Skip to Main Content

Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

October 28 – November 17, 2020

To increase awareness of Conservation Police Officers’ (CPOs, or 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 DWR. 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

Hunter Gets Early Jump on Deer Firearms Season – On Oct. 31,2020, CPO Joe Rollings was patrolling Surry County and came in contact with a subject in full camo and blaze orange looking at the ground near the roadway. Officer Rollings checked in with the hunter and it was determined that he was looking for a deer that he had attempted to shoot the previous evening with his crossbow. Further questioning of the subject revealed that the hunter did not have the appropriate licenses to deer hunt with a bow as well as that the hunter had a shotgun loaded with buckshot just around the corner from his location. The hunter advised Officer Rollings that he was carrying the shotgun for protection from a bobcat that was seen in the area previously. Sensing that the story wasn’t lining up, Officer Rollings contacted Officer Patrillo and K9 Bailey. Patrillo and Bailey were able to confirm the hunters’ story of hunting with a crossbow the previous night by finding the crossbow bolt buried partially in the ground approximately 130 yards from where the hunter shot the previous night. The hunter thanked Patrillo for helping find his bolt and learned a lesson not to possess a shotgun loaded with buckshot while pursuing a deer outside of the general firearms season. Appropriate charges were filed.

Baiting and Hunting During Closed Season – On Tuesday, November 3, 2020, CPO Gilmore patrolled a subdivision in Isle of Wight after receiving a complaint in regards to baiting violations.  While on patrol, Officer Gilmore located a ground blind occupied by a hunter a short distance from a game camera overlooking corn spread on the ground.  The hunter was in possession of an air rifle and .270 rifle while hunting during the early muzzleloading season.  The subject received summonses for baiting and hunting during closed season.

Charges Placed on Trespassers – On Friday, November 6, 2020, CPO Gilmore followed up on a trespassing complaint he received earlier in the week in Southampton County.  While on patrol, Officer Gilmore observed a vehicle in the area of the complaint and made contact with two hunters.  It was determined that they were both trespassing and had placed corn in the woods on the property.  They were both charged with trespassing, placing bait for the purpose of hunting and given a warning for using natural deer urine.

“Wheelin Sportsmen” – Second Annual Hunt on the Tayloe Tract – The US Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of the Rappahannock Refuge, and CPO Amanda Nevel teamed up with “Wheelin Sportsmen”, for the second annual hunt on the Tayloe Tract of the Rappahannock River Valley Wildlife Refuge. On November 2, 2020, at 5:00am, nine hunters with the “Wheelin Sportsmen” group arrived at the refuge from all over the Commonwealth of Virginia ready to hunt. The morning welcomed these experienced hunters with a crisp 34 degrees followed with 16 mph winds. In addition to the hunt, the hunters enjoyed a nice meal provided by the volunteer group.

“Wheelin Sportsmen” is a sports group that has been assisting and providing opportunities for disabled hunters since 2001. The “Wheelin Sportsmen” hold 25 hunts annually all over the state including archery, muzzleloader, and shotgun.

Deer Shot from Boat – On November 9, 2020, CPO Terry Jordan received a call from the City of Poquoson in regards to a deer being killed illegally.  A witness observed a black truck with four suspects, backed up to a fence that belonged to the city and a deer being dragged to the vehicle. The witness was able to get the license plate and a description of all four suspects. An investigation revealed that the large antlered deer was shot from a boat on the shoreline by one of the suspects and he called two family members and a friend to assist him with the retrieval of the deer.  Charges of hunting out of season, illegally killing a deer from a boat, trespassing and illegally transporting a deer were placed against the suspects.  K9 Officer Braziel, and her partner Grace, assisted with the case as well.

Fisherman Caught with Illegal Red Drum – On October 27, 2020, CPO Roy Morris was on patrol in Gloucester County, in the area of Gloucester Point.  At approximately 6pm, Officer Morris recognized a subject fishing that he had warned earlier in the year for fishing violations.  He positioned himself so that he could observe the subject.  He observed the subject catch two fish, which appeared to be short red drum.  He then observed the subject take the fish to a vehicle and put them in the trunk and then return to fishing.  Morris then observed the man catch two more short drum and take them to his vehicle.  At this point, Officer Morris exited his surveillance location and confronted the man at his vehicle. A compliance check was conducted and the subject said that he had only caught two fish.  Morris advised the subject that he had observed him catch and take additional fish to his vehicle.  The subject then gave Morris consent to search his trunk where he located seven additional illegal fish.  In all, nine short red drum were seized and appropriate charges were placed on the subject.

Subjects Charged Spotlighting Deer – On November 13, 2020, CPO Joshua Thomas was working spotlight patrol in a rural area of Gloucester county. Not long into the patrol CPO Thomas observed a small sedan pull in and sweep the field with its headlights. The sedan then drove to another end of the field and shined its lights on a deer. Another vehicle approached and the sedan left the field. CPO Thomas initiated a stop of the vehicle and found 3 subjects who had 3 loaded firearms in the vehicle. The subjects admitted they were looking at deer and stated they thought they saw a big buck in the field. The appropriate charges were placed.

Hunter Charged with Hunting over Bait – On November 14, 2020, CPO Joshua Thomas was checking a baited location in Gloucester County. Upon approaching the stand, Thomas noticed a hunter was currently in it. The hunter saw Thomas approaching and climbed down and walked towards him, even after being told to stay put. The hunter said he knew why Thomas was there and admitted to placing bait for deer hunting, appropriate charges were placed.

