For Immediate Release
March 17, 2006
Contact
Captain Bobby Mawyer, 804-367-9274

VDGIF ACADEMY GRADUATES CLASS OF GAME WARDENS

Richmond, VA — The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Basic Training Academy graduated its second class of game wardens yesterday. The swearing-in ceremony took place at the Holiday Inn Koger Center in Chesterfield County. Secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant was the keynote speaker at the ceremony. Board of Game and Inland Fisheries Chairman Sherry Smith Crumley and VDGIF Interim Director Gerald Massengill also spoke during the program. Clerk of the Circuit Court for Chesterfield County Judy L. Worthington officially swore-in the new officers.

The 19 new game wardens completed an intensive 34-week training program that included more than 200 courses. They will take up their assignments across the Commonwealth and proceed with field training under the direct supervision of field training officers. They will also undergo three weeks of boat operation training to be conducted on the James River and Rappahannock River.

Game wardens must be proficient in a wide array of skills including handling of firearms, crime scene investigations, drug and operating under the influence enforcement, search and rescue, boat operation, etc. A Virginia game warden is vested to enforce all the laws of the Commonwealth and to uphold the statute and regulations that affect hunting, fishing, trapping and boating. VDGIF undertook establishing its own academy in order to tailor the program to the specific needs of game wardens. Previously, game warden recruits attended the Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy in Lynchburg.

The 2nd Basic Class of the VDGIF Training Academy consists of the following game wardens:

Game Warden and Assignment

Amy Lee Atkison - Warren County

Kevin Geoffrey Bilwin - Page County

Issac Asa Craig Boulanger - Westmoreland County

Jacob William Clark - Southampton County

Rickey Lee Davis - Franklin County

Brandon David Edwards - Bedford County

Robert Orrin Ham, III - Greene County

Steven Eric Hicks - Fauquier County

Richard Matthew Howald - Appomattox County

Joseph Roy Morris - Amelia County

Michael Brett Morris - Gloucester County

Travis William Murray - Mecklenburg County

Lisa Q. Rhudy - Alleghany County

Mark Joseph Sanitra - Prince William County

Ryan Michael Shuler - Stafford County

James William Slaughter, IV - Pittsylvania County

Joshua Wayland Wheeler - Floyd County

Kenneth Randall Williams - Northumberland County

George William Zuban, Jr. - Brunswick County

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries News Release
For Immediate Release
March 20, 2006
Contact
Captain Bobby Mawyer, 804-367-9274

AWARDS PRESENTED AT VDGIF GAME WARDEN ACADEMY

Richmond, VA — At the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Basic Training Academy graduation and swearing-in ceremony, awards were presented recognizing the hard work and dedication of several of the game warden recruits and one outstanding volunteer instructor.

The Top Shot Award is given to the game warden recruit with the highest overall qualification scores on all firearms courses. The selection is based solely on qualification scores earned at the conclusion of the 80-hour block of firearms training during the Academy. Recruits were required to demonstrate proficiency with their issued pistol, rifle, and shotgun. Basic Training Academy staff certified the selection. The recipient of the Top Shot Award is Game Warden Robert O. Ham, III, who is assigned to Greene County. Game Warden Ham was born in Tennessee but has lived since childhood in Roanoke, Virginia. He was graduated from Bridgewater College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a pre-med focus. While in college he joined the Bridgewater Volunteer Rescue Squad and was an active member for the last four years rising in rank from sergeant to lieutenant. He is an avid photographer and outdoorsman, having grown up camping, hunting, fishing and backpacking in the mountains of Virginia.

The Outstanding Driver Award is given to the game warden recruit with the highest overall qualification scores on all driving courses. The selection is based solely on scores earned during the 80-hour block of driver training during the Academy. Due to the nature of the locations they are required to access and patrol, game wardens patrol in four-wheel drive vehicles. Training for this type of vehicle goes beyond the traditional training for sedan patrol vehicles utilized by traditional law enforcement agencies. Driving courses include Asphalt Precision courses, High-Speed Reaction courses, Emergency Vehicle Operations course, Off-Road Obstacle Negotiation, All Terrain Vehicle Operation, Gravel Surface Braking Course, and three different Trailer Backing Courses. The recipient of the Outstanding Driver Award was Game Warden Mark J. Sanitra who is assigned to Prince William County. Game Warden Sanitra was born in Ohio and most recently resided in Columbus, Ohio. He was graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor's degree in Aviation Management. He later returned to the university and earned a Bachelor's degree in Wildlife Management. He is a waterfowl hunter, among many other hobbies. He and his wife, Sharon, also enjoy boating.

