Newsroom Midwest Region

For Immediate Release
August 1, 2019

Contact:
Tina Shaw, 612-713-5331, Tina_Shaw@fws.gov 

Former cable television host pleads guilty to deer poaching

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service work with our state and tribal partners to fight poaching, and other wildlife crime, so that everyone has access to quality hunting and fishing opportunities. A white-tail deer poaching case that dates back to 2013 and involves former “Fear No Evil” host Christopher Brackett recently ended with a plea agreement that has the potential to send a signal to the wider industry that they aren’t above the law.

Brackett, age 41, of East Peoria, Illinois, and former host of the cable hunting show that aired on the Outdoor Channel, pleaded guilty on July 16, 2019 in federal court to unlawful transportation of wildlife, in violation of the Lacey Act. Brackett admitted that in December 2013, he killed two bucks within minutes of each other while filming his show. Indiana state law permits hunters to kill only one buck per season. Brackett further admitted that he transported the second, 11-point buck he had nicknamed the “Unicorn Buck,” for its unique antler formation, to his home in East Peoria.

Brackett featured the “Unicorn Buck” kill on his television show in 2014. Brackett further admitted that he instructed his cameraman and producer to hide footage of him taking the first, smaller eight-point buck. Brackett also admitted that in 2017, prior to charges being filed against him, he instructed an employee to destroy an eight-point rack.

“We were pleased to work with our state colleagues in the Illinois and Indiana Departments of Natural Resources to investigate this case. State bag limits are in place for a reason and those who feel that they are above the law are not only hurting the resource, they are stealing from ethical hunters. As with many poaching cases, this was about greed, pure and simple,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement Assistant Director Edward Grace.

Brackett’s commercial enterprise brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in advertising and sponsorships. Giving viewers the appearance of a better hunt on such a broadcast can add brand legitimacy for the host and a wider fan base, which ultimately leads to more profit. One of America’s oldest conservation laws protects against the illegal commercialization of wildlife on both a large and small scale.

The Lacey Act is a federal law enforced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell wildlife taken in violation of state, federal, tribal and foreign laws or regulations. The Act defines the sale of wildlife to include the sale of guiding services for the illegal taking of wildlife. When the Lacey Act was passed in 1900, it became the first federal law to protect wildlife. It enforces civil and criminal penalties for the illegal trade of animals and plants. Today, it also regulates the import of any species protected by international or domestic law and prevents the spread of invasive, or non-native, species.

At sentencing, scheduled for November 5, 2019, before U.S. District Judge Michael M. Mihm, the government and Brackett have agreed to a sentence of 30 months of probation with the condition that during the 30-month period, Brackett is banned from hunting worldwide. Brackett has also agreed to pay $3,500 in restitution to the state of Indiana and to pay a $26,500 fine. 

The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Legge in the prosecution, with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorney Georgiann Cerese from the Environmental Crimes Section at the Department of Justice. The charges were investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the assistance of both the Illinois and Indiana Departments of Natural Resources.