What's New with OK and TX Game Wardens?

These are only a few of the interesting things going on with those who govern our natural resources from their press releases. I report on serious environmental crimes in both states, involving game wardens, state, and federal environmental agencies. We need to be aware of environmental crimes.

If mainstream media covers local environmental crimes at all, it covers them in snippets on their websites and in their TV news sound bites. We depend on and gratefully enjoy our natural resources. Crimes against them are crimes against us.

Oklahoma Game Warden News

Geese Carcasses Dumped on Indian Nation Turnpike

This crime violates the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and Conservation (OWDC) Wanton Waste and Field Tagging regulations.

The ODWC is asking for anyone with information about a bag of 52 snow geese carcasses to call an OK Game Warden. Someone or some people dumped these birds on mile marker 23 on the Indian Nation Turnpike/SH 375 north of Antlers at mile marker 16/exit 16 and SH 3.

On the afternoon of March 19, 2024, Warden Andrew Potter responded to a report that sacks filled with snow geese carcasses were sitting along the Indian Nation Turnpike. Wardens counted 52 snow geese in sacks piled up on the shoulder at mile marker 23. These snow geese were whole, with no meat harvested.

The violators shot all these geese. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed an extended season for only the light geese (blue, snow, ross) migratory bird season to March 30, 2024 instead of February 19. All other migratory bird seasons closed on February 5, 2024, in Oklahoma.

Migratory birds and animals pay no attention to international, state, or province borders. So there are treaties with other countries on migratory species management. All hunters of U.S. migratory birds are required to report their harvest to the USFWS. The USFWS reports that light geese are overpopulated in the 2023/2024 season, and their northern breeding grounds are in fragile.

This is called a Conservation Order that states can adopt. The extended hunting season for light geese may concur with other states in the mid-continent area. There is no bag limit or daily possession in this particular Conservation Order. Snow geese like to fly high and decoys do not fool them easily.

Rules of the Conservation Order allow hunters to use unplugged shotguns with non-toxic shot only and electronic calls during the Feb. 6-March 31 period. Shooting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. USFWS’s Conservation Order Light Goose Season (COLGS) is to help restore their breeding grounds. 

During the fourth week of January 2024, the Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) counted 6,800 snow geese on Lake Texoma, Sequoyah NWR in eastern Oklahoma: 2,600, Salt Plains NWR: 2,300 in north central OK, and Washita NWR on Foss Lake:

At the end of January, Richard Hatcher, OK Department Wildlife and Conservation (ODWC) game chief reported, This is not a hunt…federal wildlife officials want hunters to eliminate as many snow geese as possible before the birds descend on their northern nesting grounds for the summer.”

There is a cash reward for information leading to an arrest. Wardens will thoroughly investigate this wanton disposal of wildlife resources. If you have any information about this crime, please contact Warden Andrew Potter 580-317-5000, Warden Eric Barnes 580-513-5014, Warden Thomas Gillham 580-271-0808, or Operation Game Thief 800-522-8039.

(While the ODWC has not reported the amount of the cash reward, other similar violations have paid $1,000 for information that leads to an arrest.)

From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior:

“Migratory game birds are those bird species so designated in conventions between the United States and several foreign nations for the protection and management of these birds. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA; 16 U.S.C. 703–712), the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to determine when “hunting, taking, capture, killing, possession, sale, purchase, shipment, transportation, carriage, or export of any such bird, or any part, nest, or egg” of migratory game birds can take place, and to adopt regulations for this purpose.”

Jones, OK, Illegal Carcass Dumping Solved

The Oklahoma Game Wardens caught a man guilty of illegal carcass dumping near Jones, Oklahoma, in November 2023. They found multiple dumped deer carcasses, deer legs, and household trash and another large quantity of dumped of deer carcasses and household trash 100 yards from the first pile.

Game Warden Dalton Buley assisted Warden Mark Murray with the investigation. The wardens collected 172 deer legs. Many had tags attached to them, possibly marked with hunting license numbers and confirmation numbers. The wardens speculated a wild game processor may be involved.