The Most Physically Fit Award is given to the game warden recruit with the best overall performance in the three areas tested by the VDGIF Basic Training Academy. The recruits were given a pre-test when they began the Academy in August, a mid-term test in November, and a final test on March 8, 2006. The game warden recruits were required to participate in a physical training program each day for one hour for the entire 34-week period of the Basic Academy. The three performance areas were push-ups, sit-ups, and a mile-and-a-half run. The scores were compiled and reviewed by the instructors that assisted with physical training and then confirmed by Academy staff. The recipient of the Most Physically Fit Award is Richard M. Howald who is assigned to Appomattox County. Game Warden Howald was born in Ralls County, Missouri. He graduated from Spokane High School and received a Construction Diploma from Gibson Technical School in Reed Springs, Missouri. After serving a two-year mission for his church he joined the United States Marine Corps. He served as a marine for four years and was deployed overseas two of those years. He is a hunter and an angler, but also enjoys mountain biking and rock climbing. He and his wife, Dana, have a daughter, Emma.

Game Warden Howald is also the recipient of the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries Award given to the recruit who displays exceptional overall performance during the entire course of training. He was selected for his motivation, professionalism, peer leadership, and for being an inspiration to others. He is also recognized for his support of the Academy and staff by providing outstanding logistical, administrative, and Emergency Medical Technician support.

The Colonel's Award was presented to the game warden recruit with the highest grade point average in recruit class. This is the average of all 36 exams administered in the Academy. Exams covered 1,351 training objectives set by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, in the areas of Professionalism, Legal Issues, Communications, Patrol, and Investigations. Other exams taken during the course of the Basic Academy were as a result of training that addressed the non-traditional law enforcement functions that pertain specifically to the unique law enforcement duties of the Virginia game warden. Some of these topics were Marine Theft Investigation; Hunting Incident Investigation; laws and regulations specifically pertaining to hunting, fishing, trapping, and boating; camouflage and concealment; and permits. The recipient of the Colonel's Award is Game Warden Ryan M. Shuler who is assigned to Stafford County. Game Warden Shuler was born and raised in Waynesboro, Virginia. He graduated from Stuarts Draft High School and later graduated from the Central Shenandoah Criminal Justice Training Academy. He served as a reserve police officer and a full time patrol officer with the Staunton Police Department. From there he became a deputy sheriff with the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office. As a deputy he had the opportunity to work closely with the game warden assigned to Fluvanna which sparked his interest in becoming a game warden. He resigned his position there to attend the VDGIF Training Academy. He considers himself an outdoorsman who enjoys trout fishing, canoeing and hiking.

The Director's Award was presented to the person voted best instructor by the recruit class. To be eligible for the award the instructor must have taught at the Academy and could have been from any VDGIF division, not just Law Enforcement, or from outside the Department. The recipient of the Director's Award is Sergeant Stephen J. Garvis. Sergeant Garvis has been a game warden with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for 12 years, nine of those serving in Northampton County where he resides with his wife and children. At the Academy he instructed the recruits in Trapping Enforcement (enforcement of trapping laws) and was the co-lead instructor for Waterfowl Enforcement. In addition, he assisted with training of Tactical Tracking Operations. All these courses are non-traditional law enforcement courses designed specifically for the Game Warden Basic Training Academy to address the specialized skills needed by Virginia Game Wardens. Sergeant Garvis was recognized by the class for his knowledge of subject matter, ability to effectively convey the information, and his rapport with the students.

In all, 19 new game wardens were sworn-in at the Thursday night ceremony. The new game wardens completed an intensive 34-week training program that included more than 200 courses. They will take up their assignments across the Commonwealth and proceed with field training under the direct supervision of field training officers. This is the second class to graduate from the Department's Training Academy. VDGIF undertook establishing its own academy in order to tailor the program to the specific needs of game wardens. Previously, game warden recruits attended the Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy in Lynchburg.

