Walkin' With the Wild Woman

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Friday, June 24, 2011

At What Cost?

I had initially planned to introduce "Foto Fun Friday" today - but this press release landed in my mailbox last night, and frankly it wore on me most of the night.

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Illinois Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Duck Hunting Violations
WASHINGTON – Professional duck hunter and guide Jeffrey B. Foiles pleaded guilty today in federal court in Springfield, Ill., to wildlife charges arising from the illegal sale of guided waterfowl hunts, the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division announced today.  
Foiles, 54, of Pleasant Hill, Ill., pleaded guilty to an information charging him with one misdemeanor count of unlawful sale of wildlife in violation of the Lacey Act, as well as one misdemeanor count of unlawfully taking migratory game birds in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.   At the same time, the company that operates Foiles’ hunting club, the Fallin’ Skies Strait Meat Duck Club LLC, located in Pike County, Ill., pleaded guilty to an information charging it with one felony count of unlawful sale of wildlife in violation of the Lacey Act and one felony count of making false writings in a matter within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell wildlife taken in violation of federal law or regulation.   The act defines the sale of wildlife to include the sale of guiding services for the illegal taking of wildlife.
According to the plea agreements filed today, between 2003 and 2007, Foiles sold and guided waterfowl hunts at the club for the purpose of illegally hunting ducks and geese in excess of hunters’ individual daily bag limits.   Guided hunters paid $250 per day for hunts at the club.   Foiles and others at the club also falsified hunting records in order to conceal the excesses.
 According to the plea agreements filed today, the government and the defendants have jointly asked the court to sentence Foiles to 13 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release during which time he may not hunt or guide hunters, and to pay a $100,000 fine for which Fallin’ Skies Strait Meat Duck Club LLC agreed to serve as guarantor.   Further, Foiles agreed to one additional year, following completion of his term of supervised release, during which he will not hunt or guide.  
The court must determine whether or not to accept the plea agreements.   If the plea agreements are accepted by the court, the government has agreed to dismiss the pending felony indictment against Foiles.
The sentencing hearing for Foiles is currently set for Sept. 21, 2011, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Byron G. Cudmore.   The sentencing hearing for Fallin’ Skies Strait Meat Duck Club LLC is scheduled for Oct. 27, 2011, before U.S. District Judge Richard Mills.  
The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and the government of Canada.   The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.
From the onset the situation with Jeff Foiles and his actions have been troubling to me on several different levels. As a member of the outdoor media, I am beginning to encounter more and more outdoor "personalities" who feel that getting the footage, getting the photos, satisfying the sponsors, at any cost is acceptable.

It is by no means acceptable in my world. My feelings are that outdoor personalities, especially those who have large followings of young people and those new to the outdoor world of hunting, angling etc.  should hold them selves to a strict adherence of all fish and game laws.

When I was very young my mother taught me a simple rule about conduct - if I had any doubt what I was doing was wrong, or could be perceived as wrong, ask myself if I would want to see my actions as headlines in the newspaper.

It seems we have evolved into a society where any publicity -  is now good, regardless of the light it places us in.

Foiles had legions of young folks who all but worshiped him, what has this taught them? I can recall seeing long lines at various outdoor shows and events at Foiles booths. Starry eyed young waterfowlers with aspirations of becoming a "One Over the Limit"  hunter, waiting to get a chance to speak with Foiles, to get an autograph, to buy a call or video. I also watched Foiles immediately ignore those young people time and time again when he saw an adult with a large checkbook coming, or a member of the media coming. It would appear that to Foiles, what once was a love of waterfowling, had somehow evolved in to a chase for more fame, more money, more stardom.  But again I ask - at what cost?

Rather than using his "celebrity status"  to enhance the lives of young waterfowlers, teach  them the importance of following all fish and game laws, teaching the why behind those those laws, Foiles chose to use a his celebrity status to commit violation after violation of both state and federal game laws, as well as Canadian fish and wildlife laws.

In the initial indictment two items particularly bothered me - # 23 - in which it alleges that a cameraman who was horrified by the activities around him attempted to stop filming and was ordered back to filming by Foiles in order to capture more footage for an upcoming video in his well known and often purchased series.
I have found myself in situations where far less "serious" game violations were happening while I was photographing. I had to remove myself, lose the job and cut my losses. After all if I am going to talk the talk, I'd better be walking the walk. I challenge all outdoor media to do the same thing. Is it difficult? Absolutely. Does it cost you work? In some cases, yes it will. Can you sleep at night knowing you did the right thing? You betcha. When we stop providing outlets for "professional /celebrity" hunters who are violators, I can only hope that those who make a practice of this type of  law breaking behavior will see that it gains them little.

The other troubling item is # 24 in which alleges that Foiles and others traveled to a park where a large number of geese with neck bands were known to reside. The geese were lured with bread, then shot and neck collars removed in an effort to add more of the sought after band bling to the lanyards of Foiles and his staff.  Protected waterfowl are protected for a reason - this stunt merely taught the new and young waterfowlers that getting that band, filling your lanyard with bling is so very important - at any cost and any way you can. No mention of the beauty of a morning watching the ducks and geese lift off at dawn, no mention of the camraderie in a goose pit, whether birds are flying and falling or whether it's just a gorgeous winter day afield. Just get those bands kids, anyway you can. That's a mark of a true waterfowler.

Makes my head and my heart hurt.

Does it get any worse? Read through the indictment, and see the various and multiple charges and ask yourself - is this what we as outdoors professionals want to convey to our up and coming hunters?

I say no. I say that any celebrity status or professional hunter who is found guilty of knowingly and willfully violation any game, fish. wildlife code laws should pay the ultimate price and lose all privileges for life. It is imperative that we in the outdoor industry hold ourselves to a higher standard, that we set  the best example for young and new hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

In an effort to be fair - I am including the link here to Foiles statement regarding the situation

What say you?

3 comments:

We're livid out on the east coast. At least they got the conviction, but Foiles will be back at it in 2 years. Or less. I just posted on this myself -

http://rivermud.blogspot.com/2011/06/celebrity-duck-hunter-jeff-foiles.html.

I posted twice on it earlier this year - will link in those posts tonight.
 
And I did one better, I reprinted Foiles' statement from after the indictment, where he claims that he "respects all laws pertaining to wildlife."

What a joke!
 
What gets me the most is so many people (mostly supporters of Foiles) are ready to call this over and move on. It's far from over. Kicking dirt over it and moving on just sets a bad example for upcoming youth. Not to mention, all those who idolize him are being taught you can just "buy your way out" when it comes to trouble. Somebody posted on his statement in his forum "So it's the dog's fault?" and that was one of the first things I thought when reading Jeff's statement too. He was passing blame on many levels. When you are in a position of power (yes, when you are someone's idol you have influence over them. influence = power) it increases your responsibility to act in an upstanding manner an act as a positive role model.
 

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