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Deer Are Disappearing from a Texas Town

A Texas town may be witness to poaching, as friendly deer are disappearing with similar fates.

As some of you have probably noticed, I tend to come down pretty hard on errant human behavior, especially when it is a threat to the environment and wildlife.

I wanted to write about something encouraging, something positive for my next story. That was until I read about the following in the April 11 issue of Lone Star News:

Port Mansfield, Texas resident Norman Lavelle befriended a buck he called “Christmas” over four years ago. When Mr. Lavelle first saw the deer he had a string of Christmas lights tangled around his rack.

“I grabbed a bucket of corn and spread it around the table where I was sitting. After about 30 minutes, he walked up and started to eat and allowed me to cut all of the Christmas lights off of him,” Lavelle said.

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The buck, along with other semi-tame deer in the area, could even be hand fed. Christmas would allow Norman to scratch his ears on occasion, and could be seen chasing does in his front yard.

That was until last week, when Christmas was found shot dead in a nearby field.

Killed at night sometime between the hours of 1:00 and 4:00 AM, his body was left alongside the road.

According to Mr. Lavelle, two other deer named Little Abel and Big Abel, both of which sported 160-class antlers, have disappeared as well.

Mr. Howard Steussy, a Port Mansfield resident, gave us some more insight to the situation.

“We actually started having trouble a couple of years back,” Steussy said. “A person from outside of the area, I had heard maybe Austin or Buda, came down here and killed a 12-pointer named Pretty Boy one night. Fortunately, the game warden was on patrol at the time, heard the shot and was able to apprehend the poacher.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the story.

“This year we have had several deer disappear,” Steussy continued. “Big Abel and Little Abel, both mature bucks, have vanished without a trace. We are sure that they have met a similar fate.”

When asked about Christmas, Steussy revealed a pattern.

“One of the strange things about Christmas and some other deer we have found dead in the area is the way they were killed. It seems to be some kind of piercing instrument. It doesn’t leave any evidence behind. Possibly a bolt from a crossbow or an arrow of some kind. It appears to be the same person or persons doing this,” said Steussy.

“Well, naturally we want to see whoever is responsible for these crimes caught and prosecuted.”

Like most outdoorsmen, Steussy hopes to see an end to what’s happening.

“Well, naturally we want to see whoever is responsible for these crimes caught and prosecuted,” he said. “You have to understand that these deer down here, besides being mature, beautiful animals, are also pets of a sort. Most folks in town know these deer by name. They are fed and cared for by our residents like Norman Lavelle.”

I had to ask: What have the authorities done?

“Of course there is an investigation in progress,” responded Steussy. “The game wardens have a tough job and I respect them for what they do. Several citizens in the area have pledged reward money, as has the Operation Game Thief program run by the state. Last I heard I think it’s up around $3,500 dollars, maybe more. You have to understand, I don’t begrudge a guy taking a deer for the meat, but this is just wasteful. You can walk right up to these animals; where’s the sport in that?”

I thanked Mr. Steussy for his time and with a promise to check back hung up the phone.

Sport? Fair chase? None found here.

Now, I don’t know about you, but this kind of thing absolutely tears my dress. The person or persons responsible for this heinous act are NOT hunters, are NOT sportsman and in my opinion are “less than” and lacking in innumerable ways that I can’t say here.

If caught, they should never be allowed to hunt or fish again. This is nothing but a thrill kill, which to me is a most despicable act, and shows no respect for the value of life.

In the Lone Star News piece, Mr. Lavelle said “Everyone who does something underhanded like this-they brag about it.” Herein lies the Achilles heel.

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So this is my call to action: real sportsmen should take a good look at the pictures shown on this page. Save them to your phone and spread them around. Put your ears to the ground. Watch the message boards, Facebook and Twitter feeds. Let’s use social media for the good.

Have a good look around next time you head into a taxidermy shop. Hopefully we can find these people and see that they are turned into the proper authorities.

If by chance you come across some information, do not take the law into your own hands. Residents of Port Mansfield have posted a reward for information leading to an arrest. Operation Game Thief (OGT) has posted a reward as well.

If anyone has information, they can call (800) 792-GAME or Willacy County Game Warden Oscar Casteneda at (952) 245-9964.

That’s all I have for now. The next time you hear from me expect something upbeat and positive unless of course something else like this comes up. If and when it does, you can definitely count on another trip to the woodshed…

Shoot straight and keep it out of the barbed wire,



Images courtesy Howard Steussy

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Deer Are Disappearing from a Texas Town