Fallin' Skies: Jeff Foiles busted for illegal hunting

Rock 'n' roll hunter foiled by his own videos

Early one morning two agents showed up at his doorstep. They gave Hammock one final chance to avoid indictment. So Hammock relented and answered their questions, securing immunity.

That might have been bad enough, but to Foiles, Hammock had gone to the dark side: He launched his own company, Big Sean's Championship Calls.

In a September court filing, Foiles accuses Hammock of throwing him under the bus to steal his customer and sponsor lists. (Hammock denies doing this). Foiles wasn't about to turn the other cheek.

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.

In 2010 Hammock discovered something odd: Someone had already purchased the domain name "Bigseancalls.com"—and that site rerouted customers to Foiles's website. When Hammock mailed his former boss a cease-and-desist letter, Foiles responded with a text: "Game on!"

Foiles put on notice any staffers who were still "buddy-buddy" with Hammock.

"He is not anything but an enemy...," he emailed. "So I'm not dealing with that crap lightly any more. It shows complete disrespect for the company that you are staffing for!!!"

But while the fallout from the criminal case against Foiles destroyed many friendships, no one in his inner circle suffered more than 40-year-old Travis Wood.

Wood had been a "pro staffer," or Foiles Migrators representative, in Utah. And after Foiles's indictment, yet another YouTube video surfaced. This one apparently featured Wood floating a fourth shell. Linking Wood to his employer, online commenters chastised him without mercy.

On January 23, 2011, Travis Wood committed suicide. Foiles quickly set up a way to donate to Wood's widow and young daughter, but not before venting some fury on his website:

"To all the axemurdering pieces of sh*t on the other forums who bashed and brought nothing but stress/slander daily to Travis in the recent weeks...hope you all burn."

Foiles wrote more the next day. "[Travis] was having a really hard time with the fact people would take the time of their lives to destroy him!! Believe me I know what that pressure is!! I'm getting it 10 fold!! So yeah I understand his pain!!

"Did any of you think of how it feels when your family reads all this crap on the internet over a bird???"

AT FOILES'S SENTENCING IN SPRINGFIELD on September 21, U.S. Magistrate Judge Byron Cudmore asks the hunter whether he wishes to make a statement. Traditionally, this is when defendants offer an apology.

Foiles declines.

"Your Honor," he says to a nearly empty courtroom, "I don't wanna say anything, to be honest. I don't want to say something wrong, or be criticized for anything I say."

The judge moves on. He announces that he will accept the plea bargain.

"I'm a hunter too," Cudmore says. "Been a hunter all my life. Hunting is a privilege, not a right. And you have abused that privilege to a great degree."

He reminds Foiles that he cannot shoot birds for three years. That, the judge says, is "a true punishment for a true hunter."

After the sentencing, Jeff Foiles retires to a corner pub and orders an iced tea—per his probation, he's required to seek treatment for alcohol abuse and refrain from drinking.

He's asked what it's like to miss a duck season after enjoying the last 48. "It's like they took your dog away," he says.

About a month later, just days before duck season, Foiles's shop in Pittsfield is quiet. In a camo vest, he's fit and tan, having just returned from a week in Florida. He exudes the confidence evident in his DVDs.

Foiles points out the north wall of his store, where letters from kids are taped onto the wall. "Dear Jeff," wrote one 11-year-old. "Thanks for teaching me everything about goose hunting."

Slipping on wraparound sunglasses, Foiles exits the shop and hops in his Chevy Silverado. He zooms down to the former D&J Duck Club in the Mississippi River bottoms. He recently sold the property for $1.14 million. He didn't have much equity in it yet but was able to use what he had to pay off his $100,000 federal fine.

He rumbles out to one of the pits surrounded by flooded corn. Decoys are already set up for this year's waterfowlers. He points to the corner of the pit nearest the river. "This is where I spent most of my time, right here," he says.

He retreats to his truck and climbs in.

"It's tough," he admits with a pained smile. The duck club required tremendous effort to maintain, so in a sense, he's relieved: "I'm glad to have a break from it, but when you build something like that...." He shakes his head. "It's tough."

DENNY MARSCHUETZ NORMALLY SMOKES cigars outside. But on the day federal agents met with him, he felt too jittery to resist. "When they laid this out on my conference room table, I lit a cigar and said, 'Holy shit. You guys have done your homework.' They knew things about hunting trips that even I didn't remember."

By that time, the feds had grown too insistent to ignore. The businessman demanded immunity. But the agents didn't need to depose him, Marschuetz says. They only needed him to confirm certain facts.

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