Outdoors detective

A day in the life of a Virginia game warden--from boredom to bedlam

By RUSTY DENNEN

Date published: 1/2/2005

IT'S 9 DEGREES on the coldest morning of the season. A gut-rattling whoosh of wind ruffles the collar on John Cobb's camouflage uniform as he climbs into his green, state-issued Chevy Tahoe and heads to work.

There's no cushy cubicle awaiting him: Cobb is a game warden. His office is the great outdoors.

Today, he'll drive and walk the backwoods and fields of Caroline County, checking on hunters and running down complaint calls.

Pulling out of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' Fredericksburg office parking lot, he smiles.

"In the summertime, people say they'd love to have my job. I think not too many would want to go out today."

First stop is a swath of snow-dusted woods off U.S. 17 just over the Caroline County line.

"Last year, I caught five people here," he says over the squawk of a police radio. He wrote several tickets: No blaze orange (which hunters must wear to be seen), trespassing, using a rifle in a shotgun-only area, and borrowing and lending a license.

For the hunters, it was an expensive outing: Court costs of about $60 each, fines of up to $100 on each count. For an illegal deer, add another $500 replacement fee.

Cobb has the authority to go where anyone is hunting, fishing, trapping or operating a boat.

He steers the SUV into the 934-acre Pettigrew Wildlife Management Area, a narrow strip of land running along U.S. 17. With dense hardwoods, thickets, streams and marshy bottoms, it's a favorite spot for deer hunters.

Cobb wants to see if anyone is illegally hunting with dogs or using a rifle.

He pulls up in a small parking area. With the snow cover, he can see that there are no vehicle tracks, and he moves on.

Finally, on a gravel road, a deer hunter appears in the distance. He's walking back to his car, a shotgun slung across his shoulder.

Cobb approaches, turns on his blue lights and greets David Sauer of Spotsylvania County with a smile.

"Any luck today?" Cobb asks.

Sauer shakes his head. Too cold. He's heading back to the car after only an hour or so in the field.

Cobb asks him if his gun is loaded.

It is.

He asks Sauer to hand over the weapon, pumps out three shells, and hands them and the gun back. Sauer is hunting legally and has done nothing wrong, as is the case with the vast majority of people Cobb checks.

Sauer can walk with a loaded gun on this road. But since no shooting is allowed along a highway, it should be unloaded for safety's sake, Cobb says.

He tells Sauer about new deer-checking regulations, wishes him a good day, and hits the road.

More than game

Interactions with hunters, Cobb says, are a great part of the job. Most of the time he spends a few minutes shooting the breeze and then gets down to business, checking licenses, animals killed and equipment.

On weekends, when hunters are out in force, he might check 20 or 30 people. Though his primary responsibility is Caroline, he also works with wardens in Fredericksburg and the counties of Spotsylvania, Louisa, Orange and Stafford.

Primarily, game wardens are responsible for enforcing Virginia's hunting, fishing, trapping and boating regulations.

But they do much more.

Fully empowered police officers, they assist sheriff's deputies and state police on traffic and search-and-rescue operations.

Cobb is part of the security team that protects the North Anna nuclear power plant.

He's ticketed drunken drivers and occasionally comes across illicit drugs, illegal weapons and felons while doing his job.

When the Rappahannock River's Embrey Dam in Fredericksburg was breached last February, Cobb was in a johnboat downriver to prevent anyone tempted to paddle in the high water that followed the blasts.

"I wasn't even supposed to work that week," he says.

One time, he apprehended a robbery suspect at a McDonald's in Bowling Green.

Most of the time, he works alone. And most of the people he meets are armed.

A game warden for 10 years, Cobb has never had to fire at anyone, though he's had to chase people on occasion.

The job can be dangerous. The men and women in green have been shot at, run over and assaulted. In Virginia, eight have been killed in the line of duty since 1903. A game warden was seriously injured last year in Stafford while patrolling on an all-terrain vehicle.

One thing in Cobb's favor: He's 6 feet 8 inches tall, lean and muscular. At 40, he's in prime condition.

"It's pretty good exercise. I've never had a job when I wasn't out and about."

Cobb grew up in Hopewell and graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in wildlife management. He did a stint in the Army, worked for a security firm and as a county deputy before becoming a game warden.

"I always knew that's what I wanted to do," he says. He's married and has an 18-month-old daughter. His wife supported his decision to take the job; they discussed the potential dangers before he accepted the position.

