Feds target 60 hunters in Kansas hunting probe
September 14, 2010
Feds target 60 hunters in Kansas hunting probe
WICHITA, Kan. - The Justice Department is targeting more than 60 hunters
across the nation for allegedly poaching deer during guided hunts at Camp
Lone Star in Kansas, a court document shows.
The scope of the grand jury investigation, believed to be one of the
largest criminal prosecutions involving the illegal taking of deer, was made
public in a court filing Monday in the federal government's case against the
camp's owner and his brother, both of Martinsville, Texas.
James Bobby Butler Jr., 41, the owner and operator of the hunting club in
Coldwater, Kan., and his brother Marlin Jackson Butler, 36, who worked as a
guide, are charged with conspiracy and the unlawful sale and transport of
wildlife. James Butler is also charged with obstruction of justice in the
23-count indictment filed May 25 in U.S. District Court in Wichita.
If convicted and given maximum sentences, they could face lengthy prison
terms. Jim Cross, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas, said
in an e-mail that it was the biggest case of its kind prosecuted in the
However, James Butler's attorney Kurt Kerns calls the legal action
"The state of Kansas has paid out over $100,000 to independent
contractors to thin the Kansas deer herd for management purposes," Kerns
said in an e-mail. "And now our tax money is being spent making federal
cases out of alleged rednecks who supposedly harvest an extra deer."
Statistics compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show the nation
has 10.3 million big game hunters. About 12 percent, or 1.3 million people,
hunt outside of their state of residence. Kansas is a popular destination,
drawing an estimated 88,000 out-of-state hunters each year.
Defense attorneys learned during while examining the prosecution evidence
in the Butler case that the government recently mailed so-called target
letters to many of the out-of-state hunters who came to Camp Lone Star,
Their court filing noted the government alleges more than 60 hunters
illegally killed more than 119 deer between the 2005-2008 hunting season,
including the taking of 70 trophy white-tail bucks.
Roger Falk, the attorney representing Marlin Butler, said his client has
pleaded not guilty but otherwise declined to discuss the allegations made by
Defense attorneys cited the broader grand jury probe in a motion seeking
to designate the case as complex, a ruling that would give them more time to
prepare their defense without running afoul of speedy trial restrictions.
Prosecutors are not opposing that designation, but a hearing on it was set
for Friday before U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown.
The defense filing nonetheless provided a rare public glimpse at the
grand jury investigation.
Based on the recent target letters sent to individuals identified as
subjects of the investigation, the defense motion said it expects those
hunters may be testifying soon in front of a federal grand jury and that
other indictments would likely follow.
The Butlers are charged with conspiring to violate the Lacey Act, a
federal law that prohibits the interstate transport of any wildlife taken in
violation of state regulations. The indictment alleges they violated the act
by purchasing and selling white-tailed deer and mule deer.
The government alleges the brothers charged out-of-state hunters $3,500
per hunt with archery equipment and $5,000 per hunt with a firearm for
guided hunts at Camp Lone Star and some 50,000 nearby acres leased for
Prosecutors allege that during the guided hunts the Butlers and others
encouraged hunters to take deer illegally by hunting without a valid
license. They're also accused of letting hunters illegally spotlight deer
during night hunts and use illegal equipment, such as firearms during
The illegal hunting practices allowed the guided hunters to kill more
deer than they could have killed lawfully, the lawsuit charges, allowing the
Butler brothers to collect more guiding fees and tips.
The obstruction of justice counts involve allegations that James Butler
lied to a fish and wildlife agent, told an employee to remove and destroy
deer head mounts so they could not used as evidence, and instructed an
employee to lie to investigators.
The obstruction of justice charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 20
years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while the other felony charges carry a
maximum five-year prison term and $250,000 fine. The government is also
seeking a $148,250 forfeiture against both men.
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