A Eustis man is the latest person to be sentenced in a scandal involving a professional hunting company that at one time operated in central Nebraska.
U.S. Attorney Joe Kelly announced Nov. 18 that Kevan Hueftle, 35, of Eustis was sentenced in federal court to pay $10,000 in restitution, a $5,000 fine and served three years of probation. As part of his probation, Hueftle cannot hunt, trap, guide, outfit, or otherwise assist or be present in the field with anyone engaging in those activities.
Kelly said investigators determined that Hueftle, who was an employee off Hidden Hills Outfitters of Broken Bow, provided guiding and outfitting services to a New York resident on property west of Eustis in Frontier County.
Hueftle previously identified a particular white-tailed deer named “Holyfield” with the aid of electronic game cameras that watched over bait sites on the property.
Throughout the first several days of the hunt, Hueftle help the client hunt “Holyfield” from locations Hueftle and the client knew were within baited areas.
Kelly said Nebraska law prohibits hunting or taking deer within a baited area, defined as within 200 yards of any location where bait is placed for the purpose of hunting or that may serve as an attractant for big game.
The client saw “Holyfield” on several occasions, but the deer was outside of archery shooting range. On Nov. 11, 2016, the final day of the hunt, Hueftle provided the client with a Remington 700 .243 caliber rifle, placed the client in an elevated tree stand, and authorized the client to shoot a deer with the rifle.
The client killed Holyfield knowing Nebraska law prohibited hunting deer with a rifle under the authority of an archery permit, Kelly said.
Hueftle helped the client transport the deer from the field, arranged to have the trophy parts converted into a taxidermy mount, and for the finished mount to be later shipped to the client’s New York residence.
The court ruled that Hueftle violated the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits the trafficking in interstate commerce of wildlife, fish, or indigenous plants that are “tainted” — taken in violation of a law or regulation, Kelly said.
To date, 34 defendants have pleaded guilty, been sentenced and ordered to pay a total of $595,202 in fines and restitution for underlying violations at Hidden Hills Outfitters, Kelly said. The crimes are related to deer taken within baited areas; deer, pronghorn, and wild turkeys taken with weapons or firearms prohibited during their hunting seasons; deer taken during closed season hours, from the road, or without a valid permit; and mule deer taken within the Mule Deer Conservation Area.
The operation was a joint investigation conducted by the law enforcement divisions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Kelly said.