November 27 – December 17, 2019
To increase awareness of Conservation Police Officers (CPO’s-previously called game wardens) activities, the “Virginia Conservation Police Notebook” provides an overview of activities encountered by our officers who protect natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation in the fields, woods and waters of Virginia. These reports are prepared from the officer’s field notes by Kim McCarthy, Executive Assistant to Major Scott Naff [Operations] and Major Bryan Young [Administration] of the Law Enforcement Division of DGIF. These CPO reports show the value of concerned citizens, landowners and true sportsmen in providing tips to law enforcement officers on suspected violations by lawbreakers who give other outdoor enthusiasts an undeserved bad reputation.
Region I – Tidewater
Man Found in Violation of Protective Order – On Friday, November 29, 2019, CPO Joe Rollings was on patrol of the Spring Grove area of Surry County. While checking members of a local hunt club, Officer Rollings was able to determine that one of the hunters was in violation of terms of an active protective order preventing him from possessing a firearm. The armed hunter was arrested without incident. The subject was held without bond at Riverside Regional Jail due to his criminal history and other charges that were currently pending. State and federal law prevents someone from possessing a firearm while such a protective order is active. A violation of a protective order such as this is a Class 6 Felony.
Suspended Driver Nabbed Spotlighting on the Northern Neck – On November 30, 2019, Senior CPO Bumgarner was on patrol in Lancaster County in an area historically known for wildlife violations. While observing a field in a remote area of the county, Bumgarner observed a large SUV traveling in his direction at a slow rate of speed. As the operator of the vehicle drove along the field edge, which adjoined a state maintained road, Bumgarner observed the vehicle turn its head lights from low to high beam multiple times. When the vehicle neared the end of the field Bumgarner observed the driver of the vehicle slow down and cast a light into the field along the wood line. Upon stopping the vehicle Bumgarner observed a flashlight in the front cup holder of the vehicle, as well as a muzzleloading firearm. When asked what he was doing on this day the operator stated he was attempting to look for deer in the field with his new flashlight before he and his son went hunting. A check of the operator’s driver’s license returned it had been suspended. Appropriate charges were placed.
Hound Hunter Caught Spotlighting in Northumberland County – On November 29, 2019, Senior CPO Bumgarner was on patrol in Northumberland County observing a location where spotlighting activity had been reported. While observing a cut soybean field, Bumgarner observed a subject pull into the field and then sweep its headlights across the field. The vehicle then turned around and went in the direction it originally came from. A stop of the vehicle was conducted and Bumgarner observed a shotgun and ammunition on the front seat next to the suspect. The hunter also had several hunting dogs in a dog box in the bed of the truck. Upon interviewing the driver it was determined he cast his headlights upon an area frequented by deer in an attempt to locate a nice buck to turn his dogs out on. Appropriate charges were placed.
CPO’s Utilize Decoy Deer to Catch Violator – On November 28, 2019, CPOs Gilmore and Rollings were running a special operation in Isle of Wight County targeting spotlighting activity. While utilizing the decoy deer, the officers had a small car approach and position the vehicle at a 45 degree angle with the headlights illuminating the decoy deer. After approximately a minute, the vehicle pulled off and a traffic stop was initiated. The driver was found to be in possession of a loaded 12 gauge shotgun. The appropriate charges were placed.
CPO’s on Eastern Shore Seize Deer Illegally Imported into Virginia from Maryland – On Saturday, November 30, 2019, which was the opening day of the Maryland general firearms season for deer, Conservation Police Officers on the Eastern Shore conducted a saturation patrol focusing on the importation of deer across the state line from Maryland. During this saturation patrol, officers covered the two main roadways into Virginia from Maryland. At approximately 6:45 pm, officers observed a Maryland vehicle cross into Virginia with two deer strapped to an ATV that was being towed on a trailer. The vehicle was stopped and the officers determined the deer were killed in Maryland and were being transported into Virginia for processing. The successful Maryland hunters were unaware of the new law prohibiting transporting of whole deer into the Commonwealth. Officers seized the deer and issued one summons for the violation.
Accomack County Pond Baited – On the evening of Wednesday, November 27, 2019, CPO Brian Bratton received information about a pond being baited for ducks in Accomack County. CPO Bratton thought this was unusual because he had caught a group hunting this same pond over bait less than 2 weeks ago on opening day. However, last time the pond was baited with milo, and this time it was baited with corn. CPO Bratton knew that a group of hunters were planning to hunt this pond the next morning on Thanksgiving Day. So that night CPO Bratton and Sgt. Steve Garvis went to the pond and located the bait. It was placed directly in front of where CPO Bratton knew the hunters hunted. So the next morning (Thanksgiving Day) CPO Bratton and Sgt. Garvis went to the pond and made contact with the hunters. There were 4 hunters and they were standing on the edge of the pond directly in front of where the bait was placed. The hunters had shot 4 wood ducks and 2 teal that morning. CPO Bratton explained to the hunters why they were there and collected their information. Charges are pending in U.S. District court of Norfolk for placement of bait and hunting over bait.
Hunters Facing Charges in U.S. District Court – On Sunday, November 24, 2019, CPO Brian Bratton, along with US Fish & Wildlife Officer Darin Dick, located a pond in Accomack County that was baited for ducks. The officers began monitoring the pond for activity. On the morning of Wednesday, November 27, at approximately 06:00 am, the officers were observing the pond from a concealed location when they saw 3 subjects walk into the woods, place duck decoys on the pond, and then walk to a blind built on the pond. Over the next 20 minutes the officers observed a large number of wood ducks flying into the pond and landing. It became apparent that the hunters were waiting till all the birds got into a pile so they could shoot them all at once. Shortly after 06:30 the hunters fired 12 shots into the group of birds on the water. The hunters came out of the blind shortly after this and began walking out of the woods towards their vehicle. CPO Bratton had already called Sergeant Steve Garvis and had him waiting at their vehicle. When the subjects exited the woods and saw Sgt. Garvis’s vehicle, they turned back into the woods and began running. Unfortunately for them, they ran directly towards CPO Bratton and USFW Officer Dick. The two officers stopped and apprehended all 3 of the hunters. The officers recovered 9 wood ducks that the hunters had shot. A brief field interview determined that two of the hunters had baited the pond the week prior and that the other hunter knew the pond was baited. All of the hunters are facing charges in U.S. District court in Norfolk for placement of bait, hunting over bait, and multiple license issues.
