Adventure show star charged with Alaska hunting violations

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Adventure show star charged with Alaska hunting violations
Dan Joling, Associated Press

Updated 1:12 pm, Tuesday, December 8, 2015


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FILE - In this April 11, 2014, file photo, Theresa Vail, left, walks with a hunting party in Chase County, Kan. Vail, a former Miss Kansas who hosts an Outdoor Channel adventure show, is accused of illegally ... more


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A former beauty queen who hosts an Outdoor Channel adventure show illegally shot an Alaska grizzly bear and conspired to cover up the violation, according to charges filed in a rural state court.

Theresa Vail, 25, of Wichita, Kansas, the star of "Limitless with Theresa Vail," is charged with killing a grizzly bear in May without possessing a state bear tag for the animal. Investigators say she held a single bear tag and shot a male grizzly bear, attempted to kill it with a second shot, and instead fired and killed a second bear, a sow grizzly.


Vail also is charged with unsworn falsification, another misdemeanor. Prosecutor Aaron Peterson in a criminal complaint said Vail signed and backdated a big game tag record to make it appear she had purchased the tag before shooting the bear.

Also charged in the case are master guide Michael Wade Renfro, 46, and assistant guide Joseph Andrew Miller, 45. They conspired to cover up Vail's violation by obtaining the second bear tag after the bears died and submitted wrong information to game authorities, charging documents say.

Renfro's attorney, Myron Angstman said Monday that he had not seen the criminal complaint but was aware of the charges.

"It's an unfortunate event," Angstman said. "It was an accidental shooting of a second bear while a person was lawfully engaged in shooting a first bear," he said. "Those kinds of things happen once in a great while."

Afterward, Angstman said, it appears errors in judgment occurred.

Tom Caraccioli, director of communications for the Outdoor Sportsman Group networks, said in an email that the Outdoor Channel is committed to legal and ethical hunting.

"We have strict policies and procedures in place that require all of our talent and producers to abide by all hunting regulations," he said. "In June, Theresa Vail and the 'Limitless' production team alerted the authorities of the situation. The hunt never aired on Outdoor Channel."

The channel describes the show as "the compelling story of a young, grass roots, red-blooded, all-American woman who is on a mission to overcome stereotypes, break barriers, and use her life story as a platform to help transform people's opinions of all the things a woman should, could and can be."

Vail is a former Miss Kansas, a member of the Army National Guard and an "ambassador" for Bass Pro Shops, Franchi Shotguns, and the National Rifle Association, according to her biography on the show.

Vail was on a hunt May 19 to May 27 arranged with Renfro's business, Renfro's Alaska Adventures, south of Holy Cross, Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said in an email.

According to the criminal complaint, Vail hunted with Miller and used a right-handed bolt action rifle even though she's left-handed.

The hunting party spotted the bear and sow, and at Miller's direction, Vail fired at the bear. She chambered another round, fired a second shot and hit the sow. Both bears died.

According to prosecutors, Miller contacted Renfro and a collective decision was made to obtain a second grizzly bear tag. Renfro, according to the criminal complaint, packed the second tag in a bag, flew over the group and dropped it out of a Piper PA-18 airplane. Miller attached the invalid tag to the second bear, and the parties skinned both bears.

Vail a day later signed the second bear tag and backdated it to May 26 to make it appear that it had been purchased the day the bears were killed, according to the complaint.

Renfro and Miller as guides are required to contact authorities to report illegally taken game, according to the complaint.

The film crew on June 3 reported to Alaska Wildlife Troopers what happened.

The investigation comes on the heels of another hunting case that involved a television show.

Clark W. Dixon, host of another Sportsman Channel show, "The Syndicate," pleaded guilty last month to poaching at remote Noatak National Preserve in northwest Alaska. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Skrocki said the investigation uncovered an extensive illegal outfitting enterprise that operated undetected for years and that hunts were edited to appear legal for Dixon's TV show.

Dixon's plea arrangement called for an 18-month prison sentence, a $75,000 fine and forfeiture of trophies and weapons. Sentencing is set for February.
 

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BRICKBURN

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Ooops!
 

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With all the crap going on this is the last thing we need is for self proclaimed hunting representatives to do stupid crap like this. I hope justice is served and they are held accountable for their actions. We as sportsman really need to get our shit together and @johnnyblues has said several times, and I agree, that a serious nation wide PR campaign needs to be done. The media is going to exploit anything they can to make us look bad and instead of remaining silent and getting kicked in the nuts repeatedly we need to do something about it.
 

