STARKSBORO - A Starksboro resident was among three men arrested on Oct. 19 for illegally killing at least five deer over two consecutive nights in the Waterbury Center area.
50 year-old William Mitchell of Starksboro was arrested along with Jason Trieb of South Burlington and Lucas Ashley of Shelburne after a concerned citizen observed the group loading a deer into a pickup truck in Waterbury Center.
According to Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department's Col. Robert Rooks, the men were loading the deer during daylight hours, although the animal had most likely been killed between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.
"They came back in the daylight, so they put some thought into it," Rooks said.
The men admitted that they had "jacked" the deer by shining a flashlight on it from the truck, thus startling them into inaction while they shot them. Rifle deer season in Vermont is Nov. 15 through Nov. 30, but "jacking" deer is illegal at all times, as is taking a deer out of season with or without a license.
A follow-up investigation is on-going, and Fish and Wildlife officials suspect there were even more deer involved, although they can't say with certainty at this point whether the deer were intended for sale or personal use.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department investigates between 500 to 700 complaints of illegal deer hunting each year.
Rooks noted that the majority of those complaints occur from July to December, when the hay has been cut and the deer can be found in the open more often.
"The condition of the deer is prime for the freezer," he said. He also noted that the conviction rate for illegal deer hunting is 99 percent. Generally the perpetrators are caught red handed, with overwhelming evidence against them.
The Fish and Wildlife Department relies on anonymous tips from citizens to protect the state's wildlife from illegal hunting. Operation Game Thief works in conjunction with Crime Stoppers, and offers rewards for tips that lead to arrest and conviction. The tip line may be reached at 1-800-75 ALERT.