The Excitement of the Buck Leads to Charges – On November 23, 2019, CPO Nevel received a call from a local hunter who stated that he had observed another hunter shooting at a deer in the road recklessly. Officer Nevel and Senior Officer Bumgarner responded to the scene and met with the complainant. The officers were shown where the subject had shot from, where the deer was, and where the complainant was standing. They were advised that the deer had run onto property that the hunter did not have permission to hunt and died. Several subjects from the hunt club went onto the prohibited lands to retrieve the deer. During the investigation, the officers were able to determine that the subject had shot from the state road and that he also was shooting towards the complainant. Officers were able to locate the shooter and interview him. During the interview, the shooter admitted to shooting at the deer and trespassing to retrieve it. He also stated that he remembered seeing the father and daughter standing there, but said he let the excitement of the buck get to him. Appropriate charges were filed.
New Kent Spotlighting – On November 18, 2019, Virginia CPO Terry Jordan was working a spotlighting patrol in New Kent County after receiving multiple complaints. At approximately 11:15 pm, he observed a vehicle slow down and cast a light from the vehicle beyond the road into two adjoining fields he was watching. CPO Jordan conducted a vehicle stop and found two occupants in the vehicle with a shotgun. When one of the occupants was asked why he was shining a light into the field, he stated that he was looking for deer. The shotgun was located immediately next to one of the occupants. The shotgun was seized and charges were placed against both occupants for illegally spotlighting deer.
Spotlighting – On November 29, 2019, at approximately 5:20 pm, Virginia CPO Joyce was on a spotlighting patrol in the lower end of York County when he observed a vehicle approaching his location on a closed road. The vehicle turned completely sideways in the road and shined its headlights on a herd of deer in the field directly in front of CPO Joyce. The vehicle did this two more times several hundred yards down the road. CPO Joyce conducted a vehicle stop and found the vehicle occupied by an adult male and his young son. The driver of the vehicle admitted to having a firearm in the vehicle. The driver stated he was just trying to show his son the deer in the fields after having an unsuccessful hunt in the western part of the state. Appropriate charges were placed on the driver for spotlighting deer.
K9 Bailey Strikes Again! – On Wednesday, November 27, 2019 a landowner in Hanover County went outside and discovered that her horse was lying on the ground due to a gunshot wound to the horses left flank. The landowner got a backhoe and dug a hole with the intent of burying the animal the following morning. The next morning, the horse was upright and moving normally and a veterinarian was contacted to conduct an examination. In addition, the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office was contacted and they opened an investigation. On December 6th, The Sheriff’s Office reached out to Virginia Conservation Police Sergeant Valasek to see if VDGIF could provide any assistance. In the interim, the investigator with the Sheriff’s Office was able to develop a potential suspect. On Monday, December 9th, Officer Hennaman met with the investigator, and the suspect, to get a rough idea where he was standing when he fired his shotgun. During the interview the suspect told Hennaman that he fired four times at a deer. On Wednesday, December 11th, Sergeant Valasek, Officer Hennaman and K9 Officer Patrillo, with his partner Bailey, went back to investigate the scene. During the scene investigation Bailey was able to locate one shotgun shell wadding, and three spent shotgun shell casings (after three days of rain and a dusting of snow the night before, and a two week time lapse). In addition, Officer Hennaman was able to locate the fourth shell. Sergeant Valasek and Officer Hennaman were able to determine a shot path that led directly towards where the horse was located. With this additional hard evidence, there is more than enough probable cause for the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office to place the appropriate charges. It appears the horse is doing very well after this traumatic incident.
Town of Ashland Illegal Deer Harvest – On November 26, 2019 the DGIF Dispatch Center received information late in the day about a possible illegal deer harvest in the Town of Ashland. CPO Patrillo and his K-9 partner, Bailey, responded to the area and were able to locate a dead 9 point buck and develop a suspect. The following morning Officer Patrillo, Officer Hennaman, Sergeant Valasek, and K-9 Bailey returned to the scene to collect further evidence and conduct interviews. The suspect stated that the deer had been chasing his dog and he shot it several times with a .22 rifle. Tracks on the ground indicated that the suspect had used several large piles of dirt to screen his movements to stalk the deer. He then climbed to the top of one of the piles and shot the deer while it was likely bedded down. After being shot, the deer traveled approximately 200 yards where it expired on adjoining property. The suspect then trespassed on prohibited lands to retrieve the deer and field dressed it. The suspect did not have a hunting license, big game tags and had not checked the deer. Appropriate charges were placed.
Region II – Southside
Fabricated Story of Shot Hunting Dog – CPO Stephen Ritchie responded to a call in which a hunting dog was shot, in Appomattox County, near dark on the opening day of the firearms season. The suspect told Officer Ritchie that he had shot at a deer with buckshot while the dog was close behind it and must have accidently hit the dog. However, later it was discovered that the dog was not hit with buckshot but rather a small caliber rifle bullet. It was difficult to assess the scene in the dark so Officer Ritchie, along with CPO’s John Daniel and Richard Howald, followed up the next morning. They began by employing K9 Skyy and determined that there was no evidence of a shotgun being fired in the area of the incident. The suspect stuck to his story even though parts of it conflicted with what another member of his hunting party had said. With the evidence collected from the dead dog, and with the lack of evidence at the scene to verify the suspect’s story, CPO’s Ritchie and Daniel spent the rest of the day investigating the case. Later that day they were able to re-interview the other member of the hunting party who had not said much the night before. When confronted with the evidence, the suspect quickly admitted to using a .22 rifle to try to scare the dog off. He claimed that it was hanging around them and said he must have accidentally hit it as he was firing toward the ground in its direction. Appropriate charges have been placed on two individuals.