"We have an agreement. I tell her when I'm coming home. She's not to worry until I'm two hours late.'' If that happens and he's out of touch by cell phone, he has a sheriff's office dispatcher call her.

Aiming high

For a game warden, there's no 9-to-5. One day, he's up before dawn; the next, he might not be in bed until dawn.

"The hardest part of the job is managing your hours," Cobb says.

On a recent Saturday, he started work at 1 p.m., got home at 6. He had dinner, then staked out a field for illegal night hunters until 2 a.m.

He works many nights, weekends, holidays. He handles all his investigations from beginning to end. There's no handing off paperwork or cases to others.

"Saturday is usually the longest day," he says. The week between Christmas and New Year's is especially busy, because it's the tail end of deer season and people are on vacation and out in the woods. Yesterday was the last day of the firearm season for deer.

Slowing the vehicle to peer occasionally into roadside thickets and ravines, Cobb swings by hunt-club shanties tucked way back in the woods. At Sportsmen Club, Cat Club, Sparta Hunt Club, no one's around. No trucks, no activity.

After weaving through more back roads, he pulls in to Sparta General Merchandise to grab a barbecue sandwich, chips and chocolate cake for lunch, which he eats in the truck.

Because of the frigid weather, no hunters' pickup trucks are in their usual spots outside.

"I knew there wasn't going to be much happening today when I saw the parking lot," Cobb says. Still, he has to make the rounds, rain or shine, freezing or warm.

Cobb is prepared for whatever happens. He's had police training, and specialized game warden education. Weeks of additional in-service training are required each year for him to keep up with changes in the laws.

Cobb helps train new wardens, and is one of four certified to administer polygraph tests.

The training regimen is being updated. Virginia's new Game Warden Training Academy in Richmond will graduate its first class of officers this spring.

A big part of the job, Cobb says, is reading people.

"You begin to learn quickly if something doesn't look right, or sound right."

For example, he checked a man dove hunting one afternoon. As he approached, the man came across the field to greet him.

"He said he just wanted to save me the walk. He was nervous for no reason."

Cobb knew better.

Later, he went back to the spot where the man was hunting and found it had been strewn with sunflower seeds, doves' favorite food.

The next week, he went back to the field and caught the man's son-in-law, who admitted he'd sown the illegal bait. Both were charged; the elder man for two offenses.

Many of Cobb's tips come from good hunters who follow the rules and don't like it when others don't.

For example, some aren't content with killing the number of deer they are allowed, or kill a doe on a buck-only day.

Information also comes from landowners and the public. Hunting on the road and trespassing are the two most common complaints.

Drawing a bead

Cobb may spend hours working on a case.

Deep in Caroline on a back road, he recently staked out a cut-over field along a wood line at night, waiting for spotlighters who illegally illuminate and shoot deer after dark.

He'll sit for hours in the dark and cold in his green truck with his windows down waiting.

If he's lucky and someone else is very unlucky, boredom turns to bedlam in a split second, as it did one night recently.

"This car, a hatchback, went by. No big deal," he said. Until it stopped, a window rolled down and a rifle shot rang out. The car then sped away.

Often, spotlighters will shoot and return in the morning to pick up the deer.

He stopped the man and wrote him a ticket.

One of his most challenging cases a few years ago involved a man who was shooting deer out of season with a .22-caliber rifle. The weapon is preferred for poaching: deadly but not as loud as a shotgun or high-powered rifle.

"Someone would drop him off, he'd walk a mile or so, get a deer and take whatever [meat] would fit into a standard-size backpack."

Through investigation and a tip, Cobb went to the man's house. As as luck would have it, the poacher had just finished cooking up a mess of venison tenderloin and bacon.

"When he answered the door he was still chewing. I said, 'Are you this person? I want the deer.' His jaw just kind of dropped."

"That was a really good one," Cobb says. He's especially pleased to nail a poacher, spotlighter or one of a small number of shooters who hunt trophy deer out of season.

He hastens to add: "Most people who hunt are great people." If there is a problem, "You have to be able to tell the difference, have the upper hand, and the quicker you [act], the better off you are."

Cobb's job generally follows the ebb and flow of wildlife, and of boaters.

Fall and winter are prime time for hunters.

During the spring, migratory fish make their way up the Rappahannock and turkey gobbler season opens.

During the summer, he works with Spotsylvania's wardens, enforcing boating and fishing laws on Lake Anna.

