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First off, I would like to thank Chris Carlson, of Christopher L. Carlson & Associates, P.C for representing me and providing me the advice to guide me through this ordeal, his perspective as a hunter and criminal defense attorney was invaluable.

This story started after another non-eventful weekend of duck hunting with good friends.

After taking my afternoon siesta from the hustle and bustle of consulting life, I awakened to a VM on my cell phone. The message went something like this (I am still working on getting the original .wav file from Cingular); "This is Steve Hamilton Special Agent with the US Fish and Wildlife, we are sitting outside in your driveway, you need to come outside and talk to us, we are not leaving until you do."

I am thinking this is a prank, and then a light bulb goes off, I know that name. The reason the name sounds familiar is that three people that I know have been stopped by this special agent, and neither individual has positive reports. All three hunters stated this guy seemed to get off on hassling hunters; neither group received a ticket of any sort.

Back to reality, I look out my master bedroom window and there is a forest green Dodge Durango with antennas worthy of a storm chaser. Sure enough, there stood 2 LL Bean looking IRS agents in front of my truck and duck boat, I could only be so lucky. I go down to the inquisition and let the games begin.

I basically relay the story of what happened. It goes something like this. While driving to Lake Aggiemoose, I see something swoop in front of me, but no thought as there were no issues with the truck at the time. When we arrive at convenience store Aggiemoose, I see the owl embedded in my Ranch Hand, could not believe the sight, and take a picture. We launch at Lake Aggiemoose, have a spoony fest, take a picture of the owl on the boat, still in awe of the physical characteristics of the predator, then throw the owl into the grass. After hearing my story the Special Agent basically said he believed my story, remnants (fluid, blood, brain matter) of the owl were still on the ranch hand in a visible state.

The Special Agent then asked to search my freezer, I asked if he had a warrant, he said no. I then asked why, his response "I believe you still have the owl". My response "Why would I have the owl", no answer. I then asked "What if I just say no to a search, this conversation is over and I tell you to leave?" This is when the Special Agent got angry, which elicited the response "I will push for the maximum fine of $15,000, 1 year in jail and revocation of your hunting license." Special Agent Hamilton basically said that if the owl is not in the freezer this is over.

I debate the issue as I have a real problem with granting access to any LEO w/o a warrant, and no probable cause. I then consent to a search of my freezer only. It is obvious that no owl is in my freezer, but the Special Agents proceed to pull every frozen bag full of meat out of the refrigerator. The questions abound from the USFWS special agents. What's this? When did you kill this? Is this goose or duck? I replied with a lot of I don't know's.

The next set of questions related to who removed the bird from the grill. Who placed the bird on the boat? Who took the picture? Whose camera was used? Who threw the bird in the grass? I could not remember the exact details. It was obvious that the special agents were looking for me to implicate my compadres that weekend; luckily the weekend was all a blur, like most hunting weekends.

The next question asked. Did I know what the federal possession limit was for waterfowl. I answered “I know what the Texas possession limit is.” I was then informed the USFWS did not care about the Texas limit, they enforced federal law. Basically, I was close on possession limit, so they wanted to check the garage for a freezer, no problem, and no freezer.

That's when one of the agents noticed a National Wildlife Refuge Sign hanging above my work bench. The special agents inquired to where I acquired the sign, I replied "on the roadside". I guarantee there was no crime committed on my part to acquire the sign. The Special Agents then took a picture of the sign and removed it with my permission.

As the visit closed out the Special Agents wrote me a ticket for possession of a Great Horned Owl without a permit, even though they could not define what constituted possession. I also mentioned that this was the first ticket or violation I had ever received. This statement was met with a quick retort from Special Agent Hamilton, informing me I had received a warning violation last year for hunting dove in Oklahoma during rifle deer season w/o wearing blaze orange. I flat out laughed at that, just hilarious, that USFWS would consider that important.

I was then informed that I had wasted two days investigation time of the USFWS and that was the real reason I was receiving the ticket. Imagine that, a civil servant who had his time wasted by a taxpayer, the entitlement of the attitude was unreal. That ended the visit from the USFWS.

Skip ahead to the plan of attack. Chris Carlson and I were going to fight the possession of a Great Horned Owl without a permit, as it the charge was completely baseless. Another nice tactic was that the USFWS Special Agent called with less than 2 days notice of the court date. Several attempts were made by Chris Carlson and myself to avoid trial, including an offer by Chris Carlson to offer the amount of the fine, $875.00 as a donation to Delta Waterfowl or Ducks Unlimited. This offer was rejected because of my outlaw ways. Mainly because I possessed U.S. Government property, i.e. the National Wildlife Refuge sign. It came down to if we fought the possession of great horned owl charge, I would be charged with conversion of government property. The cost of defending this charge was a no win situation, even if we beat the possession charge. I decided at this point, a possible $100,000.00 fine was not in my best financial interest. Chris Carlson obtained an agreement in which I paid the fine for possession of a great horned owl w/o a permit, and no charges would be brought for illegal conversion for government property. I am grateful for the expert advice provided from the hunting and law perspective that Chris Carlson provided.

What I have learned from this ordeal:

1. Never let a LEO in your house without a search warrant, I do not how strongly to stress this one, I would be in good shape if I had went with my first reaction and said no.

2. These specific USFWS Special Agents rather a fine is paid then benefit wildlife.

3. USFWS is not interested in Texas State Waterfowl possession laws.

4. USFWS can not define possession laws.

6. 4 out of 4 people I know find encounters with Steve Hamilton unpleasant.

7. Chris Carlson is a stand-up guy, who should be contacted if you find yourself in any similar situation.



Note:

Whatever Brokedick JackAzz turned me in to the Texas Parks and Wildlife is a no-account piece of smegma. My sincere hope is that you reap everything you have sewn. My guess is that you will be checking out Webster’s for at least one word in this paragraph, and I hope to God, I or anyone else on this forum ever finds out your sorry azz identity.