November 8-28, 2017
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
Overdue Hunter Found by CPOs with Help from K9 Comet – Thursday, November 9, 2017, CPO Glen Cramer was notified of an overdue hunter in King George County. Cramer arrived on scene at 1930 hours and assisted the King George Sheriff’s Office and numerous volunteers in the search for the hunter. The hunter was older and had a history of medical issues. Cramer contacted Sr. K9 Officer Frank Spuchesi and his dog Comet for assistance with the search. At 20:30 hours Spuchesi arrived on scene and attempted to track the hunter. Tracking was difficult due to the numerous persons that had already been looking for the hunter in the area. Eventually Comet tracked to the hunter’s hat and picked up his trail. At approximately 23:00 hours Comet tracked to the missing hunter who was safe and in good condition. Cramer and Spuchesi assisted the hunter from the woods. The hunter was located 9 tenths of a mile from his starting location. The hunter stated that once darkness fell he stayed put and was prepared to spend the night.
Trophy Buck Killed out of Season – On Monday, November 6th, 2017, CPO Sgt. Rich Goszka received information that a trophy size buck was killed out of season by a Westmoreland County resident. Goszka and Officer Dan Rabago began to investigate and obtained enough information to obtain search warrant for the suspect’s home. The search warrant was executed that evening and the suspect was interviewed. The suspect confessed to shooting the buck on Thursday, November 2nd after sunset from his vehicle and from a public road with a shotgun loaded with buckshot in Richmond County. The suspect waited until the evening of Saturday, November 4th the opening day of the muzzle loading deer season to check the deer electronically. The suspect had already taken the head to a taxidermist. Meat from the illegal kill and a shotgun were seized as evidence. CPO Greg Hall assisted in seizing the deer head from a taxidermist. The following violations were detected to include spotlighting, several license violations, shooting from a vehicle and public road, trespassing and littering. Charges are pending.
Investigation and Interview gets Confession – On Sunday, November 12, 2017, CPO Amanda Nevel received a complaint of a hunter trespassing in Westmoreland County. Upon her arrival at the scene Nevel located a fresh deer gut pile and spent buckshot shells in a make shift ground blind. During the next week and a half Nevel developed a possible suspect. On Wednesday, November 22, 2017, Nevel accompanied by CPO Glen Cramer conducted and interview of the suspect. The suspect confessed to killing a spike buck during the muzzle loader season with a shotgun with buckshot. An inspection of the suspect’s hunting license revealed that he also failed to tag and check the deer. Nevel collected additional evidence and the appropriate charges will be obtained.
CPO Responds to Landowner, Hunter Confrontation – On Nov. 22, 2017, Senior CPO Bumgarner responded to assist the King William Sheriff’s Office who was involved in a verbal confrontation between a hunter and a landowner. A landowner had gone to his property to hunt and noticed a hunter in the area on this evening. Fresh foot prints were located near his treestand and upon further inspection the hunter noticed his trail camera had been stolen. Due to environmental conditions the landowner believed the camera had been stolen recently. The landowner then went to confront the hunter and a heated verbal confrontation ensued.
Upon arriving on scene, Bumgarner spoke with the deputy who advised him the hunter, who was in possession of a Remington 12ga shotgun and multiple rounds of ammunition, was a two time convicted felon. Bumgarner then spoke with the landowner who described a black Moultrie Game Camera which had been stolen from his posted property and valued the camera at 79$. After speaking with the landowner, Bumgarner began interviewing the hunter in regards to the stolen game camera. Upon initial questioning, the hunter denied any knowledge of the stolen game camera. When confronted with the overwhelming track evidence located by Bumgarner the hunter confessed to stealing the camera because he knew he was trespassing and had been caught on the game camera. The camera was discarded in the woods approximately ¼ mile from the officer’s location in the back corner of a large field. The hunter then lead Bumgarner directly to the stolen game camera and it was recovered undamaged and returned to the landowner. The hunter was placed under arrest by Bumgarner and charged with (1) Felon in Possession of a Firearm, (1) Felon in Possession of Ammunition, (1) Felony 3rd Offense Petit Larceny, (1) Trespass to Hunt on Posted Property, (1) No Hunting License, (1) No Big Game License.