Be Sure of Your Target and Beyond – On the second Saturday of the general firearms season, while patrolling in Appomattox County, CPO Stephen Ritchie was flagged down by hunters who said someone had just been shot. Officer Ritchie followed them on foot to the location of the victim, who was hit in the leg, and then helped carry him out of the woods up rugged terrain to where he was then transported to the hospital. CPO’s John Daniel and Richard Howald, with his K9 Sky, responded along with Sgt. Sonny Nipper. The witnesses at the scene had explained that one of the hunters had shot at a deer with buckshot and hit the victim. However, as Officer Ritchie conducted his investigation, he learned that the victim was actually field dressing a deer that was shot when he was shot. The shooter explained that they had heard someone in the group shoot multiple times and had decided to walk toward that location to help with the deer; but as he was coming down a ridge, he saw a deer flopping, quickly threw his gun up, and shot it. He said the first time he saw the victim was when he stood up and said you shot me. Fortunately, the victim’s injuries were not life threatening. This incident sends a strong reminder to be certain of your target before pulling the trigger. Appropriate charges are being placed for this incident.
K9 Sky Assistance – On November 16, 2019, Senior CPO Richard Howald and his K9 partner Sky, worked with Senior Officer Michael Morris in Bedford County for the day. During a portion of their patrol, the officers located fresh vehicle tracks and proceeded up a trail to locate the vehicle. Once located, K9 Sky began to track the hunter. Sky quickly picked up the track and located a tree stand with corn spread around the ground. Sky continued the track and located a hunter a short distance away. The hunter admitted to sitting in the stand earlier in the morning and placing the bait out the week prior. Later in the day, the officers then located a vehicle and a hunter who was suspected of trespassing. The hunter did not have any blaze orange displayed and was later determined to be trespassing. Throughout the day, K9 Sky ran multiple successful tracks!
Civil Rights Only – On November 27, 2019, Senior CPO Michael Morris was on patrol in Bedford County when he came across a vehicle of a suspected convicted felon. Officer Morris observed a man wearing blaze orange walking through the edge of a field carrying what appeared to be a rifle. Officer Morris confirmed the registered owner of the vehicle was in fact a six time convicted felon and then proceeded to the hunter’s location. The hunter was now in a tree stand in the corner of an open field. As soon as he saw Officer Morris, he promptly exited the stand and started walking toward him, leaving his rifle in the stand. The hunter offered to walk back to his vehicle to retrieve his hunting license, which was approximately 500 yards away. Officer Morris confirmed the hunter’s identity and questioned him about his status as a convicted felon. The hunter confirmed that he was a felon but claimed his rights had been restored. Further investigation revealed that the hunter had received his civil rights back but not his firearms rights. A Christensen Arms 28 caliber Nosler rifle was recovered from the stand. He was arrested for the felony firearms violation and held without bail.
Closed Season Hunters – On December 1, 2019, Senior CPO Michael Morris responded to a trespassing complaint in Roanoke County. Officer Morris arrived on scene and located the suspect vehicle but no hunters were around. Officer Morris quickly located tracks leading away from the vehicle and followed them deeper into the property. He located two hunters hunting with rifles on the property line. Neither of the hunters had hunting licenses in addition to hunting with rifles during closed season. Appropriate charges were placed.
Dog Hunters Caught Releasing Dogs on Posted Property – On November 16, 2019, CPO Keith Wilson responded to a call in Halifax County, which involved an altercation between a landowner and a hunting club. The landowner had video of two individuals dumping dogs and trespassing on his property. Once on scene, Officer Wilson separated the two suspects and began questioning them. As the interview continued, other hunting club members became significantly more aggravated. Officer Wilson had to suspend the interviews to deescalate the angry club on several occasions. After completing the two interviews, both suspects confessed that they had released the dogs on the property. Officer Wilson confirmed the exact location where the dogs were released by locating dog-bedding material on the landowner’s property. Applicable charges were placed.
Backyard Baiting – On November 1, 2019, CPOs Keith Wilson and Tyler Blanks were on a hunting patrol in Halifax County. They had received information from a concerned citizen there was bait on a particular property. Both officers searched for the bait and were getting ready to suspend their search when they noticed a small extremely thick group of trees. Upon closer inspection, they found a large PVC pipe full of corn. They also noticed a game camera observing the target area. Continuing their search, they located more bait in the form of a sweet block. On November 2, Officer Wilson returned to this location to check for hunting activity. At approximately 7:30 AM, the suspect appeared, on his back porch, in full camouflage, aiming his rifle toward the bait site. Before Officer Wilson could make contact with him, he got into his truck, left and did not to return that day. A records check indicated that the suspect lived out of town. On November 16, Officer Wilson returned to the suspect house and decided to wait until he returned. The suspect finally returned and Officer Wilson made contact. The suspect admitted to putting the bait out and proper charges were placed.
Hunting While Revoked – On November 16, 2019, CPO Shane Wilson was patrolling Brunswick County when he came upon a group of hunters who were standing around outside of their trucks. When Officer Wilson made contact with one of them, several others got into their trucks and began to pull away. Officer Wilson was able to get three of the trucks to stop. He contacted the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office to assist in trying to locate the vehicles that left the area. A well-known violator to Officer Wilson occupied one of the three remaining vehicles. Officer Wilson determined that the hunter was hunting while revoked and he was not wearing blazed orange. Appropriate charges were placed.
Shooting from the Roadway onto Posted Property Complaint; Violator Nabbed – On November 27, 2019, CPO Shane Wilson received a call from a complainant explaining that someone had shot from the roadway onto posted property. This violation occurred in Brunswick County. The caller provided Officer Wilson with very detailed information. At the scene, Officer Wilson located two spent shotgun shells. Through his investigation, Officer Wilson was able to locate the truck and make contact with the driver. After noticing obvious nervousness, Officer Wilson explained to him that he had received a complaint about someone shooting from the roadway, onto posted property, and that the vehicle described matched his truck. Officer Wilson obtained permission to look in the vehicle and located a shotgun on the passenger seat He then matched the shotgun shells to the ones he had recovered at the scene. Shortly thereafter, Officer Wilson obtained a full confession. The suspect admitted to shooting from the roadway and admitted that he did not have permission to hunt the posted property where he shot. Appropriate charges were placed.
