An investigation into a Nebraska outfitter has turned into the biggest poaching case in Nebraska history, with more than 30 defendants pleading guilty to date and more cases still making their way through the court system. The outfitter at the heart of the case is now facing 2 1/2 years in federal prison for some of the most egregious abuses of state and federal game laws that I can remember.
Jacob Hueftle started Hidden Hills Outfitters in 2013, the year after he was convicted of violating federal hunting laws and was sentenced to five years probation. Hueftle wasn’t legally allowed to hunt under the terms of his probation, but the restrictions didn’t prohibit him from operating an outfitting business. According to authorities, the problems began soon after the business was formed.
Over about five years, investigators found, Hidden Hills Outfitters and its clients engaged in hunting practices that were illegal under either Nebraska or federal law.They shot animals that had been lured to them with bait and whose movements had been carefully scrutinized via trail cameras.
Some used rifles during archery season. Others hunted at night and with spotlights. Or lacked a permit. Or shot animals from the road. Or lied about who killed their animal and how it was killed.To hide their actions from others, hunters sometimes put noise suppressors on their guns.
And they sent their ill-gotten gains home, across state lines.
At least 97 game animals were illegally killed: 30 white-tailed deer, 34 mule deer, six pronghorn antelope and 27 turkeys.