Conservation Wildlife Management

Celebrity Hunters Strike Deal, Plead Guilty to Conspiracy to Violate the Lacey Act

Josh and Sarah Bowmar originally pleaded not guilty to all charges resulting from a 2020 poaching bust in Nebraska
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josh and sarah bowmar

The celebrity bowhunting couple was sentenced for transporting illegally harvested wildlife over state lines. via Instagram

Celebrity hunters Josh and Sarah Bowmar entered a plea agreement on Oct. 19 for charges related to a poaching bust in Nebraska in 2020. After originally pleading not guilty to various charges of illegal baiting, illegal transportation of wildlife, hunting without permits, and other crimes, they now plead guilty to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. In return, all other charges are being dismissed.

The Bowmars wear a lot of hats. They’re mostly known as hunters and fitness entrepreneurs who gained fame as influencers on social media. They’re also known as the catalysts for Alberta’s ban on spear hunting big game after a GoPro video of Josh spearing a Canadian black bear went viral. The couple’s name popped up in headlines again in 2020, when Hidden Hills Outfitters co-owner Jacob Hueftle and 30 other defendants were convicted of Lacey Act and Migratory Bird Act violations. This was widely regarded as the largest poaching bust in Nebraska state history.

The husband and wife originally pleaded not guilty to their share of the charges. Those allegations included hunting multiple deer over bait and transporting illegal wildlife over state lines during a two-year period from 2015 to 2017. Sarah was also charged with hunting turkeys without a valid permit and shooting a turkey from a county road. The charges spurred their mission to overturn the Lacey Act, which their lawyer called “an abusive piece of federal legislation that is used to excessively punish hunters for alleged minor infractions” in a public statement.

Read Next: Every Hunter Should Know What the Lacey Act Is, How It Works, and Why It’s On the Books

But on Wednesday, Oct. 19, the Bowmars reversed their plea and entered into a new agreement. They now plead guilty to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act in return for the other charges being dropped. As a result, investigators will return Josh’s Hoyt compound bow and three mule deer mounts that were confiscated during the investigation. Three other mounts, two whitetails and a mule deer, will remain in law enforcement’s possession.

According to court documents, the maximum penalty for conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act includes a year behind bars and a $100,000 fine. The Bowmars, who live in Iowa, agreed to not hunt in Nebraska for their year of probation and pay $25,000 into the Lacey Act Reward Account upon the sentencing. Any further restitution will be paid into the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Game Law Investigative Fund. Their sentencing will take place on Jan. 12, 2023.

Josh took to Instagram on Friday, Oct. 20 to announce the dismissal of the charges, touting their innocence in the ordeal.

“The legal process has finally ran [its] course and the truth has came to light,” Josh writes in the caption. “We can finally say our truth; that we never baited or poached any deer and the US Government dismissed those charges against us.”

According to the factual basis of the case, the Bowmars “agreed to purchase hunting and guiding services from HHO for the purposes of taking, possessing, and acquiring wildlife, some of which was attempted to be taken in violation of the laws and regulations of the State of Nebraska.”