Decoy highlights opportunities within Criminal Justice

Don’t let the realistic-looking deer in the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences building fool you.

It won’t run into your car, eat the vegetables in your garden or call the elevator for you.

The decoy is used to teach students in wildlife crime how to combat spotlighting, a term used to describe a type of illegal hunting.

During such an operation, officers place the deer off-road, hidden enough to make the deer appear realistic, but also visible to a passerby. Officers typically hide on either side of the decoy and the entire operation is recorded.


Egan Green (center) and senior Carly Ruth (right) practice movements with Buddy the Buck, the deer decoy (left).

“Having a realistic wildlife decoy at Radford University is a great tool to give students hands-on experience,” said Criminal Justice Professor Egan Green. “I’m not aware of anywhere else that teaches a class on wildlife crime and conservation enforcement. There’s no book. It’s a niche class that we offer.”

Part of the niche course involves visits from officers. Virginia Senior Conservation Police Officer and Radford alumnus Lee Wensel ’81 visited Green’s wildlife course in February, bringing with him decades of experience and a first-hand knowledge of the tools of the trade.

“The deer decoy gives students a first-hand opportunity to see some of the tools that we commonly use in wildlife enforcement,” Wensel said. “It gives them a picture of what they will be or have the potential of doing depending on what part of the start if they are Conservation Police Officers.”

Radford University has contributed a growing number of officers to the field because of the opportunities the university offers its students.

“Radford gives the state a good place to look for potential applicants,” Wensel added. “I know several officers with us now that are Radford graduates. Radford has been one of the premier institutions in the state to provide us graduates.”    


Lee Wensel talks to a criminal justice class about the Virginia Conservation Police.

The increased presence of Radford graduates in the field is a product of the growth of the Department of Criminal Justice.

“When I attended Radford, it was an offshoot of the political science program,” Wensel said. “It’s grown a lot. We only had one professor who was considered a criminal justice professor at that time.”

With the increased growth, criminal justice professors, such as Green, give students experience that directly translates to the field.

“When applying to agencies, students can highlight and discuss wildlife conservation efforts, while discussing important legislation and how they are used during investigations,” Green said. “Some of those efforts include the use of decoys so the students won’t have to get past the ‘cool’ factor during an interview.”

Both students agreed that the deer decoy aided their understanding of spotlighting while doing so in an interesting and unique way. 

Sgt. Culbertson speaks to a criminal justice class.

“This was the perfect class for me,” said senior Grant Scott. “This is something I’m really interested in and something for which I have a passion. When applying to jobs, which will mostly be in rural counties, I can tell the departments that I’m familiar with some of the ways they catch poachers.”

“It helps that the deer decoy is different. It gives you an edge if you’ve never heard about it before or had the opportunity to use a decoy before,” said Carly Ruth, also a senior at Radford University.

Another objective for students in Green’s classes is to highlight the resources shared between departments and offices.

“It helps because there is a lot of overlapping between agencies, since a lot of them need help from others,” Ruth said. “Some agencies are subject-specific, such as wildlife. If there was ever an issue where one agency needed to have additional skills, they can easily shift between agencies for help.”

“It isn’t uncommon for a county to have one wildlife officer,” Green added. “They’re alone most of the time, so it’s really common for them to work with other agencies. It helps our students, who may not become wildlife officers, understand the roles of people with whom they will be working.”

Ruth summed up the opportunity of Radford’s Criminal Justice Department when she said, “Not many universities have someone who specializes in this field. These classes open your eyes to all the possibilities within criminal justice.”

Mar 7, 2017
Max Esterhuizen
(540) 831-7749