Hunter Shoots Across the Roadway – On Nov. 22, 2017, CPO Cameron Dobyns responded to a complaint of a hunter shooting across the roadway in Essex County. A citizen was driving down the road when a hunter shot across the road at a deer being chased by hounds and nearly struck his vehicle. A description of the shooter’s vehicle was given along with the last 4 digits of the license plate. While Dobyns was on scene, a truck matching the description came down the road and pulled into the officer’s location. The subject basically turned himself in believing Dobyns was there because of the shot. What appeared to be an open and shut case then began to get a little complicated. When the hunter took Dobyns to the specific location the incident occurred, no shell casing could be found. It turned out another member of the hunt club had picked up the shotgun shell. This individual was later located and still had the spent shell in his possession and it was collected by Dobyns. After obtaining statements, Dobyns continued the investigation looking for additional physical evidence. It turned out that the phone number for the witness was not a good number. Then later, Dobyns received information that the actual shooter may not be who was claiming to have shot, but the other person who was in the truck. As fate would have it, later in the day Dobyns was pulled off another road making CAD notes when a vehicle pulled up and it was the witnesses. According to the witnesses, they heard a shot, looked up and saw the passenger of the truck unshouldering a shotgun and jumping back into the truck and assumed it was the passenger who shot. Dobyns, collected statements and continued his investigation on 11/23/17 by having K912 Spuchasi respond with Comet. Additional evidence was recovered and found to be consistent with the first suspect’s story. Dobyns interviewed the juvenile passenger with his parents, the subject who had picked up the shell, and several other members of the hunt club as well. At the conclusion of his investigation, written statements from all involved were obtained and charges are pending for the driver of the truck who originally admitted to shooting across the roadway at the deer.
Felon Hunting with a Firearm Arrested – On Friday, November 24, 2017, Senior CPO Ken Williams was on patrol in Northumberland County when he observed two hunters exit the woods. Williams contacted the hunters and conducted an inspection and discovered a hunting violation. A records check also revealed that one of the hunters was a convicted felon. The subject was arrested for a felon in possession of a firearm and transported to the magistrate and charged accordingly.
Shooting from the Road – On Saturday, November 25, 2017, Senior CPO Ken Williams responded to several subjects shooting towards a home in Northumberland County. With the assistance of Senior K9 Officer Frank Spuchesi and his partner Comet the officers worked the scene. The investigation revealed that two hunters observed a coyote running in the complainant’s field when one hunter fired a single shot across the public road and the other fired three shots from the road. Both subjects confessed and charges are pending.
CPO Hides in the Bushes – On Saturday, November 25, 2017, CPO Dan Rabago responded to a waterfowl hunting complaint near a subdivision in Westmoreland County. Rabago parked his marked patrol vehicle at the public beach and took a surveillance position. A short time later Rabago heard voices on the beach and observed a male and female stop approximately 30 feet away. Rabago remained concealed and continued his surveillance of the hunters. A short time later Rabago could smell the odor of marijuana and looked up to see the both subjects smoking a blunt. Rabago contacted the subjects and seized the marijuana and placed the appropriate charge. Rabago asked both subjects if they saw and walked past his marked police vehicle on their way to the beach they both stated yes, but they didn’t know that police officers hid in the bushes.
Trespassing in Violation of Right to Retrieve Law – On Nov. 25, 2017, CPO Cameron Dobyns was on patrol in King & Queen County and noticed two trucks pulled off the roadway near posted property. While inspecting the hunters at their trucks, Dobyns noticed a nearby T-Post with a rope had been pulled up and removed from a lane going up into the heavily posted property. He also noticed fresh tire tracks leading into the property and followed them until he located another truck and five more hunters. There were two shotguns in the truck and the two hunters claimed to only be retrieving dogs. The two with the truck said they had driven into the property to pick up the other three hunters who had walked in to retrieve the hounds. The owner of the truck admitted he had no idea whose property this was and that he did not have permission. The passenger admitted to pulling the T-post out of the ground so that they could drive the truck in to pick up the other three hunters and dogs. Dobyns issued the two subjects with their guns in the truck each a summons for trespassing in violation of the right to retrieve law.