Deer Out of Season – On Friday, November 13, 2020 CPO Smith responded to a complaint that an 11-point buck at a nearby taxidermist contained buckshot prior to general firearms season starting.  Officer Smith inspected the hide and arranged an interview with the suspect.  Officers Gilmore and Smith interviewed the suspect who claimed to have killed the deer with a crossbow.  After confronting the suspect with evidence, he admitted to the officers that he shot it with buckshot. It also appeared that the deer had been stabbed with a crossbow bolt to make a larger hole.  The suspect is charged with hunting during closed season and falsifying his harvest report.

Dumping Again – On Friday, November 13, 2020, Sergeant Woodruff identified a suspect dumping trash at Joyner’s Bridge boat ramp, in Carrsville.  Prior to this, on September 26, 2020, Sgt. Woodruff located carpet and packaging materials for a bathroom shower door dumped at the boat ramp.  Dumping trash at this agency ramp had obviously become an issue. Sgt. Woodruff then proceeded to Lowes and learned that the shower door was from the Franklin store and was purchased on September 19, 2020.  On November 11, 2020, Sgt. Woodruff patrolled the boat ramp and located more dumped trash.  Some of the materials matched items from the September 26th incident.  Sgt. Woodruff then applied for a search warrant for purchase information from Lowes for September 19, 2020.  After receiving the information, the purchaser was contacted and admitted to dumping the materials at the boat ramp.  Charges for the violations are pending.

Opening Day – As District 14 CPOs were wrapping up another opening day of the general firearms season, Officer Gilmore received a call about an individual killing over the limit of bucks for the season including two on opening day.  Officer Gilmore, Officer Rollings, and Lt. Shuler responded to the area and located the individual in question with an untagged deer.   After conducting an investigation, it was determined that the subject, along with another friend, had committed tagging violations in order to keep an antlered deer tag for another day. The subjects were charged with the violations.

Revoked Hunter Caught – During the 2020 hunting season, Officer Thomas has been patrolling an area in Middlesex County where he believed a subject, with a revoked hunting privilege, may be hunting.  The subject had been charged by CPO’s for spotlighting in the past and was issued a two-year hunting license revocation by the court.  On the evening of November 15, 2020 Officer Thomas located the subject’s vehicle parked on a wooded road in the area.  Thomas then conducted a foot patrol and located the revoked subject hunting with a crossbow and not displaying blaze orange.  He also located an additional hunter that was not licensed or wearing blaze orange.  Appropriate charges were placed on both subjects.

Region II – Southside

Breaking the Rules – On Saturday, October 24, 2020, CPO’s John Daniel and Richard Howald responded to a Nelson County residence after being contacted by a Nelson County deputy.  A deer there appeared to have been shot with a firearm during archery season.  Unable to make contact with anyone, they collected evidence and passed the information to CPO Stephen Ritchie for follow up.  Officer Ritchie immediately recognized the names of possible suspects.  On Monday, he and CPO Howald returned to the residence.  They eventually located and interviewed all of the suspects involved and obtained confessions for shooting the deer after legal hours, trespassing, hunting without licenses, and hunting with rifles during archery season.

Buckingham County Youth Event – On Saturday, October 17, 2020, Senior Officer Fariss and Officer Sumner attended a youth event in Buckingham County.  The event provided an opportunity for youth to experience the outdoors.  The event activities consisted of fishing in a stocked catfish pool, archery shooting, .22 rifle shooting, knife sharpening and hayrides.  The DWR officers provided hunting, fishing and boating regulation books to the attendees and answered numerous questions from the participates.  The officers received numerous compliments and thanks for their attendance, which consisted of about 40 attendees.

Observations Identify Wildlife Violations – On October 21, 2020, CPO Bruce Young received information regarding a buck that was harvested on October 4, 2020.  The complainant reported an individual who did not check in his deer.  CPO Young’s initial investigation showed that the suspect did not have a Big Game or an Archery License.  Officer Young contacted the suspect and was given a confirmation number.  The suspect then showed Officer Young the deer and stated that he harvested it on his girlfriend’s property.  During the conversation, CPO Young noticed two bags of deer corn and a half-empty gallon of Apple Buck Jam on the suspect’s ATV.  Further questioning, lead CPO Young to have reason to inspect the hunting sight. Approximately 50 yards from the residence, CPO Young located a ground blind and a ladder stand.  He also saw corn scattered on the ground, a salt block and a stump that appeared to have a liquid on it.  The suspect admitted to placing the bait for hunting but insisted he harvested the deer in a different location.  CPO Young was unable to locate any evidence that a deer was harvested there since it had been two weeks since the harvest date.  All violations were handled appropriately.

Illegal Use of Deer Urine – On October 22, 2020, CPO Eric Dotterer received a call from the DWR Dispatch about someone who had used natural deer urine, which is not legal to use, and had killed a deer.  Officer Dotterer spoke with the complainant and later found out that the suspect did not have an Archery License.  Officer Dotterer later discovered that the deer had been checked at a check station as license exempt.  CPO Dotterer contacted the suspect who admitted to possessing the non-synthetic Code Red Doe Estrous Whitetail deer urine but denied using it to hunt.  Officer Dotterer did determine that the deer was killed on property that would have required a license.  The violations were handled appropriately.

 Proactive Enforcement Resulted in Baiting Case – On October 12, 2020, CPO Bruce Young began a trespassing investigation by offering his assistance to the complaining party.  The complainant explained that he had recently observed an unfamiliar truck leaving his property with a nice buck in the bed.  Officer Young soon located a climbing stand that he believed belonged to the individual.  He also located what appeared to be a diminishing baited area, with a trail camera facing toward a leftover corn pile and a mineral lick.