Trespassers Caught in Action – On November 29, 2019, CPO Shane Wilson was on patrol in Brunswick County when he received information about two hunters who were actively trespassing. Officer Wilson went to the area and located the individual who leases the land, standing with the two hunters who were trespassing. Both hunters had firearms. Officer Wilson determined that the property the two hunters were located on was not property to which they had permission. Officer Wilson also spoke with one of the hunters about his suspended driver’s license and he admitted to driving. Appropriate charges were placed.
Subject Charged for Hunting Under the Influence – On November 23, 2019, CPO Tyler Routon was checking an area in Franklin County where he had previously identified baited hunting stands. During the patrol, CPO Routon encountered and observed an individual hunting with a rifle from a ladder treestand. When asked for his hunting license, the subject was reluctant to come down from the stand and instead threw his license onto the ground. The subject eventually came down and CPO Routon noticed several indicators that led him to believe that the individual might be under the influence of alcohol. While checking the area for bait, CPO Routon heard something hit the leaves nearby, as if it had been thrown. CPO Routon found a half-empty bottle of Evan Williams Bourbon on the ground. When questioned, the subject admitted the bourbon was his and admitted to consuming a portion of the bottle that morning. The appropriate charge was placed.
Camera & FLIR Device Utilized to Apprehend Poacher – On October 9, 2019, CPO Webb received information regarding illegal hunting activity in Nottoway County. Despite it being archery season, the informant reported hearing gunshots on his property and found a deceased deer when he went to check. With no established suspect, CPO Webb decided to deploy a camera. On November 27, 2019, CPO Webb checked his camera and found an individual dressed in camouflage carrying a lever action rifle during closed season. Officer Webb also noted the suspect was not wearing blaze orange as required by law. Using those images, Officer Webb zeroed in on a suspect who lived nearby and decided to drive by his residence. While driving by, CPO Webb observed a deer hanging in the back yard. As he was approaching the front door, Officer Webb noticed the head of an 8-point buck lying in the yard. He then noticed a sign hanging on the front door which read “yo went to put some corn out if you stop bye you know ware the key at” [sic]. A short time later, Officer Webb observed a light behind the suspect’s residence. When he went to investigate, the light was no longer visible and he was unable to locate anyone in the area. Webb retrieved his FLIR unit and used thermal imagery to locate the suspect hiding in the woods. Officer Webb also located a 30-30 lever action rifle with a spotlight taped to it which the suspect had hidden.
Webb conducted an interview with the suspect who admitted to trespassing to hunt and hunting during the closed season stemming from the initial incident. The suspect also admitted to placing bait to hunt, hunting after dark with the aid of a spotlight, and a plethora of additional violations stemming from CPO Webb’s follow up investigation. The rifle was seized as evidence and multiple charges are pending.
CPO Recognized – On December 4, 2019, the Central Virginia Law Enforcement Association (CVLEA), presented the CVLEA Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award for 2019, to CPO Cory Harbour. Officer Harbour is currently assigned to DGIF Region 2, District 23 and is stationed in Campbell County. CPO Harbour was nominated by his supervisor, Sergeant Sonny Nipper and was selected based upon the nomination by the membership of CVLEA as its 2019 recipient. Congratulations Officer Harbour!
The Central Virginia Law Enforcement Association (CVLEA) is a professional membership organization which is comprised of law enforcement managers and supervisors from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies throughout central Virginia who meet monthly to network and share LE concerns and information.
Illegal Bear Hunter Nabbed – In October 2019, Senior CPO Brandon Harris and CPO Keith Wilson received information that a bear had been harvested during closed season in Halifax County. Working with limited information, the officers were able to locate a suspect, who was not local to the area, and arrange a meeting with him. After a lengthy interview, the suspect confessed to harvesting a bear while deer hunting in Halifax County, as an invited guest. After harvesting the bear, the subject realized that bear season was closed in Halifax County at that time, and so he abandoned the bear in the woods. This case was concluded in December 2019 with appropriate charges placed.
Hunting Dog Killed by Landowner – On November 23, 2019, Senior CPO Brandon Harris was contacted by a Halifax County hound hunter who reported that a tracking collar had been removed from one of his deerhounds. CPO Harris responded and accompanied the hunter to the edge of a pond. Using the hunter’s tracking system, they determined that the tracking collar was located in the pond. Additionally, the dog that was wearing the collar had not been located since being released the previous day. CPO Harris obtained relevant information from the hunter and identified a residence nearby where the dog was last known to be. Officer Harris traveled to the residence and spoke with a male subject who resided there.
The individual stated that several deer hounds were on his property the previous day but stated that the dogs had eventually left. Officer Harris explained that information obtained from the dog’s GPS tracking collar, combined with witness statements, indicated that something had occurred to one of the dogs while it was on the subject’s property. When confronted with this information, the subject admitted to shooting and killing one of the hounds while it was on his property. The subject provided Officer Harris with the location where the dog had been disposed and he confirmed that he had removed collars from the dog and threw them in a pond. While gathering additional information about this incident, Officer Harris located a baited treestand on the subject’s property. Officer Harris issued the subject a summons for the baiting violation.
Officer Harris returned to the pond where the collars were thrown and located the deceased dog nearby. Officer Harris recovered additional evidence from the dog then turned his attention on locating the missing collars. He utilized chest waders to walk approximately 20 feet into the pond where he observed an odd colored object on the bottom. He retrieved the object and found that it was three dog collars that had been on the hunting dog. After documenting all of the recovered items, Officer Harris returned the deceased dog and the collars to the owner. Charges related to the killing of the dog are pending.
