Undercover taxidermist busts illegal Missouri hunters

One has to wonder how widespread this is.

Wow! 425 wildlife violations committed by 68 people from 62 percent of the wildlife brought in to the shop.

“As it turned out, 62 percent of the wildlife brought in for mounting at the undercover taxidermy shop had been killed illegally in some manner, Cravens said.”

Undercover taxidermist busts illegal Missouri hunters
By DAVID A. LIEB – Associated Press Writer






  1. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    The American Hunter—the great wildlife conservationists of our times.

    Sounds like Bangkok isn’t the only place dealing in volumes of illegal species trade .

  2. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    The show me state- show me those illegally poached antlers

  3. jon Avatar

    But I thought all hunters were conservationists that would never do anything illegal! What a shocker! They love the wildlife that they kill.

    1. ProWolf in WY Avatar
      ProWolf in WY

      Jon, be a little careful with that statement. I think that most hunters are ethical. However, the attitude about conservation and loving wildlife is repeated time and again by wolf haters.

    2. pointswest Avatar

      Who said all hunters are ethical? There are bad ones and my experience is that trophey hunters are amoung the worst.

      No…there are some bad hunters mixed in with the good. You must be thinking of the animal rights advocates. They are the one who are 100% pure and honest and who have never done anything wrong in the entire lives.

    3. ProWolf in WY Avatar
      ProWolf in WY

      I think the extremes on both sides are pure as the driven snow and haven’t done anything wrong in their lives.

    4. pointswest Avatar

      Animal Right Advocate convicted for the second time of plotting a bombing campaign against Oxford University.


  4. mikarooni Avatar

    Don’t even imagine that Missouri is somehow unusual with regard to this kind of subhuman behavior. It happens all over. In fact, when an undercover MFWP detective participated in a sting to finally capture a crooked gang involved in poaching bighorns in MT, a sleazy redneck jury of MT’s lowest garbage that could only be peers to pond slime acquitted the taxidermist who set it all up and then bought the trophy head for mounting and subsequent resale on the black market.

    1. Elk275 Avatar


      The taxidermist was not poaching, the undercover hunter had a valid bighorn tag and he going along as the photographer. I have read everything about that incident and I meet the taxidermist. If I was on the jury, I would have found him incident, too. The Fish, Wildlife and Parks conducted a very poor sting operation, because the local guides and outfitters were upset that the taxidermist was working a different angle. Simple put the taxidermist found a way to work as a hunting guide without a guides licence.

    2. mikarooni Avatar

      Yes, I certainly would have guessed that you would have found him incident, too. Let me use your response to offer another perspective. Prosecuting slime is often difficult; they always try to arrange all kinds of blind alleys to block their culpability. Did you know that, although he actually bragged about the murders that he ordered, Al Capone was never convicted of any of them or of any significant racketeering. In fact, famed Eliot Ness was never even a serious problem for Capone. Capone was taken down by a forensic accountant who cross-referenced ledgers and receipts and made a case against Capone for tax evasion.

      Do you really want to defend this creep on the grounds that all he did was find “a way to work as a hunting guide without a guides licence” and thus isn’t technically guilty of poaching himself? Did your mother raise you with those kinds of values and, if so, what kind of mother was she?

    3. Ryan Avatar


      The guy was innocent and fish and game has egg on its face because of it.. Very little money exchanged hands and only for legitimate expenses. In the end, a state record ram was poached by a state official and the general public got screwed.

  5. Elk275 Avatar


    You do not know anything about the case, you do not live here or have access to all of the daily news. This case has nothing to do with Al Capone. I would have found John guilty in a minute if he had committed the crime. It was the FW&P’s who screwed the monkey in this case. John Lewton was a photographer who got the necessary permits for a one day photo shoot. It was John who found the loopholes in Montana law. This is not about poaching and he did not poach. The hunter had a valid licence. Montana law says a hunter or guide cannot be air borne on the day they are hunting, but it says nothing about the photographer. One of the charges that has not been resolved is the trespass charge, but some on this forum feel that all land is part of the commons. This is something that will have to be addressed during the 2011 legislative session.

