Waterfowl guide Tony Toye fined $25,000 and kicked out of Mississippi River refuge for two years

Two hunting guides were sentenced in the federal courthouse in Madison, and a third will be sentenced Oct. 18. (Photo by Tim Eisele)

Madison — Mississippi River waterfowl guide Tony Toye, 49, of Boscobel, was sentenced Sept. 29 for violating the Lacey Act by allowing a hunter to exceed his daily bag limit in 2013.

Toye got a $25,000 fine and a two-year ban from hunting, guiding and being on the Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. Matt Raley, 33, a waterfowl guide from Arbor Vitae who also hunts the big river, received an identical sentence Aug. 17.

A third guide, Jeremy Schreiner, 34, of Durand, has agreed to the same plea bargain and will be sentenced Oct. 18.

All three, plus another guide from the Green Bay area, guided undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents during the 2012 and 2013 waterfowl hunting seasons. According to court records, Toye, Raley and Schreiner allowed the agents to group bag and exceed their daily bag limit.

By pleading guilty, the guides avoided charges that could have climbed to a felony and trials by jury.

The guides were singled out because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received complaints from hunters that the guides were allowing their clients to violate laws.

Though defense attorneys tried to indicate that it was difficult for guides to know exactly who shot what duck and that a single bird over the limit was relatively minor, it was clear from conversations recorded by undercover agents that the guides encouraged hunters to continue shooting.

Waterfowl hunters following the cases say the sentence is a “slap on the wrist,” as the potential sentence could have included a $100,000 fine and one year in prison.

All guides who hunt in the refuge sign permit applications indicating they will follow the rules.

Raley and Toye will be able to guide elsewhere in Wisconsin and other states this fall and winter. They did not lose their state hunting license.

It remains to be seen in 2019 whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will considers the guides’ 2017 convictions in deciding whether to issue them a new guide license. The guides will be eligible to apply for a refuge hunting permit in ’19.

Hunting guides should be held to a higher standard, and state and federal natural resource agencies need to begin holding guides to that standard.

Lest we forget:

  • Group bagging is illegal.
  • Guides have a “golden ticket” to make money from our natural resources.
  • Guides sign their names to applications saying they will follow all state and federal laws.

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