The most frequent violation during this year's deer hunting season is trespassing, according to Maj. Lewis W. Brandt of the Virginia Game Commission Enforcement Division.

"It creates a lot of complaint calls," he said.

As development in Northern Virginia increases, bringing more people into the area and reducing the territory available for deer, the game warden's job, and the number of complaints he must answer, has grown.

"There are too many people and too many complaints nowadays," said Sgt. T.A. Daniel, a 38-year employe of the Virginia Game Commission, who is retiring at the end of the year.

"When you have high population like Northern Virginia is currently experiencing, people {hunters} tend to trespass," said Richard Loving, a game warden based in Fauquier County. "When people trespass, they don't always know what's behind a deer when they shoot. Good God, there could be a house behind and the bullet might land in the house, or there might be someone legitimately hunting that they haven't seen."

As a member of the Virginia Game Commission Enforcement Division, a game warden's job during the deer hunting season is primarily to enforce state hunting and trespassing laws. He spends most of his day patrolling the woods and meadows of his territory, checking hunters' licenses, making sure dead deer have been legally shot, and responding to trespassing complaints from landowners.

"You might say I'm a state trooper of the woods and waters," said William Herndon, one of six game wardens assigned to Alexandria and the counties of Loudoun, Fauquier, Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington.

Besides trespassing complaints, game wardens say two other phenomena are on the increase: hunting at night with a spotlight or shooting deer from a vehicle parked on a road, both of which are illegal.

"This year spotlighting is a lot worse, or else we're catching a lot more," Herndon said. "We've caught about 18 people already and confiscated two vehicles."

Brandt said that night hunting of deer "creates the need for almost a 24-hour patrol by game wardens."

Deer season in most of Northern Virginia is from Nov. 16 to Jan. 2. A hunting license, required by anyone not hunting deer on his own land, costs $15 and allows the hunter to shoot two deer a season. Money from hunting license fees goes to pay game wardens' salaries.

After shooting a deer, a hunter must immediately mark it with a small paper tag included on his license and take it to a checking station where the kill is recorded. Both Loudoun and Fauquier have 14 checking stations, most of them at country stores.

From the checking station tallies, the state game commission keeps track of the number of deer killed each year. This information, combined with herd estimates, is also used to determine the length and limits of the hunting season. In 1986, 2,200 deer were legally shot by hunters in Loudoun, 1,900 were killed in Fauquier, and 122,000 in the state.

In Loudoun, there is no public hunting land, so all hunters must either be landowners or have permission from a landowner to hunt on his property. In Fairfax, hunting is prohibited except under certain conditions.

Few landowners want hunters on their property, however. As a result, trespassing abounds, even though it carries a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail and a fine of $1,000.

"Some people go absolutely nuts over deer," Herndon said. "It's almost like they would do anything to get that big trophy. I don't know if it comes from peer pressure from their buddies or just so they can have bragging rights."

Besides violations and complaints, game wardens must also deal with a variety of hunting accidents during their frequently long work days.

On opening day of the deer season, Herndon, whose 18-hour work day began at 2:30 a.m., had to help a man who had been shot through the wrist and hip by his hunting partner as they were getting out of their truck. Last year, Herndon had to investigate the death of a 20-year-old man in a hunting accident.

Game wardens hope that a new law requiring hunters to wear blaze orange caps or vests will reduce the number of hunting accidents this year. Last year, there were 92 hunting accidents and 13 fatalities in Virginia, which has about 350,000 licensed hunters.

"There aren't many farmers any more. Now you have different types of landowners, like doctors and lawyers, and the {no trespassing} signs start going up and then the complaints get worse," Daniel said. "Farmers used to wave whenever they saw a hunter. Now people want the hunters off their land."

Most hunters are responsible, knowledgeable people who play an important role in the control of the state's deer herds, Herndon said.

Without controlled hunting, deer populations would grow beyond the capacity of their natural habitat. The animals would then be forced to look elsewhere for food, which would result in excessive crop and tree damage, according to Herndon. Many deer would also die of starvation or disease, and the herd population would drop drastically.

Uncontrolled hunting, however, would create havoc on deer and other wildlife populations.

"If there was no control, we would be back to the way market hunting was at the turn of the century," Herndon said. "There wouldn't be any wildlife for my kids or the future. That's what makes this job important to me."