Yet the matter wasn't quite over: Within a couple days the veterinarian mailed Marschuetz the bill. Foiles later apologized and paid it. But the friendship had disintegrated. Foiles ultimately bought out Marschuetz in April 2008.

"Financially it was fair," Marschuetz says of the split. "But emotionally it was devastating. This wasn't the same man I'd hunted with back in 1995."

By early 2008 Foiles had a hunch that the feds were sniffing around, which he confided to "Big Sean" Hammock, his jack-of-all-trades employee. Hammock had an inkling why. The 29-year-old now freely admits, "I did stuff with him I never should've done."

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.

One day that May, Hammock was trimming weeds outside the shop in Pittsfield when he noticed a fifteen-vehicle fleet of black SUVs and green trucks approaching. Federal agents climbed out of the vehicles flaring badges. They immediately called him by name, telling him he was needed for questioning.

"They knew everything," Hammock says.

Foiles arrived in short order. The agents interviewed him, then left with business records and a hefty chunk of raw footage.

That evening Hammock drove down to Foiles' home in Pleasant Hill. "I was worried sick," he says. "Jeff was scared to death, he's crying, we're both looking at each other like, 'I don't know what to do.'"

Over the next two-and-a-half years, federal agents pressured Foiles' associates to roll on him. Foiles hired a private investigator to keep tabs on who was saying what to whom.

"Some of these [informants] didn't have ill intentions," says Ed Fanning, one of Foiles' three attorneys. "I think they were threatened. If you feel your freedom or your family is at risk, you're going to do what you feel is necessary."

However, he suggests: "Some people did have ulterior motives."

By 2009 Foiles had hatched a theory, later proffered by his lawyer in the divorce case. The hunter believed that his estranged wife, Andrea, had started the whole thing. She'd become romantically linked to Foiles' former employee in the field, Mark Carey. (After parting ways with Foiles, Carey launched his own bird-call company, Fowl Obsession.)

Federal prosecuters deny this version of events. Foiles' ex-wife, who has since remarried and is now Andrea Nicolay, did not respond to requests for an interview. Carey declined comment, saying only, "I wish the man the best."

On December 10, 2010, prosecutors in the Central District of Illinois slammed Foiles with a 25-page indictment. They charged him with conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and Federal False Writings statutes. In order to capture better footage for his videos, they alleged, Foiles routinely killed more birds than allowed by law and fibbed in his club records to hide it.

The total indictment against him: 23 felony counts.

On the same day he pleaded not guilty, January 27, the Canadian government accused Foiles of shooting over his limit on several occasions and committing two counts of "causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal."

The hunter posted a statement on his website: "Jeff Foiles, an American sportsman, respects the law." He added that he "appreciates the patience and understanding of friends, sponsors and supporters....Thanks again and PLEASE PRAY FOR OUR TROOPS!!"

On June 23, 2011, Foiles logged into his website — and gloated. "After years and months of trying allegations," he typed, "I can finally say I feel vindicated."

Foiles and the government had at last struck a deal. Prosecutors would dismiss the indictment, and the hunter would plead guilty to far less — only two misdemeanors.

"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. "I don't think it panned out as big as they had hoped."

The sportsman didn't skate by any means: He agreed to pony up a $100,000 fine and serve thirteen months in prison. Upon his release, Foiles would be banned from hunting for two years. He would also be forced to record a public-service announcement, urging others to avoid his misbehavior.

In the plea, Foiles copped to shooting over his limit on three occasions — once by sixteen birds. He also admitted that on nine different dates in 2007, hunting parties at D&J Duck Club killed too many waterfowl. He was present for most of the incidents. Some were guided hunts that earned him a profit. But every single time, it was Foiles himself who cooked his books at the duck club to make everything appear kosher.

"I totally admit I did that," Foiles wrote in his June 23 statement. But he hastened to shed some light on the over-bagging.

"Ninety percent of the time it was a pure adrenaline rush," Foiles contended. Plus, dogs often find cripples at day's end, he pointed out. That will nudge a group's total harvest into illegality. "More than not," he concluded, it was "an honest mistake."

Prosecutors begged to differ. They argued in a September pleading that Foiles "was not merely an individual who got caught up in 'fast and furious' action and accidentally shot in excess of his daily limit." The raw video taken at the duck club from December 2007 proved that his law-breaking was at least partly calculated.

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