May 13, 2004
BY LARRY PORTER
LINCOLN - The operators of a Virginia, Neb., commercial
hunting guide operation and perhaps 20 of their clients are under
investigation by state and federal authorities for game violations involving
deer, turkeys and other game birds.
Authorities executed a search warrant at Nebraska Trophy
Whitetails on May 7, according to an internal communication from one of the
participating agencies obtained by The World-Herald.
Among the possible violations being investigated are
trespassing, shooting turkeys in Nebraska on Kansas permits, shooting
turkeys in Kansas on Nebraska permits, shooting white-fronted geese during a
closed season, baiting deer and turkeys, and shooting cormorants, a
Also being investigated are reports that baby geese were
taken out of the wild and injured snow geese were nursed back to health,
then later sold or traded.
Officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and
Parks seized records after the search. The federal search warrant was
obtained by Fish and Wildlife Service officials.
Kent Hippen of Virginia and Paul Payton of Crab Orchard,
Neb., are listed as the operators of Nebraska Trophy Whitetails on its Web
site. Telephone messages left at the lodge and at Hippen's home were not
Hippen and Payton allegedly loaned habitat stamps to
clients and also provided photocopies of permits and habitat stamps to
clients. A habitat stamp costs $13, and a hunter must purchase one each
year. Proceeds from the sale of the stamp are used by the commission to
Federal investigators are also examining the possibilities
of tax fraud.
The investigation is expected to involve nearly two dozen
clients in several states.
No charges have been filed, and the investigation likely
won't be completed for several weeks. When the investigation is completed,
the agencies intend to pursue indictments.
Commissioner Mark Pinkerton of Wilber, Neb., who
represents southeast Nebraska, said he received several telephone calls from
residents near the hunting operation who were curious about the federal and
state vehicles they saw in the area May 7.
"It's my understanding there was some kind of
investigation initiated down there," Pinkerton said. "In visiting
with law enforcement, it's my understanding the investigation is ongoing
confidential at this point."
Ted Blume, chief of the commission's law enforcement
division, would not reveal details of the investigation.
"We had some officers involved in a supporting roll in the
federal investigation that took place on that day," Blume said. "That's
about all we can say. We can't give you any details."
Blume referred additional questions to U.S. Attorney Mike
Heavican of Omaha, who also would not comment about the case.
"We don't normally comment on investigations or search
warrants," Heavican said. "All I can tell you right now is that
we don't have any comment."
According to their Web site, Hippen and Payton charge
$1,775 for a six-day Nebraska whitetail buck archery hunt and $2,175 for a
Kansas archery whitetail buck hunt. They charge $2,575 for a five-day
Nebraska muzzleloader whitetail buck hunt, $975 for a three-day pheasant
hunt, $975 for a three-day spring turkey hunt and $975 for a three-day
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