Reality TV host nailed for poaching

WYOMING – On reality TV, he’s a crack shot and an expert hunter. In real life, he’s a poor excuse for a marksman and sets a bad example for sportsmen everywhere.

Billy A. Busbice Jr. of Olla, Louisiana, appeared before Lincoln County Circuit Court Judge Frank Zebre on May 23, 2017, where he pled guilty to charges of intentionally allowing an antlerless elk to go to waste, and an additional charge of taking an elk without the proper license. Busbice stars on Wildgame Nation, a reality hunting show on the Outdoor Channel. He also owns an outdoor products company.

The case began with a tip. Kemmerer Game Warden Chris Baird received a report from a group of hunters that had observed a possible wildlife violation on the Spring Creek Ranch, which is owned by Busbice, on La Barge Creek. It was October 16, 2016 when the hunters told Warden Baird they had observed a man shoot two elk the day before but only field dress one while a cameraman also filmed the incident.

Baird knew Busbice. He also knew the TV star had a Commissioner’s elk license and that there had been a very large bull elk frequenting the ranch. Baird met with Busbice on October 17. Busbice admitted to having accidently killed a calf elk while trying to harvest the large bull. Busbice stated that after the sun had gone down he had instructed the ranch manager and the cameraman to drag the calf elk into an irrigation ditch to conceal it. No attempt to field dress or preserve meat from the calf was made.

Interviews of the cameraman and the ranch manager revealed similar stories and the men admitted to having concealed the calf in the ditch and disposing of the bull’s gut pile in the creek, in an attempt to hide any evidence of the poaching. Busbice admitted that he did not call Warden Baird because he was concerned about having recently been cited for previous wildlife violations.

Elk calf illegally shot, concealed, and left to rot. (WGFD)

An episode of Wildgame Nation that will never air

“Mr. Busbice told me they had been filming the elk hunt to feature on his reality TV hunting show,” Baird said. The video and audio recording shows that Mr. Busbice shot several times at a large bull in a herd of elk and missed several times. The video then shows Mr. Busbice shooting and hitting a calf, and the calf goes down.

“On his fourth shot, Busbice hits the bull in the left shoulder,” Baird said. It then falls to the ground. At the end of the video you can hear Busbice say, “We have to eliminate that part when I shot a cow.” He also is recorded saying, “Yeah, but we got to get rid of that cow.”

Judge Zebre sentenced Mr. Busbice to 180 days of jail suspended, providing that he lead a law abiding life during one and a half years of unsupervised probation. He was also sentenced to pay the maximum fines for both violations, and the maximum in restitution for the illegal take of both elk for a total of $23,000. He also had all of his game and fish license privileges revoked for two years to include all of 2017 and 2018. Because Wyoming is part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, this loss of his license privileges applies in 45 states, including his home state of Louisiana.

The bull elk he was convicted of shooting illegally was a highly visible large bull elk. The bull scored around 350 inches. Mr. Busbice was also cited earlier in 2016 of false oath for purchasing a resident general elk license as a nonresident, and for purchasing more than the authorized number of deer licenses. He paid $1,430 in fines for those violations.

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