More than 500 charges filed in ETX poaching investigation - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

More than 500 charges filed in ETX poaching investigation


For 16 months, Texas Parks and Wildlife has been investigating a massive case of poaching in East Texas.

Game wardens say they know at least 30 deer were illegally killed in Wood and Rains County.

More than 500 charges were filed; four East Texas men have been convicted.

They are 46-year-old John William Burns, 21-year-old James Michael Burns, both of Alba, 21-year-old Dustin Wayne Potter, of Quitman, and 20-year-old William Maxwell Lewis, of Yantis.

One of the game wardens who investigated the case says it's by far the most extensive poaching pattern he has seen in his career.

"It was a major undertaking. We spent a lot of time during the investigation, and we ended up winners in the end," says Game Warden Derek Spitzer.

Texas Parks and Wildlife says the investigation began when the Wood County Sheriff's Office responded to an oil spill and found a poached deer hanging on a pump jack.

Spitzer says he and a team spent nearly 300 hours uncovering the poachers' work. The department says in most cases, the back straps of the animals were removed and most of the deer meat was wasted.

"These guys would hunt deer at night with the aid of artificial light from a public road. In addition to that, they also hunted without land owner's consent," says Spitzer.

All four men are now suffering the consequences; between the four who were charged and convicted, they racked up a total of:

  • $41,000 in fines and fees
  • 3,000 hours of community service
  • 12 years of jail time or probation 

Spitzer says poachers have different motives and most do it for the thrill.

We requested an interview with John Burns, the eldest of the men arrested, to see why these men did what they did. The jail says he declined our request.

"Poaching is very serious. These are our resources. They belong to the state of Texas. People who do it legally are doing the right thing. We want to make sure that our penalties are stiff, that people who go out and poach, they're going to suffer the consequences in the end when they get caught," says Spitzer.

Texas Parks and Wildlife says 6 firearms were seized during the investigation and all 4 men have lost their hunting privileges in Texas for the next five years.

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