Alaskan Hunting Guide in Prison for Wildlife Crime Spree

Alaskan Hunting Guide in Prison for Wildlife Crime Spree

Former Alaskan hunting guide, Stephen Jeremy Hicks, is known for his long history of violating wildlife laws. His crimes span from 2015 to 2019, prompting officials to refer to these violations as a "wildlife crime spree."

Hicks' most recent infraction occurred in 2018 after guiding hunters on a sheep hunt near Max Lake on the west side of Cook Inlet. However, he failed to obtain a BLM permit to commercially hunt on federal land. This incident led to a federal conviction of illegally providing big-game guiding services, along with multiple other offenses of similar nature. These violations earned Hicks six months in prison after accepting a plea deal. In addition to his prison sentence, Hicks also agreed to pay $13,460 in restitution and forfeit a SuperCub plane. According to Hicks' attorney, Kevin Fitzgerald, the convicted hunting guide began serving his prison sentence in late July at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Oregon.

The Alaskan resident received his sentence from the U.S. District Court. Federal prosecutors report that it is unusual for an Alaskan hunting guide to receive prison time for violating wildlife laws, however, Hicks committed these crimes over a span of 5 years, causing prosecutors to give him a harsher penalty.

In 2016, state officials in Alaska put his license on probation after failing to maintain safe field conditions and provide clients with contracts before providing guiding services. In October 2017, complaints were made against Hicks after what a state judge called a "thoroughly miserable" hunting trip. The clients on this supposedly guided hunt endured several days of their trip without Hicks, staying in a disgusting cabin littered with rodent feces, stocked with rotting food, and a flooded woodstove. In addition to living in squalor, only one animal was successfully harvested during the trip, which the client killed himself without Hicks present. This itself is against Alaskan hunting law. Another animal was shot and injured while guided into rough, challenging terrain. However, the goat was down a steep ravine and was too dangerous to retrieve, leading Hicks to reshoot the animal to "put it out of its misery."

After the 2017 hunt, Judge Cheryl Mandala made the decision to permanently revoke Hicks' license in 2019 after he "failed to provide clients with minimally adequate shelter, encouraged clients to engage in multiple violations of state hunting laws, and improperly engaged in same-day airborne hunting."

Other state accusations over the five year period include charges of wasting moose meat, illegally baiting bears, not accompanying clients on hunts, and same-day hunting and flying to spot big game.

However, after receiving the federal sentence, state attorneys in Alaksa dropped their charges against Hicks, believing federal prosecutors made use of the state's charges for relevant conduct. Chief U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason considered the charges the state made against Hicks in her sentencing and awarded half the restitution to the state of Alaska. Judge Gleason stated, "the need for prison is to make clear that the blatant disregard for state and federal fish and wildlife rules will not be tolerated."

After serving his time in prison, it will still be a long time before Hicks will be back in the field. For the next three years, he will be on supervised release; this means he will not be allowed to fly any private aircraft or participate in commercial hunting activities in any manner.

Feature image via U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Alaska, Hicks pictured on the left.

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