By Evin Oneale - Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
What began as an Idaho big game hunting trip for three Australians ended abruptly Tuesday in Elmore County court where two of the men learned that hunting in most of the United States is no longer an option.
All three paid thousands of dollars in fines and restitution, while forfeiting two hunting rifles before the long plane trip back home.
Anton Kapeller, 58, Darren Tubb, 43, and Samuel Henley, 18, all from Tasmania, Australia, were contacted and later arrested by Idaho Fish and Game conservation officers on Thursday, November 3, near Atlanta. Eleven charges were filed against the trio; most serious were the charges of killing a six-point bull elk four days before the November 1 opener and leaving the animal to waste.
In an expedited process, the three bonded out of jail six days later and appeared before Magistrate Judge George Hicks for sentencing on Tuesday, November 15.
Kapeller faced six misdemeanor counts, including possession of unlawfully taken elk, and aid/counsel the killing of elk during closed season. He was sentenced to $5,792 in fines and restitution and a lifetime revocation of hunting and fishing privileges. He also forfeited a hunting rifle used during the trip.
Tubb was charged with three misdemeanors, including killing a bull elk closed season, wasteful destruction of elk and transfer of a big game tag. He was sentenced to $5,268 in fines and restitution, loss of a hunting rifle and a lifetime revocation of hunting and fishing privileges.
Henley faced two charges, including attempting to kill elk during closed season and use of a tag of another. He was sentenced to $2,333 in fines and restitution and a four-year revocation of hunting and fishing privileges.
More than $16,000 in bond money was also forfeited.
Because Idaho is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, all Idaho-issued hunting and fishing license revocations are honored by the other 35 member states, including the entire western United States.
In his comments to the three men, Hicks said "the law's in place for all of us, whether you're from Idaho, Australia or Timbuktu." He then ordered all three to pay their fines before they left for home.
Despite the outcome of this particular case, the investigation continues. Fish and Game conservation officer Marshall Haynes said the Tasmanian hunters first came to his attention in the late 1990s, when other hunters began reporting suspicious activity associated with the group.
"Mr. Kapeller and his associates have made dozens of hunting trips to Idaho during the past two decades," Haynes said. "Our investigation continues, and we would very much appreciate hearing from anyone who might have information about animals killed by this group in the last few years."
Persons with any information about suspected poaching activity are encouraged to call the Citizens against Poaching hotline at 1-800-632-5999, 24 hours a day. Callers may remain anonymous and cash rewards are often paid for information leading to the successful conclusion of a case.
Evin Oneale is the regional conservation educator in the Southwest Region.