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Josh and Sarah Bowmar Officially Respond Their Federal Plea Deal

The news of online bowhunting influencers Josh and Sarah Bowmar accepting a plea deal in Nebraska after being charged with a misdemeanor for conspiring to violate the Lacey Act quickly caught wildfire as the biggest hunting story of 2023 so far. The couple and their company were ordered to pay $130,000 in fines after pleading guilty to the charge in United States District Court. Their case is just one part of a larger one involving allegations of poaching and other illegal activities centering on former big game and turkey guide Jacob Hueftle and his clients at Hidden Hills Outfitters near Broken Bow.

The Bowmar's publicist released a press release in an email responding to the plea and media backlash. Josh also took to Instagram to post the couple's side of the story on the charges and subsequent probation and three-year hunting ban.

"Nine years ago we hunted at a big outfitter in Nebraska that was honestly highly recommended to us," Bowmar said in the video. "But little did we know many of his clients were engaging in many illegal tactics to get their deer which ended up leading fish and game to do a very intensive investigation of this place between the years 2015 and 2017."

In total, 39 people pleaded guilty to violations involving Hueftle's operation that included allegations of illegal baiting, shooting from roadways, deer taken after hours, and weapons violations. Josh says they never took part in any of these activities and that the couple was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Little did we know we stepped right smack in the middle of this investigation against this outfitter, which obviously roped us into this whole mess," Josh said in an Instagram video post.

In the press release and video, the Bowmars took full responsibility for their actions, which they say involved two deer and one turkey that they harvested with the outfitter between 2015 and 2017.

"We did agree to and plead guilty for conspiracy to the Lacey Act, which basically means we should have known better about hunting out there. We should have paid attention to what was going on behind closed doors with his other clients, but we didn't, and for that we take all the responsibility for that massive mistake and poor judgement," Josh said in the video.

For those who are still unclear on what the Bowmars were charged with, the United States Attorney's Office released a press release explaining the charges stemmed from their plans to transport harvested animals back to their home in Ohio.

"During the course of commercially guided hunting activity, the Bowmars conspired to transport wildlife, or parts thereof, from Nebraska to Ohio, when the Bowmars should have known that the wildlife was attempted to be taken, processed, and transported contrary to Nebraska state law," the U.S. Attorney's Office press release states.

The Bowmars said in their press release that they received a larger fine only because they were from out of state. The couple also say they knew nothing about the Lacey Act, which was first introduced in 1900 to combat wildlife trafficking and effectively eliminated market hunting operations in the United States. The Bowmars say they were unfamiliar with the law until this case.

"Josh has hunted his whole life, and I also have had my hunting license and have taken a hunter's safety course, and neither of us had ever heard of the Lacey Act before hunting in Nebraska," Sarah said in a press release. "That's not an excuse, we accept accountability for our ignorance here, but the average hunter either doesn't know about this act, or doesn't fully understand the ramifications. We hope to educate on the Lacey Act to help other hunters avoid this situation in the future."

Josh said something similar in his response on Instagram.

"I don't want it to come across as if this conspiracy charge isn't a big deal because it most certainly is. It comes with hefty fines, probation, and even hunting restrictions in Nebraska. So, this is serious, and we are taking it that way."

The Bowmars note that in the nine years since the case first started, they have not had one other game violation despite being under constant surveillance from wildlife agencies. The couple believes their names got more attention in news headlines due to their notoriety in the hunting community.

"Being in the public eye and having a large audience we were and continue to be the big juicy targets of their investigation," Josh said on Instagram. "But regardless of their intense surveillance and constant scrutiny, Fish and Game dropped all baiting charges against us. In fact, they dropped all hunting charges against us."

Josh said the couple plans to honor the probation three-year suspension of privileges in Nebraska. But Josh said they did not lose their weapons or receive any restrictions in other states, so they plan to continue with their businesses and making content in other states until the suspension is up.

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram For original videos, check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels