Omaha World Herald
Omaha, Neb. — In the Instagram photo, the couple – social media personalities in the world of bowhunting, nutrition and fitness – are the picture of confidence.
Josh and Sarah Bowmar, both in their 30s, stand knee deep in a broad body of water, the horizon stretching behind them.
Shirtless and muscular, he rests his bow on his shoulder. Clad in a bikini top and cutoff jeans, she props her bow on the top of her thigh.
Among the more than 330,000 Instagram followers of Bowmar Bowhunting, some 10,000-plus clicked on “like.”
That scene from June is a far cry from a recent Zoom appearance before a federal judge in Nebraska, at which the couple pleaded guilty to conspiracy to attempt to illegally obtain wildlife. The plea was related to the largest known case of poaching in Nebraska.
More than 30 people have been convicted and more than $625,000 in fines has been collected in the years-long case involving Hidden Hills Outfitters of Broken Bow, a big game outfitting service.
Over the years, as those who owned Hidden Hills and others involved pleaded guilty, the Bowmars were insistent that they wouldn’t – that they would fight their case in federal court.
That changed recently.
The Bowmars pleaded guilty Oct. 19 in the U.S. District Court of Nebraska to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge. In exchange, four other more serious charges, mostly involving allegations of illegally baited hunting sites, were dropped.
The conspiracy charge, as defined in court documents, includes the idea that a person “in the exercise of due care … should have known” they were engaged in attempting to unlawfully take wildlife.
The Bowmars say the plea gets the facts right, so it made sense to agree to it.
“We agree 100% that we should have known better, and for the record, we take responsibility for that,” Josh Bowmar said on Oct. 19. “At the end of the day, we were fighting to make sure (that it is clear) that we never poached or baited deer illegally.”
Since the case began six years ago, the couple have moved forward with their lives, Sarah Bowmar said, having two children, building their businesses and creating a new life in Iowa.
“We had to take into account the mental stress and anxiety and everything
that goes into going to trial,” Sarah Bowmar said. “We were fine with
taking responsibility for what (federal prosecutors) brought. What they
dropped is what we were fighting.”
Some of the original charges included hunting wild turkeys without a valid
permit, illegally transporting game across state lines, and illegal
baiting of wildlife, among others. The charges stemmed from the largest
poaching sting operation in Nebraska state history.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the case, which awaits sentencing in the United
States District Court of Nebraska, at 10 a.m. Jan. 12, 2023.
The Bowmars’ plea agreement includes potential maximum penalties of one
year in prison, one year of supervised release, $100,000 fine, and
ineligibility for certain federal benefits. The Bowmars are also
prohibited from hunting “or otherwise engaging in any activities
associated with hunting” in Nebraska during the entire term of probation
or supervised release.
Hidden Hills recruited at least 118 clients from states such as New York,
Wisconsin, Virginia, and Utah to hunt in Nebraska, charging them $2,500
The Bowmars likely were Hidden Hills’ highest-profile clients. Sarah Bowmar’s
Instagram account has more than 1 million followers, and their company’s
YouTube channel lists more than 287,000 followers.
According to court documents, the Bowmars came to Nebraska three to five times a year to
hunt with Hidden Hills from September 2015 to November 2017.
During that period, court documents say, the couple formed Bowmar Bowhunting,
LLC, with the intent of using video and images obtained in Nebraska for
their businesses on Instagram, YouTube and their website. At the time,
they resided in Ohio; they have since moved to the Des Moines area.
In addition to Bowmar Bowhunting, they also operate Bowmar Nutrition,
which includes an extensive line of health food products and some pet
This story is reprinted with permission of the Omaha World Herald. Follow Gaarder via Twitter.com/gaarder.