On October 24, 2020, CPO Young returned to the property and observed the vehicle. Upon contacting the hunter, he re-inspected the area for bait.  While the corn was no longer present, the mineral lick was. The hunter admitted to placing the corn out in September and claimed he had forgotten about the mineral lick.  CPO Young determined the hunter actually had permission from the landowner.  All violations were handled appropriately.

DWR K9 Tracks Down Trespasser – On October 26, 2020, CPO Eric Dotterer responded to a call of trespassing to hunt in Franklin County.  The complainant advised that no one had permission to hunt the property and provided the tag number of a vehicle parked there.  CPO K9 Handler Richard Howald responded to the scene and assisted with locating the hunter.  The officers located the suspect walking down a trail on the property.  He was dressed in camouflage, carrying a crossbow and a climbing tree-stand.  He indicated that he received permission to hunt the property in 2011 and had already hunted the property three or four times this year.  CPO Dotterer followed up with the complainant and confirmed that she had never given permission to anyone to hunt the property.  All violations were handled appropriately.

Hunting Over Bait – On Saturday, October 31, 2020, Senior Officer Brandon Harris and Officer Nick Belotte conducted a foot patrol in Charlotte County.  Because of Officer Belotte’s knowledge of the property, he believed hunters were hunting over bait.  The officers located four different hunters and checked them for compliance. One of the hunters was hunting over bait.  Appropriate charges were placed.

Road Hunting Does Not Pay – On Saturday, October 31, 2020, Officer Matt Sandy received information, from a hunter on stand, that a person had just stopped in the roadway and shot a deer.  Officer Sandy obtained a vehicle description and began looking for the violator, and soon located it.  Officer Sandy obtained confessions from two individuals regarding their act of stopping in the road and shooting the deer with a 30-06 rifle, from the vehicle window.  The driver also had licensing and vehicle registration violations.  Appropriate charges were filed.

Spotlighting Violator Nabbed – On Friday, October 30, 2020, Officer Nick Sumner, and an Amelia County Sheriff’s Deputy, were conducting a decoy deer operation, at a location where Officer Sumner had numerous complaints of spotlighting and shooting after hours.  At approximately 10:00 pm, Officer Sumner observed a truck pull up to the field and illuminate the deer, first with the vehicle, and then with a flashlight.  A traffic stop was initiated and a loaded shotgun and loaded rifle were discovered in the vehicle.  Furthermore, the driver was also suspended.  As a result, the appropriate charges were filed.

Road Hunting and Bait – Just after legal hunting hours in Appomattox County, on Saturday morning, November 7, 2020, CPO Stephen Ritchie and K9 CPO Richard Howald responded to a call for a deer that was shot from the road.   They soon developed a suspect, who went to the location of the incident with them, and gave them a story about how and where he had killed the deer.  Once the officers explained they were going to use the K9 to substantiate the story, he admitted that he had shot the deer from the road.  After the shot, it went into the woods.  He retrieved a pistol from his truck followed the deer into the woods and finished dispatching it.  K9 Skyy located evidence and the officers confirmed the suspect did not have permission to hunt the property.  Charges are currently pending.   Finishing this call, Officers Ritchie and Howald left that location and went to nearby baited stands that Officer Ritchie knew of and located two individuals who had been hunting over the bait.

Illegal Stand and Bait – On October 1, 2020, Senior Officer Gavin Fariss was notified by an anonymous caller, of a permanent tree stand and bait that was on public property in Prince Edward.  Officer Fariss began his investigation and continued it through the month of October.  On October 31st, he made contact with the involved responsible party and after a brief discussion, the appropriate charges were placed.

Joint Investigation – On October 7, 2020, Senior Officer Gavin Fariss was made aware of a local hunter who had been arrested for various non-game related crimes.  The Investigators consisted of local, state and federal agents who promptly alerted Officer Fariss to the possibility of various wildlife violations that the subject had committed.  Officer Fariss began his investigation and discovered that the individual was not properly licensed to hunt.  He also conducted foot patrols searching for additional evidence and soon located the baited hunting site.  Officer Fariss’s investigation led to five charges on this violator.

Illegal Hunters Identified – On October 30, 2020, CPO  Brett Clawson patrolled an area where he previously identified baited deer stands.  He located a subject hunting from one of the stands and conducted an interview.  The suspect admitted placing the bait and provided the name of a second individual who also hunts the property.  The suspect was also illegally using natural doe urine as an attractant.  CPO Clawson contacted the second individual who admitted to knowingly hunting over a baited area.  The appropriate enforcement action was taken.

Hunter Caught in Baited Stand – On October 31, 2020, CPO Tyler Routon conducted a patrol in an area where he knew of an illegally baited deer stand.  CPO Routon located a subject hunting from a secondary stand in close proximity.  The subject admitted to placing the bait for deer and hunting the area multiple times during the season.  The appropriate action was taken.

K9 Assists on Multiple Violations – On October 31, 2020, CPO Keith Wilson located a vehicle parked near private property where he suspected illegal hunting activity.  Assisted by CPO Richard Howald and K9 Skyy, CPO Wilson was able to locate two subjects who were hunting with rifles during muzzleloader season, who did not have blaze orange, were not properly licensed, and were trespassing to hunt.  The appropriate action was taken.

