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VA: Hunter charged found to be felon

Hunter charged found to be felon

Man faces multiple counts after shooting incident off Mill Road

WOODSTOCK -- The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is stressing hunter safety, and asking for public assistance in policing the violators, after an incident Friday morning that led to six charges against a town man.

Robert Lester Jr., 27, of 3224 St. Luke Road, was charged with five misdemeanors related to shooting at a deer off Mill Road around 7 a.m., said Carl Dobbs, a conservation officer for the department's district that covers Shenandoah County. The most serious offense the man faces, though, is a felony -- possessing a firearm after being a convicted felon.

According to Circuit Court records, Lester was convicted of two counts of grand larceny in 2006 and has violated probation since.

The Woodstock Police Department responded to Mill Road for a report of someone shooting from the street, and officers quickly caught the suspect and contacted the game department to take over the situation, Police Chief Bryan Hutcheson said.

"It was pretty impressive," Dobbs said of the immediacy of the man's capture.

The man took only one shot at the deer after he saw it, and that was all he needed -- he killed it. However, he got slapped with several charges in the process, including shooting from a roadway, killing a deer with a shotgun during muzzleloader season and using a caliber gun less than .23.

"It's another one of those situations, it's a law for a reason," Dobbs said of shooting from a roadway. "It's a safety thing more than anything. ... It's important to stress that from where he shot, just down the road is a house. It's not worth the life of a deer to kill a person."

The game department relies on residents to report situations such as Friday's, and with this being the busy hunting season, awareness is extra important, he said.

"There's not a whole lot of us out there," Dobbs said. "It's important to call in these things. We can't be everywhere at once. Luckily the Woodstock Police Department got on the scene so fast."

To report incidents, people should call 800-237-5712, which will connect them to a dispatcher who can then contact an officer on duty.

As for Friday's deer, Lester may have at least made someone's day.

"It's now a part of the evidence, you could say," Dobbs said. "We'll make sure to get the meat to a good home [before it goes bad]."

Lester is being held without bond at the Shenandoah County Jail, Sheriff's Office Capt. Tom Hodges said.

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