December 5 – 18, 2018
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
Multiple Violations – On November 28, 2018 CPO Hennaman was patrolling a large tract of land in Hanover County where he suspected was being trespassed by hunters. Near the back of the property he encountered an individual sitting on a stool, wearing a camouflage jacket and hat, with a .270 rifle in his lap and a Corona beer on the ground behind him. Further investigation revealed the individual did not have any hunting licenses. The appropriate charges were placed.
D-16 Citizen Complaint Leads to Out of Season Ducks, Bait, Revoked Hunter – On Dec. 10, 2018 at approximately 1600 hours, CPO Rabago responded to a community pond located in the County of Gloucester in reference to a complaint of hunters shooting by the water’s edge. Upon arriving at the scene, Officer Rabago heard the distinct sound of shotgun blasts, approximately 7-8 shots, in short succession. Officer Rabago eventually was able to locate two sets of footprints in the snow that appeared to go in the general direction of the shooting. By following the trail, across several property lines, Officer Rabago observed one male and one female subject engaged in hunting activities. As he continued his observation, Officer Rabago saw the female subject pickup what appeared to be a duck and place it behind a log. At the same time, the male subject went to the water’s edge and used a stick in a paddling motion as if attempting to recover an item from the pond.
As the pair appeared to be packing up to leave, Officer Rabago announced his presence and asked the subjects what they were doing. The male subject stated “Just taking a walk through the woods.” When Officer Rabago politely indicated his disbelief in his statement the subject offered that he and his companion were hunting squirrel and ducks. Officer Rabago walked the subjects back to the area that he had seen the duck and observed two mallards. As they continued their encounter, Officer Rabago observed additional items floating in the pond. Upon recovery, the Officer identified them as a merganser and a teal. The subjects expressed their shock and disbelief when Officer Rabago informed them that it was closed season for waterfowl.
Upon requesting their license information the male subject indicated that he didn’t have one. The female subject indicated that she had an apprentice license but no valid duck stamp. Upon checking the firearms, the male subject was found to be in possession of an unplugged gun. Officer Rabago ran background checks and it became apparent why the male subject hadn’t purchased a license as his right to hunt had been revoked for previous violations. The appropriate charges were placed at the time.
Upon reflection that the subjects had managed to shoot three ducks and a merganser without the aid of decoys, calls, blind, or even complete camouflage, Officer Rabago returned to the site the next day with a bait dredge and was able to recover several pieces of corn. Upon interviewing, the male subject, he admitted to baiting further up the pond but steadfastly denied baiting ducks in that specific location. Additional charges are pending.
One Shouldn’t Do That – On December 12, 2018 Officer Brandon Robinson responded to a trespassing call in western Hanover County. The complainant had seen hunters parked along and standing on the edge of the public road as well as trespassing on private property without blaze orange. His first call was to the Hanover Sheriff’s Office. Deputies responded to the area but were unable to make contact with the hunters. The complainant was able to positively identify one of the individuals trespassing. Officers Robinson, Hennaman, and Hall were eventually able to locate the hunting party later in the morning. By the time contact was made the party had relocated onto property they had permission to hunt. Compliance checks were conducted with no violations present and the officers departed. Immediately after leaving, Officer Robinson received a call from the complainant. The individual that had texted the complainant with several degrading expletives followed by “You have got something coming for you.” Officer Robinson met the complainant at the magistrate’s office and obtained charges for threaten with the intent to intimidate over a telephone and trespassing. The magistrate granted a protective order barring the respondent from possessing or transporting firearms for the duration of the protective order.
Spotlighters Apprehended – On Nov. 23, 2018 CPOs Chester and Chittum conducted a targeted spotlighting patrol in an area of Dinwiddie County where there have been complaints of an increase in spotlighting activity. At approximately 2130 hours Officer Chester heard a shot fired in the area. A short time later Officer Chester observed a subject spotlight a field from a pickup truck. Upon stopping the vehicle Officer Chester found a 9 point buck in the bed of the truck that was still warm to the touch.
The investigation determined that the buck had been shot around 1945 hours and the driver had just shot at a doe prior to the traffic stop. The driver of the truck was found to be a convicted felon. The owner of the truck was the passenger in the vehicle. Officer Chester seized a shotgun, rifle, crossbow, ammunition, and crossbow bolts from the truck. Officer Chester was able to determine that the truck did not have a lien and the truck was seized.