Landowner Surprised by Officers’ Efforts – Near the close of the 2018-19 hunting season, Senior CPO Brandon Harris stopped at a game check station in Halifax County to review bear check cards. Officer Harris noticed that one individual had harvested a bear and checked the bear as a license exempt landowner. CPO Harris did not recognize the name of the individual and decided to check into the situation further. Using land parcel information, he was able to determine that the subject did own property in Halifax County. However, he observed that the property consisted almost entirely of extremely dense planted pines. With the 2018-19, hunting season almost over, Officer Harris made a note to check this property the following hunting season. On opening day of the 2019-20, firearms bear season, Senior CPO Harris and CPO Keith Wilson checked the property and located a ladder stand with fresh corn placed in a feeder nearby. A few days later, CPO Harris returned to check the property again and located the landowner hunting from a second ladder stand in a separate location from the baited area. Officer Harris made contact with the subject who was not wearing blaze orange or blaze pink. While addressing the blaze clothing violation, CPO Harris questioned the landowner about the corn and feeder. The subject stated that the officers were “really doing your job” because he “didn’t think anyone would have found that.” He acknowledged to placing the corn and adding additional corn earlier that day. Appropriate charges were placed.
Abusing Permission to Hunt – CPO Cory Harbour received a complaint about four trucks with hunters trespassing on a piece of property in Campbell County. He was familiar with the landowner, but the complainant was a tenant on the property. Upon arrival, Officer Harbour located five hunters and the one leading the group claimed they had permission. Officer Harbour contacted the landowner and determined that he allowed his tenant to treat the land as his own; however he had given the leader of that hunting party permission, but only for him with one guest for one day, and he was supposed the let the tenant know when he was hunting. The other members of the hunting party were cooperative and Officer Harbour concluded that the hunter with permission had misled them and he chose not to charge them with trespassing. Officer Harbour did not stop his investigation with the trespassing. He placed charges for seven other violations he found among the group while giving them all written warnings for trespassing.
Multiple Media Platforms Used During Investigation – In October 2019, CPO Kevin Webb initiated an investigation on an individual who he believed harvested an 8-point buck illegally. Officer Webb discovered the subject purchased his hunting license at 3:20 PM and checked the deer in at 3:45 PM. Since the license was purchased from a local Walmart, Officer Webb obtained video footage of the suspect purchasing the license; which would serve to further establish the illegal harvest. Further investigation revealed the suspect posted a picture of the deer on a popular social media platform with the caption “Got on the board yesterday morning.” The suspect was interviewed and he admitted to poaching the deer in Prince Edward County and then purchasing his license and checking the deer in after the fact. The appropriate charges have been placed.
Joint Effort Leads to the Apprehension of Serial Poacher – On November 20, 2019, the Buckingham County Sheriff’s Office received a call in reference to illegal night hunting in Buckingham County. Deputy Jason Bryant responded to the location and was able to stop the suspect who was in possession of a rifle, bullets, and a spotlight. The suspect did not admit to any illegal hunting activity but was charged with an unrelated traffic offense. Deputy Bryant, who often works closely with Virginia Conservation Police Officers (CPOs), secured the evidence and contacted CPO Justin Rogers for follow up investigation. The following day, Officer Rogers located a deceased deer in a nearby field with a bullet hole in its side and obtained statements from the witnesses, who initially placed the call to the Sheriff’s Office. Additional investigation revealed Special Agent (SA) Paul Inge had outstanding warrants on the suspect from the previous hunting season, which he had been unable to serve. After consulting with the Buckingham County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, additional warrants were obtained for the suspect. CPO Rogers and SA Inge were able to locate the suspect on December 6, 2019, and all outstanding warrants were served.
Decoy Operations Leads to Multiple Offenders – On December 7, 2019, Virginia CPOs Brett Clawson and Tyler Routon conducted a deer decoy operation in Franklin County. The operation was organized to address multiple complaints of illegal night hunting in the area. During the operation, the officers observed three separate vehicles stop in the roadway and use their headlights to illuminate the decoy. While no one attempted to shoot at the decoy, the volume of individuals willing to stop on the highway and shine lights onto someone else’s property was alarming. One particular vehicle sat stationary blocking both lanes of travel for an extended period of time. The operator stated he was “just taking a look.” Another operator stated, “I know what I did was wrong, but I had to take a look at that buck because I had not gotten one on game camera that big.” In each instance, the violations were addressed accordingly.
You Can Run but You Can’t Hide – On December 12, 2019, Conservation Police Officer (CPO) Tyler Routon was following up on a hunting over bait complaint in Franklin County. Officer Routon initiated a foot patrol and walked toward the bait site to see if anyone was hunting. As he closed in on the site, he heard what sounded like someone running away. CPO Routon continued his approach and discovered a ladder stand with a backpack haphazardly hooked on it as if someone was trying to leave in a hurry. Officer Routon sought the assistance of a K9 unit but was informed they were unavailable. Therefore, he did the next best thing and began utilizing his man tracking training. The track led to some thick undergrowth and so CPO Routon loudly identified himself and announced a K9 is on the way. Once again, Officer Routon heard footsteps in the leaves running away from him. CPO Routon was able to intercept the suspect before he could reach his truck. The suspect initially denied ownership of the backpack but he happened to be carrying a .243 rifle and .243 cartridges were inside the backpack. Eventually the suspect admitted to hunting over bait and running from CPO Routon when he saw him approaching. The appropriate charges were placed.
Patrick County Shop with a Cop – On December 14, 2019, CPOs James Hale, Bruce Young, Eric Dotterer, Dale Owens, and Sgt. Tim Dooley assisted with the annual Patrick County Shop with a Cop event. The event was coordinated by the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office and facilitated thanks to the generosity of the local Walmart. The officers had the opportunity to interact with approximately 70 children as they roamed the aisles searching for the perfect Christmas gifts. Despite the cloudy weather, the event brought a whole lot of sunshine to Patrick County. The whole experience was humbling for all involved and the officers received many positive comments and even a few hugs for their efforts.
