United States Attorney Joe Kelly announced that Duane S. Mulvaine, age 40, of Fox Lake, Wisconsin, was sentenced today in federal court in Omaha, Nebraska, 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. Mulvaine was convicted of six misdemeanor counts of the illegal taking of wildlife in interstate commerce and sentenced to five years’ probation on each count to be served concurrent. Magistrate Judge Nelson ordered Mulvaine to pay $50,000 in restitution and a $45,000 fine. As part of his probation terms, Mulvaine shall not hunt, guide, outfit or otherwise engage in any activities associated with the hunting, guiding, or outfitting business.
Mulvaine also forfeited four scoped rifles, three suppressors, a compound bow, and a crossbow utilized in numerous unlawful hunts conducted by Mulvaine and Hidden Hills Outfitters, a commercial big game guiding and outfitting business located near Broken Bow, Nebraska. Mulvaine also surrendered and abandoned 13 wildlife trophy mounts including three white-tailed deer, five mule deer, three pronghorn, a wild turkey, and a badger unlawfully taken at Hidden Hills Outfitters.
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 determined that between 2012 and 2017, Mulvaine traveled to Hidden Hills Outfitters to conduct guided hunts for white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn, and wild turkey. The investigation determined that during a number of these hunts, Mulvaine engaged in hunting activities which included hunting over bait, hunting from a public roadway, night, or without a permit, and hunting with prohibited weapons, all of which are in violation of Nebraska State law or regulation.
The investigation determined that Mulvaine was associated with at least six specific illegal hunts. During August, 2015, and September, 2016, Mulvaine unlawfully killed two pronghorn in Custer and Keith counties with a suppressed .17 caliber and .223 caliber rifle during the archery season. Nebraska law prohibits the possession or use of firearms to take deer or pronghorn under the authority of an archery permit. During the November, 2015, firearm deer season, Mulvaine unlawfully killed a 6 X 5 mule deer in Blaine County without a valid permit and while using a rifle borrowed from a Hidden Hills Outfitters client. In September, 2016, during the archery deer season, Mulvaine unlawfully killed a 6 X 6 mule deer with a suppressed Howa .223 caliber rifle while seated in a vehicle parked upon a roadway in Custer County and contrary to Nebraska law. Again in December, 2016, during the muzzleloader deer season, Mulvaine unlawfully killed a 5 X 5 white-tailed deer with a suppressed .308 caliber DPMS AR-style rifle while seated in a vehicle parked upon a roadway in Sherman County, and with the aid of a high-powered spotlight at approximately 3:45 A.M. Then in October, 2017, Mulvaine killed a 6 X 6 white-tailed deer with a crossbow in Blaine County. Mulvaine knowingly positioned himself in a vehicle located approximately 50 yards from a Hidden Hills Outfitters bait site, and shot the deer standing not more than 15 yards from the bait site. Nebraska law prohibits establishing baited areas for the purpose of hunting or taking big game or turkeys, and prohibits hunting or taking deer or turkeys within a baited area, defined as within 200 yards of any location where bait is placed for the purpose of hunting or that may serve as an attractant for big game or turkeys. During each of these hunts, Mulvaine was accompanied or assisted by a Hidden Hills Outfitters owner or guide. Mulvaine subsequently transported the unlawfully-taken wildlife in interstate commerce back to his Wisconsin residence or taxidermist.
Mulvaine provided Hidden Hills Outfitters various vehicles sourced from his Wisconsin car dealership for use in the unlawful hunting operation, valued at approximately $10,000 annually, in exchange for the hunting and guiding services. Mulvaine participated in the establishment of a “Gun Trust” and providing Hidden Hills Outfitters owners and guides various suppressed firearms, knowing they were routinely used for the unlawful take of wildlife and protected migratory birds, specifically hawks or other raptors, by Hidden Hills owners, guides, and clients.
Mulvaine assisted Hidden Hills Outfitters routinely and systematically establish and maintain bait sites located in close proximity and generally within direct view, of Hidden Hills Outfitters client hunting locations. Mulvaine and Hidden Hills Outfitters utilized locally sourced bait products named “PrimeTine” and “Hard Rack Candy” at the bait sites and placed electronic game cameras over-watching the bait sites in order to identify and locate target deer, position the target deer at close range to the client, and improve the odds of hunting clients successfully killing their target deer.
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, 29 defendants have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced and ordered to pay a total of $343,048 in fines and restitution for underlying violations related to 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.