A Hidalgo County grand jury has indicted two men on accusations they illegally led hunts on property owned by the city of Edinburg in 2019.
Marco Aurelio Espinoza, a 64-year-old McAllen resident, faces a single count of taking certain wildlife resources without consent and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday morning.
His co-defendant, 65-year-old Alton resident Rene Guerra, faces the same charge and is scheduled to be arraigned in early October.
The men were indicted in late August.
The investigation began on the first day of general white-tail deer hunting season Nov. 3, 2018, and resulted in Espinoza and Guerra’s arrests on charges of criminal trespass and two counts of taking certain wildlife resources without consent.
A game warden visited a property located south of the South Texas International Airport, which is owned by the city of Edinburg, looking for indications of poaching, which he said he had observed toward the end of the previous deer hunting season, according to a probable cause affidavit.
When the game warden arrived at the property Dec. 21, 2018, he saw fresh signs of hunting activity, including mowed pathways and feeders placed on the property, according to the affidavit.
Over the next several days, two game wardens began conducting surveillance and identified two trucks in the area carrying people who spread corn along the mowed pathways.
“We then heard one or more individuals setting up in a nearby blind,” the affidavit stated.
As the investigation developed, the game wardens were able to link one of the trucks to Espinoza and met with officials at the airport and with the city of Edinburg who confirmed no one had consent to hunt on the property, according to the charging document.
Then, on Jan. 1, 2019, the game wardens heard a shot and saw Espinoza’s truck enter the airport property, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife.
The game wardens broke cover and approached the two hunters and saw that a female white-tailed deer had been placed in the back of Espinoza’s truck, the affidavit said.
“Greeting the hunters as though it was a routine encounter, I asked the hunter to identify himself,” the affidavit stated.
As this was happening, the game warden said Espinoza approached the tailgate and looked at the deer.
Espinoza went on to tell the warden that the hunter was a guest from Beaumont and the wardens asked him to produce his hunting and driver’s license.
They also asked the hunter how far the shot was, to which he said about 150 yards.
During the conversation, the game warden said it became apparent to him that the hunter had no idea he was encroaching on someone’s property or hunting without landowner consent.
A couple months later, on March 30, 2019, the game wardens interviewed Guerra, who they said admitted to killing two male white-tailed deer, trapping and hunting hogs, putting out corn as bait and mowing pathways on the city of Edinburg’s property at Espinoza’s direction, according to the affidavit.
Guerra told game wardens that Espinoza told him that a government entity owned the property and that he had been hunting on it for a long time, according to the affidavit, which noted that after the Jan. 1, 2019, confrontation with the wardens, Espinoza told Guerra not to shoot there anymore because he was concerned game wardens knew their activities.
“Also on March 30, 2019 (the game wardens) interviewed Marco Espinoza. Espinoza admitted to trapping and hunting hogs, putting out corn as bait, and creating the mowed senderos — all on City of Edinburg property and without the owner’s consent,” the affidavit stated.
Both men have been free on bond since their arrests.