When a Lincoln County landowner noticed an unfamiliar car partly hidden in a wooded fence line of his hayfield last November, he suspected someone was hunting without permission and called his local Game Warden. But the routine call took a complicated turn shortly after Game Warden Gary Emmons arrived on the scene.
“We respond to a lot of calls throughout the year, and while most involve hunting or fishing violations, we never really know what we’ll encounter in the field,” Emmons said.
Oklahoma State Game Warden Gary Emmons recently responded to a call that proved Game Wardens face the unknown.
In this case, the call turned into a dangerous evening filled with stolen vehicles, drugs, and loaded weapons.
“I found the reported car at dusk and had been waiting to see if anyone would return when I heard a single rifle shot about a half mile from my location. Suspecting the vehicle and gunshot were related, I called the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office to advise them of the situation and found that the vehicle had been reported as stolen.”
More than an hour later, a pickup drove into the nearby hayfield coming from a wooded area in the same direction as the earlier gunshot. The driver spun a doughnut in the field, and the vehicle inadvertently stopped with its headlights shining almost directly where Emmons waited in the fence line.
After approaching the pickup and announcing himself to the four individuals inside, Emmons had the driver step from the vehicle. As the driver stepped out, one passenger grabbed something from the floorboard and jumped out of the pickup, crouched down, and ran to the rear of the pickup where he knelt by the passenger side rear tire. Emmons heard him fumbling with something that sounded metallic. Another passenger in the rear seat leaned over and grabbed something, but Emmons was unable to see his hands. Unbeknownst to Emmons, the male near the rear tire was trying to load a 9mm carbine but he luckily broke off the charging handle. The rear-seat passenger had been manipulating an AR-15 rifle. After a few tense minutes, one passenger fled on foot while another jumped into the driver’s seat and drove the truck at high speed through the dark hayfield.
Emmons was able to secure the person originally driving the truck, while another Game Warden based in a nearby county arrived and apprehended the passenger who fled on foot.
The remaining two individuals were found that night by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. The rear-seat male was found unresponsive from an apparent overdose. The male had camouflaged himself with grass and appeared to have set up an ambush for the trackers. Deputies were able to revive him with naloxone. Multiple loaded guns and enough drugs for drug trafficking charges were found on the suspects along with another stolen vehicle. The pickup the suspects had been driving was also reported as stolen.
“This case is a prime example of why officer safety is such a high training priority for Game Wardens. I was there at the request of the landowner to look into a potential case of hunting without permission and got involved in something completely unrelated. It was a very intense night and could have ended badly.”
While the case was not connected to a hunting or wildlife violation, Emmons was able to make an arrest because every Game Warden is a fully certified Oklahoma law enforcement officer.
“Our agency is funded primarily through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses along with grant revenue generated by the sale of hunting and fishing equipment. Because of that, a Game Warden’s primary focus is enforcing our state’s fish and wildlife laws. But we have to be prepared for anything in this job.”
Aspects of this case are still being processed through the court system. Emmons has since been promoted to Law Enforcement District 5 Captain. A list of current Game Wardens, their county assignments, and contact information can be found at wildlifedepartment.com or in the most recent Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Regulations Guide.