Hunting Lifestyle

When Hunting Mistakes Happen: A Theresa Vail Update

Aerial view of snow on the ground, Theresa Vail Alaska concept.

We recently shared the story of Theresa Vail, the former Outdoor Channel star of "Limitless With Theresa Vail." During the filming of the show, she accidentally killed a bear that she didn't have a tag for, then covered up the incident and failed to report it properly. 

You can read about what happened, how she responded, what she should have done, and how you can know what to do if something similar happens to you. 

So, what happened to Theresa? Keep reading for an update on her story and how Alaskan authorities responded. 

Theresa Vail Limitless show promo image.

What Happened to Theresa Vail?

As we reported in our earlier article about Theresa, she was charged with two misdemeanor offenses. These included taking a brown or grizzly bear without a tag and second-degree unsworn falsification. 

Additionally, her guides were charged with failing to report a hunting violation and committing, aiding, or allowing a violation. One of the guides was also charged with second-degree unsworn falsification.

The Penalties for the Mistake

Vail pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to a year of probation and a $750 fine. She also agreed to testify against her guides and left her show "Limitless with Theresa Vail." 

The show only ran for one season, and the episode that would have featured her bear hunt never aired. 

While the punishment for her charges may seem insignificant, she could have received a lighter sentence if she had reported the mistake correctly immediately after it happened. 

However, as any avid and ethical hunter will tell you, probation and a fine is a hunting blemish no one wants. Additionally, as word of a mistake and series of poor decisions gets out to a hunter's community, they'll likely lose favor among hunters and landowners. 

Hunters never want to tarnish their reputation as responsible hunters. While mistakes can (and do happen), the vital thing to remember is how you respond can make a big difference in the type of penalties you might receive and your reputation in the hunting community. 

A bear on the side of a hill, Theresa Vail accidental bear kill concept.

Always Put Safety and Responsibility First

Theresa Vail is not the first hunter to make an accidental kill on a hunt – she just happened to be high profile at the time, and her story made news. The publicity was not only for the mistake itself but also for how she handled it poorly and tried to deceive Alaskan authorities and the Outdoor Channel. 

When things go wrong, it's crucial to do the right thing. Hunters represent an often criticized pastime. So, it's essential to understand the rules and best practices, always practice safety, and respond appropriately if you make a mistake. 

Every hunter has made a mistake. How they respond makes all the difference. 

Learn How to Avoid Mistakes and Be Responsible With Hunter-Ed

Hunter-Ed wants every hunter to understand how to operate correctly in the field. When mistakes happen (and they will), we also want hunters to know how to respond and what to do to make it right. 

Not only can mistakes lead to injuries, but they can also damage the tradition of hunting in your community. So, if anything about Theresa's story made you wonder how you would respond if you shot the wrong animal or made another mistake, consider taking a hunter education course. 

Our online courses cover everything from hunting and firearm basics to learning how to consider your safe zone of fire and make sure the area is clear of other accidental targets before taking a shot. 

To reduce the potential for mistakes during your next hunt and to make sure you're prepared for a safe and successful day in the field, find the course for your state and start learning! 


Originally published February 1, 2016. Content updated March 7, 2023. 
Image of Theresa Vail from Grand View Outdoors and the Outdoor Channel.