Hunters on TV show pay huge price after viewer tip leads to investigation, bust

"I believe the two defendants were driven to get ... footage for the television show and that resulted in their making bad decisions.”

A hunter on the national TV show called "Hunting in the Sticks" on the Pursuit Channel talked about doing an elk and mule deer hunt on the public lands of Wyoming during an episode called "Western Redemption."

Ricky Mills admitted on the air he and his partner, Jimmy Duncan, "didn't know what we were getting into." What the hunters got into was a whole lot of trouble.

During the episode, an alert viewer notified the authorities after noticing that the area they claimed to have killed elk didn't match the area of their licenses, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The tip led to an exhaustive investigation and a case was built against the poachers, both of whom are from Bedford, Kentucky. It came to a conclusion Monday when the hunters confessed and faced the consequences.

Mills and Duncan both pled no contest to numerous wildlife violations. They will pay fines totaling more than $31,000 and lose their hunting privileges for 15 years in 43 states participating in the Wildlife Violator Compact.

Duncan was sentenced to pay $17,740 in fines, restitution for the elk and antelope, and court costs. Mills was sentenced to pay $13,700 in fines, restitution for the elk, and court costs. Both forfeited their elk mounts to Game and Fish.

“This case could not have been made without the assistance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources agents,” Mike Ehlebracht, investigative supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish, said in a statement.  “Through search warrants and interviews we were able to make a case and both men confessed.

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“I believe the two defendants were driven to get kill-shot footage for the television show and that resulted in their making bad decisions."

The Game and Fish Department detailed the infractions:

At the conclusion of the investigation, it was determined that in 2014 while deer hunting in Deer Hunt Area 10 in northern Converse County, Mills and Duncan each killed a mature bull elk on private property. Both men also had elk licenses that same year, but the licenses were valid for Elk Hunt Area 51, which is in extreme northwest Wyoming bordering Yellowstone National Park, not for Elk Hunt Area 113 where they shot the elk. Elk Hunt Area 113 is a highly coveted hunt area with very few licenses. In this hunt area, bulls are only allowed to be harvested every other year.

It was also discovered that the two defendants attempted to do the same thing in 2013. Other evidence showed that Duncan harvested an antelope buck in September 2013 without a license. The two were also charged with waste of big game animals in connection with the two illegally harvested elk, along with a small game violation.

h/t Associated Press