As Officer Chester and Officer Chittum followed up on the investigation they were able to seize approximately 50 pounds of venison from the suspect’s residence. Several other deer carcasses were found on the suspect’s property. The driver of the vehicle was found to be a registered sex offender who was not living at his address of record. The Virginia State Police Sex Offender Unit was notified of the potential violation and will be conducting an investigation.
All appropriate charges have been placed with additional charges to follow pending further investigation of the deer found on the suspect’s property.
Region II – Southside
Illegal Hunter Sets Bad Example – On December 5, 2018, CPOs Nick Sumner and Kevin Webb investigated the illegal harvest of an antlerless deer in Nottoway County. The officers were provided with reliable information concerning an adult male who was hunting alone when he shot it. The officers met with and interviewed the suspect who tried to justify the violation by stating his juvenile son had harvested the deer in accordance with the youth antlerless deer regulation. The juvenile son backed up his father’s story and the suspect attempted to check the deer in using his son’s license while the officers were present. The officers confronted the suspect with the information they had and informed him there could be additional violations if he used his son’s license to check the illegal deer. The suspect conceded and confessed he alone harvested the illegal antlerless deer. The appropriate charges have been placed.
Shop With A Cop Event – On December 8, 2018, CPOs Tyler Blanks and Toby Livermore participated in the Fraternal Order of Police annual Shop with a Cop event in South Hill. 27 local children were paired with state and local law enforcement officers from Brunswick and Mecklenburg counties to shop for Christmas gifts. Each child was given $150 to purchase gifts at Walmart or Rose’s. The children also received breakfast at Subway and a large bag of drinks and food items from Food Lion to take home to their families. Everyone had a fantastic time sharing the spirit of the season.
Traffic Stop leads to Drug Arrest – On December 10, 2018, CPOs Tyler Blanks and Toby Livermore were on a traffic stop with an ATV, in Mecklenburg County, when they observed a vehicle enter the area and quickly turn into a driveway. The vehicle stayed out of sight for a couple of minutes before pulling back on the road and continuing past the officers. CPO Livermore immediately recognized the passenger as a subject that he charged last year for possession of marijuana and no hunting licenses. After clearing from the traffic stop, Blanks and Livermore went to the driveway where the vehicle had just left. Footprints in the snow indicated the passenger of the vehicle walked several feet to an abandoned building and then walked back to the vehicle. CPO’s located a plastic container under the building which contained a large amount of ecstasy tablets, cocaine, and marijuana. They then parked in a hidden location to wait and a couple hours later, the suspects returned. They observed the individuals exit the vehicle and approach the building and they quickly moved in to make contact. One subject was wearing boots that matched the size and pattern of the footprints in the snow. The subject was found to be in possession of a .32 caliber revolver, digital sales with cocaine residue, and $810 in denominations of 20’s, 10’s, and 5’s. The subject was arrested and transported to the Meherrin River Regional Jail in Mecklenburg County. He was held with no bond on charges of possession with intent to distribute ecstasy, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm while possessing schedule I and II narcotics, 3rd offense possession of marijuana, and possession of a concealed weapon.
Investigation Reveals Non-residents Violation Hunting Laws – On December 11, 2018, Senior CPO Brandon Harris received information about two hunters who were observed hiding a doe deer beside a public roadway and returning after dark to retrieve it. It was unlawful to harvest a doe on this date and Brandon initiated an investigation to identify the hunters. Based on the location of the incident and the vehicle description, Senior Officer Harris identified a potential suspect. The following day, he located a vehicle matching the description he was given parked in the driveway of a suspect’s residence. After locating fresh blood on the tailgate of the vehicle, Senior Officer Harris made contact with the individual. The subject acknowledged that his vehicle had been used to transport a deer the previous evening but denied involvement in harvesting it. He provided Brandon with the name of the two hunters who had used his vehicle to transport the deer and took him to where they were currently hunting. After interviewing both hunters, one subject admitted to harvesting the doe. He explained that he had accidentally killed the doe while shooting at a buck being chased by deer hounds. The second hunter admitted to helping drag the deer to the roadway and returning after dark to assist in loading the deer in the vehicle. Senior Officer Harris also discovered that the second subject was hunting with a non-resident apprentice license despite having already completed a hunter education course and having a current hunting license from his home state of Texas. Senior Officer Harris located meat from the illegal deer in a nearby cooler and was taken to where the carcass had been dumped. The deer was found to have been shot in the neck with a rifle. Both non-resident hunters were charged with violations including taking game during closed season, illegal transportation of wildlife, and license violations.