Officers Teamwork Pays Off – CPOs Wiedel and Wakefield have been investigating illegal hunting activity in many locations across Suffolk. With the start of general firearms season last week, the teamwork of the officers paid off. The officers located 10 people hunting over bait at 9 different sites. At one site the officers received information that at least 1 deer had already been harvested over bait. Upon further investigation the officers located a total of 5 carcasses near the baited site. When the officers returned they located 2 individuals hunting over bait and questioned the hunters about the carcasses. When confronted with evidence, the hunters admitting to several violations including killing all 5 deer over bait, taking over the daily bag limit, failing to check deer, and hunting without a deer/turkey tag.
In addition to working the baited sites, the two officers also conducted 2 decoy operations during the first week of firearms season. The officers stopped 1 vehicle during each operation for shining a handheld flashlight on the decoy. Appropriate charges were filed for the spotlighting and baiting investigations.
Region III – Southwest
Failure to Check Deer – On October 27, 2017, CPO Sergeant James Hale passed information he found on Facebook along to CPO Dylan Harding. In the Facebook post, a man was posing with an 11 point buck that he claimed to have killed in Dickenson County on PAL property during early muzzleloader season of 2016. No confirmation number was on file for this deer. Upon interviewing the subject on November 2, 2017, he told Officer Harding that he killed the deer on his property and was “pretty sure” he had checked the deer in, but he would “gladly take the ticket” if no confirmation number could be found. No confirmation number was found and the subject was charged for failure to check a deer by a license exempt person.
Call for Illegal Hunting Activity – On November 8, 2017, CPO Eric Rorabaugh received a call from dispatch in reference to illegal hunting activity in Bland County. As the Officer cleared this call he received an additional call for assistance (spotlighting in progress) out of Smyth County. The response time out of the adjoining district was going to be over an hour. Officer Rorabaugh responded to the area where the violation had occurred. Once on scene, he made contact with the complainant and was able to follow an ATV track to a house where he located two suspects as well as the deer they had killed. Officer Shupe arrived on scene a short time later and assisted Officer Rorabaugh with interviewing both suspects. Officers Rorabaugh and Shupe were able to secure written confessions and placed appropriate charges.
Spotlight Patrol Nets Violator – On November 11, 2017, CPOs Nikita Burke and Tyler Sheets were on spotlight patrol in the Widener’s Valley section of Washington County. Officer Burke witnessed two vehicles on Beech Grove Road. The first was shining a spotlight onto farm land frequented by deer. Officer Burke initiated a traffic stop without incident. Appropriate charges were placed.
Trespass to Hunt Charges Placed – On November 11, 2017, CPO Joe Early responded to a report of trespass to hunt in progress. The suspect was gone on arrival but witnesses got the tag number and description. CPO Early responded to the listed residence and located the suspect. The suspect admitted to entering posted property and hunting deer with a rifle. The subject was charged with the appropriate charges.
Spotlighting with Intent – On November 11, 2017, CPO Daniel Ross was working an area in Scott County due to reported spotlighting activity. Officer Ross observed a vehicle traveling at a slow rate of speed along a field. The vehicle turned in a way to light up a field and stopped in the road, with its lights shining into the field and sat stationary for a period of time. The vehicle traveled a short distance further and repeated the action. Officer Ross stopped the vehicle and found the driver to be in possession of a concealed handgun along with two long guns (.22, &.25-06 calibers). The driver was charged with possession of concealed weapon and spotlighting with intent.
Month-long Investigation Leads to Charges – On November 18, 2017, Virginia CPO Boyette concluded a month-long investigation during early archery season involving a spotlighting complaint in Carroll County. Beginning with a tag number given by the caller, Officer Boyette was able to identify two individuals that admitted to driving onto posted property on the night in question. The individuals stated that they drove onto the property to go “mudding” and stated that they were not spotlighting. Neither individual held a valid driver’s license and both admitted they were not sure whose property they were on, despite driving past clearly posted signs. While investigating this initial violation, Officer Boyette learned of a buck killed with a rifle during archery season by a third subject who did not have a hunting license or deer/turkey tag. All three individuals were charged appropriately.