Spotlighting Suspects Nabbed – At approximately 9:45 pm on November 12, 2020, Senior CPO Brandon Harris received a call from VDWR Dispatch in reference to a spotlighting complaint in Charlotte County.  Officer Harris responded and spoke with witnesses who described seeing a gunshot fired from a vehicle that stopped in the public roadway.  He obtained detailed information about the vehicle and using this information, he located a suspect vehicle at a residence a few miles away.  Officer Harris began his investigation.  Shortly thereafter, he identified the vehicle driver and ultimately seized a firearm.  He also determined that three other individuals were present in the vehicle at the time of the incident.  After locating and interviewing each passenger, Officer Harris determined that each of the passengers were active participants in the incident.  Appropriate charges are pending.

Deer Carcass Leads to Violation – On November 7, 2020, CPO Shane Wilson received a call regarding the illegal dumping of a deer carcass in Salem City.  Through his investigation, CPO Wilson was able to develop a suspect and CPO Joe Williams assisted by making contact.  It was determined the suspect had permission to dispose of the carcass at the aforementioned location but had not legally reported his harvest.  The appropriate action was taken.

Multiple Violations Sniffed Out – On November 9, 2020, CPO Tyler Routon responded to a trespassing complaint in Bedford County.  While checking the area, he detected the strong odor of deer urine and located a large quantity of bait surrounding a deer stand.  Contact was made with the adjoining landowner who admitted trespassing to hunt, hunting without the proper licenses, illegally using natural deer urine, and hunting over a baited area.  The appropriate action was taken.

CPOs Respond to Homicide – On November 9, 2020, CPOs Joe Williams and Tyler Routon responded to an emergency broadcast for assistance by the Salem Police Department.  The CPOs assisted with the hunt for a suspect who had shot another individual and fled the area in a vehicle.  The suspect was not immediately located but was later apprehended in West Virginia.

Legwork Pays Off – Prior to general firearms deer season, CPOs Michael Morris and Leslie Wright initiated an investigation regarding the illegal baiting of deer in Bedford County.  The CPOs patrolled two large tracts of land by foot where they located a plethora of deer stands, many of which were illegally baited.  On November 14, 2020, CPO Michael Morris returned to the property and located five subjects actively hunting.  Multiple violations were detected to include hunting over bait, license violations, failure to display blaze orange, and illegal feeding of deer.  The appropriate action was taken.

Poachers Caught on Video – On November 4, 2020, CPO Joe Williams received a report of a deer having been killed illegally at night in the City of Salem.  Initially, there were no suspects but approximately one week later, a witness came forward who had video of the incident.  A suspect vehicle was developed using the video and Officers from the Salem Police Department located the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop.  CPO Williams responded and conducted interviews with the driver and passenger in which both admitted their violations.  A crossbow was seized and the appropriate action was taken.

Deer Decoy Operation Proves Effective – On November 14, 2020, CPOs Brett Clawson, Tyler Routon, and Michael Morris conducted a deer decoy operation in Bedford County.  Within a short period, the Officers observed a vehicle make multiple passes during one of which it came to a complete stop in the roadway and used the headlights to illuminate the deer decoy.  A stop was made and the appropriate action was taken.  The operation continued and within ten minutes, a second vehicle approached the CPOs location and the operator used a handheld flashlight to illuminate the decoy.  A second stop was made and again, the appropriate action was taken.

K9 Skyy Locates Hunters and Fresh Bait – On opening weekend of the general firearms season, Officer Cory Harbour was patrolling an area of Campbell County where he had complaints from landowners who were reporting trespassing hunters.  Officer Harbour was already familiar with one of the properties due to working a previous illegal baiting case there.  While patrolling the property, Officer Harbour located an unfamiliar truck parked along the field that the owner could not identify.  As a result, he requested Senior Officer Richard Howald and his K9 partner Skyy, for assistance.  They followed the trail for just over a ½ mile and ultimately located a truck occupied by two individuals.  One was the other landowner where Officer Harbour had previously addressed the unlawful feeding issue and the other was a friend.  While trailing the suspects, K9 Skyy located a freshly baited area, which the landowner later admitted to having put out the previous day.  Appropriate enforcement action was taken.

Young Hunter Experience and CPO Interaction – On opening weekend of the general firearms season, Officer Cory Harbour was checking members of a hunting club in southern Campbell County, when he heard two shots from the neighboring woods.  He decided to look into the shots.  At the end of a gravel road, Officer Harbour saw four blaze orange hats in at the end of a field standing in a group.  He approached and began talking to the group.  Officer Harbour quickly realized that a 12-year girl, who was on her first hunt, had just harvested her first and second deer.  The young girl was glowing with excitement and joy as she was celebrating the experience with her dad, uncle and, family friend.  Officer Harbour took pictures with the young hunter, checked in her deer so that she could have a keepsake, and gave the three men some Junior CPO stickers and whistles for their kids.

Region III – Southwest

Illegal Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon – On October 31, 2020, CPO Matthew Arnold received a complaint from a concerned citizen related to a subject working on a farm in Washington County, who had been killing multiple deer with a rifle every year. The complainant stated the offender had boasted of killing 14 deer in the 2019 hunting season. CPO Arnold responded to the call. During the interview, the suspect admitted to killing a 9-point antlered deer with a firearm on opening day of archery this year, and another 9-point antlered deer the previous day, Friday, October 30th; with the same firearm. During the interview process, the suspect retrieved the firearm from his vehicle for Officer Arnold to inspect. After further questioning related to both incidents, the suspect admitted to having been convicted of a felony violation of law. After proper confirmation was received concerning felony convictions, Officer Arnold placed the subject under arrest and transported him to the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail where he was charged with multiple charges of taking deer during closed season and illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Illegal Bait Site – On October 29, 2020, CPOs Rutledge and Wirt received information about an illegal bait site near route 460 in Pearisburg. After speaking with complainant, CPO Rutledge realized the suspect was an individual that he had charged 2 years prior for the same offense on the same small property. CPOs were later able to document the suspect walking in and out of the bait site with a bow in hand. CPOs Rutledge, Wensel and Wirt located and interviewed the suspect. The suspect was charged with hunting over bait and illegal possession of wildlife.