One day on the lake, he was in plain clothes, looking for jet-ski violations.

He came across a pontoon boat a man had rented to promote his business. The man had hired some girls in bikinis to draw attention to ads on the boat, and some "professional" jet-ski drivers to create a little extra buzz.

The four jet-skiers were doing so many reckless things, Cobb recalls, "I barely had time to count them all."

One zoomed toward another at about 50 mph, turning away at the last second.

"By that time, I'd had enough," Cobb says. All four got tickets.

Some people never learn.

"Last year, I caught the same guy [fishing without a license] in three different jurisdictions," Cobb says. Each time, he claimed to have a license, then couldn't produce it in court.

"A fishing license costs $12.50. He ended up paying about $400."

To reach RUSTY DENNEN: 540/374-5431 rdennen@freelancestar.com

Date published: 1/2/2005

No warden means more work for deputies

Staff
01/25/2005

Without a designated game warden here, Fauquier County deputies will continue to respond to wildlife calls.

"At one time there were three game wardens here," said Sheriff Charlie Ray Fox Jr. "But that seems to have declined every year."

Game wardens are state employees. Last year, one game warden covered the county, but he is no longer assigned here.

Even with that game warden's help, Fox said Fauquier deputies responded to 2,528 "game calls" last year. Those calls included general hunting complaints, trespassing complaints and promiscuous shooting complaints, he explained.

That number reflects only a slight increase from 2003, when deputies responded to 2,519 wildlife calls. In 2002, deputies responded to 2,293 wildlife calls, according to Lt. Col. Dave Flohr.

"Not having a game warden or multiple game wardens here taxes our guys," Flohr said, noting that Fauquier is one of the biggest deer kill counties in the state.

In addition to investigating hunting complaints, the game warden typically responds to calls regarding foxes and other wild animals, Flohr said. Now, he said, deputies are handling those incidents also.

"We do have three animal control officers, but their primary responsibility is to handle domestic animal (calls)," Flohr said.

Because it is a personnel matter, Julia Dixon, a spokesman for the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, could not say why the warden who covered the county last year is no longer assigned here. But she did acknowledge that there are now three vacancies in Region 5.

"We now have one officer working in Culpeper (County) and one working in Madison (County)," she said. Lt. Phil Parrish is now covering the rest of the region, which includes Fauquier, Greene and Rappahannock counties, she added.

Dixon said the vacancies will be filled as soon as possible. She encouraged citizens with general hunting or other wildlife complaints to call the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' 24-hour wildlife crime line, (800) 237-5712.

"Tell us what happened and where. The more information you can provide, the better," she said. "Your identity will be protected."

Fox and Flohr both said that 15 new game wardens are now going through training, but it is unknown when, or if, any of them will be assigned to this area.

Until a new warden is posted here, deputies will continue to handle game calls, Flohr said.

-- By Alexandra Bogdanovic

©Times Community Newspapers 2005

Poachers meet their match in Bucky


By JOANNE KIMBERLIN
The Virginian-Pilot

Published January 20, 2005

SUFFOLK, Va. -- If you had shown up, Mr. Poacher Man, you'd be in deep trouble now.

Game wardens were waiting for you Saturday night in southwest Suffolk. Two were crouched in the cold, dark woods. Two waited nearby in unmarked sport utility vehicles, in case you decided to run for it.

The neighbors have heard the shots, you see, and now the law knows that you and your buddies have been sneaking around out here killing deer after hunting season. But that's not your only crime. You're hunting at night, blinding your quarry with a high-powered spotlight, which makes a deer stand stock-still. Odds are you're shooting from a truck stopped on the road, considered quite a hazard to other drivers. Chances are pretty good, too, that you're fueling your bad behavior with a belly full of beer.

On this night, you'd have come across Bucky. He was standing all alone on the edge of a field, his antlered-profile barely visible in the frosted half-moon. Reflective dots glued to his brown, glass eyes would have glowed like the real thing in your spotlight. And if you hesitated on the trigger sensing that something wasn't quite right about Bucky--he would have turned his head, wiggled his ears or twitched his tail, using the power of four AA batteries to persuade your finger to go ahead and pull.

You might have wondered why Bucky didn't collapse, or at least run, when you did fire.

Dumb as it may seem now, you probably fired at him a second time. Maybe even a third. You might have even reloaded.