Wardens found a wild game processor who gave the wardens the names of the hunters, with matching license and tag numbers who requested their harvest discards for various purposes. Warden Buley narrowed the investigation to one individual who received his discards from the processor and that suspect gave a full confession to dumping the deer and household trash. Charges in District Court are pending.

OK Spring Turkey Season

Youth Spring April 13-14, 2024

Regular Spring April 16-May 16, 2024

ODWC Pronghorn Study

The pronghorn is not a deer or an antelope. It is the only surviving member of the Antilocapridae, which has inhabited North America for over a million years. According to statistics provided by Dallas Barber, Big Game Biologist for the ODWC, Oklahoma’s pronghorn population has declined.

Aerial surveys counted 2,088 pronghorns in Texas and Cimarron Counties, Oklahoma, in 2019. This pronghorn population declined to 800 in 2024. Hunters harvested 90 pronghorns in 2023 and 150 in 2022. The ODWC collaborated with the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to conduct a four-year study of pronghorn in Oklahoma.

Matt Turnley, PhD student at Oklahoma State University, reported to the ODWC. Researchers put radio collars on captured pronghorns to track animal movement and survival. The study is looking into nutritional quality and predation as contributing to the declining pronghorn population. 

Mr. Turnley said, “…Preliminary results to this point indicate nearly all pronghorn born in the Oklahoma Panhandle spend their entire lives there. And the survival rate is about 75% annually for adult pronghorns and about 11% after about six months for fawns.”

New Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Administrative Rules

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation receives no general state tax appropriations. The ODWC is funded by sportsmen and women through their purchase of hunting and fishing licenses and federal Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program grants that are an explicit result of people who purchase firearms, ammunition, fishing equipment, and motorboat fuel.  

The ODWC is the eight-member governing board of the ODWC. The Oklahoma Governor appoints these commission members and the Oklahoma Senate confirms the members. These rules govern hunting, fishing, and the operations of the ODWC:

  • Clarifying the definition of equipment used for bowfishing. 
  • Correcting the name of Grand River Dam to Pensacola Dam. 
  • Adding wording allowing controlled hunts and other hunting opportunities on certain state parks, and allowing expanded hunting opportunities on certain Wildlife Management Areas. 
  • Changing the Special Use Permit requirements and fees for private lands leased by ODWC. 
  • Closing prairie dog hunting on Cooper, Beaver River, and Sandy Sanders Wildlife Management Areas. 
  • Adding shotgun hulls and cartridge casings to the definition of littering on Wildlife Management Areas. 
  • Updating regulations for shooting ranges and archery ranges on Department-owned or Department-managed lands. 

Texas Game Warden News

28th Annual Great Texas Birding Classic: April 15 to March 15

The 28th annual Great Texas Birding Classic (GTBC) tournament Typically, over 1,000 birders span out and roam the coast, forests, mountains, and prairies of Texas to compete in the biggest and longest bird watching tournament in the U.S. Registration is open until April 1, 2024.

The 28th annual Great Texas Birding Classic tournament invites birders to log species of migratory birds through Texas during the spring. Shelly Plante, nature tourism manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, informs us,

“The competition has expanded statewide to record participation and is no longer just for experts since the new categories appeal to budding naturalists and avid birders alike.” The GTBC offers a variety of categories to test participants’ birding skills. Birding teams pour in from all over the U.S. to enter.”

  • There is a fee to enter the GTBC.
  • Teams can find sponsors to fund their participation.

Who Can Enter the GTBC:

  • All levels and ages of birders are welcome to join this Texas birdwatching event during the amazing spring migration.
  • There's a tournament category for everyone, from the beginning backyard birder to the competitive lister.
  • Registration fees raise money for Texas bird and birding conservation project grants.
  • Gather your team, register, and go birding.

In 2022, 187 teams registered with 1,100 participants and identified 425 bird species. Donations from event sponsors Texas Ornithological Society, Toyota, Swarovski Optik, N.A., Awards Ceremony sponsor Audubon Texas, team registration fees, and corporate and community team sponsorship made the 2023 GTBC event possible .

In 2023, 202 teams with 1,100 people competed in the sighted 413 out of 666 documented avian species in Texas. That year, the GTBC attracted family teams, teams of work colleagues, birding buddies on their spring birding get-away and more.