K9 Molly Assists CPOs in Tracking Trespassers and Finding Stolen Camera – On November 1, 2020 Senior CPO Wes Billings received a complaint from a landowner about trespassing that had occurred on his property. The landowner advised that he had a trail camera stolen from his property and bait had been placed in the same vicinity. Officer Billings along with K-9 Molly, and Officer Boyette responded to the scene in Wythe County. After the landowner showed officers where the camera had been taken, K-9 Molly followed a track to a residence nearby. Officers spoke with the people at the house and they confirmed that their son and a friend had hunted there that day. The officers subsequently conducted interviews with the subjects who had reportedly hunted in the area and obtained an admission from one of the men that he had stolen the camera. The same subject also admitted to hunting without a license and confirmed that he did not know whose lands he was hunting on. The camera was recovered and returned to the owner.

Hunter Lost in the Woods, Found Safe – On November 3, 2020 Virginia Conservation Police Dispatch Center received a call from a sixteen-year-old hunter in Bland County who was lost in the woods and did not have a flashlight. Officers Boyette and Peak responded to the area and met with the hunter’s friends in the area where the hunter had entered the woods on the national forest. DWR dispatch was able to obtain a GSP location from the lost hunter’s phone which showed his location as approximately ¼ mile in the woods. Officers Boyette and Peak along with two Virginia State Troopers then made their way to the hunter, who was cold and shaken but otherwise safe. The officers then returned the hunter to his party.

CPOs Assist in Multi State Federal Case – On November 6, 2020 Conservation Police Sergeant James Hale and CPO Matthew Arnold assisted the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a multi-state federal case involving multiple subjects taking Black Bear and deer illegally. The CPOs assisted in executing a federal subpoena at a taxidermy shop in Washington County for various records and mounts, as well as interviews for the owner and workers. Officer Arnold had been assisting with the ongoing case for the past several months, culminating with federal search warrants, subpoenas and interviews by Maryland DNR, Tennessee TWRA, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Officers. With the assistance of Virginia DWR mounts, firearms and other evidence were seized. Lacey Act violations, federal conspiracy violations, multiple possession of firearms by convicted felons, and many more wildlife violations have been uncovered as a consequence of the multi-state case.

Shooting from the Roadway Suspect Caught – On October 29, 2020, Virginia CPO Matt Meade received a call of shooting from a roadway in the Jonesville area of Lee County. Upon arriving on scene, he located the doe deer that had been shot and collected witness statements from the caller and neighbor. Officer Meade was able to locate the suspect through a license plate and vehicle description. Officer Meade was able to obtain a full confession and get a written statement from the suspect who stated he had shot the deer with a .270 rifle from his vehicle in the roadway. The suspect stated he had since sold the rifle to a pawn shop and Officer Meade was able to locate and photograph the firearm. Appropriate action was taken.

“Chaperone” Hunting Illegally – On October 31, 2020, Virginia CPOs Matt Meade, Dylan Harding, and K9 Officer Mark Vandyke were conducting an operation on a baited hunting site in the Ewing area of Lee County. After a couple hours of observation of the hunting blinds set up near the bait with no activity, they decided to move closer to verify they were not in use. While checking the blinds for occupants K9 Officer Vandyke noticed blaze orange and movement on the adjacent property. Upon contact with the hunters they observed 1 adult male and 2 small children. The male had a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle in his possession. The individual stated the older boy was hunting and he was just helping however both boys were under 10 years old. Officer Meade asked the subject if he had a hunting license to which he stated he did not. Officer Meade then informed him he was required to possess a hunting license to legally chaperone the kids under 12 and it was currently not rifle season. The appropriate charges were placed and individual was released on summons.

CPO Conducts Online Class at Virginia Highlands Community College – On November 9, 2020, CPO Joel Early conducted an online class for the Administration of Justice Advanced Investigations class at Virginia Highlands Community College in Abingdon.  Officer Early spoke about the mission of the agency and the role Virginia Conservation Police play within the conservation and regulation of the state’s natural resources.  The class was conducted as a virtual class room and included multiple topics on hunting, fishing, and boating enforcement.

Felon with Firearms Arrested – On November 13, 2020, CPO Joel Early concluded an investigation related to trespass to hunt, and felony possession of a firearm in an area of Washington County.  The suspect in the case had been trespassing onto property to hunt and was caught by Officer Early, carrying a firearm.  A search warrant was obtained and served on the suspect at his residence by Officers Early, Sheets, and Arnold.  The search of the residence produced firearms that the suspect, a convicted felon; admitted to carrying while hunting. Additionally, the search also uncovered a handgun. Firearms involved in the incident were seized as evidence and the suspect was taken into custody and transported to the Abingdon Regional Jail Authority, where he was taken before the Magistrate.

