As birds descend the Mississippi flyway each hunting season, they grow hungry and exhausted. So they scan below for areas to rest and feed — particularly wetlands. If they find a honey hole, especially one already flush with their noisy peers, down they come.

When Foiles' father, Burdette, was born in 1926, sportsmen lured ducks down by "baiting" — scattering grain on the soil or water surface. Some hunters would even trot out a group of live, tame ducks — tethered to the river bottom — to simulate a flock in mid-feed.

But by 1935 the federal government had banned such methods. And shotguns, under the new law, could only be loaded with three rounds at a time. To bag a bird, you had to excel at three things: spreading out fake decoys, blowing a call and hitting a target before it flaps away.

Foiles pieces together a bird 
call at his workshop in Pittsfield.
Jennifer Silverberg
Foiles pieces together a bird call at his workshop in Pittsfield.
Flags and ducks in the Foiles 
Migrators show room.
Jennifer Silverberg
Flags and ducks in the Foiles Migrators show room.

Burdette Foiles taught his young son to wield a shotgun in the early 1960s by allotting him only one shell at a time. It sharpened the boy: On his first hunt, Jeff downed two canvasback ducks with a single round. He was six years old.

Blowing a call didn't come so easy. The quacks and feeding chuckles of real ducks are hard to mimic. Foiles also labored to heave out enough air to tickle the ears of migrators hundreds of feet up. So the old-timers he hunted with forced him to the back of the blind until he had the oomph to blow his primitive device.

During this dark age of waterfowling, an army-green jacket was the best you could do for camouflage, Foiles recalls. The rubber boots of the era, he swears, "made your feet colder."

Most crucially, the terrain was ill-suited for hunting. The publicly funded wildlife refuges that stud the river today didn't exist yet. Landowners couldn't afford to waste their fields of feed corn by flooding them up to the ears to attract travel-weary ducks.

Instead, Foiles and his mentors toughed it out on the banks of bristled river islands, huddled in blinds heated by bucket fires.

"It's a wonder I didn't end up hating it," Foiles muses.


For a brief moment in 1993, Jeff Foiles was dead.

It happened on a sweltering day at the Wood River Refinery, where Foiles, then 36, was toiling as an ironworker. His second wife, Andrea, and their infant son, Cole, were back at home near Hardin, Illinois, and Foiles was down in a hole tying rebar. He felt odd.

He staggered outside to his pickup and started driving through the parking lot but passed out from heat stroke. In the emergency room his breathing stopped completely. He woke up confused several days later in an Alton hospital.

He soon regained his senses, but something had stirred inside him. He decided to "get more serious" about the sport of his youth. As he convalesced, he began an informal apprenticeship at Horseshoe Lake near Cairo, Illinois. Duck club owner Greg Masterson schooled him in the arts of call making and guiding.

"He was willing to learn, and he was very aggressive," recalls Masterson. "He was quite the go-getter."

He resumed ironworking but started tinkering with his own calls, mixing and matching the best parts of his favorite models. Then he began taking orders, which led to more orders. Demand swelled so quickly, Foiles had to sacrifice lunch breaks and sleep just to keep up.

In 1999 he took the plunge: Leaving union work behind, he devoted himself full-time to his new call company, Foiles Migrators Inc. He and his wife ran it out of their damp stone basement, which they nicknamed "the dungeon." They dubbed the first two calls the "Strait Meat Mallard" and the "Strait Meat Honker."

Foiles yearned for his own duck club — a private farm with the land and crop set up to entice migrating flocks. Luckily he knew someone who did, too: Denny Marschuetz, a chatty south St. Louis native with a construction business and a fondness for cigars.

When Marschuetz voiced his interest in buying land, Foiles mentioned a 144-acre tract available in Pike County, Illinois, just off the Mississippi River. In 2002 they signed the papers, and the D&J Strait Meat Duck Club was established.

Marschuetz marveled at his friend's work ethic. Foiles was at full-throttle, darting to trade shows across the country. A tireless self-promoter, he soon back-slapped his way into sponsorship deals with big industry names such as Winchester Ammunition and Benelli.

In 2004 Foiles himself won a prestigious goose-calling contest in Katy, Texas, blowing on one of his own models.

"At that time, his calls were winning just about every contest you could think of," says Mike Niles, who holds a respected contest in Hoisington, Kansas, every five years. "It was a sound and style that was really popular."

Foiles Migrators Inc. had grown so large by 2004 that its owner built a 9,000-square-foot complex north of Pittsfield, complete with a show room and warehouse.

His timing was perfect. By 2005, the Mississippi Flyway was far and away the most active in the U.S. With more than a half-million active hunters bringing down about 6.5 million birds per year, it had reached roughly twice the magnitude of the Central Flyway, its closest rival, which runs along the Rocky Mountains.

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My Voice Nation Help
44 comments
myrainybaby
myrainybaby

@ This man disgusts me! He takes pleasure in killing & torturing animals anyone who does that something is seriously wrong with them mentally. Then I believe he purposely killed his friends dog. This man is cruel & evil!

Citoriplus
Citoriplus

Finally the truth comes out? In todays liberal media of deception created by unethical measures I feel that the facts have come through in the article. I feel for Jeff and completely understand how one is able to get the adrenaline rush and the greed that ensues. Gambling can be the same way. I am hoping that he will be able to follow through w/ his judicial orders and his life will once again be on to the waterfowl.

sistersista
sistersista

Sick Sick Sick...have you checked to see if any infants or toddlers are missing from their homes? too bad his kind cant get equal treatment.

Maloju
Maloju

I met this clown years ago at Game fair and instantly knew the guy was a total jerk. As previously mentioned hunting is not about commercialization and money and it is just simply killing the sport.

If Ducks Shot Back
If Ducks Shot Back

I can think of a number of ways to describe Jeff Foiles. Most of them involve the word "bag".

Berger
Berger

And the icing on the cake is the jackhole will tell you duck hunting is a SPORT. If the ducks volunteered to participate, if they were armed with rifles, binoculars, night gogles, audio magnifiers, camoflage to make them almost transparent, cover and shelter to wait for their unsuspecting prey, little instruments that made noise like human speech, and the willingness to sacrifice themselves for such a sport, then guess what, it might be a sport - albeit a sadistic one!

Ask the duckhunters you know just how much duck they eat. These jacko--- aren't participating in a sport OR hunting for food. They love to kill.

Lander1
Lander1

Well it just goes to show you what money and greed can do to a person. Foiles is just another piece of crap worthless man that let stuff go to his head. He should have been convicted of every charge for the maximum sentence. He obviously has some mental issues as well for treating wounded animals the way that he did. Anyone that buys his crap after this should have their heads examined as well.

Danieljoeoconnor
Danieljoeoconnor

excellent story and great pictures. that foiles isa despicable piece of crap. if i had been present when he was torturing those wounded ducks i'd probably shot him with my crossbow. whata a brutal evil lowlife piece of human fecal waste garbage.

KITTY
KITTY

There's a hunter named Jeff FoliesWhose ass is all covered with boilsThey didn't hurt, he didn't scowlHe just kept on killing beautiful waterfowl.

the truth will set you free.
the truth will set you free.

"If you're facing 23 felony counts, usually the government is not going to let you walk away without a felony conviction," said Foiles' attorney, Ed Fanning. Obviously this was a he said/she said case where Foiles clearly won. The real disappointment is how the Feds handled the case and all of the MONEY THE FEDS SPENT on the case. I'm sure it was well over the fine that Foiles had to pay.

Marschuetz may not have been the perfect partner either. I'm sure he was reluctant to comment on his own business faults. Props to Foiles for taking the high road and not bashing those who bashed him. "Criticizing others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves."

There are two sides to every story.Before you write your comment on here, reread the section about Travis Wood and how internet bashing turned out for him. http://www.stopcyberbullying.o...

Don't believe everything that you read in a newspaper. Bigfoot & aliens have not been spotted either...

MichiganHunter
MichiganHunter

The term,'' Rock Star'' is grossly misused in this headline. After what Foiles has been documented as having done, he can hardly be classified as a Rock Star. In my opinion he got what amounts to a slap on the wrist. He gives a black eye to the 99.9% of the rest of the hunters who do abide by legal & ethical standards. He should have had his hunting privileges revoked for life!

Rocky
Rocky

Rock Star? A better desdciprion is just another sadistic asss who loves to kill animals. Typical - just can't kill enough. And yea, I bet he had that shitt-eating grin on his face everytime he took a life. He probably laughed out loud if it was terribly injured or spitting blood all over, or trying to survive while injured. Rock star? Give us a break. You couldn't print on the cover of RT what he really is.

MOutdoorsman
MOutdoorsman

As a Missouri hunter, fisherman, and conservationist I’m very upset with Jeff. I’m pissed at the feds as well for how easy they went on him. He should have gotten jail time and a much bigger fine. Jeff’s limit violations and his unethical methods are atrocious, but he and those like him have done far more damage to hunters than they know.

Hunting, fishing, and outdoor life are under political and cultural attack in this country and as we become more urbanized there are more people that look at Jeff’s bloodlust, his canned hunts, and lack of ethics and would paint all hunters and outdoorsman with the same brush. Hunting, fishing, and human conservation efforts have enemies in this country and Jeff and others like him unwittingly provide these groups with ammunition. I speak of course of those that would rather sterilize deer than hunt them or advocate against maintaining hunting habitat on the grounds that it is not ecologically friendly. These are just examples of some of the uneducated and uninformed interest groups among many many others that threaten our ability to hunt and fish or would regulate it to a point where it becomes practically impossible.

Hunters in the U.S. have been blessed with a tremendous bounty of fish and wildlife, a bounty that was unthinkable to our ancestors arriving from other places where hunting and fishing was reserved for only the highest strata of society. As the largest segment of the population using these resources, it falls on us, not others, to be the most responsible population conserving it and ensuring that it still exists for future generations to use in a similar fashion. There are those that would close down all human interaction with parts of our environment, except of course for those with the correct “attitude”, and bring back the good old days when nature and its resources were reserved for a special elite to enjoy.

Jeff Foiles is not a hunter and does not represent the 99.9% of other hunters and outdoorsmen that are ethical. He is a sadistic, thoughtless, glutton with a hunting license that forgot the resource he was harvesting belongs to all of us and in so doing has done a great disservice to the hunting community. I’ve seen this kind of behavior in the field and I make it my business to call people out on it. If you enjoy hunting and fishing in this country please do the same.

MOutdoorsman
MOutdoorsman

As a Missouri hunter, fisherman, and conservationist I’m very upset with Jeff. I’m pissed at the feds as well for how easy they went on him. He should have gotten jail time and a much bigger fine. Jeff’s limit violations and his unethical methods are atrocious, but he and those like him have done far more damage to hunters than they know.

Hunting, fishing, and outdoor life are under political and cultural attack in this country and as we become more urbanized there are more people that look at Jeff’s bloodlust, his canned hunts, and lack of ethics and would paint all hunters and outdoorsman with the same brush. Hunting, fishing, and human conservation efforts have enemies in this country and Jeff and others like him unwittingly provide these groups with ammunition. I speak of course of those that would rather sterilize deer than hunt them or advocate against maintaining hunting habitat on the grounds that it is not ecologically friendly. These are just examples of some of the uneducated and uninformed interest groups among many many others that threaten our ability to hunt and fish or would regulate it to a point where it becomes practically impossible.

Hunters in the U.S. have been blessed with a tremendous bounty of fish and wildlife, a bounty that was unthinkable to our ancestors arriving from other places where hunting and fishing was reserved for only the highest strata of society. As the largest segment of the population using these resources, it falls on us, not others, to be the most responsible population conserving it and ensuring that it still exists for future generations to use in a similar fashion. There are those that would close down all human interaction with parts of our environment, except of course for those with the correct “attitude”, and bring back the good old days when nature and its resources were reserved for a special elite to enjoy.

Jeff Foiles is not a hunter and does not represent the 99.9% of us that hunt ethically. He is a sadistic, thoughtless, glutton with a license that forgot the resource he was harvesting belongs to all of us and in so doing has done a great disservice to the hunting community. I’ve seen this kind of behavior in the field and I make it my business to call people out on it. If you enjoy hunting and fishing in this country please do the same.

Cody Williams
Cody Williams

I have to say that as a committed waterfowl hunter, Foiles represents most of the ways things can go wrong in hunting. Commercialization and money are not what hunting is about. Clearly hunting became about inflating his own ego instead of paying respect to the game and the hunt. It also results in a public image black eye for the 99 percent of waterfowl hunters who hunt ethically and respect. Hopefully this will all give Foiles a chance to return to what's important in hunting.

Lilponder68
Lilponder68

Me and my family eat every duck or animal I kill. They were put on this earth by the lord for a reason. Acts 10, 10-13.

Tphillipsstl
Tphillipsstl

that's a pretty ignorant characterization of hunters. Have you ever had a rational conversation with a hunter or ever been on a hunt to see what really happens? That's about as reasonable as me saying all musicians are sex-crazed drug addicts because i saw the Doors movie.

Andy C
Andy C

Rock star a la Ozzy Ozbourn. I'm willing to bet most of his kill ended up in some roadside ditch or trash can instead of in the freezer. Think about it - if you limit out in two days you are at your possession limit - 12 ducks. If you hunt full time you have to eat a lot of mallards, pintails, and shovelers to stay legal. He would have to eat duck for every meal and then some. Absolutley no respect for the game, the sport, and certainly none for the other waterfowl hunters. This kind of bad behavior not only makes the majority of hunters who are ethical sportsmen look bad, it spreads like cancer, can only wonder what kind of influence he had on the others. Consequently I will second the motion that he got off way too lightly.

Oakmossy
Oakmossy

What exactly are you implying? That anyone who kills animals is sadistic and similar to Jeff Foiles? You're wrong. Jeff Foiles is an aberation and an exception not the rule in the hunting community. If you can't tell from the comments to this article the vast majority of hunters and fishers are appalled at the behavior revealed in this article. There's nothing wrong with taking life and it must be done, to plants and animals, by every living organism on the planet to survive. His taking pleasure in hunting is not the problem but rather his deep psychological issues causing him to inflict unwarranted suffering and torture on the animals he harvests.

Sportsman
Sportsman

MOoutdoorsman - well said. While the author of this piece certainly knows his audience and wrote with the intent to rile his fellow liberals, you have very eloquently made the points many of us outdoorsmen and conservationists wanted to make.

The Voice of Reason
The Voice of Reason

It's good that you eat what you kill. It's bad that you think a fairy tale gives you the right.

If Ducks Shot Back
If Ducks Shot Back

"the intent to rile his fellow liberals"

Oh really? It's all politics with you, huh. How about "the intent to rile his fellow . . . human beings", because if you aren't riled by the accurate depictions of torture, not to mention blatantly illegal activity which tarnishes the reputation of all hunters . . . then you probably are lacking a good portion of what makes humanity "good".

I Eat Ducks
I Eat Ducks

God doesn't believe in Atheists, either.

 
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