Duck Hunters Over the Limit – On December 15, 2018, CPOs Livermore and Sandy conducted a foot patrol on a duck impoundment at the Steel Bridge, in Mecklenburg County. Officer Livermore ran across two duck hunters loading up their kayaks in the back of their pickup truck, with 6 wood ducks in their possession. Further inquiry discovered that the men were hunting in a party and the others had gone to their vehicles. As one of the trucks approached, Officer Livermore stopped the hunter to check his license and bag limit. Upon looking in the vehicle, Officer Livermore located 6 additional wood ducks hidden in a dog box, as well as a Northern Shoveler duck in the passenger seat of the vehicle. Appropriate charges have been placed.
Hunting and Smoking Marijuana Do Not Mix – On December 15, 2018, CPO Matthew Sandy was checking waterfowl hunters. He located three waterfowl hunters hunting together near the Rudds Creek area of Buggs Island Lake. He watched two of the hunters using a canoe and the other one using a kayak. Officer Sandy found that neither of the vessels had a personal floatation device between them in freezing waters. While doing a compliance check, Officer Sandy smelled the odor of marijuana coming from one of the hunters and coming from his blind bag. The hunter initially denied having any illegal substances, but eventually admitted to having marijuana and a pipe in his pocket. The suspect admitted to smoking marijuana at 0430 in the morning before going waterfowl hunting. Appropriate charges were placed.
Region III – Southwest
ATV Hunter Charged – On November 27, 2018 Virginia CPO Rickels received a call for service in Lee County in reference to an active trespass to hunt call. The landowner found two men dragging a deer to an ATV that was on his property. When Officer Rickels arrived he interviewed the two men and the landowner. One of the suspects gave a statement saying that he had shot the deer the night before from his ATV from the state road. He said that they had come back the next day to try to recover the deer when they were stopped by the landowner. He did not have any licenses, did not have permission to be on the property, and had driven the ATV over 20 minutes on multiple roads to get to this property. Appropriate charges were placed.
Shooting and Shining Lights Behind a Cabin – On November 27, 2018, CPOs Akers and Boyette were advised that subjects were shooting and shining lights behind a cabin in Wythe County. The officers arrived to find two male subjects in the cabin. The subjects both initially denied shooting but changed their story after being asked about the casings located on the porch and admitted to target shooting. While in the cabin a bag of deer corn was located and both subjects admitted to placing corn out but denied hunting. A consent search of the cabin discovered multiple firearms (some concealed), moonshine, marijuana, and controlled substances. Several items of evidence were obtained. Multiple charges are pending.
Spotlighting in Lee County -On November 29, 2018 Virginia CPO Matt Meade was conducting a spotlighting patrol on Hurricane Rd. in Lee County. At approximately 2050 hours a small pickup truck drove by the field and shined a light across it. Officer Meade pulled onto the road and quickly caught up to the vehicle, and activated his emergency equipment to initiate a traffic stop. When walking up to the vehicle, Officer Meade noticed a severed deer head lying in the bed of the truck. The driver was a resident from nearby in Lee County. When asked about spotlighting he stated he knew it was illegal. He was then asked about the deer head in the back and he stated it was from roadkill and he had given the meat to a friend. The suspect possessed a loaded Remington model 700 22-250 and a spotlight. Appropriate charges were placed.
