Stopping a white-tailed deer poaching scheme in Iowa

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We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognize how important quality, legal deer hunting opportunities are for all Americans. Thanks to a joint investigation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, we put an end to an illegal scheme to take white-tailed deer in Iowa. What started as a state-level investigation into the illegal use of deer tags led to a larger investigation that revealed 16 years of illegal activity by out of state poachers in rural Cedar County, dating as far back as 2002.

“Thanks to one single tip from the public which led us to the initial investigation and eventually turned into something much greater, we were able to put a stop to years and years of illegal activity,” said Iowa Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Eric Wright. “Deer hunting is a very popular sport and hobby across our state and we want to ensure that all hunters are doing so fairly and abiding by the law.”

The investigation found that a Michigan family spanning three generations was poaching trophy-sized white-tailed deer on a privately-owned Iowa farm without the required hunting permits or tags. Douglas Leo Hebert, age 49, of Indian River, along with his 51-year-old brother, Jeffrey Leo Hebert of Bay City and their 73-year-old father, Leo Frederick Hebert of Bay City carried out an illegal arrangement over 16 seasons, where the Iowa landowners supplied them with lodging and tags for any deer that were harvested by the group in exchange for fishing opportunities in Michigan. Over the course of the investigation, Iowa Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Eric Wright worked with our special agents from Iowa and Michigan to uncover 19 white-tailed deer that were taken illegally, 17 of which were bucks. The investigative team also found that the Michigan residents never purchased, nor applied for, the required non-resident hunting privileges in the state of Iowa.

Through a plea agreement reached between the Cedar County (Iowa) Attorney’s Office and the defendants, the Michigan-based Hebert family agreed to pay more than $51,000 in fines and forfeit 17 deer mounts, as well as the two compound bows and a crossbow which were used to take the deer. Additionally, their opportunity to apply for out-of-state hunting permits in Iowa has been suspended for a minimum of three years. This plea agreement has a greater impact to their access to hunting across 46 other states, because Iowa is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. This suspension may be observed in any of the other member states at the discretion of the appropriate authorities in those states. The three Iowa residents involved who knowingly aided and abetted the Michigan poachers cooperated fully throughout the investigation and agreed to pay fines totaling $780. Per the agreement, charges were not filed on the juveniles.

“My thanks go out to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources law enforcement team. Collaborating with our state law enforcement partners is a central part of how we work to protect wildlife populations from over harvesting and illegal commercialization,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Greg Jackson.

Concerned citizens play an essential role in putting an end to poaching and other wildlife crime. If you have knowledge of unlawful hunting in Iowa, report it to your local conservation officer, call the Turn In Poachers (T.I.P.) Hotline at 1-800-532-2020 or use the online T.I.P. form to report the illegal activity.

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