Theresa Vail, star of the Outdoor Channel show “Limitless With Theresa Vail,” accidentally shot a bear while hunting in Alaska and then conspired with her Alaska guides to cover it up by improperly tagging the animal, Alaska State Troopers said.

Vail was charged with two misdemeanor offenses in December: taking a brown or grizzly bear without a tag, and second-degree unsworn falsification. Her guides were also charged with failing to report a hunting violation and committing, aiding, or allowing a violation, according to the Alaska Dispatch News. The newspaper reported that one of the guides was also charged with second-degree unsworn falsification.

Vail pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to a year of probation and a $750 fine, according to a report from The Associated Press. The charges against the guides are still pending.

On Facebook, Vail wrote: “This May, during an Alaskan guided bear hunt, I unintentionally harvested a second bear while attempting a follow-up shot. I then followed poor advice and allowed the second bear to be improperly tagged. A few days later, the film crew and I reported the incident and have since fully cooperated with the proper authorities. I am deeply sorry for my mistakes.” (As of the time of this writing, Vail has removed her Facebook account.)

According to show producers, that hunt never aired on the Outdoor Channel.

It is the responsibility of an ethical hunter to report any infraction that he or she observes, including his or her own.

What Should You Do?

Vail’s case has brought game tagging and proper reporting to the forefront. What should you do in a similar situation?

First, you should always be certain of your target, which can help avoid an accidental kill in the first place. Remember, you should only shoot when you know the target is legal and you have a safe backdrop, with no people, animals, or buildings in the zone-of-fire.

Accidents do happen, however. So what is your next step?

Ethical hunters report game violations and abide by game laws and regulations. By Alaska state hunting regulations, no hunter may harvest game without previously having the appropriate license and tags, permits, or harvest tickets for that hunt. Out-of-state hunters like Vail must purchase a locking-tag when hunting big game, such as grizzlies, in Alaska. This type of tag is locked onto the animal immediately after a kill and must remain there until the animal is processed or exported. A tag needs to include the date of the kill and can only be used by the hunter who bought it.

In Vail’s case, one of her guides contacted someone to buy a grizzly tag and flew it by plane out to the site of the hunt, where the bear was tagged. Later, Vail signed the tag and back-dated it to make it appear that it had been purchased the day the bears were killed. However, Vail’s film crew had the second shooting on camera.

The Alaska Dispatch News reported that the Alaska State Troopers released a dispatch about the incident: “(I)nvestigation showed that Theresa Vail had taken a brown/grizzly bear without a tag, and that registered guide (Michael “Wade”) Renfro obtained a locking-tag under false pretense and then falsified paperwork to support and claim that the animal was taken lawfully. Guide (Joseph Andrew) Miller and client Vail were accomplice to these actions.”

The Alaska Hunter’s Ed Course teaches: “It is the responsibility of an ethical hunter to report any infraction that he or she observes, including his or her own. The penalties for violations that are self-reported are often less than they would be if the person tried to hide the violation and was later discovered by authorities. Hunters who report errors will have peace of mind that they are honest and acted responsibly, even if no one observed their violation.”

What’s Next?

Vail’s violation was brought to authorities’ attention on June 3, after the hunt that took place from May 18 to 27, according to the Alaska Dispatch News. While it is good that Vail and her film crew were honest about the situation, a better approach would have been to tell authorities immediately after the accident—it could have saved her both money as well as her reputation.

Vail is hosting the fifth season of “NRA All Access.” It is unclear whether “Limitless” will be shown or what the sentence for the two guides may be.

 

If you’re just starting out as a duck hunter, you probably have many questions: Where do I go? What camo do I wear? What does each duck look like? Plus many, many more. This beginner’s guide will serve to answer some (but not all) of your questions.

New Duck Hunter

Get the Gear

The very first step to starting duck hunting is having the right camouflage. Many would say buying a gun is the first step, but an instrumental part of the beginning stages of duck hunting is observing what others do in the duck blind, and sometimes the best way to observe is to leave the gun in the truck.

When it comes to camouflage, it all depends on where you are going to be hunting. If you are going to be in a layout blind, camouflage doesn’t matter because you are already concealed. If you are going to be hunting a dead grass area, a lighter grassy camo would be best. If you are going to be hunting in the woods on a flooded timber hole, a leafy and somewhat bark-like print is what you’ll need.

