As ethical hunters, we all hate the following things: sudden rainstorms when we’re tracking a blood trail, Chronic Wasting Disease, and poachers. The first two are acts of God or Nature, and thus beyond our control, but the third is definitely a problem we can all help tackle. And if we can’t help, we can at least sit back and enjoy the satisfaction of the biggest poaching bust in Nebraska history. So far, 30 people have pled guilty and more are likely to come, according to this article in the Omaha World-Herald.
“So far…$570,453 in fines and restitution have been assessed, and 53 years’ worth of hunting and fishing permits have been forfeited. Other cases are still working their way through the system,” states the piece, and that’s where we are today. But as satisfying as that sentence is to read, it’s so much more so when you know how the story began.
It starts out with a Nebraska outfitter called Hidden Hills Outfitters. Its co-owner, a 30-year-old named Jacob Hueftle, had apparently decided that the best way to get famous as an outfitter with a 100% success rate was to break as many game and fish laws as possible. From tactics that are legal in some areas (just not Nebraska), to tricks that are illegal everywhere, to stuff that would make the Hatfields and McCoys say “damn,” Hueftle did it all.
According to the Omaha World-Herald, that included baiting. If you live in Texas, chances are you’re scratching your head about that, because that is a legal tactic in the Lone Star State. It isn’t legal in Nebraska, but I suppose a hunter could be forgiven for trusting their outfitter to tell them whether or not it’s okay to do that.
However, for the vast majority of the cases working their way through the Nebraska courts, the hunters absolutely should have known better. Hidden Hills Outfitters sent its hunters out to jacklight deer at night, to shoot from vehicles and roads, and to rifle hunt during archery season.
What’s more, animals were frequently left to waste and rot once their antlers (or horns, for the pronghorn antelope) had been removed. According to the World-Herald, “at least 97 game animals were illegally killed: 30 white-tailed deer, 34 mule deer, six pronghorn antelope and 27 turkeys.” (Of course, because those are the ones we know about, chances are excellent that the real numbers are considerably higher.)
How did the biggest poaching bust in Nebraska begin? Interestingly, the case started with a tip that investigators won’t divulge. Was it a client who was alarmed and disgusted by what he or she saw at Hidden Hills? A rival outfitter who knew that Hidden Hills’ success rate was much too good to be true? We don’t know, but we can raise a glass of our favorite tipple to toast the anonymous tipster. Good-bye to these Nebraska poachers, and good riddance.
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