Some of you have been known to keep shooting at Bucky until a game warden walks up and pries the gun from your hands.

An SUV hits the brakes on a dark country road in Suffolk. Kristin Dougherty and Clint Wooten jump out. Wooten yanks Bucky's body from the cab. Dougherty emerges with his head. As the SUV pulls away, the two game wardens leap across a ditch and dash into a field.

Wooten jams Bucky's rebar hooves into the mud. Dougherty settles his head in place, slides his antlers into their slots and checks the electronics.

If a car comes by, they'll hit the dirt with Bucky. Word travels fast in a rural community, and this sight is sure to heat up the phones.

The spot they've chosen was carefully scouted earlier. It's close to where the complaints have come from, yet far enough from civilization to be safe. The woods behind Bucky will work as a backstop for stray shots.

Thanks to mushrooming development, it's harder and harder to set up decoy stings. While poachers don't fret about shooting near houses, farms and factories, the game wardens won't encourage it by placing Bucky in an unsafe setting.

In minutes, Dougherty and Wooten have hightailed it to the other side of the road and vanished into the shadows of a tall stand of pines. Wooten crouches behind a fallen log. Dougherty stretches out on her stomach, fingers poised over the toggle switches of Bucky's remote control.

Virginia's 1 million white-tailed deer are the state's most popular game species. About 200,000 are shot legally every year.

"The vast majority of hunters are ethical," says Randy Hickman, a lieutenant with the state's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. "They honor the laws, and they follow a code of conduct that's been handed down through generations." For those hunters, deer season ended Jan. 1. For poachers, it never ends.

Bucky carries the proof of that. His hard-foam body is embedded with the lead he has taken during the five years or so he has been propped up as bait. Life-sized, with a real deer-skin hide, Bucky is a deluxe version of the animated reindeers in a Christmas lawn display. Sold for around $600 by a number of wildlife supply outfits, he's wired for robotics that look convincingly real when executed in a natural setting.

Antlers can be added or not, allowing Bucky to pose as a male or female. When he wears a rack, however, it's kept to an average size. A judge might feel sympathy for someone who found a trophy deer simply too much to resist.

Entrapment is always a concern. Bucky stands back off the shoulder, out of sight to most cars whizzing by. There, he's less likely to tempt a person who isn't already out poaching. And no one wants Bucky to attract an innocent family. A mini-van stopped in the middle of a sting can be a mess.

True, folks are breaking the law just by pulling over to admire a deer that's mesmerized by their headlights. But most people don't know that, and Dougherty and Wooten aren't shivering in the frigid forest just to hassle Ma and Pa.

They wait. They watch for slow-moving headlights. They listen for the crunch of knobby, four-wheel-drive tires.

A common tactic is to shoot, then leave one guy behind to fetch the carcass while the others race away. They circle back when they're satisfied they weren't discovered.

Some operations are more thought-out than others. Guns have been dropped off at home before the return. Shooters have lain flat in the bed of pickups, popping up only when a deer is spotted. Most poachers are quite surprised when they're caught.

"After that, they're usually embarrassed," Hickman says. "A lot of them ask us if we're going to tell anyone."

It's a tough thing to hide for long. Poachers are arrested and, depending on their record, face fines up to $2,500 and/or a year in jail. Their guns are seized. They can lose their vehicles a real problem for a truck owner with payments.

"It's the gun, though, that often bothers them the most," Hickman says. "There's a good chance that it belonged to their father, or even their grandfather. They really hate to lose something like this that's so sentimental."

Most stings are videotaped, and most poachers plea-bargain, if they can.

"We've got a real good prosecution record," Hickman says. "I don't remember us ever losing a case."

During her 16 years with the game department, Dougherty has done deer decoy duty many times. Like most game wardens, she grew up loving the outdoors. She chose a career that would keep her close to nature.

It's brutal weather for sitting still on a damp forest floor. After two hours, the cold has worked its way through the game wardens' thermals. Only a dozen or so cars and trucks have passed by all clipping along. Bucky doesn't even rate a glance.

Their next move depends on the poachers. Illegal hunting usually tapers off toward spring and dwindles down even more in the heat of summer.

That means Bucky might be out action for a while--relegated to a corner or a closet in someone's office.

The Virginian-Pilot is based in Norfolk.

Information from: The Virginian-Pilot