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IL: 'Fallin Skies' duck hunter charged with waterfowl violations

'Fallin Skies' duck hunter charged with waterfowl violations

Dec 09, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Jeff Foiles, one of the best-known professional duck hunters and callers in the United States, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Springfield on 23 counts connected to alleged illegal waterfowl hunts.

From 2003 to 2007, according to the indictment, Foiles, 53, of Pleasant Hill, Ill. sold guided waterfowl hunts where hunters regularly violated daily bag limits of ducks and geese. The hunts took place at the Fallin Skies Strait Meat Duck Club in Pike County, the indictment says.

Foiles, one of two owners of the Strait Meat club, guided commercial waterfowl hunts at the club and elsewhere, including Canada, the indictment says.

Some of the allegedly illegal hunts subsequently were shown in videos featuring Foiles, including the “Fallin Skies” video series. Foiles had sponsorship arrangements with sporting goods companies that paid him to use their products in his videos, the indictment says.

“The killing of migratory birds in excess of daily bag limits … was crucial to achieving these purposes,” the indictment says. “Not only were guided clients able to kill more birds during their paid hunts, but the overlimits also allowed Foiles and his employees to capture more and better-quality hunting video footage, and thus to produce and sell high-quality commercial waterfowl hunting videos, which was a very important component of Foiles’ promotional activities.”

In one Canada hunt, the indictment says, a cameraman, “upset at the number of geese being killed,” turned off his camera, but Foiles ordered him to continue filming. The footage later appeared in the video “Fallin Skies 1,” authorities said.

Undercover officers participated in four of the hunts for which Foiles is charged, according to the indictment.

Foiles and his associates also allegedly falsified hunting records, creating false game custody tags, waterfowl hunting area records and “picking shed” records at the club in order to conceal the excesses. In some cases, staff members reported that birds had been killed by people who hadn’t hunted or weren’t even at the club on the day in question, the indictment says.

Foiles also operates Foiles Migrators Inc. in Pittsfield, Ill., which has a retail business and showroom as well as an assembly and distribution facility for Foiles’ own popular line of duck and goose calls.

Foiles is formally accused of 12 violations of the Lacey Act and 10 counts of making false writings in a matter within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as conspiracy to violate both laws.

The Lacey Act makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell wildlife taken in violation of federal law or regulation. The act also covers guide services conducted for the illegal taking of wildlife.

The maximum penalty for a felony violation of the Lacey Act or the federal false writing statute includes up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The government also is seeking forfeiture of property used in the hunts, including 13 Benelli shotguns, two Artic Cat ATVs and duck and goose decoys.

Foiles is to appear in federal court in Springfield for arraignment Jan. 19.

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 Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section also is part of the prosecution.

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