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Things happen in hunting . . . As in life. How you deal with the unexpected or the unwelcome is what defines who you are. Here, the guides and the hunter chose to try to avoid responsibility for what sounds like a mistake.

And there are consequences to using poor judgment.
 

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Again more bad PR. Does anyone here see a trend? Of course we do. Obama makes us all out to be nothing but stupid gun loving " hicks", no offense to anyone " from any region. As Hank said shit happens and it's all in how we handle it. Everyone involved surely made a bad decision. But what's done is done and they get what they deserve.
But what irks me as you all know is the lack of response by the hunting community. People like to hear I made a mistake and I'm sorry for my actions. Instead we say NOTHING. Social media will eat this shit up again! IF we had proper representation in the media we could soften the blow and respond properly.
 

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Huh? What lack of response? And how is this part of a trend? I'm sorry, but what would cause anyone in their right mind to try to lessen the impact of what these three idiots did? And I don't mean shooting the sow. She may have been fined, but standing up and admitting to the mistake was the right course of action. And around that, the hunting community could have supported her. Hell, her publicity advisors could have turned her into a virtuous martyr who would still have a TV show. Now, if the press report is correct, she, and the two idiots with her, are nothing but the latest criminals attempting a cover-up. Makes me sick. And it does, absolutely, undermine our sport.
 

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Such a sad reaction to an honest mistake. My father taught me that "integrity is how you act when you think no one is watching". Obvious lack of integrity from all three. Too bad the film crew had to report them, instead of turning themselves in and a much smaller issue. I wonder if the pressure to get an episode on film clouded their judgment.
 

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................ Now, if the press report is correct, she, and the two idiots with her, are nothing but the latest criminals attempting a cover-up. ...............

An Oops takes a pretty swift turn when you try a cover up and ignore the fact there are a dozen people watching.


How did someone being guided get off a second shot at the wrong bear?
 

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Huh? What lack of response? And how is this part of a trend? I'm sorry, but what would cause anyone in their right mind to try to lessen the impact of what these three idiots did? And I don't mean shooting the sow. She may have been fined, but standing up and admitting to the mistake was the right course of action. And around that, the hunting community could have supported her. Hell, her publicity advisors could have turned her into a virtuous martyr who would still have a TV show. Now, if the press report is correct, she, and the two idiots with her, are nothing but the latest criminals attempting a cover-up. Makes me sick. And it does, absolutely, undermine our sport.
I agree whole heartedly. I'm not say we should stand behind these idiots. I'm saying we as sportsman are only getting bad press. We need a PR campaign to support the 99% of good ethical hunters and show the positives of what we as conservationists actually do. Then when idiots like this make bad choices it doesn't lump us all with them. The public opinion of hunters is what we are loosing because of idiots like this. The media lives reporting on the bad, which is a very small minority. We need to show the good in what we do. That's what I'm saying
 

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The trend is that this crap happens and though all of us disagree and oppose these lack of ethics all of our groups stay silent. As they stay silent on what hunters do for conservation in the main stream media. We should be condemning acts like this and showing what positive impacts hunter conservationalist make in the world. Not an hour goes by that the American humane society doesn't have some commercial on every channel known to man and we all know what crooks they are. Why aren't SCI and DSC and every other damn group have adds on mainstream channels. Why aren't they showing what we do as hunters for global animal populations both game and non-game alike. A lot of good is done day in and out. Ducks Unlimited does a fantastic job yet the average joe is clueless about it. We need a PR campaign so the gen public is only hear about people who do bad. It makes it too easy for the left wing media to drag us through the mud and we're always on the defensive. A little preventative maintenance would go a loooong way.
 

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How did someone being guided get off a second shot at the wrong bear?

This doesn't bother me. Heat of the moment, lose the bear in the recoil, come back as shoot the wrong one. Stuff happens....

An Oops takes a pretty swift turn when you try a cover up and ignore the fact there are a dozen people watching.
Like you said, you try and cover up and therein lies the problem. A lack of ethics and someone gets what they deserve. In most of these cases whether it be hunters, politicians, or a high profile figure someone becomes more concerned with what might happen to them than doing what is right and ends up in more trouble than they should. It happens every day sadly.

Where I do think a little differently than many here is I don't believe that every single negative incedent will have a huge impact on public opinion. Do we need to portray ourselves as positively as possible? Absolutely. Will their always be bad apples? Absolutely. The best thing we can all do is keep doing the next right thing.

I get the need for positive PR, but it honestly irks me as well that there is nothing left in this world that can't be done without a multi million dollar PR campaign and a strong lobby in DC, at least here in the states.