The process of organizing the GTBC is complex. Its categories include teams that log birds in a specific area size and different periods of hours, days, and multiple day events. In 2023, the tournament raised $47,000 for conservation grants. Since its establishment in 1997, the GTBC has awarded conservation grants totaling $1,163,000.

Go here to find all the information and many options to enter the Great Texas Birding Classic tournament:


Spring Turkey Season 2024

It depends on what Texas County you live in when spring turkey season begins and ends. 177 Texas counties offer spring turkey seasons.

  • Cooke: Mar. 30 - May 12, 2024
  • Fannin: Apr. 22 - May 14, 2024
  • Grayson: Apr. 22 - May 14, 2024

New Record Low in Texas for Hunting Accidents

March 13, 2024

According to the 2023 Texas Hunting Accident Report, Texas recorded the lowest number of hunting-related accidents across the state. The new 2023 record low is 10 non-fatal hunting-related accidents and one fatality. 1972 recorded the highest number, when Texas saw 30 fatal hunting-related accidents. This led to the creation of the Hunter Education program, which became a requirement for all hunters in 1988. 

Steve Hall, TPWD Hunter Education coordinator, reported, “The continued decline in hunting-related accidents and fatalities is in large part due to the efforts of the TPWD Hunter Education Program and the many Hunter Education instructors across the state, many whom are volunteers. Beyond safety, we teach hunters how to be legal, ethical, take a good shot, and take care of game from field to fork.”

The Hunter Education Program has certified over 1.5 million students since 1972. Texas requires hunter education for every hunter in Texas, including out-of-state hunters born on or after Sept. 2, 1971. The minimum age for certification is 9-years of age, and it is a lifetime certification.

Texas Game Wardens, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Intercept Lanchas, Seize Illegally-Caught Fish

Texas Game Wardens, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations intercepted four lancha crews with 19 Mexican fishermen. A lancha is a motorboat not registered with any country. It is 20- to 30-feet long with a low profile, an outboard motor, and can travel at speeds topping 30 mph.

Law enforcement officials from the above agencies seized about 1,250 pounds of illegally caught red snapper from the Gulf of Mexico on March 5, 2024. Boat crews from the Coast Guard Station-South Padre Island, CBP Air and Marine Operations and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Coast Guard Air Station-Corpus Christi aircrews worked in coordination. 

This is a violation of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code that states, “No unlicensed foreign vessel may take or attempt to take by any means or possess any natural resource of the coastal water of Texas.” North of the U.S. boundary, these lancha crews were in U.S. waters without permission. They willfully evaded law enforcement, which resulted in extra federal and state violations.

If you witness suspicious activity or illegal fishing in Texas state waters, from land to 9-miles offshore, please contact Operation Game Thief (OGT) at 1-800-792-GAME (4263). For all suspicious activity or illegal fishing occurring in federal waters, out to 200-miles offshore, please contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 361-939-0450.

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Lake Texoma

Fishing Report from TPWD (May 22)

GOOD. Water normal stain; 67 degrees; 2.82 feet above pool. Striped bass fishing is excellent on live shad and topwaters. Anchoring on deep river ledges and flats in 60-80 feet of water fishing suspended around 40 feet catching quality and quantity on live shad. Top waters early along rocky banks where shad are still spawning. Catfishing is good using cut shad and prepared baits along the rocks in 20-40 feet of water. Free line dead shad or fish vertically along the rocks. Bass are fair using top waters early along the bluffs and on long points. Water temps in the mid 70s look for fish under docks and tires near marinas. Clear water is along the southern end of the lake. Crappie are fair using jigs fishing structure using electronics to locate active fish in 12-18 feet of water. Clear water is from TI point to the Dam and in the little mineral arm of the lake. Report by Jacob Orr, Guaranteed Guide Service Lake Texoma. Stripers are good, catching the better fish starting with topwaters early, then switching to swim baits in 10-20 feet of water to get smaller fish. Water is starting to clear up from the recent rains on most of the lake. The lake has dropped 3 feet over the last week, and should return to normal, if it does not rain too much later this week. Report by John Blasingame, Adventure Texoma Outdoors.

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