Subject Charged in Deer Shot from the Roadway -On November 17, 2017, Senior CPO George Shupe received a complaint against a red S-10 truck on Maiden Springs Road in Tazewell County. The occupants of the vehicle shot an 8 point buck from the road and left it laying on posted property. Officer Shupe met with the complainants and recovered the deer. On November 23, 2017, Senior Officer James Brooks recognized and followed the suspects’ vehicle and conducted a traffic stop. Officer Brooks then requested Officer Shupe at the scene to interview the suspects concerning the complaint a week earlier. Before Officer Shupe could arrive on scene, the subjects admitted to Officer Brooks that they were responsible for shooting the deer from the roadway and on posted property. The appropriate charges will be placed on the subjects
Bear Killed During Closed Season – On November 20, 2017, Virginia CPO Sergeant James Hale received a tip that a subject had killed a bear during closed season on November 19, 2017 in Russell County. Sergeant Hale was able to obtain information that the suspect had been showing the bear to his neighbors. On November 22, Sergeant Hale and CPO Joel Early interviewed the primary suspect and obtained a full confession. They also discovered that the suspect had two accomplices. Multiple charges have been taken against the three suspects.
Joint Special Operation with NC Wildlife Resources – On November 23, 2017, Virginia CPOs Harris and Boyette participated in a joint special operation with NC Wildlife Resources to address spotlighting that was occurring on and around the state line. Officers from North Carolina and Virginia worked cooperatively in a spotlighting operation on the respective sides of the state line. Officer Harris observed subjects shining a field on the state line from an ATV. Shortly after seeing the light being cast, he heard three shots from a high-powered rifle. Because the field was away from the road and not readily accessible by vehicle, officers from both states attempted to make contact with these violators on foot. Even though officers were unable to apprehend the poachers that night, information regarding their identity developed the following day. On November 24, 2017, officers interviewed multiple subjects and learned that they had killed 4 antlered bucks and a doe in the days and weeks prior. All of the deer were taken in the area near the state line, partially in Virginia and North Carolina. The cooperative effort by the two state wildlife agencies in this operation directly resulted in an outcome that would not have otherwise been possible, and was a victory for law-abiding hunters and wildlife enthusiasts in Virginia and North Carolina.
Decoy Operation – On November 23, 2017, Senior CPO Ross, CPOs Gardner and Harding carried out a decoy operation on Hunters Valley East Road in Scott County. Conservation Police Officer Gardner operated the decoy while CPO’s Ross and Harding covered each end of the road. Shortly into the operation, CPO Gardner observed a red pickup truck with a camper top pass by the decoy, stop and back up approximately 100 yards. The truck then stopped and turned so that the headlights illuminated the decoy deer for about 20 seconds, and then they drove slowly off. Conservation Police Officer Harding initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle and observed two subjects in full camo with an unloaded rifle sitting in between them in the seat. Both men readily admitted that they had backed up to look at the deer. They said “it was a nice buck, it must have been after a doe because it was looking around and flipping its tail” and they “couldn’t help but go back and look at it.” Conservation Police Officer Harding issued both a summons for spotlighting with a weapon. Further into the operation, verbal warnings were issued to two other subjects who had stopped and taken flash photos of the decoy with their phones; a testament to CPO Gardner’s operation of the decoy.
Summonses Issued for Several Violations – On November 24, 2017, Senior CPO James Brooks observed two male subjects actively hunting on private property in the Burkes Garden section of Tazewell County. The subjects were not wearing blaze orange during general firearms deer season. Officer Brooks went to the location but the two had left the area. Brooks followed the UTV tracks to a small cabin on the property being hunted. Brooks located the two male subjects and inquired as to why they were hunting with no blaze orange. Both subjects advised they forgot it. Brooks checked hunting license and found one subject did not have a valid state or big game hunting license. Brooks also found a deer hanging in a tree near the cabin, legally checked. Officer Brooks conducted a quick investigation and found that one suspect had killed a deer earlier in the season and did not check the deer. The suspect was hunting on an antlered only day when he had reached his seasonal bag limit for deer. Officer Brooks inquired as to any other game at the hunting camp. Both subjects were hesitant to answer. Brooks gained consent to look around the camp and found deer meat in the freezer labeled 11/17/17- 6 point. Brooks advised both subjects Miranda and found the dear meat to be the unchecked deer taken earlier by one suspect. Appropriate summonses issued.
