United States Attorney Joe Kelly announced that Kevan Hueftle, age 35, of Eustis, Nebraska, was sentenced today in federal court in Omaha, Nebraska, by United States Magistrate Judge Michael D. Nelson for violating the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act prohibits the trafficking in interstate commerce “tainted” (i.e., taken in violation of a law or regulation) wildlife, fish, or indigenous plants. Hueftle was convicted of one count of the illegal taking of wildlife in interstate commerce and sentenced to three years’ probation. Magistrate Judge Nelson ordered Hueftle to pay $10,000 in restitution and a $5,000 fine. As part of his probation terms, Hueftle shall not hunt, trap, guide, outfit, or otherwise assist or be present in the field with anyone engaging in those activities.
An investigation determined that Hueftle, a Hidden Hills Outfitters (HHO) employee, provided guiding and outfitting services to a New York resident upon property located west of Eustis in Frontier County, Nebraska. Hueftle previously identified a particular target white-tailed deer named “Holyfield” with the aid of electronic game cameras over-watching various bait sites upon the property. Throughout the first several days of the hunt, Hueftle placed and assisted the client hunt “Holyfield” from locations Hueftle and the client knew were within baited areas. Nebraska law prohibits hunting or taking deer within a baited area, defined as within 200 yards of any location where bait is placed for the purpose of hunting or that may serve as an attractant for big game.
The client observed “Holyfield” on several occasions during the hunt, but outside of archery shooting range. On November 11, 2016, the final day of the hunt, Hueftle provided the client with a Remington 700 .243 caliber rifle, placed the client in an elevated tree stand, and authorized the client to shoot a deer with the rifle. The client later killed the target deer with the rifle, both knowing Nebraska law prohibited hunting deer with a rifle under the authority of an archery permit. Hueftle assisted the client transporting the deer from the field, arranging to have the trophy parts converted into a taxidermy mount from a local taxidermist, and coordinating for the finished mount to be later shipped to the client’s New York residence.
The sentencing hearing today is part of the ongoing prosecution of numerous defendants related to violations committed by owners, guides, and clients of Hidden Hills Outfitters. To date, 34 defendants have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced and ordered to pay a total of $595,202 in fines and restitution for underlying violations related to deer taken within baited areas; deer, pronghorn, and wild turkeys taken with weapons or firearms prohibited during their respective hunting seasons; deer taken during closed season hours, from the road, or without a valid permit; and mule deer taken within the Mule Deer Conservation Area.
The operation was a joint investigation conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Law Enforcement Division.