Suspicious Circumstances Resolved – On December 14, 2019, CPO Nick Sumner received a call in reference to suspicious circumstances in Prince Edward County. A landowner reported finding several pieces of camouflage clothing, an unattended firearm, and a cell phone lying next to a pond, leading him to believe someone may have drowned. Given the uncertainty of the call, Officer Sumner contacted CPO Jim Patrillo and K9 Bailey for assistance. CPO Sumner was the first to arrive and began securing the scene. State Park Manager Dan Jordan arrived shortly thereafter and began providing support. CPO Sumner then contacted Sgt. Tim Dooley who also responded. While awaiting assistance, Officer Sumner talked with the landowner who reported hearing someone yelling for help a few nights prior. Once on scene, CPO Patrillo and K9 Bailey initiated a track. Meanwhile, Sgt. Dooley arrived and began examining the scene along with CPO Sumner and Park Manager Jordan. Based on the condition of the discarded items, it was apparent they had been abandoned for some time. The focus of the investigation quickly turned to the discarded cell phone, which was still functional. The officers viewed the call history and called the most recent number in the list, which turned out to be the owner’s mother. From her they learned the owner of the phone had experienced a mental breakdown two nights prior, which led to him being apprehended by the Prince Edward County Sheriff’s Office. Apparently, the subject traveled on foot approximately 4 miles through the woods, which explained the track K9 Bailey discovered. Mental health officials are currently evaluating the subject. His discarded items were safely returned to his mother.
Region III – Southwest
Identification from Trail Camera Picture Leads to Charges – On November 8, 2019, Senior CPO Phillips received some trail camera pictures showing a trespasser, during muzzleloader season, with blood on his hands. Officer Phillips spoke with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office about putting the man’s picture on their “No Theft Thursday” Facebook page to see if the public could help identify him. The PCSO has had a 96% success rate identifying shoplifters using this process every week and agreed to do a special Friday edition for Officer Phillips. After a record breaking 50,000 hits, an individual familiar with the area saw the post and successfully identified the man. Officer Phillips located the suspect at his address and interviewed him. It was determined that the man shot a buck and it ran onto property that he did not have permission to be on. He continued to follow the blood trail to the deer however and carried his firearm with him. The investigation revealed the hunter did not wear blaze orange, was not properly licensed, failed to validate or check the deer in properly, and illegally transported and possessed the deer. Appropriate charges were placed.
Road Hunter Charged – On November 09, 2019, CPOs Mark Shaw and Lee Wensel observed a pickup truck blocking traffic, parked in the roadway along a powerline right of way. There was a lady and a young child inside the vehicle. A male subject was seen about 40 yards from the vehicle in the powerline right of way carrying a muzzleloader. He was not wearing blaze colored clothing. The male stated a deer ran across the road in front of him. He had stopped and shot at the deer. The property was posted and he did not know who the property owner was. The road hunter was charged for the violations.
Nine Buck Killed Illegally – An anonymous complaint was received on November 10, 2019, by CPOs Gene Wirt, Mark Shaw, and Lee Wensel. The complainant advised a group of hunters had illegally killed a nine point buck with a high-powered rifle. The hunters were still on the property where the deer was killed. Still being muzzleloading season, the officers responded and found the trio in possession of the deer and high powered rifles. One of the suspects admitted to the illegal kill and was charged. His confession indicated they had seen the deer from the road and drove into the field for the kill.
Hunters Charged for Importing Elk Heads – CPOs Gene Wirt and Lee Wensel investigated information received from a Tennessee Wildlife officer. The Tennessee officer sent a social media picture of people posing with two elk heads at the rear of a truck bearing a Virginia license tag. With that information, Wirt and Wensel located the truck in Craig County. Further investigation revealed the elk had been harvested in Colorado and the elk heads had been transported back into Virginia intact. The officers recovered the heads and both hunters were charged for importing cervids into Virginia from a CWD location.
Deer Dumping – On November 11, 2019, Senior CPO Phillips received information that a man in a Toyota pickup truck had dumped a deer into the New River in the Parrott section of the county. The witness wrote the man’s license plate down and gave it to Officer Phillips. Phillips ran the license plate and went to the address with CPO Peake. Officer Phillips identified the owner and questioned him about the deer. Officer Phillips received a confession and determined that the man dumped the deer in a waterway, littered on land, failed to check the deer, failed to validate his tag, and transported the deer illegally.
Young Hunters Educated and Warned – CPO Sgt. Koloda received information from a concerned landowner in Giles County reference to several young hunters riding ATV’s through a neighborhood and shooting deer on posted property. Sgt. Koloda was able to follow up several days later and conducted a foot patrol of the area in an attempt to determine where the ATV trails led. During the patrol, Sgt. Koloda observed a juvenile hunter sitting by himself in a treestand and initiated contact. Upon his approach, the hunter asked Sgt. Koloda if that was his stand and did he want to hunt it. An additional juvenile was also located on the property. CPO Rutledge was contacted and met with the group to discuss the issues with the parents of the juveniles. The investigation was completed with an educational approach and two summonses were issued to the parents of the hunters. The juveniles were given 10 warnings for their violations.
Drugs and Hunting Don’t Mix – On Nov 21, 2019, CPO Boyette was on patrol in Carroll County when he observed a deer hanging in a tree in front of a residence. He stopped at the residence and spoke with an individual dressed in camouflage who stated that he had killed the deer that morning. After speaking with the individual, the officer determined that the deer had not been checked and issued him a summons for that offense. During the encounter the officer noticed several indications that the subject had illegal drugs within his home. The subject consented to a search of his residence and several types of illegal drugs and paraphernalia were located. Several firearms were also located inside the residence including the rifle the subject had used to kill the deer. The subject admitted to using illegal drugs that day and officers located a note saying “Gone Hunting” on the coffee table surrounded by several items of drug paraphernalia. The subject was placed under arrest and transported to a magistrate where he was charged with the appropriate felony and misdemeanor charges.
Eric Higgins Memorial Deer Hunt – On Nov 22, 2019, Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the National Wild Turkey Federation held the annual Eric Higgins Memorial Deer Hunt at Matthews State Forest. This is an event for Wheelin Sportsmen and is always a fun filled two days of hunting, good food, fellowship, and making new friends. CPOs Boyette, Akers and Harris made appearances during the hunt as time permitted and enjoyed meeting up with hunters and the volunteers that make this event possible.
