tv hunters

The Big List of TV Personalities Who Got Busted Poaching

This is our list of TV personalities who basically got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Here's what we learned.

What can we learn from this group of faithful hunters—people we used to look up to—who just got lazy or maybe even outright planned to take more than their fair share?

It wasn't enough that they spent their lives hunting, fishing, and generally loving the outdoor world like the rest of us; so much so that they dedicated their lives to make it their standard of living. Instead it's that they stepped over the line and into the abyss that is poaching. 

Somewhere along the way they found so much success that it seemingly went to their heads, and that's where they began to stumble.

It may have been dumb luck and they found themselves with a great look and an easy shot when they already had their legal harvest.

Or perhaps they had a "honey hole," in the hunting or fishing space, that just kept on giving, so much so that they found themselves in love with the fact that they could take from it at will, and they did.

Whatever the case, these well-known folks—many that made it into the ranks of television personalities—stepped over the line and took game in some way that the proper authorities didn't take kindly to.

And they paid for it.

It's just that between social media over-sharing and other modern means, these normally law-abiding folks crossed the line and then ended up with their tails tucked between their legs. We looked up to these people and they let us down, now we can only look on and hope that they've learned their lessons.

Here are a few that we know of. Let us hope that the list stops here, but you never know.

1. "Hunting in the Sticks" co-hosts Ricky Mills and Jimmy Duncan

Hunting show co-hosts Mills and Duncan had to answer for some seven different charges brought against them by Wyoming authorities. The pair of TV show personalities had to stand up in a court and plea no contest, according to the Douglas Budget, to "a sentence for Mills for poaching of a bull elk without a proper license and out of season, for waste or abandon for not taking all the meat, and for wanton destruction for a separate incident in which he attempted to take a third elk without a proper license, taking a shot which he missed."

They paid $13,700 and $17,740 respectively in fines and court costs, not to mention a full 15-year ban from hunting.

2. Theresa Vail and the Illegal Alaskan Bear

In January, 2016, the former Kansas beauty queen pleaded guilty to charges of "killing a grizzly bear without a tag and admitted to covering up the violation."

It was said that Vail attempted to reload and saw what she thought was the same bear standing up. She then took another shot, and later found out she'd killed a second bear.

It's not all that uncommon for hunters to mistake game—such as a hen for a rooster—but after procuring a second tag at the last minute, Vail signed a second Big Game Tag Record for a brown/grizzly bear and backdated it. That's a different game all together.

3. Matthew Alwine of "Trophy State of Mind"

Ultimately Alwine plead guilty to poaching deer and elk from 2010 to 2015, was fined more than $12,000 and lost his hunting and fishing privileges in Washington, Idaho, Montana and 41 other states for four years.

Chad Murphy, MFWP regional investigator said, "Greed and ego are generally the driving forces behind those that commit multiple wildlife violations. That was especially evident in this case with Alwine boasting about his kills within the same day on his social media sites."

Alwine and his crew had illegally hunted a private ranch without the landowners permission, was fined $1,030 for illegally procuring a Montana resident hunting license, and since he had taken a big whitetail buck Murphy added, "The whitetail buck had a Boone and Crockett gross score of 162, which puts it over Montana's threshold of 140 points for trophy status," and that added up to another of the many violations.

4. Spook Spann

"Spook" as he is known was never a stranger to trouble. The former TV show host of "Spook Nation" was banned from hunting back in 2012 for an illegal hunt in Kansas and then was later charged for violating the probation!

The Tennessean reported in 2014 that "William "Spook" Spann and his wife Marty Spann were arrested (on a Friday) for allegedly destroying or tampering with evidence" Spann was charged with, among other things, baiting turkeys and intentionally submitting a false insurance claim of a lost phone after authorities took it in as evidence.

In July of 2013, "a U.S. Magistrate judge found that Spann had violated the terms of his plea agreement that banned him from hunting for six months. Federal game wardens had obtained video footage and Facebook photos of Spann dressed in camouflage and assisting other turkey hunters in Tennessee though Spann was not hunting. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and was banned from hunting anywhere in the world for a year."

5. Dierks Bentley Went Fishing

As recently as September 1, 2019 Dierks himself posted pictures to his Twitter account of a beautiful brown trout that he caught in Cottonwood Creek. Since he and tour mate, one Mr. Luke Bryan were playing at the three-day music festival in Buena Vista, they took a time-out to do some fishing nearby.

One or two photos later some keen eyed fans had their phones out to make a call to the local Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department. Why? To see if the pair had indeed paid their respects to the Centennial State's admiral fisheries and purchased their fishing licenses. Come to find out, the answer was no.

Ultimately Bentley paid a fine of $139.50. Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Bill Vogrin said, "He was as nice as can be. We welcome him back any time to fish, as long as he gets a license next time." Vogrin added, "In Colorado, people love country music — but they also love their trout"

6. Uncle Ted's California Spike

Back in 2010 Field and Stream reported on a TV episode that aired of Ted Nugent's hunt in California. It seems that a couple of sharped-eyed game wardens—and fans of the Nuge—watched in disbelief as the Motor City Madman arrowed a young buck over what appeared to be commercial bait.

After investigating and careful consideration, Nugent was charged with, and plead no contest to, several misdemeanors and paid a fine of $1,750.

7. The Syndicate Gets Nailed

U.S. Attorney for Alaska Karen Loeffler said, "Illegal big game poaching causes a lot of damage." Truer word were never spoken, and before it was all over nine different people would be charged with illegally taking game in Alaska.

The host of the TV hunting show "Syndicate Hunting" Clark Dixon apparently spent a lot of time and energy hunting Alaska but according to the Anchorage Daily News, "He has never been an Alaska resident, but he aided hunters lacking the correct tags in the taking of game without a guiding license."

Dixon and his cohorts took brown bears, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep. By the time all the dust (and investigations) had settled, at least one fine totaled $65,000, seven years probation, and restitution to the Noatak National Preserve to the tune of $19,500.

8. Chris Brackett

In 2013, "Fear No Evil" TV hunting show host Chris Brackett engaged in an illegal Indiana hunt when he purportedly killed a second buck after having already dropped a legal buck. The incident stemmed from an episode where Brackett and his cameraman filmed a hunt for the "Unicorn" buck.

It's just that before that he had already taken an eight-point. Come to find out that according to CI Proud, "On Dec. 22, 2013, the day after both deer were shot, the indictment alleges Brackett purchased a second non-resident deer muzzleloader permit under his cameraman's name and then registered the first, smaller buck with the permit purchased in the cameraman's name."

It wouldn't be the first time that a hunter dropped a nice buck and had another one that walked up to him, but most honest hunters would watch, not shoot.

The lessons learned are easy to see, but not always easy to comply with. The one thing that we've always said about hunting is that it is the best way for responsible outdoorsmen to self-regulate. Anyone can go into the woods and fields alone, its just than when you're out there there is no one but your own conscience to tell you right from wrong.

You can take what you want or you can follow the letter of the law, whether you like it or not. Which of these appeals the most to you?

Looking for a little more? Follow my webpage, or on Facebook and Twitter.