A popular West-Texas guide service owner is seeing his reputation tarnished after pleading guilty to wildlife charges stemming from an undercover investigation.
Mark Dean Meissenburg, owner of well-known guide service Panhandle’s Best Inc., of Amarillo, was sentenced this month by U.S. Magistrate Judge Clinton E. Averitte to one year probation for allowing hunters to take sandhill cranes in excess of the daily bag limit.
Averitte also ordered that Meissenburg pay a $900 fine and restitution of $2,590.
Specifically, Meissenburg pleaded guilty to one count of having custody of migratory birds without proper tagging. According to the plea documents filed in the case, he admitted that on Jan. 24, 2012, he unlawfully had custody of a sandhill crane, a migratory bird, belonging to another person without proper tagging requirements.
As part of an undercover operation, on January 22, 2012, three special agents with U.S. Fish and Wildlife met Meissenburg in a motel parking lot in Littlefield, Texas. The group, guided by Meissenburg, traveled to harvested corn fields in Castro County for the morning hunt. The three undercover agents quickly filled their daily bag limit of three sandhill cranes each, and then Meissenburg told them to fill his daily bag limit of an additional three sandhill cranes. When a total of 12 had been harvested, Meissenburg stated the hunt was over. While cleaning the birds, Meissenburg instructed the agents to complete the Texas Wildlife Resource Documents for the birds they had harvested. Each agent accurately completed a form stating he had killed three sandhill cranes. Meissenburg falsely completed a TWRD.
The agents also went out with Meissenburg on hunts the following two days, and similar events ensued. On January 24, 2012, the last day of the hunt, Meissenburg told the agents to leave all harvested cranes in their motel rooms or vehicles to ensure that if they were stopped by a game warden, that they were not over their possession limits of six cranes each. Meissenburg also told the agents if they were stopped by a game warden, to let Meissenburg do all the talking and to tell the game warden this was the first day of their hunt.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Texas Game Wardens. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christy Drake was in charge of the prosecution.