Deer Processing Class Offers Valuable Skills – On Nov 17, 2019, CPO Harris, Outdoor Education Specialist Jeff Pease, Outdoor Education Volunteers and the New River Wildlife Club hosted a deer processing class. This class teaches hunters to be able to process deer that they harvest starting with care in the field, skinning and quartering their harvest and also processing the meat. Deer taken locally were used for the hands-on demonstrations and meat processed will be used in the upcoming deer canning workshop to be held in February 2020. Young and old alike gained valuable skills that they can use after the class as well as pass on to others.
Poacher Charged – On Nov 23, 2019, CPO Akers, Harris, Boyette and Sgt. Keene were conducting a decoy operation in Wythe County and caught a suspect trespassing on the property. Officer Akers was positioned on the decoy and observed a van approach the area and pull to the side of the road. A male subject then came out of the woods quickly dragging a deer. He loaded the deer in the back of the van and they began to drive out of the area. Officer Boyette stopped the van and identified the individuals who did not have permission to hunt on the property. Multiple charges were placed on the poacher.
Two Surprised Hunters – On Nov 25, 2019, Officer Boyette investigated information about individuals hunting over bait in Carroll County. Very shortly after he began this surveillance, he heard a rifle shot come from the property. A male subject then exited an outbuilding that was being used as a blind and was soon joined by a second subject, neither of which were wearing blaze colored clothing. They drove into the adjacent field and began searching for a wounded deer. Officer Boyette moved positions and approached the suspect’s truck on foot. When he reached the truck he found two surprised hunters parked in the middle of a pile of corn with a freshly killed buck loaded in the bed of the truck. One of the men admitted to killing the buck over bait and stated that he had not notched his tag before moving the buck. The other hunter admitted to maintaining three bait sites on the property which he had also hunted over. The appropriate charges were placed on both hunters.
Wildlife Checkpoint Charges Still Pending – On Nov 28, 2019, CPOs Akers, Boyette, and Harris conducted a wildlife checkpoint in the Dugspur area of Carroll County. Shortly into the checkpoint, a truck entered with blood in the bed and on the license plate. There was a rifle lying in the front seat of the vehicle and the driver initially stated that he had not killed any deer. Following some questions, the man admitted he had killed an eight point buck that he had not checked in. He stated the rack and meat were at his house and he agreed to show officers where they were. The officers terminated the checkpoint and went to the suspect’s residence. Officer Boyette inspected the eight point buck in question and also found another buck head. Officer Akers and Sgt. Keene traveled to another suspect’s residence that was connected to the first and received an admission that he had been with the other individual when he shot the eight point buck from a vehicle and the road. While on scene, the officers also discovered another deer head without proper information. All three deer heads were seized and multiple charges are pending after the conclusion of this investigation.
Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont
Poachers Return to Retrieve Deer – On Nov. 25, 2019, at approximately 5:30 pm CPO Sergeant Owen Bullard received a call from Rappahannock County about a road hunting incident. The caller stated that a double cab blue truck stopped in the roadway in front of her house and fired one shot from the vehicle. Sergeant Bullard enlisted the help of a Rappahannock deputy and asked if he would go to the location and see if a deer was lying in the field. The deputy responded and advised Sergeant Bullard that an 8 point buck was in the field. Sergeant Bullard asked the deputy to covertly watch the location until his arrival. Sergeant Bullard arrived and the deputy and the sergeant set up surveillance of the area. At approximately 7:40 pm a vehicle matching the description given came down the road slowly and stopped in the roadway right at the location where the deer was located. Sergeant Bullard and the deputy entered the roadway and initiated a traffic stop of the vehicle. Upon contact with the driver, Sergeant Bullard noticed an immediate odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle. In the vehicle were the driver, the driver’s adult nephew, and the driver’s 13 year old son. Initially, the driver would only admit to the marijuana. After some simple questioning by Sergeant Bullard the driver admitted to possessing marijuana, shooting the deer from the roadway, and returning to retrieve the deer. The driver stated that the other persons in the vehicle knew nothing about how the deer was killed as they were not with him when he shot the deer. The driver only told them he needed help retrieving the deer. Some marijuana and a Ruger 6.5 Creedmore were seized. A number of charges were filed against the driver. The deer was awarded to the appreciative manager of the farm which was well posted with no trespassing signs.
Spotlighting Call Leads to Multiple Violations – On Nov. 25, 2019, at approximately 11:30 pm DGIF Dispatch was notified of shots fired too close to a residence. Initially, the Culpeper Sheriff’s Office responded as no CPOs were on duty. Nothing was located that night by the deputy who responded. On the morning of Nov. 26, 2019, Sergeant Owen Bullard met with the landowner and with the assistance of the landowner Sergeant Bullard located two freshly fired shotgun shells, some blood, and drag marks where an animal was taken from the woods. Sergeant Bullard followed the drag marks to a field where the marks disappeared. Sergeant Bullard knocked on several doors finding no one home. On Nov. 29, 2019, Sergeant Bullard returned to the area finding several hunters on the property in question. After interviewing the hunters it was apparent that the hunters had nothing to do with the event earlier in the week. One of the hunters, however, brought another set of fresh drag marks to the attention of Sergeant Bullard. Sergeant Bullard followed the fresh set of marks which lead him to an adjoining property with a baited treestand. Under the stand was a feeder with corn, a mineral block, and trophy block. There was corn scattered about the ground. Sergeant Bullard could see a deer hanging from the deck of the house associated with the treestand. Sergeant Bullard enlisted the assistance of Officer Guizar who responded. Sergeant Bullard made contact with a person at the residence who stated he did not hunt. The person told Sergeant Bullard that all the animals observed which included the hanging deer, two deer hides, and a bear hide were killed by his brother-in-law. Sergeant Bullard asked if the person would have his brother-in-law return to the house so he could speak with him. The person at the house made contact with the hunter involved and the hunter agreed to return home. Officer Guizar and Sergeant Bullard made contact with the hunter when he arrived home and received confessions for killing deer over bait, killing deer illegally, killing bear illegally, failing to tag or check deer, trespassing on the neighboring property, and being the person who fired the shots late at night on Nov. 25, 2019 in order to dispatch the bear which the hunter claimed he wounded earlier in the evening. Magistrate summonses are being obtained for numerous violations.
