Woods, waters and wildlife

Beat the rap

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This is a primer on beating game and fish violation raps.

The best way is simple: Just don’t do it! Most game violations are avoidable. Some are unintentional, either based on ignorance or carelessness. Some are intentional – like poaching. But that’s another matter.

The most common game and fish crime is hunting or fishing without a license. Licenses are mandatory. “Endorsements” for hunting particular game and fishing in freshwater or saltwater are additionally required. A “duck stamp” is required for hunting migratory waterfowl. It’s a federal offense to hunt them without one. Once, only available through the post office, you can now pay for it when you buy your Texas hunting license and the license will show that you paid for all endorsements including the Federal duck stamp. The endorsements will make you legal until the stamp arrives by mail (or until the expiration date beneath the endorsement). The stamp must be attached to your license when received. It’s much easier to be legal now than back then. Licenses are available at all Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) offices and at leading outdoor stores, tackle shops and gun shops.

According to Texas Game Warden Assistant Commander Jarret Barker, 4,195 people were fined last year for not having a freshwater fishing license; 892 for not having a saltwater license. Fines ranged from $25 to $500. Hunting without a license is similarly costly. Compared to the $30 cost of a freshwater fishing license, $35 for a saltwater license, and $25 for a hunting license, it’s false economy to fish or hunt without a license and run the risk of being one of the nearly 5,000 ticketed each year for those offenses. Odds of getting caught aren’t in violators’ favor. Wardens’ undergo extensive training, and they are professionals at what they do. Combination licenses are also available and are real bargains.

Many other common violations include tagging omissions and exceeding bag limits. Limits for all game and fish are set out in the TPW Outdoor Annual, available where licenses are sold. Lakes have different limits, and hunting limits vary by county. Then, there’s civil restitution. The state adds to fines the value of all game and fish illegally taken. Priced by the number of animals taken or the inches of antler, that can run into the thousand$. The Outdoor Annual contains information that can save you money – and a lot of grief. Check it out.

Then there are poaching penalties. Killing a mule or white-tailed deer, a pronghorn, or a bighorn without landowner permission is a felony! That messes up your life in innumerable ways including prohibiting possessing a firearm.

One case a warden told me about cost the perp nearly $100,000 about 20 years ago. He lost his job, forfeited a company car, his wife was fired for her part in covering it up, there were trespassing charges and fines. Gear, equipment, and guns may be confiscated. Jail time is often included.

By comparison, a license and lease fees would have been a bargain.

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