After selecting a camouflage, you’ll definitely want some waders. The fact of the matter is, ducks like water, so you’ll need to be prepared to get wet. Even if you aren’t standing in the water, you might get wet from putting out decoys or sitting in the rain. Find an insulation that fits the temperature where you’ll be hunting. I would suggest a more breathable style, because you can always layer more clothing under your waders.

Hunt With Experience

The second step would be to find a friend or relative—anybody who hunts responsibly and legally—and get out on the water or in the field with them. The best way to gain knowledge is through others. They have already put the boat in before, blended the layout blinds in with cover, and set up a decoy spread. They know how to do things, and you will learn by watching them. By first going out with someone else and observing, your first hunt will have a much better outcome

Find the Ducks

IMG_9247 copy 2One of the keys to a good duck hunt is scouting. You can be the best duck caller and have the prettiest decoy spread around, but that won’t matter if there are no ducks around. Go for a drive with your experienced friend or relative and watch for fields and waterways where the ducks are. Most ducks will have a roost, which is a place where they sleep at night and is practically their partial home. Then they also have places where they loaf around, as well as a feeding area.

One big tip is don’t hunt the roost unless you want all of the ducks to find a different roost! You want to hunt in feeding areas, or areas where they are loafing around, or on the traffic way. The traffic way is where ducks will be flying over from place to place, which can be just as good as the feeding or loafing grounds.

If you are on the feeding area, find the “X.” The “X” concept is more for field hunting, but can apply to hunting water as well. Ducks go from their roost to places that they feed; they will feed mostly during morning and evening hours. The “X” is where the ducks have stopped feeding the day before and are likely to come back again. Set a bucket or something visual on the “X” so you can find it the next morning.

Hunt With Permission

Once you have scouted a spot, you need to get permission to hunt there. When asking people if you can hunt on their property, take your presentation seriously. Try to look nice and smile; first impressions last a lifetime. Wear street clothes instead of hunting gear, and leave your guns at home. Let them know that you will follow any rules that they may have and that you will treat their property with respect. When you do hunt on their property, be generous and take them a dressed duck or two to show appreciation.

Another way of securing a spot is by leasing or buying places to hunt. You could also look into public access areas. Many areas offer access to refuges, public lakes,and land for people to hunt on. It is easy to look up those online or talk to a wildlife officer about the process. Most of the time wildlife officers know where the ducks are, and they are almost always happy to share that information. No matter what you do, be where the ducks want to be for the best results.

the right gun

Find the Right Firearm

The most common gun for duck hunting is a 12-gauge shotgun. Some guys may use a 20-gauge for teal or for a challenge, but I suggest a beginner use a 12-gauge as long as the person’s frame can handle it. I also recommend using a semi-automatic shotgun, but a pump-action shotgun will do the trick. When duck hunting, you must use non-toxic shot—it’s the law. You want to choose your shot size to match the species and where you are hunting. When hunting teal, I advise using a smaller pellet. Choose a number four or three shot when shooting faster and smaller birds. When hunting mallards or ducks of a similar size, shoot with number two shot, as this will give you the knockdown power needed for the bigger birds.

Don’t forget about chokes. Chokes are an add-on to a gun. The choke screws into the bore at the muzzle of the shotgun. The choke can either cause the shot pattern to stay tighter for a longer shot or spread in a shorter distance for a closer shot. As far as selecting which choke to use,it all depends on where you are hunting. If the ducks are going to be finishing right in your face, a cylinder choke will work great. If they are going to be finishing thirty or forty yards out, a modified choke may be necessary. You want to try to match your choke to the area that you are hunting and where the birds will be finishing. For more specifics on chokes, check out this guide.

Select a Decoy

Decoys are a huge part of duck hunting. Never let anyone convince you that the priciest decoys are the best decoys or that they are going to guarantee that you will kill more ducks—many people have killed a lot of ducks over a painted gallon jug. For your first set of decoys, you want to get quality for the price that you pay. When you see a pack of full-body ducks priced close to $120 for six decoys, don’t give up! They aren’t all expensive. Companies like RedHead sell a dozen floaters for close to $30.

As far as the type of decoys, you will benefit from having motion in your decoy spread. What I mean by motion is something that causes a ripple in the water or movement in the decoys. The reason that motion is so important is that a group of two or three dozen real ducks does not sit still. A live duck will flap its wings and swim around everywhere, so the challenge is to imitate that with your decoys. You want the ducks to see and feel that your decoys are live ducks. A simple but very effective motion decoy is a “robo duck,” also called a “mojo.” These are decoys that are electronic and make water currents or have constant wing motion.