Investigation Involving Reckless Handling of a Firearm – On Nov. 30, 2019 CPO Hyman responded to the 4000 block of Harry Byrd Highway in Clarke County, VA reference a hunter shooting in the direction of a dwelling. Upon arrival CPO Hyman made contact with a hunter who had taken two does on the property next to the dwelling in the direction in which he had shot his Savage 270 WIN bolt action rifle. After the investigation, CPO Hyman determined that the hunter shot both deer from inside his vehicle and in the direction of the occupied dwelling. The hunter was less than 200 yards from the dwelling when he took both shots and the house was in the line of sight from his position in the vehicle. The hunter provided a written statement describing the incident and charges will be placed for shooting from a vehicle and reckless handling of a firearm.
Reckless Handling of a Firearm While Hunting – On November 29, 2019, Master CPO Mark Diluigi responded to a reckless handling of a firearm while hunting complaint in Loudoun County. The area was well known by Diluigi as he received numerous complaints over the last two seasons. The area was a field that was bordered by numerous homes. Diluigi discussed with the hunters last season on the dangers of discharging high powered rifles in the area, but no violations of law were ever detected. On this morning one of the hunters shot a deer with a high powered rifle. Diluigi was able to determine the shooter and the direction of the shot, which was made from the ground on flat terrain towards numerous homes. The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office flew the scene. Diluigi presented the facts of the case to the Commonwealth’s Attorney and on December 3, 2019 a reckless handling of a firearm charge while hunting was obtained and served.
Rappahannock County Shop With a Cop – On Dec. 7, 2019, CPOs Bostic and Medina participated in the Rappahannock County Shop With a Cop program. Officers Bostic and Medina were given a group of kids that speak Spanish due to Officer Medina’s skills. Sergeant Bullard participated in the Culpeper Police Department Shop With a Cop. Sergeant Bullard assisted a family with 11 children in shopping for Christmas presents for the children and other family members. Both localities provided breakfast for the kids, families, volunteers, and officers. Santa made an appearance at each location and a good time was had by all.
Wildlife Checkpoint to Detect Illegal Deer Importation – On December 7, 2019, Master CPO Ray Solomon and Officer Eric Plaster conducted a wildlife checkpoint on a remote road at the Loudoun and Clarke County border. The checkpoint was focused to detect illegal importation of deer from West Virginia. Over 35 vehicles passed through the checkpoint and no violations were detected.
LOST – On Monday night and into the early morning hours of Tuesday, December 3, CPO’s from District 41 conducted a search and rescue mission to locate a lost bear hunter from West Virginia. The bear hunter became disoriented after it became dark and started to snow and told his fellow hunters he didn’t know how to get back to them. CPO Heine first received the call from VDGIF dispatch around 9 p.m. that a 911 call came in reference this incident, but the caller didn’t know what county the lost person was in, just that it was near Paddy Mountain. Eventually CPO Heine was able to speak to another bear hunter who had the GPS coordinates of the hunting dog that was with the lost hunter. After converting these coordinates to a useable format and plotting this last know position on the map, it was determined that there were no USFS roads close to the lost hunter. The hunter’s position was just below the ridge that separates West Virginia from Virginia and a mile or so into Shenandoah County. The closest position to start the search was at the end of a USFS road, which after opening a locked gate, was still 2.5 miles straight up the mountain to the hunter. Officers from the Shenandoah Co Sheriff’s Office and Frederick Co Sheriff’s Office assisted. As the snow began to fly and the wind blew, CPO’s Owen Heine, Dan Hyman and Derrick Kekic joined four Frederick Co SAR deputies and a bear hunter friend of the missing and began the up-hill hike. Using the bear hunter’s two-way radio and GPS dog tracking unit, CPO’s closed the gap and located the missing hunter around 1 a.m. The terrain was steep, rocky and slick. The best access to the missing hunter’s position was walking up a small mountain stream that penetrated steep rocky cliffs. This made walking difficult and treacherous. CPO’s walked the missing hunter and his dog back to the rest of his group without any injuries and finally made it out of the mountains around 2:30 a.m.
The “Coyote” Hunter – On Saturday December 7, 2019 while driving on Cavalier Road after dark, CPO Owen Heine encountered a hunter on foot who was walking towards him wearing camo clothing, a headlamp, carrying a rifle. A 5-year old boy was on the hunter’s shoulders and was wearing a blaze orange hat and had his own rifle. CPO Heine stopped to check them and the man said he was coyote hunting. The boy, however, corrected his dad and said that his dad had “shot a deer and got a bad shot.” The man then said that he had shot a doe earlier that morning with a bow but lost it after tracking it a while and went home to eat. He said he came back later with his son and brought the rifles in case they saw the wounded deer. He then said that he jumped the doe and shot it with this rifle to finish it. CPO Heine observed dried blood all over his hands when the hunter provided his hunting licenses, which all had expired last year. CPO Heine gave the hunter and his son a ride back to his vehicle and then followed them to the location of the deer. CPO Heine pulled the man aside and questioned him again by himself at which time he admitted that he never hunted that morning with a bow and just shot the doe this evening when it was on the run. He got a bad shot off with his rifle and then had to track it a long ways before being able to shoot it again to finish it. CPO Heine had encountered them on the road after they had field dressed the deer and were walking back to get their vehicle to load the deer. CPO Heine charged the hunter with killing deer during the closed season (rifle during archery), hunting without a license and hunting deer without a deer license. The hunter’s son left with a brand new 2020 VDGIF calendar and a good learning experience.
Seizure of Live Deer – On December 6, 2019, District 47 officers with the assistance of DGIF Wildlife biologists conducted a seizure of a live deer in the basement of a townhouse style home in Sterling, Loudoun County. The 6 month old male deer was taken as a fawn several months earlier. The case was handled appropriately and the deer was removed without incident.
Monticello Entangled Buck – On December 14, 2019, CPO Adam Roberts and Sgt. Steve Ferguson responded to the grounds of Monticello in Charlottesville for a buck with its antlers entangled in about 30 feet of nylon landscape fencing. The officers were then able to cut the tangled mess off the buck’s head and antlers and release it.