By Jillian Beck
A Texas game warden is investigating alleged poaching, after a hunting ranch owner reported one of his deer was shot and killed from a roadway in south Bastrop County.
A Bastrop County Sheriff’s deputy responded to Rodina Ranč near Robins Cemetery Road and Cistern Road in Flatonia on March 5, where La Grange resident Russell David Vinklarek reported that he had found his 2-year-old red deer stag dead, according to a sheriff’s deputy report.
Vinklarek told the deputy that he believes the deer was shot on his property from the roadway, after he found it dead about 50 yards from the ranch’s enclosed fence. The deer was not dead when he was last at his property on March 3, Vinklarek told the deputy.
The deputy saw the deer’s eyes were gone and found a large whole in its stomach, possibly from a vulture, according to his report. He could not locate any entry or exit gunshot wounds on the deer, the report said.
The sheriff’s office referred the case to the Texas Game Wardens, the law enforcement division of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
“A lot of times with road hunting and poaching, people are just out to shoot whatever they can see or purposefully looking for bucks with large antlers and they’ll at least cut the head off and take it with them like a trophy and have it mounted,” said Drew Alexander, a game warden stationed in Bastrop County. “Here they just shot it and left.”
A red deer is one of the largest deer species and the animals — especially the larger male stags — are sought after by hunters. Vinklarek told the deputy the red deer is worth $5,000 and he planned to press charges.
Road hunting and poaching usually ramp up during the winter months because that’s when white-tailed deer bucks have antlers, said Alexander, who has worked as a game warden in the area for several years.
Hunting from public roadways is illegal, Alexander said, and can result in a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in prison and a $4,000 fine. If someone trespasses onto private property to retrieve the animal or part of it, that’s a state jail felony, he said.
Vinklarek is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for his deer’s death, Alexander said. He is also offering a $10,000 reward for a “civil conviction.” A photo is circulating on Facebook advertising the rewards.
Rodina Ranč in Flatonia describes itself on its Facebook page as an “exotic hunting destination.” For a span of a few days, the ranch was also offering to draw a $500 winner for every 100 shares on Facebook.
“At this point we’ve reached over 14K folks. Had offers of help from a 6 state area & overwhelming response from the surrounding 4 county area. In a community of this size, that seems to be more than sufficient communication. Somebody knows somebody at this point, so help us help you be $20K richer,” the ranch posted on its page.
“This place was built from family, by family, for family & it’s unfortunate some folks choose to attempt to undermine that fact.”
Anyone with information can contact Alexander at 512-718-0886.