Feds Bust Deer Smugglers

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Corey Graff
 
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Feds Bust Deer Smugglers

Postby Corey Graff » Fri Dec 12, 2008 11:42 am

A deer-smuggling case is shedding light on the high-dollar white-tailed deer industry. According to a story appearing at twincities.com:

"Two years ago, Brian Becker drove 1,008 miles from Madelia, Minn., to the small East Texas town of Bedias, unaware that federal authorities had him under surveillance after being tipped off that his gooseneck trailer carried contraband - trophy deer.

His smuggling operation, which reaped $300,000 from a single customer in four years, exposes a dark underside to Texas' $73 million deer-hunting industry, which has provided jobs and other economic benefits to many rural areas of the state.

On Nov. 24, Becker, 38, already on probation for smuggling deer to Oklahoma in 2005, was sentenced by a federal court in Plano, Texas, to 33 months in prison.

The buyer, Robert L. Eichenour, 51, a wealthy Houston businessman and owner of a posh hunting ranch in Bedias, received an 18-month term and was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine. Both had pleaded guilty and did not dispute the charges.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Mike Merida, a Fort Worth-based special agent with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, referring to interstate deer trafficking, which he said threatens herds with bovine tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease, a devastating condition likened to mad-cow disease but spread among deer, elk and moose.

Authorities disclosed that the tip-off came from within the game industry and pinpointed Becker's destination and shipment dates. During interrogations, the Minnesotan also claimed to have been dealing with a hunting ranch in North Texas and an investigation is ongoing, they said, declining to provide further details.

"From my perspective, there's a lot of movement of black-market deer, whether it's wild deer 'laundered' into a high-fence operation or 'put and take' hunting," said Capt. Greg Williford of Texas Parks & Wildlife, who says smuggling is an open secret in the industry. "We're out to try to prove it."

When breeding bucks with the right genetics can fetch as much as $500,000 at auction, "you always have some trying to go around corners," said John Meng, marketing director of the Texas Deer Association.

Eichenour was not a member of the industry association and, therefore, not subject to the group's code of ethics, Meng said.

Others cautioned against exaggerating the scope of wildlife trafficking, noting the Becker case was only the third in the state in recent years.

"I would think it is extremely rare with all the restrictions and everything we must follow," said Johnny Hudman, game-ranch manager at the Stasney Cook Ranch in Albany, Texas.

Becker, who was seen napping at truck stops, was to have been arrested crossing the Oklahoma-Texas state line, but authorities missed him, as they did on an earlier run.

He was finally nabbed hours later by Merida and Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel when his pickup and gooseneck trailer fell into a ditch outside Eichenour's 2,000-acre property, a high-fenced hunting ranch called Circle E. Eichenour was arrested when he came out to accept delivery of eight "shooter" bucks, Merida said."

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PrairieShadow
 
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RE: Feds Bust Deer Smugglers

Postby PrairieShadow » Sat Dec 13, 2008 5:20 pm

WOW! Guess i wasnt even aware there was such a thing.
 
Anytime large sums of $$$$ are involved people will be breaking the law.
Hunting isn't a matter of Life or Death
Its MUCH more important than that!

barkriver
 
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RE: Feds Bust Deer Smugglers

Postby barkriver » Sun Dec 14, 2008 6:55 am

In my opinion stories like these are saddening and give hunting and ethical hunters like most of us on this site a black eye. Most of us spend countless hours in the off season scouting and then spend days on stand in the season going after the 1 or 2 mature bucks on the property we hunt. Then there are the "hunters" that pay large amount's of money to these high fences to sit out there harvest a tame animal. Get rid of the pens and let the animals be wild the way they are supposed to be and it will take care of this big money and greed.  

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ranwin33
 
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RE: Feds Bust Deer Smugglers

Postby ranwin33 » Tue Dec 16, 2008 4:14 am

We have only ourselves to blame.  If there wasn't a market for what they were doing, they wouldn't be doing it.  TV shows should also take some of the responsibility - focusing on the big antlered deer being raised on high fence operations in Texas does nothing to serve our interests as hunters.
“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”
Aldo Leopold

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JPH
 
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RE: Feds Bust Deer Smugglers

Postby JPH » Tue Dec 16, 2008 5:42 am

ORIGINAL: ranwin33

We have only ourselves to blame. 

 
I think you are using the term "we" rather loosly. I don't feel as if I bear any guilt for that sort of thing at all.

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mag30079
 
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RE: Feds Bust Deer Smugglers

Postby mag30079 » Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:29 am

ORIGINAL: JPH

ORIGINAL: ranwin33

We have only ourselves to blame. 


I think you are using the term "we" rather loosly. I don't feel as if I bear any guilt for that sort of thing at all.

 
JPH
 
I'm not sure how to take this. "we", I read this as "WE" as hunters. Not "WE" as antler addicts. We all spend lots of time and money on this great sport. With out the money, there's no need for the black market. I've learned alot form reading your posts, and believe me your well repected on here I'm just curious on what you ment.

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ranwin33
 
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RE: Feds Bust Deer Smugglers

Postby ranwin33 » Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:43 am

Didn't mean to offend, but I did mean we as hunters. 
 
It's up to us to police our own, no one is going to do it for us, and so long as many, many of us are willing to buy into the gotta have big antlers thought processes promoted by TV and magazines, then we have only ourselves to blame.  Despite what many may say here on this forum, there is obviously quite a few hunters out there that buy into the big antler philosophy promoted by TV, magazines and hunting product manufacturers, probably more than don't.  If there wasn't, then these industries wouldn't be doing what they're doing.  So I stand by my statement, we have only ourselves to blame.
 
I also figured since this was the "breaking news" section, I could use a blanket description to define an entire group of people. [:D]
“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”
Aldo Leopold


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