CPOS Assist in Swift Water Rescue – On November 14, 2020, CPOs Matthew Arnold and Tyler Sheets responded to a call from Richmond Dispatch concerning a capsized boat with subjects stranded near a DWR Public Boat ramp on the North Fork of the Holston river in Washington County. After several days of rain earlier in the week, the North Fork of the Holston River was at flood stage and the two subjects were attempting to cross the river, in a small flat bottom vessel, after hunting on WMA property only accessible by crossing the river. Due to the high water and rate of flow, the subject’s vessel capsized as the bow turned perpendicular to the current. Both subjects entered the water but were able to get back to the river bank and secure the capsized vessel. Officers Arnold and Sheets assisted Washington County swift water rescue teams conducting the rescue operation and other EMS personnel. Rescuers transported the two stranded subjects across the river to safety. No injuries were sustained and both hunters were checked and released by EMS personnel.

Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont

Better Late Than Never – On Monday, November 2, 2020, CPO Philip Pritt received notification that a deer, possibly a doe, had been shot and killed early in the morning on the previous Saturday. The deer had laid alongside of the road for most of the day and was then later seen hanging from a tree in a yard on Dutch Hollow Rd, Rockbridge County.  Pritt arrived on scene, two days after the kill, and observed the deer, a doe. Saturday was not a doe day in Rockbridge. When questioned, the homeowner stated she did not kill the animal, but a friend and the friend’s 15-year-old daughter had hunted her property on that Saturday. She only stated she helped her friend hang the deer and she provided CPO Pritt her friend’s name.

Pritt discovered the man was a convicted felon, a member of the Crips street gang, had just been released from prison after 8 years, and was supposed to be on house arrest. Pritt interviewed the man and received a written statement indicating the female homeowner had shot the deer. Pritt then interviewed the daughter and after originally lying about the deer and with her mother’s gentle persuasion, she confessed and stated her father picked her up that morning early, spotlighted several fields, and they then both hunted, over bait, and she killed the doe, out of season with the rifle her father had retrieved from the home of the landowner. A search warrant was then secured and executed and evidence was obtained. Charges for felon in possession, providing a known felon a firearm, spotlighting, baiting, closed season, hunting without a license, illegal possession, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and others will be placed on two individuals.

Election Night Spotlighter and Stolen Boat – On November 3, 2020, Special Agent Paul Inge was conducting spotlight patrols in an area of the Albemarle/Nelson County line where he had received repeat calls for night hunting. While observing a field, SA Inge observed a pickup slow and sweep the field with its headlights and a bright lightbar affixed to the grille of the truck. The truck then backed up and continued to sweep the field slowly with the lights. SA Inge pulled out from his concealed position, activated his emergency equipment, and stopped the vehicle. Neighbors emerged from their houses and could be heard making comments of approval that officers were catching spotlighters in the problematic area. After appropriate enforcement actions were taken, it was obvious the word was out, so SA Inge decided to change locations. During his travels, SA Inge made a loop past a rural business where a major deer case was solved the previous season. While there, he observed a boat that had the registration number ground off. A closer inspection revealed that the vessel was stolen out of Fluvanna County. The stolen boat and trailer were transported to Fluvanna impound, and SA Inge provided their investigators suspect information from the previous deer case.

Captive Raccoons – On November 2, 2020, CPO Danny Newton received information from the Health Department in Caroline County that a child was taken to Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center with scratches to her face. The scratches came from raccoons that were kept as pets in Caroline County. With very little information to go on, CPO Newton and CPO Alan Hatmaker began investigating the incident in order to determine a possible address where the raccoons were being held. On November 4, 2020, CPOs Newton, Hatmaker, Justin Sumpter, and DWR Wildlife Biologist Mike Dye arrived at a residence where the raccoons were thought to be housed. They spoke with a resident who confirmed that two raccoons were “pets” in the home. Dye was able to transfer the two full grown raccoons into his possession without any issues. Dye provided the raccoons to the Health Department for rabies testing. CPO Newton charged the “owner” of the raccoons with unlawful possession of wildlife.

CPOs Assist with Carrying Out Injured Hiker – On Sunday, November 1st, CPOs Owen Heine and Mike Corrado were requested to assist Shenandoah County Fire & Rescue and Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office with a search rescue of one individual in the Elizabeth Furnace Area of the George Washington National Forest.  It was reported that a male with cardiac arrest history had fallen and had a possible head injury. The first reported location of the victim and a friend was on the Massanutten Trail near Buzzard Rock Overlook. The CPO’s met with Fort Valley Volunteer Fire Department and Forest Service LEO Bryce King at the Signal Knob Parking Area.

Before heading up the Massanutten Trail towards the overlook, the search team requested Shenandoah County dispatch obtain a coordinate of the victim.  Shenandoah County Dispatch quickly gave the search team coordinates located on the opposite ridge near Shawl Gap on the Massanutten and Tuscarora Trail. The search team quickly reassessed their plan and decided that accessing the forest from Shawl Gap trail from Panhandle Rd. in Warren County would be the best route.

