warden responded to a call regarding a missing boater on Lake Wood several hours after dark. The warden remembered seeing the boater pass by on the Guadalupe River during the middle of the afternoon, so he launched a boat into the river with a deputy sheriff and assisted with the search and rescue. About an hour later, the warden and the deputy found a stranded boater about 10 miles upriver from the Lake Wood dam. He was mosquito bitten, but otherwise unhurt. The boater said he had plowed over a shallow gravel bar and his boat sucked up rocks in the intake and started talking on water and the engine compartment became awash. The man also ruined his cell phone during the ordeal, so calling for help was impossible, but he was close to a dock so he secured his boat and climbed onto the dock to wait for help. As the warden approached the dock, the man said, “I knew you’d come get me sooner or later.
- Just Tags Don’t Cut It Now: Two Refugio County game wardens finished checking dove hunters and headed over to Bayside to see how the fishermen were doing. Two subjects, who were pulling their boat out of Copano Bay, advised the wardens that they had one gar. One subject did all the talking while the other seemed in a hurry to get things loaded up. One of the wardens asked the fast-moving subject if he had a wedding to get to. The subject said no, so he asked if they had caught any other fish. The subject stated they had a redfish that was almost 28 inches. When the warden checked the ice chest, they saw a 26-inch redfish. The warden asked the subject what he was measuring with and if they had any other fish. The subjects admitted to having two more redfish, one at 29-inches and the other at 30-inches. The fast-moving subject advised the game warden that they would go ahead and tag their fish. The warden advised both subjects that tags would be filled out after both subjects signed their citations.
- Game Fish Aren’t Bait: A Dimmit County game warden was checking some fishermen along a recently flooded river and noticed a man sitting by himself and not wanting to look his way. After the warden contacted the man and checked his fishing license, the warden noticed a bait bucket in the water. The warden asked the man about the kind of bait he was using and he replied, “Some shad that I caught.” After an inspection of the bait bucket, the warden found the fisherman in possession of seven undersized crappie and five undersized largemouth bass mixed in with the shad and minnows. All of the undersized game fish were released, and citations issued for possession of undersized game fish.
- Little White Lies: A Tarrant County game warden was checking fishermen on Lake Grapevine when she pulled up to a boat that was drift-fishing for catfish. When she made contact, she noticed some large fish scales next to an open pocket knife. As the men searched for their fishing licenses, the warden noticed a small white bass on the floor of the boat next to one of the men’s feet. She asked the men what they were using for bait, and they pointed to a bucket of shad. The warden retrieved the white bass from the floor of the boat, and it was missing one fillet and its tail. The men were asked to reel in their lines, and two of the four lines had been baited with the undersized white bass. The men received an education about the illegality of using game fish for bait, and citations were issued.
- A Shot in the Dark: A McLennan County game warden received a trespass call. While unable to immediately locate the individuals, he decided to wait in the area. After dark, the warden saw a vehicle stop just down the road and noticed a group of people get out with an AR-15 rifle and flashlight. They began to shoot off the road into a nearby creek and field, so the warden approached the group and issued a citation for discharging a firearm from a public road. No evidence of hunting from the road was found. Forty-five minutes later, another truck stopped down the road in the same general area, and a man got out of the truck with an AK-47 and fired numerous rounds into the creek. When the warden made contact with the shooter, he noticed open containers in the vehicle. The subject said he was testing his AK-47 on the turtles in the creek. No turtles were located and citations were issued.
Photo by Shannon Tompkins of the Houston Chronicle