CPOs Help Locate Lost Hunter – On November 6, 2017, Senior Virginia CPO Dan Hall responded to a call on National Forest lands concerning a lost hunter in the Skulls Gap section of Smyth County. Officer Hall met with the hunter’s family and was told the hunter was hunting with a companion, but had become disoriented due to heavy fog and high winds on the mountain. The hunter’s family also informed Officer Hall that they lost contact with the hunter due to his cell phone losing service. Officer Hall, assisted by two Smyth County Sheriff’s Department officers, located the hunters vehicle. Officer Hall utilized his patrol vehicle siren to walk one of the hunters out to the location of their vehicle. This hunter stated that he had lost contact with his companion, but it was found that the lost hunter did have a FRS radio in his possession and gave Officer Hall the channel they had been using to communicate. Officer Hall used a Forest Service access road on the mountain to transmit to the lost hunter, who responded to Officer Hall on FRS radio. Officer Hall was able to effectively communicate to the hunter his location and again utilized his vehicle siren to walk the lost hunter out to him on the access road. The hunter told Officer Hall that the fog and wind had disoriented him, but was otherwise okay. The hunter was safely reunited with his hunting companion and family.
Hunters Trespassing and Baiting – On November 24, 2017, CPO Matthew Arnold responded to a call about hunters trespassing. When CPO Arnold arrived on scene, the landowner who called was waiting with the subjects. After interviewing the subjects, they admitted to knowing they did not have permission to hunt on the land they were on. They also admitted to passing through a gate that had a no trespassing sign attached. After speaking further with one of the suspects, he admitted to CPO Arnold that he had placed apples and corn in the vicinity he was hunting. The subject then took CPO Arnold to the location of the bait. The appropriate charges were placed.
Decoy Operation – On November 25, 2017, Virginia CPO Captain Jamie Davis, Sergeant James Hale, and CPO Matthew Arnold conducted a decoy operation in Buchanan County. There were numerous violations detected during the operation. Charges placed included trespassing and spotlighting.
Illegal “Trophy” Deer Kill Investigation has Successful End – On November 25, 2017, Senior CPO Dan Hall successfully culminated an investigation of an illegal “trophy” deer kill that was initiated on November 6, 2017, in Smyth County. The investigation resulted in the seizure of one antlered deer carcass with antler measurements exceeding the 14” inch inside spread, qualifying it as a “trophy” animal. Two subjects were identified and interviewed in the incident, which involved multiple violations occurring in Smyth and Grayson Counties and included the taking of the deer by the use of lights. The appropriate Magistrate Summons were obtained and served in the incident.
Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont
Drugs Found at Taxidermist Inspection – On Nov. 11, 2017, CPO Chaffin and Sgt. Ferguson performed an inspection on a licensed taxidermist in Goochland County. Officer Chaffin went to the house to make contact with the owner of the shop. As he approached the front door, Officer Chaffin noticed a small glass smoking device on a table on the porch. The taxidermist came out and was informed about the inspection. The officers reviewed the record books and other related paperwork for the business, and then asked to take a look at the shop where he processes the deer to be mounted. Inside the shop, Officer Chaffin noticed what appeared to be several whole dried marijuana leaves lying on one of the shelves inside. After the inspection of the taxidermy shop was complete, Officer Chaffin asked the taxidermist about the glass smoking device on the front porch. The owner quickly stated that it belonged to his brother who currently lives with him. Two more glass pipes, rolling papers, two grinders, and multiple small bags of marijuana were found on a shelf under the table on the porch. The officers asked to view the shop again where a number of dried marijuana leaves were seized along with a water bong, and an unidentified substance that will be sent to the lab for testing. Charges are being discussed with the Commonwealth’s Attorney.