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Deer apparently poached at Belmont in Stafford doesn't point to a larger problem here, game official says
Still, "I will say this year, we've had less calls" than usual, Shuler said. "It's hard to say why; it comes and goes. There are spells where it's pretty busy," then it's quiet for a couple of weeks.
One recent call involved someone suspected of hunting over bait. It's illegal to hunt where corn or other food has been placed to attract deer.
Shuler said calls like the one from Belmont are unusual.
"There are very few calls for any type of illegal hunting on national parks or estates," he said. Many of those venues have their own law enforcement, Shuler said, and state wardens tend to get involved only when they are asked to help.
Keith Kelly, chief ranger of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, said it gets a few calls about illegal hunting every year.
"Some years we catch up with it, some we don't. We're investigating some things now," he said. Rangers routinely patrol the park's four area battlefields--encompassing more than 8,000 acres--for illegal activity during hunting season. Occasionally, he said, the park fields calls from hunters wanting to retrieve deer shot legally outside the protected sites that run onto park land.
In the case of the Belmont deer, VDGIF's Shuler said that finding a suspect would be difficult.
"The only evidence we have is the animal. What we rely on very heavily is cooperation from the public--if they hear or see illegal hunting" and report it.
He noted that hunters are required to attend a safety course, which includes a section on ethics. Killing a deer illegally during an open season is a Class 3 misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $500.
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431