It is the modern world I guess.
 

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This doesn't bother me. Heat of the moment, lose the bear in the recoil, come back as shoot the wrong one. Stuff happens....


Like you said, you try and cover up and therein lies the problem. A lack of ethics and someone gets what they deserve. In most of these cases whether it be hunters, politicians, or a high profile figure someone becomes more concerned with what might happen to them than doing what is right and ends up in more trouble than they should. It happens every day sadly.

Where I do think a little differently than many here is I don't believe that every single negative incedent will have a huge impact on public opinion. Do we need to portray ourselves as positively as possible? Absolutely. Will their always be bad apples? Absolutely. The best thing we can all do is keep doing the next right thing.

I get the need for positive PR, but it honestly irks me as well that there is nothing left in this world that can't be done without a multi million dollar PR campaign and a strong lobby in DC, at least here in the states.

It is the modern world I guess.
Bro I agree but unfortunately multi million dollar pr campaigns is the world we live in. We can either get with the times or watch as everything we love is taken away from us. I hate that it's that way but it just is and whether we like it or not that's what's happening. Money talks and bullshit walks. It's a fact of life. We collectively really need to do something or its over and our way of life will be done and we will be villainized by future generations. Look in modern science test books. Anytime an endangered or extinct species is mentioned it is due to one of two things according to "experts" 1) global climate change 2) evil hunters. Hell the vast majority of our population in the states think that lions and elephants are critically endangered and that its illegal to hunt them no matter what. So then they hear about poaching and automatically assume that legal hunters are poachers. I hate to say it but its our fault that they don't know any better. The other side are masters of illusion and lies and that's what people get. While we collectively stay silent. Then we're pissed when people bad mouth us on social media. They don't know any better and we have damn sure not done enough to educate them. As the saying goes when the cats away the mice will play. We stay silent and the other side lies to gain public support. Yes we have hunting shows and the like. That's a whole other argument one of which I have strong opinions about as I feel the vast majority of the "hosts" are no better than these nimrods in the op but... At the end of the day they are just preaching to the choir. Those who are watching them already hunt so all the SCI and DSC adds do nothing. We seriously need to do something and do it fast or we're screwed.
 

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Modern science textbooks correctly portray the majority of endangered species are endangered due to habitat destruction.
 

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Modern science textbooks correctly portray the majority of endangered species are endangered due to habitat destruction.
Maybe so but as an adult student in college all my text books cited that and what I mentioned as the main causes. "Professors" were damn sure upfront about going on anti hunting rants and one even went so far to say that cow farts are responsible for global warming. I have very little trust and respect for the vast majority of acidamia these days and I live in about the most conservative place left in the US.
 

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As a science professor, I assure you that it is not in any of the text books that I use!
I remember you saying that and it's nice to know that there are still good ones out there. I don't envy you as you are in a tough profession and are surrounded by the enemy a lot. Keep fighting the good fight!
 

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I hope they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And, we as hunters should expect that out of our justice system. And, sorry, but I don't buy it was a mistake. You are giving them the benefit of the doubt. Their actions to illegally tag both reflects that a 'mistake' wasn't made. I suspect she wanted a boar and sow full body mount, jumped at the opportunity and the guides and outfitter facilitated it. Throw all of them in jail, confiscate planes, etc. and dis-allow them from owning firearms or hunting licenses anywhere in the U.S.
 

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Hey I'm with ya, they made their bed and must lay in it. What gets me is that had it been a mistake a simple call to the game warden would have been the right thing to do. Would she have got in trouble? Probably but I highly doubt as much as they are now. I can't believe a professional guide would allow and or encourage a cover up like that. People screw up it happens but if you do the right thing when you screw up its never as bad as when you try to lie or cover it up. It's all about integrity. None of these three apparently have any of it.
 

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Erik,

I'm with you. My brother is a retired USFWS field agent. That's probably what he would have done if it was a mistake and was called in immediately. I'm fed up with people like this. Nugent and his crap from Alaska and California. These hunting hosts who scream and celebrate the death of an animal vs. giving it reverence.

I am done with benefit of the doubt on these criminals.

John
 

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A few things:
1. Its an AP story, they have a history of loose with the facts.
2. She has not been convicted or entered a plea bargain.
3. If true the cover up is worst then the crime, stand up and take your lumps. The Judge will have no mercy for your lies.
4. As to PR what is SCI or DCS doing? I would suggest that you look at there membership base, DCS does not have the base to do much, SCI has a lot more members, I would prefer they spend that money on lawsuit and lobbyists.
 

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