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 Tuesday.
Vail was charged with two misdemeanor offenses: 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.
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.
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.”
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.
Vail’s case is still developing, and there is a chance that additional charges will be filed. In similar cases, any trophies from an illegal hunt, as well as the rifles used in such a hunt, may be forfeited to wildlife troopers. Vail’s TV future is also unclear; however, Outdoor Channel staff told the Alaska Dispatch News that Vail will be hosting the fifth season of “NRA All Access” beginning Dec. 30.