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Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS: > 2004

HUNTING GROUP IS INVESTIGATED

Published Thursday

May 13, 2004

BY LARRY PORTER

WORLD-HERALD BUREAU

LINCOLN - The operators of a Virginia, Neb., commercial hunting guide operation and perhaps 20 of their clients are under investigation by state and federal authorities for game violations involving deer, turkeys and other game birds.

Authorities executed a search warrant at Nebraska Trophy Whitetails on May 7, according to an internal communication from one of the participating agencies obtained by The World-Herald.

Among the possible violations being investigated are trespassing, shooting turkeys in Nebraska on Kansas permits, shooting turkeys in Kansas on Nebraska permits, shooting white-fronted geese during a closed season, baiting deer and turkeys, and shooting cormorants, a protected species.

Also being investigated are reports that baby geese were taken out of the wild and injured snow geese were nursed back to health, then later sold or traded.

Officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks seized records after the search. The federal search warrant was obtained by Fish and Wildlife Service officials.

Kent Hippen of Virginia and Paul Payton of Crab Orchard, Neb., are listed as the operators of Nebraska Trophy Whitetails on its Web site. Telephone messages left at the lodge and at Hippen's home were not returned.

Hippen and Payton allegedly loaned habitat stamps to clients and also provided photocopies of permits and habitat stamps to clients. A habitat stamp costs $13, and a hunter must purchase one each year. Proceeds from the sale of the stamp are used by the commission to improve habitat.

Federal investigators are also examining the possibilities of tax fraud.

The investigation is expected to involve nearly two dozen clients in several states.

No charges have been filed, and the investigation likely won't be completed for several weeks. When the investigation is completed, the agencies intend to pursue indictments.

Commissioner Mark Pinkerton of Wilber, Neb., who represents southeast Nebraska, said he received several telephone calls from residents near the hunting operation who were curious about the federal and state vehicles they saw in the area May 7.

"It's my understanding there was some kind of investigation initiated down there," Pinkerton said. "In visiting with law enforcement, it's my understanding the investigation is ongoing and is confidential at this point."

Ted Blume, chief of the commission's law enforcement division, would not reveal details of the investigation.

"We had some officers involved in a supporting roll in the federal investigation that took place on that day," Blume said. "That's about all we can say. We can't give you any details."

Blume referred additional questions to U.S. Attorney Mike Heavican of Omaha, who also would not comment about the case.

"We don't normally comment on investigations or search warrants," Heavican said. "All I can tell you right now is that we don't have any comment."

According to their Web site, Hippen and Payton charge $1,775 for a six-day Nebraska whitetail buck archery hunt and $2,175 for a Kansas archery whitetail buck hunt. They charge $2,575 for a five-day Nebraska muzzleloader whitetail buck hunt, $975 for a three-day pheasant hunt, $975 for a three-day spring turkey hunt and $975 for a three-day waterfowl hunt.

Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom

2004 Omaha World-Herald. All rights reserved.


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