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Game Warden Stories: 1,400 Illegal Panfish, Baited Geese, ‘Clueless Poachers'

Here's a look at recent cases conservation officers faced in the field all across the nation.

Game Warden Stories: 1,400 Illegal Panfish, Baited Geese, ‘Clueless Poachers'

Michigan conservation officers Joshua Wright and Mark Papineau shown with evidence from panfish poaching case. (Michigan Department of Natural Resources image)

Wildlife officers — or game wardens — face a myriad of incidents when in the field.

These game warden stories range from the serious to the ridiculous.

Compiled from staff and agency reports.

1,400 Illegal Panfish!

Man, those tipsters were right about over-fishing at Lake Lancer in Gladwin County, Mich.

After receiving several tips, Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers eventually found evidence to cite the suspect for illegally taking more than 1,400 panfish.

According to a news release, officers Mark Papineau and Joshua Wright had spoken to the suspect at the lake at two different times in one day and then later were allowed to search the man’s garage freezer, where the excessive violation was found.

There had been several previous reports of the man fishing the lake, often multiple times in a day, the DNR said.

The officers patrolled the lake the morning of Aug. 14, and talked to the suspected poacher, who had 13 panfish, well within the state limit of 25. The suspect’s boat and trailer were gone from the boat ramp later in the morning, but returned later in the day.

After the second time of the lake, the man returned to the dock and had 24 panfish, but confessed to the 13 fish earlier. Then, he invited officers to his residence to get those earlier-caught fish for evidence. When officers searched a chest freezer in the garage, they found 19 fish, six more than what they thought were caught earlier, and more than 70 bags of filleted panfish. In total, officers say he exceeded the limit by more than 1,400 fish.

The confiscated fish will be donated to a local food bank or church.

Read more about this case

If Only They Were All This Easy

Polk County, Texas, game wardens investigating reports of deer-camp break-ins spotted a familiar truck parked along a creek that they had seen coming off another back road the previous night. The wardens took a closer look and saw in plain sight a .22 rifle inside the cab and dried blood on the tailgate.

The wardens made contact with two people and one of the officers asked them if they had seen the officers the right before. One of the men said yes, and asked why the wardens were following them. The warden said they had been following the men for some time.

Then things got interesting, according to the account in the most recent Texas Game Warden Field Notes:

”At that point, the warden expected the man to admit to hunting feral hogs, which would be legal at night on private property with permission, but instead he informed them they had shot a deer. The clueless poachers also implicated themselves on several other poaching incidents and violations, and led the wardens to the area where they conducted the illegal activities. Upon arrival, the subjects showed where they dumped the carcass and where they stored the meat at their grandmother’s house. The shooter later stated that his daddy and granddaddy were questioned by wardens back in the day, but never got caught in the act, claiming that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Uh, huh. Multiple charges pending.”

Read more Texas Game Warden Field Notes

OK Wardens Look for Poacher

Oklahoma Game Wardens issued a plea for help in finding out who poached a young buck in the Ponca City area. Posted on the agency’s Facebook Page:

"Ponca city-area Game Wardens are investigating an illegal deer case. This young buck was poached sometime Friday night (August 23) and early Saturday morning (August 24). It was shot with a rifle and dumped on the east side of Kaw Lake dam.Game wardens have collected evidence including boot prints and DNA from the scene.

"We are seeking your assistance for further information. We are offering a cash reward for information leading to an arrest!If you have any information about this case please contact Game Warden Larry Green 580-761-4097 or Spencer Grace 580-761-6565.

"You can also call Operation Game Thief 1-800-522-8039. You may remain anonymous and still receive a reward!"

Guilty Pleas in Waterfowl Poaching Case

Eight men from Macomb, Oakland and St. Clair counties in Michigan were ordered to pay more than $18,500 in total fines and court costs for poaching Canada geese in 2018.

The men were arrested stemming from an investigation that began as an anonymous tip to conservation officers about an influx of geese at a particular private pond near Chesterfield, Mich. The tipster suspected it was illegal bait that attracted the activity.

Conservation Officer Joseph Deppen, who was named as the Mississippi Flyway Council’s 2019 Michigan Waterfowl Protection Officer of the Year, found large amounts of illegal bait spread on the south side of the pond. Surveillance was set up and eight hunters were eventually seen setting up decoys and entering a blind. The hunters reportedly killed several geese and mallard ducks. They also did not retrieve all of their shot game in the field, which is illegal.

Later, the men eventually confessed to killing 33 Canada geese — nine over the limit for the men (three bird per person). The game and firearms were confiscated and the men were ticketed for illegally taking waterfowl.

The men ordered to pay $2,312.50 each in reimbursement for the illegally harvested birds.

Read more about this case

Heads Up, Neighbor

New York Conservation Officer Darci Dougherty fielded a report from a caller in Chautauqua County that her neighbor had shot two Canada geese the morning before.

The woman said she was watching the geese fly over and heard sudden gunshots. Then she said she saw the neighbor put two geese in a bucket.

Officers visited the neighbor and found the bucket with carcasses in it, but the breast meat had already been eaten. The neighbor was cited for taking the geese out of season and unlawful possession protected wildlife.

Read more NY Conservation Police Highlights

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