Broken Bow Guiding Business Co-Owner Sentenced for Lacey Act Violation

Acting United States Attorney Jan Sharp announced that Nolan Hueftle, age 60, of Broken Bow, Nebraska, was sentenced today in federal court in Omaha by United States Magistrate Judge Michael D. Nelson for violating the Lacey Act.  The Lacey Act prohibits the trafficking in interstate commerce “tainted” (i.e., taken in violation of a law or regulation) wildlife, fish, or indigenous plants.  Hueftle was convicted of one count of the illegal taking of wildlife in interstate commerce and sentenced to five years’ probation.  Magistrate Judge Nelson ordered Hueftle to pay a $30,000 fine. As part of his probation terms, Hueftle shall not hunt, trap, guide, outfit, or otherwise assist or be present in the field with anyone engaging in those activities.  Hueftle is also prohibited from being involved in the manufacturing, selling, distributing, or marketing of “PrimeTine” or any other deer or wildlife supplement while on probation.

An investigation determined that in October, 2015, Hueftle, a Hidden Hills Outfitters (HHO) co-owner, provided guiding and outfitting services to a Louisiana resident upon property located in Blaine County, Nebraska.  During the course of the hunt, Hueftle, HHO owner Jacob Hueftle, and the hunting client located a white-tailed deer wounded by the client the previous day.  Hueftle was present and observed HHO owner Jacob Hueftle unlawfully shoot and kill the client’s deer with an AR-style rifle, a weapon prohibited from use during the Nebraska archery deer season.  In addition, Hueftle knew Jacob Hueftle was prohibited from hunting or possessing a firearm at the time.  Hueftle later assisted recovering the deer from the kill site and transported the unlawfully taken deer back to the HHO Lodge.  Parts of the deer were later transported in interstate commerce back to the hunting client’s out-of-state residence.

Pursuant to the terms of a plea agreement, Hueftle also admitted to his co-ownership and involvement with HHO, including his knowledge and involvement with various ongoing wildlife violations conducted or authorized by HHO and its guides and employees between 2013 and 2018.  Hueftle admitted that HHO acquired at least 115,378 pounds of deer feed products used for the establishment and maintenance of at least 68 baited hunting locations, that Hueftle personally assisted maintaining the bait sites at or near HHO client hunting locations, and that Hueftle knew HHO clients routinely killed white-tailed deer within baited areas.  Nebraska state law prohibits the establishment of baited areas for the purpose of hunting big game or turkeys and prohibits hunting or taking big game or turkeys within a baited area.

Hueftle admitted knowing firearms were routinely and unlawfully used for the taking of white-tailed deer and mule deer during archery and muzzleloader seasons.  Nebraska state law prohibits the possession and use of firearms while hunting deer under the authority of an archery permit.  Hueftle also admitted routinely assisting with the butchering, processing, and disposal of client deer at the HHO Lodge, and needlessly and wantonly wasting edible meat of HHO client deer including negligently allowing carcasses to spoil, and dumping and disposing the carcasses (including edible meat) near the HHO Lodge and on family property near Cozad, Nebraska.

Hueftle admitted that between 2013 and 2018, he and other HHO owners, guides, and associates provided hunting and guiding services to at least 118 clients from 21 states resulting in the unlawful taking of at least 97 white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn, and wild turkey, and that parts of that wildlife were subsequently transported into other states.  Hueftle provided hunting and guiding services to HHO clients, had knowledge and assisted in various unlawful hunts, and received a 25% share of all HHO profits annually.

The sentencing hearing today is part of the ongoing prosecution of numerous defendants related to violations committed by owners, guides, and clients of Hidden Hills Outfitters.  To date, 36 defendants have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced and ordered to pay a total of $627,732 in fines and restitution, serve 30 months of incarceration, 38 years of probation, and 63 years of hunting and guiding restrictions for underlying violations related to at least 97 unlawfully-taken big game animals or wild turkey including deer taken within baited areas; deer, pronghorn, and wild turkeys taken with weapons or firearms prohibited during their respective hunting seasons; deer taken during closed season hours, from the road, or without a valid permit; and mule deer taken within the Mule Deer Conservation Area.

The operation was a joint investigation conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Law Enforcement Division.