Fallin' Skies: Jeff Foiles busted for illegal hunting

Rock 'n' roll hunter foiled by his own videos

Federal prosecuters deny this version of events. Foiles's ex-wife, who has since remarried and is now Andrea Nicolay, did not respond to requests for an interview. Carey declined comment, saying only, "I wish the man the best."

On December 10, 2010, prosecutors in the Central District of Illinois slammed Foiles with a 25-page indictment. They charged him with conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and Federal False Writings statutes. In order to capture better footage for his videos, they alleged, Foiles routinely killed more birds than allowed by law and fibbed in his club records to hide it.

The total indictment against him: 23 felony counts.

Jennifer Silverberg
Foiles pieces together one of his custom bird calls at his workshop in Pittsfield.
Jennifer Silverberg
Foiles pieces together one of his custom bird calls at his workshop in Pittsfield.

On the same day he pleaded not guilty, January 27, the Canadian government accused Foiles of shooting over his limit on several occasions and committing two counts of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal.

The hunter posted a statement on his website: "Jeff Foiles, an American sportsman, respects the law." He added that he "appreciates the patience and understanding of friends, sponsors and supporters....Thanks again and PLEASE PRAY FOR OUR TROOPS!!"

ON JUNE 23,2011, FOILES LOGGED INTO HIS website—and gloated. "After years and months of trying allegations," he typed, "I can finally say I feel vindicated."

Foiles and the government had at last struck a deal. Prosecutors would dismiss the indictment, and the hunter would plead guilty to only two misdemeanors.

"If you're facing 23 felony counts, usually the government is not going to let you walk away without a felony conviction," said Fanning, Foiles's attorney. "I don't think it panned out as big as they had hoped."

The sportsman didn't skate by any means: He agreed to pony up a $100,000 fine and serve 13 months in prison. Upon his release, Foiles would be banned from hunting for two years. He would also be forced to record a public-service announcement urging others to avoid his misbehavior.

In the plea, Foiles copped to shooting over his limit on three occasions—once by 16 birds. He also admitted that on nine different dates in 2007, hunting parties at D&J Duck Club killed too many waterfowl. He was present for most of the incidents. Some were guided hunts that earned him a profit. But every single time, it was Foiles himself who cooked his books at the duck club to make everything appear kosher.

"I totally admit I did that," Foiles wrote in his June 23 statement. But he hastened to shed some light on the over-bagging.

"Ninety percent of the time it was a pure adrenaline rush," Foiles contended. Plus, dogs often find cripples at day's end, he pointed out. That will nudge a group's total harvest into illegality. "More than not," he concluded, it was "an honest mistake."

Prosecutors begged to differ. They argued in a September pleading that Foiles "was not merely an individual who got caught up in 'fast and furious' action and accidentally shot in excess of his daily limit." The raw video taken at the duck club in December 2007 proved that his law-breaking was at least partly calculated.

The feds now openly concede their own calculations: They hoped the Foiles case would send a message.

"Obviously we're going to try to target the bigger players that are illegally commercializing wildlife," says Tim Santel of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "But we're not trying to go after the big names just because of who they are. We go after them for what they're doing. We're targeting illegal commercial wildfowl hunting. Not commercial wildfowl hunting."

Prosecutors clearly weren't pleased with Foiles's post about the case. Still, Fanning averred in early September that his client had every right to weigh in publicly on the plea. His sponsors and vendors, such as Realtree and the mammoth outdoor retailer Cabela's, were severing ties with him.

"I think his statement just made the government look bad," he said. "And they didn't like it."

The import of Foiles's guilty plea was not lost on Chuck Delaney. He is the organizer of Game Fair, the nation's biggest outdoors expo held annually in Anoka, Minnesota. He had scheduled Foiles to give seminars there in mid-August.

In the past Foiles always drew a crowd. However, Delaney canceled him for 2011.

"We try to keep our image as clean as we can," Delaney says, "and I just decided it wouldn't be proper to promote him."

Foiles was furious.

"I have praised Game Fair across the USA for years," he fumed in an email to Delaney, "and I get canceled without a call??" He asked supporters to communicate their displeasure to the organizer. Dozens did. But Delaney held firm.

Those who know Foiles agree that he's fiercely loyal and demands loyalty in return. Says Denny Marschuetz: "Foiles is the kinda guy that, if he knew you, and saw you fall in river, he's going to try to get you out. But there's another side to him that's not that way. He holds grudges and stays angry and carries resentments."

In August 2011 Foiles ordered employees to cut all contact with "Big Sean" Hammock.

Hammock, who worked for Foiles from 2005 to 2009, says the feds leaned on him for months to rat out his former boss, but he resisted. He even relocated to Minnesota.

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