Supporters of Jeff Foiles, Convicted Illinois Waterfowl Hunter, Speak Out

click to enlarge This company's CEO, Art Ladehoff, has chosen to stand by hunter Jeff Foiles
This company's CEO, Art Ladehoff, has chosen to stand by hunter Jeff Foiles
Celebrity waterfowler Jeff Foiles of Pleasant Hill, Illinois has been trashed a lot lately for his hunting crimes both here and in Canada. But not by everyone.

Foiles, 54, has admitted to shooting over his bag limit, falsifying his records to hide it, and causing "unnecessary pain and suffering" to an animal (for more details, see our current feature, "Fowl Play").  He's been sentenced and fined in both countries, and will soon serve 13 months in federal prison.

While many commenters in online outdoors forums impugn Foiles' character, plenty of people in the outside world stick up for him.

"I have no reason not to stay with Jeff on this thing," says Art Ladehoff, CEO of Big Foot Decoys.  (Decoys are fake ducks and geese used to attract real birds).
Ladehoff's company has remained a sponsor of Foiles even while others, such as Realtree camouflage company, have run for the hills.

Art Ladehoff, founder of Big Foot Decoys - Image via
Art Ladehoff, founder of Big Foot Decoys
Image via
Art Ladehoff, founder of Big Foot Decoys
The price of his loyalty? Three calls of complaint and a hassle with Cabela's.

"Cabela's raised hell until we got his picture off our box," Ladehoff says. "A year or two ago, they fought like hell to get it on there."

(It's unclear where Cabela's stands on Foiles. In September, Foiles' attorneys wrote in a court pleading that the business relationship between hunter and retailer was "terminated." But the Cabela's website is still offering many of his products for sale.  A spokesman for Cabela's did not respond to repeated requests for comment.)

Ladehoff recalls how, ten years ago, he realized that competition in the decoy business was getting fierce.

"The only thing that saved us is that we had Jeff come along," he says. "He's a hard-working S.O.B. If he tells you he's gonna do something, it's gonna get done. Despite the bad-guy image he projects, he's a really good guy."

While Ladehoff is quick to praise Foiles, some speak even more highly of him.

In August, 2009, an Army soldier named Eric Bakken fighting in Afghanistan logged into the Foiles Migrators online forum.

"Things are getting really violent," Bakken typed. "I have seen some really bad things in the past week." But one thing cheered him.  He'd just heard from his mother. She'd gone to a tradeshow and found his hero, Jeff Foiles. And as Foiles often does, he loaded her up with merchandise and autographed a call for the soldier.

"I was the happiest I have been in months," Bakken wrote upon hearing the news. "The the little acts of kindness he did shined a big light in a very dark and violent time."

When Bakken returned stateside in 2010, Foiles invited him to his home for Thanksgiving dinner. The soldier then appeared in Foiles' latest DVD, Foiles and the Migrators.

Bakken's mother, Trish Madia, says that during her phone conversations with her son, she's heard his friends in the background blowing Foiles' calls in the mountains of Afghanistan.

"It was his movies and calls that those guys turned to to get through tough times," she says. 

As noted in our feature, at least three military units have sent Foiles American flags they'd carried on missions in the Middle East. He displays them in his showroom.

And then there's conservation.

A spokesperson at Ducks Unlimited, a non-profit dedicated to restoring and maintaining wetlands for waterfowl, declines to confirm whether or not Foiles has donated, citing a privacy policy.

But Foiles says he has donated "thousands" to the organization, buying several sponsor memberships at $250 a pop.

Says his attorney, Ed Fanning: "It's a big deal just to buy one of those."