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NE – HUNTING – 30 plead guilty so far in largest poaching case in Nebraska history

The hunters came from at least 21 states to the deep-cut canyons and Sand Hills of Nebraska to bag trophies for their walls back home. More than 100 people from states like New York, Wisconsin, Virginia and Utah paid $2,500 to $7,000 to take aim at big bucks, pronghorn antelopes and turkeys, all with the help of Hidden Hills Outfitters near Broken Bow. But they weren’t really big game hunters. They were poachers — using bait, spotlights at night and other illegal tactics to guarantee their success. And now many of them have been convicted of federal crimes or other violations after a major federal and state investigation. So far, 30 people have pleaded guilty, $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. Jacob Hueftle, 30, the co-owner and chief operator of Hidden Hills Outfitters, 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, jointly with his company, 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. The case is the largest such bust in Nebraska history, according to Dick Turpin, the 83-year-old retired chief game warden at Game and Parks. “All the guys hunting and fishing in this state ought to write (the judge) a letter thanking him,” Turpin said. “Somebody is sticking up for our interests.”  [full article]

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