Conservation Wildlife Management

Vermont Poacher Required to Forfeit His Car After Shooting Fake Deer

The deer was actually a dummy buck placed there by the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife to catch poachers
Katie Hill Avatar
game wardens installing deer decoys
Wildlife agencies across the country use deer decoys to catch poachers. Steve Liss / Getty Images

Following what the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is calling a “years-long court process,” 43-year-old Shane Philips of Johnson, Vermont must hand over his crossbow, $2,877 in fines and restitution, three years of hunting and fishing privileges, and even the keys to his 2011 Buick Regal for poaching a fake deer at night in October 2020.

A VDFW press release published on Friday detailed the attempted poaching, which took place in the town of Johnson in northern Vermont. On the night of the incident, game wardens saw the driver of the black Buick using lights to illuminate two deer in the dark. Eventually, the driver shot the buck—a dummy wildlife officials often use to catch would-be poachers—with a crossbow. 

When game wardens confronted the suspect, he fled the scene. They eventually tracked him down and seized his vehicle. Upon executing a search warrant, they found his Bear Saga crossbow, which had been fired. Phillips was then cited into court.

He pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the incident in April 2021. Two years later in May, Phillips was found guilty in Lamoille County Court of five wildlife- and shooting-related charges; taking big game by illegal means; taking big game in a closed vehicle; shooting from a motor vehicle; shooting from a public highway; and possessing a cocked crossbow in a motor vehicle. His sentencing took place in August, and was updated on Oct. 2 to include that he hand over his car and his bow. 

This is not Phillips’ first brush with law enforcement. In 2013, he was held on $530,000 bail after pleading not guilty to a variety of assault and other charges that stacked up from incidents in 2002 and 2012. He’d been on the run from police for over a decade during that time.  

“Prosecuting law violators takes time,” Vermont game warden Lt. Carl Wedin said in the press release.  “Catching a deer jacker in the act is one thing, seeing justice served is an entirely different operation.  Vermont hunters can be gratified to see this poacher forfeit his vehicle and weapon, in addition to his fine and loss of his hunting privileges for the next three years.”

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Deer jacking” is a casual term for shining light on a deer at night and shooting it. It’s another phrase for spotlighting, although spotlighting doesn’t always involve actually killing the deer.