With six Volunteer Fire Fighters/EMT’s, two CPO’s, and one Forest Service LEO the search team headed up the mountain. At first, the team used trucks and ATV’s to get as far as they could, but the trail became narrow and only accessible by foot. The team grabbed what equipment they could and continued on their hike to the victim. When the team reached the top of the ridge after gaining six hundred feet in elevation, the temperature dropped and the wind became stronger. After a 1.7-mile hike, the victim and his friend were found on top of the ridge. The EMT’s on the team assessed the victim and made the decision that he needed to be carried out. While the EMT’s assessed the patient, Officer Corrado spoke with the patient’s friend. CPO Corrado could tell that the friend did not have proper clothing for the weather, so he offered his jacket to him. The friend quickly accepted the officer’s kind gesture. The patient was then placed onto a backboard and the carry-out process began. The team quickly realized that this was going to be no easy task. The trail was just wide enough for one person with rocks and obstacles in the way. After a strenuous carry of approximately a half mile, the team was met by two more members of Fort Valley Fire & Rescue. These two members were able to get an ATV to the top of Shawl Gap. The team placed the patient onto the back of the ATV and he was slowly carried out with the assistance of the ATV.  The patient was carried to an ambulance positioned at a Forest Service parking area on Panhandle Rd., where he was transported to the local hospital.

6 Rockingham Poachers Caught in 1 Week – On November 3, 2020, Senior CPO Wayne Billhimer was called out for a spotlighting violation in Rockingham County. Upon his arrival Officer Billhimer found a large eleven-point buck, lying in a local church cemetery, that had been shot through the eye with a small caliber round. Officer Billhimer interviewed the preacher who witnessed the spotlighters and heard a small caliber rifle shot. Officer Billhimer was then able to retrieve the .22 magnum bullet from the deer.

Officer Billhimer coordinated a decoy operation the following Friday night. During the operation, three males came through and cast a light upon the decoy and a .22 magnum was used to shoot the decoy in the eye from the passenger side window.  A stop of the vehicle also yielded a loaded .17 caliber rifle. After a week-long intense investigation, Officer Billhimer received a written confession from a separate subject on how he killed the original deer in the church parking lot from the road with a spotlight. Another individual got out of the vehicle to retrieve the deer as the driver drove off. He said he saw the preacher come out so he dropped the deer he was dragging and fled on foot.

A total of six individuals were charged for various spotlighting violations.

CPOs Receive Information that Leads to Arrest – On Nov. 14, 2020, CPOs Alan Hatmaker and Daniel Eller received information regarding individuals possibly hunting over bait in Caroline County. They responded to the scene and located a hunter in a blind with corn scattered on the ground. The hunter was not displaying blaze orange, and had two bottles of natural deer urine in his possession. Two other hunters were located on the property, but both were in compliance. The appropriate charges were placed on the hunter who was hunting over bait, failing to display blaze orange, and possessing natural deer urine while hunting.

Special Operations

K9 Tracks Trespassing Hunters and Thieves – On Sunday November 1, 2020, Conservation Police Officer Ben Boyette and Senior Conservation K9 Police Officer Wes Billings responded to a property in Wythe County in reference to a larceny of a trail camera and baiting.  The landowner had noticed a trail camera missing overlooking a food plot and also a small amount of bait had been placed out.  Officers were able to go back the area where the camera was stolen from and deploy K9 Molly in an attempt to locate a suspect direction of travel.  K9 Molly worked through winds gusting over 25 mph and dark conditions but picked up a track and followed it over 400 yards to the back yard of a residence.  The officers were able to speak with the homeowner and determine that his son and 2 other persons had been hunting the area in question earlier in the day.  The officers were able to meet with the hunters and after presenting the K9 track evidence, the hunters turned over the stolen game camera and admitted to placing out the bait.  3 hunters total were involved in the incident with 1 of the hunters also not being licensed to hunt.  The hunters involved will be charged with the appropriate charges for theft of the game camera, license violations, baiting, and trespassing.

K9 Team Assists D14 with Trunk or Treat Event – Oct. 30, 2020, K9 Officer Braziel, K9 Grace, Officer Rollings, and Sergeant Woodruff participated in the Surry County Sheriff’s Office Drive Through Trunk or Treat Event.  Officer Rollings decorated his patrol vehicle’s trunk and made goodie bags for the kids.  Sergeant Woodruff, K9 Officer Braziel, and K9 Grace assisted in greeting the children and handing out candy as they drove through the parking lot.  Hundreds of kids came through during this two hour period and it was a great solution to the trick or treat restrictions this year. K9 Grace was a hit!

K9 Team Assists with Spotlight Saturation Patrol -Oct. 30, 2020, After the Trunk or Treat event, K9 Officer Braziel and K9 Grace sat out in Sussex County until the early morning hours of 10/31/20 working a joint spotlighting operation with D14.  No violations occurred but they were there just in case.

K9 Team Assists with Illegal Shooting Case on WMA – Oct. 31, 2020, K9 Officer Braziel, K9 Grace, and Officer Druy responded to a complaint of a large group of people skeet shooting on Princess Anne WMA in Virginia Beach, VA. Upon arrival K9 Officer Braziel assisted Officer Druy with locating the group of approximately 10 people.  Officer Braziel maintained a constant eye on the group as Officer Druy was talking with individuals and having them fill out paperwork.  After the group left the scene peacefully, K9 Grace came out to the area where the group was shooting.  K9 Grace located several expended shotgun shells to assist Officer Druy in her investigation.

