This Happened to Me: The Police Raided My Deer Hunt
Two urban bowhunters are just minding their own business when a police officer storms into the woods, rifle raised and barking orders
WHAT STARTED as a normal morning in the deer woods turned out to be the scariest day of my life. It was March 2020, and my friend Billy Phillips and I were hunting one of the suburban properties we have permission on in northern Virginia.
Our state has an extended urban antlerless season that ends in late March, and this particular hunt occurred right after the state of Virginia announced the “Stay at Home” order during the early Covid-19 pandemic. That particular order allowed you to leave home for a couple of reasons, and hunting was one of them.
We were hunting in a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes on three- to five-acre lots, and the property we were on that day was a double lot of 10 acres total. In our world, that’s humongous.
We parked at the end of an old driveway and walked a short way to our hunting spots. We climbed into our trees to set up about 100 yards from each other, with Billy closer to the trucks than my stand. Then, just as daylight broke, I spotted the lights of a car near where we parked. I looked through my binos and saw that an older Ford Taurus had pulled up. I remember thinking, Oh, this is kind of odd.
I texted Billy. “Can you see the cars?”
“Yeah, I’m looking at them,” he texted back.
Then I saw Billy’s truck bed light turn on.
“He’s in my car,” Billy texted again. “I’m getting down.”
At this point the sun was fully up and we could clearly see our surroundings. As Billy descended his tree, I saw a police officer in full uniform coming down the little hill toward us with an M4 in his hands. I pulled out my phone to record footage, the kind of video that says, Look at the unusual things we deal with while hunting in the suburbs.
Then I realized the cop had his weapon shouldered and was pointing it at Billy. He was screaming at him.
“Get on the ground! Get on the fucking ground!”
What he was saying was concerning, but the tension in the officer’s voice was worse. Billy was packing up his sticks as the cop approached. If Billy had turned around while holding the sticks or if he still had his crossbow in his hands, I don’t even want to think about what might have happened.
“Where’s your buddy?” the cop started yelling, getting even more aggressive. “Where’s your buddy?”
And I’m like, “Sir, I’m over here.”
“Get out of the fucking tree,” he yelled.
“OK,” I replied, “it’s going to take me a minute.”
“I didn’t ask for feedback. I told you to get down here.”
The cop screamed at both of us the whole time it took me to get down. When I walked up to the cop, he spoke into his radio.
“You can take the guns off them now.”
We were obviously perplexed, and he explained that he had snipers in the woods with their rifles trained on us.
“What is going on here?” I asked. “What is happening?”
“Shut up,” he told me. “I’m asking questions here. Hands on your head and turn around.”
I kept persisting with questions, trying to figure out why we were being searched at gunpoint and who this police officer was. The man wouldn’t tell us anything and proceeded to pat us down.
“I’m not a regular cop,” was all he said. “I’m a special cop.”
When the officer asked us what we were doing at this property, we explained that we are deer hunters and that we had permission to be here. I pulled up the signed permission slip from the landowner and showed it to him. Then I asked again what he was doing here. The officer told us that they spotted us on a UAV—an unmanned aerial vehicle. He was suggesting he had a military drone 30,000 feet above us, which is completely ridiculous for our county or most any police department.
“This is Fairfax County,” I said. “What are you talking about?”
His demeanor shifted and he got less aggressive—especially when I asked him why he was going through our vehicles.
“You had a wire on the floor, and I thought it was a bomb,” he said to Billy. Billy explained that he works in landscaping, and that he has sprinkler-head components in his truck.
By now we were starting to get nervous, and I noticed the officer’s uniform didn’t look quite right. There was something off about him. We kept asking why he was searching our cars without cause, and why he was on private property.
Then he just left.
He didn’t give us his card or an explanation, and no other officers showed up. After the adrenaline of having a gun pointed at us wore off, Billy and I ran through what had just happened.
I told Billy that I thought the guy must be impersonating law enforcement, because the whole interaction just didn’t sit right with me. Billy and I mentor several police officers who are learning to hunt, and we’re huge supporters of police in general. Mind you, this was when Covid lockdowns were at their peak, and there was mass civil unrest throughout the country. The last thing we wanted to do was blast the police.
Still, we needed answers. We sent the short video clip I had recorded to a few of our police officer buddies, and one called me right away. He explained that it didn’t look right, and that what happened is not standard police procedure. He asked where we were and made a few phone calls to see if he could find out any details for us.
When my buddy called me back, he was laughing so hard he could barely speak. The man who had just ordered us down from our trees at gunpoint was indeed a police officer known as the department’s Tackleberry. (In the Police Academy movies, Tackleberry is a tryhard who’s overzealous in his enforcement.) This particular police officer had been on desk duty and was sent out on patrol as a result of scheduling issues caused by Covid.
My buddy learned that the officer had gotten turned around, thought he was at a park, and that we were doing something illegal. Billy and I had a meeting with the guy’s captain, who apologized profusely. We decided to leave it at that.
Read Next: Deer Hunting Every Day in the Suburbs of Virginia
It was a terrifying and confusing ordeal while it was happening, but now that a few years have passed, it’s just another crazy story from our time hunting the D.C. suburbs. Here’s this guy who thought he was busting the biggest crime ring of all time and instead ended up nearly arresting a couple rednecks in camo.
Read more OL+ stories.