By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
A bag limit looks like a cold number, Nelson suggests. But it represents "a commitment to other humans" and an agreement "to share nature's bounty." Shooting over the limit isn't so much an affront to an animal, or to an arbitrary statute. It's an affront to other hunters. In a word, it's greedy.
On a snowy December 15, 2007, Jeff Foiles and his crew at D&J Duck Club scored some great footage. But they also filmed themselves shooting well over the bag limits—and trying to cover their tracks. Foiles was required by federal law to keep precise records of the bird harvest at his property. But the clip shows Foiles actively falsifying it.
"Boys," Foiles announces, "as bad as I hate to say it, I think we are done."
Then an idea strikes him. He turns to his son-in-law, Jason Munz: "Does your brother hunt?"
"He doesn't have his license," Munz replies. Then Munz suggests another option: "McMurtrie didn't go today."
"Okay," says Foiles. "McMurtrie's killing his limit today then." As the camera rolled, he instructs Munz: "Call McMurtrie and get his license number." With the license number, they could pencil a proper entry in their official log to denote that McMurtrie had killed his limit—even though he wasn't there.
AT THE TIME OF HIS RECORDED MISDEEDS, Foiles was entangled in a nasty divorce with his second wife, Andrea. They were dividing up more than $2 million in assets, from farm acreage to Harley-Davidsons.
And just a month before before the incriminating footage was shot at D&J Duck Club, family tragedy struck there.
On November 5, 2007, Foiles, his teenage son Cole, and his 80-year-old father Burdette went for a hunt. After putting the ATV away, the elderly man said he wasn't feeling well. As he was starting up the stairs to the club trailer, the old man collapsed in cardiac arrest.
Foiles came running, and Burdette died right there in his son's arms. Foiles would later call it the worst thing he ever lived through.
"I didn't walk up them steps for the rest of the year," Foiles says.
It was already a tense time at the duck club, recalls partner Denny Marschuetz. Foiles's personality had changed as he struggled to adapt to fame: "If you go from being an ironworker to everybody wanting your autograph, that's hard."
The duck club had been transformed into Foiles's personal fiefdom.
"It got so bizarre up there that none of my associates would go," Marschuetz remembers. "He controlled every hunt, where you shot, when you shot. You couldn't bring any duck call in but his duck call. It was ridiculous."
Late in the season, Foiles asked if he could borrow Marschuetz's beloved black Lab, Junior. The businessman had forged an unusually tight bond with the dog (and had spent $25,000 to acquire and train him). He agreed but asked Foiles to be careful.
The next day Foiles texted the bad news: A duck had swooped low in front of the pit. Junior crashed into the icy water a bit early. Foiles accidentally shot Junior in the back of the neck, killing him.
Marschuetz was crushed—and bitter.
"There are no 'accidents' in shooting dogs," he says. "That's negligence. I'm sorry, but that's what it is. He was shooting at a duck he shouldn't have been shooting at."
Yet the matter wasn't quite over: Within a couple of days the veterinarian mailed Marschuetz the bill. Foiles later apologized and paid it. But the friendship had disintegrated. Foiles ultimately bought out Marschuetz in April 2008.
"Financially it was fair," Marschuetz says of the split. "But emotionally it was devastating. This wasn't the same man I'd hunted with back in 1995."
BY EARLY 2008 FOILES HAD A HUNCH the feds were sniffing around, which he confided to "Big Sean" Hammock, his jack-of-all-trades employee. Hammock had an inkling why. The 29-year-old now freely admits, "I did stuff with him I never should've done."
One day that May, Hammock was trimming weeds outside the shop in Pittsfield when he noticed a 15-vehicle fleet of black SUVs and green trucks approaching. Federal agents climbed out of the vehicles flashing badges. They called him by name, telling him he was needed for questioning.
"They knew everything," Hammock says.
Foiles arrived in short order. The agents interviewed him, then left with business records and a hefty chunk of raw footage.
That evening Hammock drove down to Foiles's home in Pleasant Hill. "I was worried sick," he says. "Jeff was scared to death, he's crying, we're both looking at each other like, 'I don't know what to do.'"
Over the next two and a half years, federal agents pressured Foiles's associates to roll on him. Foiles hired a private investigator to keep tabs on who was saying what to whom.
"Some of these [informants] didn't have ill intentions," says Ed Fanning, one of Foiles's three attorneys. "I think they were threatened. If you feel your freedom or your family is at risk, you're going to do what you feel is necessary."
However, he suggests: "Some people did have ulterior motives."
By 2009 Foiles had hatched a theory, later proffered by his lawyer in the divorce case. The hunter believed that his estranged wife had started the whole thing. She'd become romantically linked to Foiles's former employee in the field, Mark Carey. (After parting ways with Foiles, Carey launched his own bird-call company, Fowl Obsession.)