Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS > 2007

Hunting violations captured on video

By LESLIE ANNE JONES [email protected]
August 2, 2007

CHARGES: Misdeeds of group that shot black bears were recorded for sale.

A Washington fishing guide who took six hunters from the Lower 48 on a bear hunt to Prince of Wales island filmed the trip, planning to sell DVDs of it.

But in the process, Eric Spokely documented a number of hunting violations, according to Alaska wildlife troopers who viewed the video and filed misdemeanor charges against Spokely and four of his clients last month.

"Come along with Eric Spokely and friends as they team up to hunt some of the largest black bears the state of Alaska has to offer," says an online description of the DVD. "Enjoy the ups and downs as well as their success and failures that come along with hunting these giant coastal bruins."

Troopers said the finished copy of the professionally edited video -- which has a narrator, background music and advertisers -- shows the group using radios to coordinate their hunt as well as shooting bears from a boat, both illegal activities.

What "Bears of Alaska" doesn't show is multiple other offenses that their investigation later turned up, troopers said.

The hunt happened in May 2006. Alaska troopers first heard of it in November, when a Washington taxidermist passed along one of the DVDs to a state game officer. That officer sent it up to Alaska wildlife troopers.

After watching the show, Alaska troopers and U.S. Forest Service agents obtained search warrants for five locations in Washington. Authorities there served the warrants and found about 2,000 copies of the DVD as well as unedited footage from the trip.

They also recovered a stolen vehicle from Spokely's garage, according to a written statement from the Alaska troopers.

Troopers spent months reviewing the raw footage, and charges were filed in Alaska on July 6. Spokely and the other hunters -- Bryant O. Tillotson of Puyallup, Wash., Ted M. Hultman of Olympia, John L. Beardsley of Rainier, Ore., and Jennifer Spokely of Tacoma -- are scheduled to appear in Craig District Court on Aug. 16.

Trooper Sgt. Bernard Chastain, who interviewed Spokely and his clients, said the other hunters seemed shocked to learn they'd done anything wrong.

Spokely has prior illegal hunting convictions in Alaska and Washington state, according to authorities in both states and an online database of Alaska court records.

Washington fish and wildlife officer Justin Maschhoff said Spokely also is charged with possession of stolen property.

The new Alaska hunting charges include using radio to take big game, possessing illegal game, taking big game from a boat and taking a black bear over bait within one mile of a residence. Chastain said that's illegal because it brings bears close to places where people live.

Further, the video was taken on Forest Service land without a permit, which is required for commercial activity on federal land, troopers said.

The charges levied against various other members of the group include wanton waste of a big game animal, failure to clean up a black bear bait site, failure to affix a nonresident locking tag, and shooting from, on or across a roadway.

Messages left Wednesday on an answering machine at Spokely's home in Tacoma were not returned.

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