You could also go the DIY route by making a jerk rig (here’s an example from Ducks Unlimited). A jerk rig creates current and movement in the decoy spread, but that little bit of motion can make the difference between ducks finishing in your face or circling eight times before buzzing off.

duck call

Perfect Your Call

Duck calling is both very fun and very humbling. When your calling brings them in, it can make you feel like you are a “duck whisperer,” but when your calling scares them off—which most likely will happen if you are a beginner—you will feel like you need a new hobby.

If you are going to get into calling, practice is key. The more you practice, the better you are going to be. Duck calling is almost an art—you have to know what to do, when to do it, and how loud or how soft you should be. There are many ways to start into duck calling, but one of the easiest is to watch instructional videos. There are so many great free videos on YouTube. You can also buy tapes or even get involved in a calling class. But above all, the more practice you put in, the better you will be.

Always Hunt Legally

The biggest thing I can tell you is make sure you hunt legally. Duck hunting is highly regulated and has high fees when those regulations are broken. Make sure you complete your hunter education, have the right licenses or permits, and know all the rules and regulations, bag limits, and possession limits. Know how to identify the ducks when they are flying and when they are killed.

And remember to have fun when you are out there. If you kill up to your limit, that’s amazing, but if you only kill a few, or even none, still enjoy those times. Whether you’re hunting with your dog, your friends, or family, every hunt should be a joy. It’s also a great idea to get youth involved in waterfowl hunting: It is a pastime that needs to be carried on.

Keep the traditions alive, and remember—shoot where they’re going, not where they’ve been.

 

Duck Hunting 1About the Author: Reid Strobl is an avid outdoorsman with a passion for waterfowling. When he’s not starting QB for his high school football team, he’s out in the field honing his skills as a hunter. Reid has a passion for passing on what he’s learned to other young hunters. 

Parmesan Pheasant Breast with Crispy Hamfrom The Field 

Add some sophistication to your upland game with this delicious pheasant dinner.

Preparation time: 10 minutes. Cook time: 7 minutes. Serves 4.

Ingredients:

4 pheasant breasts
Black pepper
4-6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
3½ oz. grated parmesan
8 slices prosciutto or air-dried ham
Olive oil

Carefully score the underside of each pheasant breast in a criss-cross pattern with a small, sharp knife. Lay the breasts side by side on a large chopping board and season with pepper.

In a small bowl, combine the chopped sage and parmesan. Sprinkle this mix evenly over the pheasant. Lay two slices of prosciutto on each breast, overlapping slightly, and drizzle with olive oil.

Cover the meat with plastic wrap and pound with a mallet until it is less than half an inch thick. Heat a nonstick frying pan on medium heat, then carefully transfer the breasts over, laying them prosciutto-side down. Drizzle olive oil on top. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, ensuring the prosciutto is crispy.

Serve with lemon wedges and a crisp salad or a side of potatoes. Serve warm or chilled.

 

Recipe: Antlers and Claws

from Texas Parks & Wildlife

Take a wild game twist on your surf ’n’ turf with this high-class combo: venison and lobster served with a sweet sauce.

Preparation time: 10 minutes. Cook time: 20 minutes. Serves 8-10.

Ingredients:

Antlers and Claws
4 lbs. boneless venison backstrap
2 lbs. lobster tail meat, smoked

Guava Sour Cherry Sauce
1 c. guava paste (or substitute 1 c. dried apricots stewed with ½ c. hot water, pureed in a blender)
1 c. dried sour cherries
2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. shallots, minced
1 c. frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1 c. water
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp. salt
½ c. raspberry vinegar

Cut backstrap into 4- to 5-inch long portions (or have your butcher do it). Using a fillet knife, pierce the end of the venison, sliding the knife lengthwise until it is visible at the other end of the meat, forming a pocket. Use your fingers to gently open and expand the pocket.

Cut smoked lobster into 1-inch cubes. Stuff lobster into the venison from both ends—when in doubt, overstuff! Refrigerate until it’s time to grill.

Combine all Guava Sour Cherry Sauce ingredients in a heavy saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. Set aside.

Over medium-hot coals, cook the stuffed backstrap for 8-10 minutes, rotating every two minutes. Remove from heat and let rest.

Slice backstrap, pour warm Guava Sour Cherry Sauce on a plate, and then add backstrap slices. Enjoy!