Wyoming Authorities Bust Accused Elk Poachers Shown on National Television Show
Two Kentucky men were sentenced to pay over $30,000 and will see their hunting privileges taken away after pleading no contest Monday to numerous wildlife violations.
A concerned Wyomingite is credited with getting the investigation started after seeing the two defendants -- 37-year-old Ricky J. Mills and 25-year-old Jimmy G. Duncan of Bedford, Ky. -- kill two bull elk on the nationally televised program "Hunting in the Sticks."
In the episode "Western Redemption," Mills and Duncan are seen taking the elk in Wyoming. But the concerned citizen noticed the area in which the men claimed to have killed their elk did not match the area on their licenses, according to a news release from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
So, a WGFD investigator and Douglas Game Warden Rod Lebert began "an exhaustive" search for the kill sites north of Douglas in the Cow Creek Buttes and Miller Hills areas. They found the first kill site, collected evidence and build a solid case against Mills and Duncan.
"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," said WGFD investigator Mike Ehlebracht. "Through search warrants and interviews we were able to make a case and both men confessed."
The investigation determined that in 2014, Mills and Duncan were after deer in Deer Hunt area 10 in northern Converse County. They each killed a mature bull elk on private property, the department says.
Each man had an elk license that year, but the licenses were valid for Elk Hunt Area 51 -- in extreme northwest Wyoming on the border of Yellowstone National Park -- not Elk Hunt Area 113, where they shot the elk.
Elk Hunt Area 113 is highly coveted by elk hunters, the department says, with very few licenses available. Bulls in that area can only be harvested every other year.
The department also says Mills and Duncan tried to do the same thing in 2013, with other evidence reportedly showing that Duncan harvested an antelope buck in September 2013 without a license.
Both men were charged with waste of big game animals in connection with the two illegally harvested elk, along with a small game violation, the department says.
Mills was reportedly sentenced to pay $7,460 in fines, $6,000 in restitution for the bull elk he killed and $240 in court costs. His name will be entered into the Wildlife Violator Compact, preventing him from hunting and trapping in 43 participating states.
Duncan was sentenced to pay $7,500 in fines, $6,000 in restitution for the bull elk he killed, $4,000 in restitution for the antelope in 2013 and $240 in court costs. He was also suspended for 15 years from hunting and trapping, and will be entered into the Wildlife Violator Compact.
Both Duncan and Mills were required to forfeit their elk mounts to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
"I believe the two defendants were driven to get kill shot footage for the television show and that resulted in their making bad decisions," Ehlebracht added.