Josh and Sarah Bowmar, a celebrity husband-and-wife hunting duo, recently made a plea deal in a high-profile poaching case. The team was charged in 2020 with five counts of hunting violations, including hunting wild turkeys without a valid permit, illegally transporting game across state lines, and baiting wildlife. The couple initially pleaded not-guilty on all counts. On October 19, the Bowmars withdrew pleas of not guilty on all charges and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, as first reported by Gear Junkie. As part of the plea deal, all remaining charges were dropped.

The case centered on hunts the Bowmars did with Hidden Hills Outfitters from 2015 to 2017, which were the subject of a sting operation that led to 30 defendants pleading guilty to hunting violations in what has been called the largest poaching case in Nebraska history. HHO co-owner Jacob Hueftle pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and the Migratory Bird Act and will serve 30 months in federal prison, pay more than $200,000 in restitution to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and accept a 15-year hunting ban. 

Josh Bowmar addressed the plea change last week in a video posted on the Bowmar Bowhunting Instagram page. “The truth is out. All the baiting and poaching charges have been dismissed,” he said. “We did take responsibility for conspiracy, which means we should have known better. And quite frankly, I think that’s fair and true.”

Bowmar celebrated the dismissal of charges as something of a vindication—though having the charges dropped as part of a plea is not the same as being found not guilty by a jury. Rather, a plea deal is a bargain struck between the prosecutor and defendant in which the defendant admits some guilt to have other charges dropped. It eliminates the expense and publicity of going to trial. 

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During the investigation, the couple was ordered to forfeit a compound bow, a 10-point rack from a buck killed by Josh on December 29, 2016, a 10-point rack from a buck killed by Josh on September 21, 2017, and an 8-point rack from a buck killed by Sarah on Sept. 6, 2017. As part of the plea deal, the bow and some confiscated mounts will be returned. The Bowmars will be sentenced for conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act on January 12 in federal court in Omaha.