    This incident happened in 2008, last year John was out photographing sheep hunters again while he was waiting for trial. The State of Montana was unable to do anything. The state did send out letters to all of the hunters who had draw sheep permits in the Missouri Breaks not to deal with Mr. Lewton. The hunters of this state are pissed at the state for allowing an undercover agent shoot the sheep — it was not needed . You said that he wanted to sell the sheep on the black market. If the hunter had a valid licence and the sheep was checked in with a regional FW&P office and properly plugged, then the hunter can do what he wants with his sheep.

    Do not give me that crap about how my mother raised me. It is you who I wonder about. It is you who may tolerates hunters but secretly disdains any hunter lawful or unlawful.

  6. Daniel Berg Avatar
    Daniel Berg

    How could you be proud of that set of antlers on your wall? An animal that you snuck out and bushwhacked? That just doesn’t make any sense to me. There is absolutely nothing sporting about that kind of act.

    1. Ryan Avatar

      Obiviously you have no knowledge of whats required to be a successful hunter or what constitutes a successful hunt.

    2. pointswest Avatar

      How about a big fish. Is it OK for a kid to be proud of a big fish? Or is the kid evil, in your mind, because he tricked a starving fish into eating food that was hiding a terrible hidious hook that would stab him in his supple lips?

    3. Elk275 Avatar

      Fifty years ago that evil kid was ME. The fish was lucky to be 10 inches, but I was so proud of catching him. My poor mother! She tried but could never teach me right, my teachers tried and fail, I refused to go to church (maybe that is the problem) and the neighborhood parents shelter there daughters from this demented child who dug worms, tortured them on a sharpen piece of steel. Then the fish. Maybe they would bite, get hooked and fight a bite, landed and bonked on the head scrambling their brain cells. But the smile on my grandfather’s face that morning as he had his breakfast of fresh trout, eggs and toast. And the smile on my face.

    4. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      Ryan – I’m talking about poaching, not hunting within the limits of the law. Poaching is opportunistic, not sporting. Once you have unshackled yourself from the limits of the law, it becomes quite easy to rationalize the taking of an animal under any circumstances, however despicable. That’s why I find in particularly amusing that so many poachers would end up at a taxidermist, the very place a person would go to enshrine their take and preserve it in a noble light.

    5. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      Pointsweet – I’ve fished all my life, and have never thought of it in terms of good or evil. I follow the rules, release under some circumstances, and keep and cook under others. I especially enjoy catching trout while backpacking to cook, which is what I hope to do this weekend.

    6. Elk275 Avatar


      ++I especially enjoy catching trout while backpacking to cook, which is what I hope to do this weekend. ++

      There is nothing better than four or five freshly caught 12 inch brookies, lightly floured, salt and peppered, a fresh lemon sliced and put in tin foil and cooked on the coals. It has been a number of years. Yummmmmmy!

    7. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      “There is nothing better than four or five freshly caught 12 inch brookies, lightly floured, salt and peppered, a fresh lemon sliced and put in tin foil and cooked on the coals. It has been a number of years. Yummmmmmy!”

      And that recipe will be no less delicious on the rainbows I’ll most likely be catching.

    8. pointswest Avatar

      ++I’ve fished all my life, and have never thought of it in terms of good or evil.++

      Why, then, is it OK to kill a trout but not a deer?

    9. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      Pointswest – I have no problem with hunting as long as it’s done legally and sustainably. My problem is with poachers.

  7. Ken Cole Avatar

    I didn’t post this story with the intention of bashing hunters but I should say that there does seem to be an awful lot of poaching going on. I don’t know if this story is representative of what is occurring everywhere but it sure seems that having a weapon and coming across game in a situation where you believe you are alone and can’t be caught is certainly a scenario where a number of people are not capable of doing the right thing.

    I’ve talked to many conservation officers in my day and they sure do seem to be successful in finding people who are willing to shoot that fake deer they have set up by the road. During my time on the South Fork Salmon River I’ve seen an awful lot of intentional snagging and harassing of fish in an effort to get them out of the closed area near the weir. It would all stop when I revealed my IDFG logo on my t-shirt under my vest even though I had no ability to cite them. The behavior of people certainly was nothing to brag about when it comes to fishing and hunting.

    What is it about people that makes them willing to take their obviously illegally taken game to a taxidermist and then brag about it on top of that?

