Texting to catch poachers — Hunters can now message in their tips

IMG 7284Technology is constantly advancing for hunters.

From straighter shooting bows, to the next great camo pattern, there is always something different to try.

Not to be left behind, Operation Game Thief has introduced a new way for hunters to report poachers or suspicious activity — by texting in tips.

“It’s anonymous, and probably more anonymous than a phone call,” said OGT Coordinator Lt. Lewis Rather. “It keeps a person from having to verbally say anything or be overheard.”

The new system could also be beneficial for hunters with spotty cellphone reception on their leases.

“Regular phones have texting capabilities even more than you can do with a call,” he said. “Some of these areas can’t get a call out with the cellphone, but you can take that phone and text the tip in.”

Rather said implementing the new system just made sense for OGT.

“Texting is nothing new; people are doing it every day,” he said. “What it does is just give the public or caller another avenue to report in information for violations and possible arrests. A couple of people asked if you can text a picture in, and we’re working to see if we can add that.”

To successfully contact a dispatcher, users have to follow the steps carefully.

“Just go to your texting capabilities, and in the “To” box type 847411, which is just a number that goes to the Text 411 program,” Rather said. “Then, under that where you put what you want to say, type TPWD then a space and continue with your message or complaint. It immediately goes to our dispatcher 24/7, and comes up on their computer screen.”

Jack County Game Warden Gary Hobbs said the new avenue of reporting to OGT is a natural transition.

“Everybody in the world carries a cellphone, and it has changed our world from the way we used to work,” Hobbs said. “It used to be call and leave a message at the sheriff’s office, and now you get through to us quicker than you ever have through texting or using a cellphone. Guys are sitting out in deer stands, seeing roadways, and sometimes you can get a text out when you can’t make a phone call.”

Hobbs said he’d like to see the ability to send in pictures as an added feature to the program, and doesn’t think it would take away the ability for the user to conceal their identity.

“I could see a violator being out there and a guy in the crowd snapping a shot or shooting a video,” he said. “You can still remain anonymous. I just want the information.”

But is exchanging text messages, instead of calling, effective in quickly communicating with agents?

Lone Star Outdoor News sent a text message to OGT as a test of the new system. An automated reply conferring receipt of the message was immediately received. Then, a dispatcher responded within 60 seconds of the original test message.

Rather said OGT is under a two-year contract to test the new system, and will decide if the texting will be a permanent fixture of the program at that time.