K9’s Nose Knows – While performing a foot patrol of a known hunting property in Rockingham County, CPO Ostlund observed a trail camera attached to a tree with two nearby tree stands.  He and K9 Reese moved closer to investigate and discovered the area to be baited.  Officer Ostlund deployed K9 Reese on a track from one of the stand’s and she led him off the property, across a wide creek, behind several homes and to a church parking lot.  Through further interviews and investigation CPO Ostlund was able to very quickly identify the suspect and meet with him and CPO Dobbs at the scene.  CPO Dobbs placed an appropriate charge and the hunter agreed to remove the bait without delay.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time – While conducting a spotlighting patrol in Rockingham County, CPO Ostlund was phoned by a citizen (with whom he had just met) and informed that a vehicle was heading his direction, actively casting a spotlight from the vehicle.  Officer Ostlund was only one ridge away and was able to observe the vehicle within seconds.  The vehicle continued to spotlight another field and Officer Ostlund attempted to execute a traffic stop, but the driver wouldn’t stop.   Finally, the vehicle came to a stop on a dangerous curve in the roadway.  CPO Ostlund exited his vehicle, identified himself as POLICE and ordered the occupants to show their hands.  They did not comply.  As CPO Ostlund moved tactically he was able to observe the occupants.  He began giving commands in Spanish, and the occupants began to comply.  K9 Reese assisted her handler by watching their surroundings while he awaited backup from the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office and CPO Heine.  Inside the vehicle there were two very young children in car seats, a chest cooler in the cargo compartment, the front seat passenger had two spotlights within his reach, and there was a loaded .22 WMR rifle inside the vehicle.  CPO Ostlund placed the appropriate charges and seized the rifle as evidence.

K9 Team Assists with Road Hunting Violation – Officer Ostlund and K9 Reese were requested by Senior CPO Kester to assist with an investigation into a deer that was suspected to have been shot from a public roadway in Rockingham County.  CPO Ostlund responded to the scene and deployed K9 Reese on an on-lead article search along the road’s edge, in hopes of finding an ejected rifle casing.  While working down the road’s edge K9 Reese suddenly led CPO Ostlund from the roadway to the location where the deer had died in the adjoining field.  She then led her handler to the location where the suspect had attempted to conceal himself in a bush the day prior.  Then she began actively tracking up a deer trail toward an area of woods and brush on the property.  She was intently focused and heavily sniffing the ground.  Suddenly she stopped in her tracks and laid down, excitedly looking up at her partner.  At first, CPO Ostlund didn’t see what K9 Reese was so excited about.  But then, as he looked more closely he observed the end of a bloody crossbow bolt sticking out of the hillside, its nock pointed directly at the adjoining roadway.   CPO Ostlund couldn’t hide his excitement as he celebrated with his furry companion!  From the moment Officer Ostlund gave K9 Reese the command to search, until the time she worked through the crime-scene and located the crossbow bolt was only 3 minutes!  Officer Ostlund relayed the information to Senior CPO Kester who was able to determine that the crossbow bolt discovered at the scene was the same type that the suspect currently utilized.  Senior CPO Kester will be placing the appropriate charges.

Double Trouble -CPO Ostlund and K9 Reese assisted Senior CPO Kester with an investigation into the out-of-season rifle killings of two bucks on POSTED property in Augusta County.  Officer Ostlund deployed K9 Reese on an almost 1-hour article search of the crime-scene.  During the search K9 Reese located a deceased large 8-point buck, two blood trails, a gut-pile, a discarded/littered jug of deer bait, the suspect’s tree stand and discarded food wrappers, an actively baited tree stump, and both ejected .30-06 rifle casings.  K9 Reese had to work especially hard to locate the ejected casings, as they had both fallen into a brush-pile and under leaves.  Senior CPO Kester obtained a full confession from the suspect and placed the appropriate charges.

Officers Assist with Motor Vehicle Crash – While responding to assist a District 41 CPO with a trespass-to-hunt case, CPO Ostlund drove around a bend on a Rockingham County road and observed a severe single vehicle car crash that appeared to have just occurred.  The car had left the roadway and sheered off a telephone pole, ultimately crashing into two large trees.  Officer Ostlund observed blood on the side of the mangled vehicle. CPO Ostlund retrieved his first-aid kit and personal protective equipment and ran to the vehicle to check for injured persons.  Finding none, he began searching the surrounding field for any persons that may have been ejected, relaying all information to his dispatch.   DWR Dispatch was able to determine that the victim in the crash was reportedly in-route to a hospital, being transported by family.  CPOs Ostlund and Chittum provided traffic control until VSP and the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office arrived on-scene.

K9 Team Tracks and Captures Wanted Suspect Who Ran under Major Naff’s Stand While He Was Hunting – On October 28, 2020, K9 Officer Tyler Blanks and K9 Bruno along with Officer Kevin Webb responded to Farmville to assist in locating the operator of a stolen vehicle who fled the scene of a crash after leading police on a chase. Major Naff was hunting a nearby farm and observed the subject run under his treestand. Naff guided Blanks and Webb into the woods where the subject was observed passing through. K9 Bruno was deployed and quickly began tracking the subject. Naff and Webb ran closely behind to provide security. After tracking approximately ¾ mile, Webb observed the subject attempting to cross a fence 200 yards ahead. Officers ran toward the subject and he quickly surrendered by laying facedown with his hands behind his back. Webb handcuffed the subject and turned him over to the Farmville Police Department. The subject was wanted in another jurisdiction and faces additional felony charges.

K9 Team Demonstrates Abilities for Students – On Nov 4, 2020, K-9 CPO Mark VanDyke, his K-9 partner Avery, and K-9 units from the Wise County Sheriff’s Office conducted a K-9 demo for approximately 50, 9th graders at Union High School in Wise County. Officer VanDyke spoke on the role and responsibilities of DWR’s K-9 units.  Officer VanDyke and deputies conducted several live demonstrations for the students, showing the K-9’s abilities and effectiveness in the field.  Students and teachers were surprised at the abilities and daily duties of the K-9’s.  After the presentation, students and staff were able to meet and interact with Avery.

  • November 25, 2020