Investigation Leads to Multiple Wildlife and Felony Charges – On November 30, 2018, Conservation Police Sergeant Keene received information about a possible felon shooting a deer across a road way. He interviewed the witness and with the help of dispatch, confirmed the identity of the suspect and confirmed he was a felon. The witness notified Sergeant Keene that a vehicle was leaving the residence and he initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle. The occupants had left the residence but the primary suspect was not in the vehicle. The sergeant questioned the individuals and gained valuable information about the suspect. The vehicle had license plates that did not belong to the vehicle and a Wythe County deputy responded to assist with conducting an inventory search and towing the vehicle which resulted in finding numerous felony drug items. CPO Rorabaugh and CPO Anders responded to the residence with assistance from Wythe County Sheriff’s Office. They attempted to interview the uncooperative felon who denied the entire account. Officer Harris and Boyette also responded to help secure the scene and assist with the investigation while Sergeant Keene obtained a search warrant. Officer Boyette located the dead deer that was straight across the road from the felon’s residence and confirmed it had been shot with a rifle. Officer Harris discovered a box of ammunition in the felon’s vehicle in plain view. Once the felon heard that a search warrant was being obtained, he stated he was having heart issues and was transported to the local hospital by a rescue squad. After obtaining the search warrant, the officers took a gunshot residue sample from the felon while he was at the hospital. They also conducted a successful search of his residence and property which resulted in finding a loaded 30-30 rifle that was hidden on the front porch of the residence. The rifle had a spent 30-30 casing in the chamber along with extra live rounds. A box of 30-30 rifle ammunition was found in the felon’s pickup truck and was missing the exact number of rounds that were present in the rifle. The search also resulted in finding an additional firearm, numerous rounds of ammunition, felony drug items, and marijuana. Multiple wildlife and felony charges are pending.
Desperate Hunter Puts Out Bait – On Saturday, December 1, 2018, Senior CPOs George Shupe and Wes Billings, along with K9 Josie, followed up on a complaint of baiting in the Springville section of Tazewell County. The Officers located two hunters in the area, one of which was found hunting over an area with corn scattered on the ground. The subject encountered hunting over the baited site was not displaying blaze orange as he sat in a ladder stand overlooking the bait. The subject stated he was desperate and wanted to kill a deer before the general firearm deer season went out, so he put the corn out in the hope of attracting and bagging a deer. The appropriate charges were placed in the incident.
Cops and Kids – Local children in need recently received some Christmas shopping assistance from New River Valley law enforcement agencies as part of an annual “Cops and Kids” event. Each participating officer was paired with a child that was given $160 to purchase gifts. District 31 CPOs met their assigned children at Walmart in Fairlawn and helped them shop for and purchase their gifts. Designed to bring holiday joy to children in need, “Cops and Kids” is sponsored by Toys for Tots and Radford Fraternal Order of Police.
Buchanan County “Shop with a Cop” – On Saturday December 15, 2018, CPOs Harding, Burke, Hash, Meade, and Arnold, along with Sgt. James Hale (that jolly ole’ elf himself) participated in the annual Shop with a Cop event in Buchanan County.
Over 70 less fortunate children were taken on a $150 shopping spree to buy clothes and toys for Christmas. The children also received a stocking to take home and a personal visit with Santa himself. A big thank you goes out to all of the donors and officers for making this day such a success.
Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont
Hunter Charged with Feeding Deer Illegally – On September 30th, 2018, Senior CPO Dobbs responded to an area at the Rockingham and the City of Harrisonburg line for a suspect trespassing to hunt closed season. The caller advised they believed the suspect had a rifle when he entered the woods dressed in camo clothing. Senior CPO Herndon and Sgt. Ham responded to assist with locating the suspect. The suspect was located coming out of the area without a firearm. Senior K9 Officer Billhimer and K9 Justice responded to assist in locating evidence. While waiting on the K9 the suspect admitted that officers would find the area baited with minerals. Upon arrival of the K9 Officer, a search of the area was performed. K9 Justice and Senior CPO Billhimer located 8 trail cameras and 4 baited areas on the property. The suspect stated that he had walked to all his cameras to change the memory cards. The suspect’s story was corroborated by K9 Justice’s track. No firearms were found during the course of the search. Senior CPO Dobbs issued a summons for feeding deer illegally.
Lost Hikers Found with Help of Several Agencies – On September 30th, 2018, Senior CPO Kester was requested to respond with a UTV to assist the Augusta County Sherriff’s Office in locating two lost hikers in the North River area of the National Forest in Augusta County. Senior CPO Kester, Senior CPO Herndon and Sgt. Ham responded to the area. During the course of the search, Senior CPO Herndon responded to another incident where a cyclist had wrecked on the roadway and provided aid and communications to responding emergency medical personnel. A group of mountain bikers came across the lost hikers; they made contact with Sgt. Ham. Sgt. Ham and Senior CPO Kester helped locate the individuals and return them to their vehicle approximately 16 trail miles from where they originally started. Units from Augusta County Sherriff’s Office and Mount Solon Fire and Rescue assisted as well in the Search and Rescue event.
