Biggest Poaching Ring in Nebraska History Goes Down: Who Got Caught?

By Brodie SwisherOctober 20, 202015 Comments

A storm has been brewing for some time in the state of Nebraska. You  may have heard rumblings of convictions as this one began to snowball, but the word is finally out. Over 100 people from across the country, including states like New York, Wisconsin, Virginia and Utah made the trip to Hidden Hills Outfitters in Nebraska to hunt deer and turkey. Now, some 30 of these hunters have pleaded guilty to hunting violations while at Hidden Hills. 

Animals illegally taken at Hidden Hills include deer, antelope, and turkey. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

These hunters – better known as poachers – paid $2,500 – $7,000 for the opportunity to hunt deer, antelope and turkeys with Hidden Hills. But that’s not the problem. 

The issues that landed many of these individuals in hot water include: illegal baiting, spotlighting animals at night, as well as other illegal tactics to ensure their success. 

Following a major federal and state investigation, the number of Hidden Hills poachers is growing. 

At this point, 30 people have pleaded guilty, with some $570,453 in fines and restitution being assessed. There’s also been 53 years worth of hunting and fishing  permits forfeited by the guilty hunters. 

Reports show that some hunters used rifles during archery season, while some even used suppressors on the rifles to hide their actions from others in the area.

Other violations include: hunting at night, hunting without a license, shooting animals from the road, spotlighting animals, and lying  about who shot particular animals, or how they were killed. 

And to make matters worse for these hunters, the transportation of these illegally taken animals across state lines is a crime in and of itself. 

 Sources say at least 97 game animals were illegally killed. There were 30 white-tailed deer, 34 mule deer, six pronghorn antelope and 27 turkeys.

The interesting thing coming out of this case is the number of hunting industry personalities that have been involved in this case. Rod Owen, outdoor TV personality and former Drury Outdoors team member, hunted with Hidden Hills from 2015-2017 while filming hunts for Drury Outdoors.  

Ironically, Owen touted his Nebraska hunts on Drury’s, 100% Wild Podcast.
 
“You got to use all your different skills when you get out there,” he said of the Nebraska Sand Hills. “You got to play to win.”
 
The truth is, Owen knew that the animals were lured into range with bait. Sources say he even helped place some of the bait.

Owen claimed to have killed two animals with  a bow while at Hidden Hills, but the truth is, the animals were ultimately killed with a rifle. 

In both instances, he misrepresented the hunt in video submitted to Drury Outdoors, according to court records. He was fined $25,000 and ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution for hunting illegally in Nebraska.

Rod Owen, formerly of Drury Outdoors, is one of a number of hunters that were busted in the Hidden Hills poaching case. (Facebook)

So who was at the forefront of this poaching operation? 

Jacob Hueftle, age 30, is the co-owner and chief operator of Hidden Hills Outfitters. He was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Bataillon earlier this month. He was also ordered to pay $214,375 in restitution to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

As part of his plea agreement, Hueftle won’t be able to hunt, trap or engage in any related business for 15 years once he gets out of prison.
Jacob Hueftle was found guilty of illegal hunting, wanton waste and killing a number of non-game birds. (Instagram)

What are your thoughts on this latest poaching case? Did the owner get off too easy? What do you think the punishment should be for he and his hunters? 

Comment below and let us know your thoughts. 

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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