The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife said a robot assisted wardens in busting a man accused of shooting a rifle from the driver’s seat of a truck.
Justin Andrews, 22, of Colchester, is accused of firing from the vehicle Sunday afternoon.
The department occasionally uses deer decoys with animated heads to catch people firing from public roads, which is illegal in Vermont.
Permitted hunters must be at least 25 feet off the road before discharging their firearm, said Jeremy Schmid, a game warden with the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife.
“When you have someone shooting within 25 feet of a public highway or from a vehicle, it becomes a huge safety concern,” Schmid told necn. “Especially when they get that tunnel vision: when they see a deer, they don’t know what their backstop is. They don’t know what they’re shooting towards, that could really become a serious issue.”
Schmid said he had one of the robo-bucks out this past weekend in rural Lamoille County following complaints from residents in the area about people shooting from their vehicles.
It was during that operation Schmid said he saw Andrews fire from his truck. The suspect also is accused of speeding from the scene after game wardens announced their presence, Schmid said, but they caught up with him a few miles down the road following a pursuit.
Andrews was cited to appear in court in January to answer to the charges. If he is convicted, he could be fined, lose his hunting and fishing privileges in Vermont, and may have to forfeit the rifle to the state, fish and wildlife officials said.
Andrews is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
Vermont state records show in 2015, there were 135 complaints of people shooting from public roadways. Wardens said deer are the most common targets, but other animals are also targeted, including foxes or turkeys.
“It’s not sportsmanlike and it is unethical,” Lt. Carl Wedin of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife said of shooting from one’s vehicle on a public road.
Wedin said the robotic deer decoys are only used in secure areas with backdrops such as trees that can catch bullets fired toward them. The operations are closely monitored, he said, to ensure safety in the area.
Wedin indicated his hope is that the realistic-looking lures can protect real deer and the public from illegal shooting from cars and trucks, both by serving as a deterrent when people learn of the tools, and by helping catch offenders.
“It gives hunters–the real hunters–a bad name,” Wedin said of firing at animals from a vehicle. “There’s a lot of people out there that do things the right way and make hunting a sport, which is what it’s all about. And there’s other guys that don’t do it so ethically.”
Wedin and Schmid said in addition to utilizing the robotic deer on occasions, they also monitor live deer if they see the animals grazing or hanging out in a field in an area where there have been reports of shooting from the road or night poaching.
If they come upon such a scene, Wedin and Schmid said wardens may remain on the side of the road until the animals have moved along, watching to see if anyone attempts to shoot at the animals from vehicles or the side of the road.