    I’m not against hunting or fishing but I can certainly see why it has such a bad image in some quarters. It would really behoove those who follow the rules to be more proactive about reporting illegal behavior and nipping it in the bud. We all know that there are bad actors in every bunch but stories like this sure make it seem like the hunting community may have more than its share. Does it, and why?

    1. pointswest Avatar

      Not all poachers are hunters. Back in the day when I lived in Idaho, most poaching I was aware of was done by farmers, ranchers, or farm labor who didn’t even hunt during the hunting season.

    2. Elk275 Avatar

      Twenty years ago, I was working in Walsenburg, Colorado buying oil and gas leases for over nine months. On the other side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is a small poor community called San Luis, Colorado. Every weekend I would drive through San Luis on my way to Taos, New Mexico. During my time in the area the federal fish and wildlife set up a phony taxidermy shop, within months the shop started to buy wildlife. One the buys I remembered was a great blue heron for $1500. All of the sellers were video taped and when the shop shut down, grand jury summons were issued and the poachers arrested. The people who killed illegal animals and sold them to the shop were law breakers and nothing less.

      San Luis is mostly a Hispanic people who were unemployed or under employed. Then a string operation set up offering hundreds to thousands of dollars for illegally taken animals. These people would have never taken the time to kill a great blue heron, except there was over a months plus wages for an unemployed worker. The federal government enabled the population to break laws that they would never break, for money that they never could earn. Illegal is illegal and should be deal with, but the string enabled good honest people to cross the line.

    3. ProWolf in WY Avatar
      ProWolf in WY

      I think a lot farm and ranch hands are probably instructed to practice SSS. Lots of ranchers will ask hunters to shoot coyotes and badgers on their land. While coyotes can be taken year round (at least in Montana and Wyoming) I’m not sure what the law is concerning badgers. I’m sure there aren’t too many ranchers that don’t ask that wolves get shot and hunters who are happy to oblige.

  8. mikepost Avatar

    Sting operations by their very nature attract high percentages of crooks because they encourage them to come in. Once a “no questions asked” taxidermist is touted in the poaching community then all the knuckleheads are going to go there. Just like pawn shop stings end up attracting 68% thieves. To use this sting operation statistic to make a statement about hunters and hunting is flawed. I am willing to guess that all the other local taxidermists had 0% poachers among their clientel once this shop opened up…and that would not be a reliable statistic either.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      I would sure like to know what else was going on at this particular taxidermy shop. Judging by what the response to my comments it probably is not representative of the hunting community as criminals might have been attracted to the shop by their perceived lack of concern or reporting of their crimes. That being said, I wonder how widespread this kind of behavior is. Is it as bad as what this article portrays or are there smarter poachers who wouldn’t take their poached game anyplace regardless? What is the real extent of poaching?

    2. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      I believe that there ARE smart poachers out there who would not take game to a taxidermist unless they were a friend or relation. Assuming that they all go to a taxidermist based on WOM and thus end up ensared in these types of stings would be severely underestimating the intelligence of a large portion of the group.

    3. mikepost Avatar

      Ken, in some areas experts believe that they lose as much game to poaching as they do to legit hunters. It is why field surveys are much more important in managing numbers than take limits and counting filled tags. Trophy poaching is a small part of this, most of it is meat in the freezer.

  9. Cobra Avatar

    Personally I don’t know how anyone that poaches a trophy animal can consider it being a trophy. If and when I get the chance at that 380 bull I damn sure want to make sure I’m actually working for it. I’ve taken some nice bulls and bucks and the ones I’ve worked for the most are the ones I remember the most.

    1. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
      Peter Kiermeir

      I´m always puzzled by that story of this old hunter in Austria. When he recently died, a hidden trophy room was discovered where, among many other things, the stuffed and mounted pelt of one of the missing Austrian brown bears was found. The skinned remains, without paws and pelt, had been left on site. A hunter turning to poacher! I suspect that such cases are not rare, when hunting and poaching are rooted deep in culture and tradition like in some alpine regions of Europe. And this guy even had the help of a taxidermist. Hmm, that trophy stag in the neighbouring hunting grounds? Let´s blacken the face, dress up appropriately and wait for nightfall ……


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole