As the feds built their case in the fall of 2007, Foiles gathered raw footage for Fallin' Skies 5 — and in so doing, compiled the very video evidence that would be used against him.

In Alberta, Canada, on October 17, he picked up a fallen duck trying to waddle away. He wrenched its neck around until the animal faced him. "Look at me when I'm talking to you," he joked, smacking its head a few times. Before killing it at last, he played ventriloquist, moving its beak while making quacking noises.

The next day he slapped around a different duck. He cupped an empty shotgun shell box down over its head, playing peekaboo. Then he plugged the duck's nostrils with his fingers and held its beak shut, asking, "Is this how you want to die?" The cameraman told him to just kill the thing, which he finally did.

Jennifer Silverberg
Jeff Foiles revisiting his former duck club near Pleasant Hill, Illinois.
Jennifer Silverberg
Jeff Foiles revisiting his former duck club near Pleasant Hill, Illinois.

Part of the hunting community's ethical code of conduct is the concept of the "clean kill," says Michael P. Nelson, an associate professor in both philosophy and wildlife studies at Michigan State University. In a "clean kill," the hunter ends the animal's life as fast and efficiently as possible.

Really egregious breaches of this code, Nelson says, "go to the core of our ethical being. Our collective 'yuck' factor kicks in."

Other hunting regulations, however, are so technical that they don't appear at first to be grounded in morality, Nelson continues.

Take bag limits. Each spring the federal government sends planes piloted by biologists along a precise grid over waterfowl breeding grounds in upper North America. By crisscrossing a combined 80,000 miles, they record enough data to estimate bird populations. They plug those figures into more calculus, and out spits a proper daily limit, which conservation officials sitting on flyway councils must ultimately approve.

A bag limit looks like a cold number, Nelson suggests. But it represents "a commitment to other humans" and an agreement "to share nature's bounty." Shooting over the limit isn't so much an affront to an animal, or to an arbitrary statute. It's an affront to other hunters, and to the pact they've made with each other. In a word, it's greedy.

On a snowy December 15, 2007, Jeff Foiles and his crew at D&J Duck Club scored some great footage out in the hunting pits. But they also filmed themselves shooting well over the bag limits — and trying to cover their tracks. Foiles was required by federal law to keep precise records of the bird harvest at his property. But the clip shows Foiles actively falsifying it.

"Boys," Foiles announces, "as bad as I hate to say it, I think we are done."

Then an idea strikes him. He turns to his son-in-law, Jason Munz: "Does your brother hunt?"

"He doesn't have his license," Munz replies. Then Munz suggests another option: "McMurtrie didn't go today."

"OK," says Foiles. "McMurtrie's killing his limit today then." As the camera rolled, he instructs Munz: "Call McMurtrie and get his license number." With the license number, they could pencil a proper entry in their official log to denote that McMurtrie had killed his limit — even though he wasn't there.

At the time of his recorded misdeeds, Foiles was entangled in a nasty divorce with his second wife, Andrea. They were dividing up more than $2 million in assets, from farm acreage to Harley-Davidsons.

And just a month before before the incriminating footage was shot at D&J Duck Club, family tragedy struck there.

On November 5, 2007, Foiles, his teenage son Cole and his 80-year-old father Burdette went for a hunt. After putting the ATV away, the elderly man said he wasn't feeling well. As he was starting up the stairs to the club trailer, the old man collapsed in cardiac arrest.

Foiles came running, and Burdette died right there in his son's arms. Foiles would later call it the worst thing he ever lived through.

"I didn't walk up them steps for the rest of the year," Foiles says.

It was already a tense time at the duck club, recalls partner Denny Marschuetz. Foiles' personality had changed as he struggled to adapt to fame: "If you go from being an ironworker to everybody wanting your autograph, that's hard."

The duck club had been transformed into Foiles' personal fiefdom.

"It got so bizarre up there that none of my associates would go," Marschuetz remembers. "He controlled every hunt, where you shot, when you shot. You couldn't bring any duck call in blind but his duck call. It was ridiculous."

Late in the season, Foiles asked if he could borrow Marschuetz's beloved black Lab, Junior. The businessman had forged an unusually tight bond with the dog (and had spent $25,000 to acquire and train him). He agreed but asked Foiles to be careful.

The next day Foiles texted the bad news: A duck had swooped low in front of the pit. Junior crashed into the icy water a bit early. Foiles accidentally shot Junior in the back of the neck, killing him.

Marschuetz was crushed — and bitter.

"There are no 'accidents' in shooting dogs," he says. "That's negligence. I'm sorry, but that's what it is. He was shooting at a duck he shouldn't have been shooting at."

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