Investigation: Michigan family poaches nearly 20 deer over 16 years in Iowa
CEDAR COUNTY, Iowa – An Iowa DNR investigation into the illegal use of state-issued, Iowa landowner tenant deer tags, which first began in 2017, led to a larger investigation that revealed 16 years of illegal activity by out-of-state poachers in rural Cedar County, the DNR said in a release Tuesday, July 24.
The investigation found that a Michigan family group that spanned three generations – a grandfather, his two sons and two grandchildren – was poaching trophy-sized white-tailed deer on a privately-owned Iowa farm without the required hunting permits or tags.
Douglas Leo Hebert, 49, of Indian River, Mich., along with his 51-year-old brother, Jeffrey Leo Hebert, of Bay City, Mich., and their 73-year-old father, Leo Frederick Hebert, also of Bay City, contrived the illegal arrangement over the course of 16 seasons, during which Iowa landowners supplied them with lodging and tags for any deer that were harvested by the group in exchange for fishing opportunities in Michigan.
Over the course of the investigation, Iowa DNR Conservation Officer Eric Wright and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents from Iowa and Michigan uncovered 19 white-tailed deer that were taken illegally, 17 of which were bucks. The investigative team also found that the Michigan residents never purchased, nor applied for, the required non-resident hunting privileges in the state of Iowa. Per plea agreement, charges were not filed on the juveniles.
Through a plea agreement reached between the Cedar County (Iowa) Attorney’s Office and the defendants, the Michigan-based Hebert family agreed to pay more than $51,000 in fines and forfeit 17 deer mounts, as well as the two compound bows and a crossbow which were used to take the deer. Additionally, their access to hunting privileges in Iowa was suspended for a minimum period of three years. This plea agreement has a greater impact to their access to hunting across 46 other states, because Iowa is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. This suspension may be observed in any of the other member states at the discretion of the appropriate authorities in those states. The three Iowa residents involved who knowingly aided and abetted the Michigan poachers cooperated fully throughout the investigation and agreed to pay fines totaling $780, the DNR said.
“Thanks to one single tip from the public which led us to the initial investigation and eventually turned into something much greater, we were able to put a stop to years and years of illegal activity,” said Eric Wright, DNR conservation officer.