A celebrity couple who gained notoriety for posting videos of their trophy hunting on social media have been fined $133K for their involvement in Nebraska’s largest ever poaching ring. Josh and Sarah Bowmar, from Ohio, were sentenced by a federal judge for unlawfully hunting white-tailed deer and turkeys in Nebraska without permits and using bait. The couple went on more than a dozen hunting tours with Nebraska-based Hidden Hills Outfitters between September 2015 and November 2017, violating the Lacey Act, which prohibits illegal trafficking of wildlife, fish, or indigenous plants. They were found to have used vehicles to unlawfully transport deer and turkey, both whole and in parts, to their home in Ohio and other places.
The Bowmar couple were sentenced last week to pay $133,000 in fines and to three years of probation during which they will be prohibited from hunting in Nebraska, following their guilty plea in October to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge for their involvement in Nebraska’s largest ever poaching ring. In exchange for their plea, four other more serious charges involving illegal baiting were dropped. The defendants in the case included the Bowmars and their company, Bowmar Bowhunting LLC of Ankeny, Iowa, each was fined $25,000.
Josh and Sarah Bowmar, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge for their involvement in Nebraska’s largest ever poaching ring, have been sentenced to pay a fine of $133,000, $13,000 to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and $44,000 money judgment in lieu of forfeiting a property. They will also be required to perform 40 hours of community service. The couple were a small part of the illegal ring headed by their friend Jacob Hueftle, who was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison in Yankton, South Dakota. His 60-year-old father was sentenced to probation. As part of the bust of the illegal ring, federal wildlife authorities seized dozens of mounted whitetail deer.
A total of 39 individuals were convicted for participating in Nebraska’s largest ever poaching ring, in which the Bowmar couple were a small part of, and more than $750,000 in fines, restitution and forfeitures have been collected. The group was responsible for taking at least 97 big game animals. The Bowmars and over 30 coconspirators were accused of using bait sites to locate and identify potential target deer, maximize their hunting effectiveness and success rate and attempt to kill a specific trophy deer, as per the original indictment from 2020. The Bowmars were involved primarily in video-recorded archery hunts for white-tailed deer, mule deer, wild turkey, and other wildlife species in multiple states and countries.
According to the indictment, the defendants, including the Bowmar couple, regularly video-recorded and photographed the hunts to create, produce, and distribute the content to the public through their online BBH business platforms, including an internet website, Instagram page, and YouTube channel. The indictment cites a video posted on January 5, 2017, on their YouTube channel, in which Josh Bowmar is seen shooting a whitetail deer and explains how the deer’s antlers fell off after he fired at it with an arrow. The video was filmed during a Hidden Hills hunt, where the Bowmars hunted for a particular trophy-sized white-tailed deer with double corkscrew drop tine antlers within a heavily baited area.
The indictment also revealed that Josh Bowmar hunted for a particular white-tailed deer named “Snowflake”. In December 2016, another video was posted on the couple’s YouTube channel, which has more than 300,000 subscribers, showing Sarah Bowmar hunting a wild turkey, another illegal act she was accused of in the indictment. The couple has a history of using the court system aggressively and in 2019, they sued the US Fish and Hunting Service. They claimed that during its investigation of their involvement in the Nebraska poaching ring, the agency hacked into their stealth cameras app without a warrant and also breached their privacy by secretly watching Sarah Bowmar while she hunted in the woodlands and even when she urinated in the bushes.