Several Charges Filed on Hunter at Trump Winery – On December 1, 2018, CPOs Paul Inge and Adam Roberts were investigating an area where suspected trespassing to hunt and baiting were occurring on Trump Winery in Albemarle County. While conducting the foot patrol, the officers observed a tripod deer feeder, ladder treestand, and ground blind. The treestand was unoccupied, but as the officers approached the ground blind, a suspect exited. The suspect was cooperative and informed the officers that he had did not have a hunting license, and had been convicted of a felony, but had his firearm rights restored. This was confirmed. During their conversation, Officer Inge detected the odor of burnt marijuana around the suspect. When asked about it, the suspect produced a marijuana smoking pipe from his pocket. A plastic bag containing dried marijuana was found in a different pocket. The suspect was charged with hunting without the appropriate licenses, trespassing to hunt, hunting over bait, no blaze orange, and possession of marijuana.
Surveillance Photos Aid in Arrest – Early in the fall hunting seasons, CPO Sgt. Boulanger was contacted by a landowner in Orange County regarding recent damage to his property. The caller found one of his gates destroyed, most likely from a large truck. Sgt. Boulanger installed a surveillance camera on site and monitored it for the next several weeks. On a day during the general firearms deer season, Sgt. Boulanger arrived to check the camera and observed a fresh pile of corn dumped at the entrance to the property, which was clearly posted. Sgt. Boulanger examined the photographs from his camera and observed an individual, not wearing blaze orange and in close proximity to the roadway, dump some corn on the ground from a cup. Sgt. Boulanger immediately recognized this individual as someone he charged with hunting during closed season just days prior (he was found hunting from a vehicle with a rifle during muzzleloader season). Moments later, a hog began eating the corn. The photographs played out a scene that included this individual netting the hog, and subsequently shooting it with a small caliber rifle. Sgt. Boulanger interviewed the individual in the photographs and obtained a confession for hunting on posted property without permission. The appropriate charges were placed.
Deer Shot from the Road – On November 21, 2018, Senior CPO McGuire was contacted by a concerned landowner in Highland County. The caller stated that he thought someone had shot a deer from the road on his property and was attempting to get it. He had also spoken to the subject who had the hood up on his vehicle and said it was overheating. He didn’t want any assistance and left shortly after they spoke. McGuire ran the tag the landowner gave her and responded to the area where she met the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop. McGuire was able to receive a confession and had the subject showed her where the 8 point buck was that he had “dropped” in his tracks with his .308. The deer and rifle were confiscated. McGuire gave the deer to the landowner. He said it was a buck he had watched for 5 years, had numerous trail camera pictures of, and even had a set or 2 of his sheds. Charges are pending for shooting from the road, shooting from a vehicle, and trespassing.
Road Hunting Incident – On November 22nd, 2018 CPO Ostlund and Sergeant Ham received information about a reported road-hunting incident in Rockingham County. Both officers later met with the suspect and through a subsequent interview determined that he had committed two counts of spotlighting from a vehicle, three counts of shooting from a roadway, reckless discharge of a firearm and trespassing to hunt. CPO Ostlund seized the suspect’s shotgun as evidence. The suspect admitted to first shooting at a very large buck as it ran across the roadway in front of his vehicle, and then firing two additional shots at the following doe, killing her with the second shot. Charges are pending.
License Inspection Leads to Charges – On Saturday, November 17, 2018, Senior CPO McGuire and Sergeant Ham decided to conduct a hunting license inspection in Highland County when they saw a subject sporting blaze orange and carrying a rifle into the woods. Upon approach they located a second subject that did not have on any blaze orange or pink on. When McGuire caught up to them they both came out from an area located off the main path. She asked what they put back there and they admitted to having bags of feed for the deer. Upon inspection of their licenses McGuire caught a faint hint of the smell of marijuana and asked the non-blaze wearing subject twice where it was. He reached into the front pocket of his bibs and gave her a packed full glass smoking device and a plastic baggy with what later field tested positive for marijuana. A pat down of the other subject revealed a leather pinch hitter/container also containing field tested marijuana. Summonses were issued for no blaze orange/pink, unlawful feeding of deer, and possession of marijuana.