A Tippecanoe County man accused of poaching wild turkeys in Indiana and up to six other states received Indiana’s first-ever lifetime hunting ban after a full criminal investigation.
Hanson Pusey, 25, of West Lafayette, was convicted last week in Warren County District Court after pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charges of hunting without landowner’s consent, illegal taking of wild turkey and failing to record taking of wild turkey.
The case was being investigated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in cooperation with fish and wildlife law enforcement agencies in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
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A statement from IDNR said it was “the first life suspension of its kind in the state’s history.”
Pusey’s hunting privileges were previously suspended for a year in 2019 for hunting violations. But just months later, new allegations surfaced in early 2020. The IDNR statement said conservation officials received information at the time that Pusey was “still illegally hunting and taking multiple turkeys in Indiana and other states.”
The statement said conservation officials “also documented how Pusey helped family and friends poach turkeys.”
In addition to being banned from hunting in Indiana for life, Pusey was sentenced to a year in prison with all but four days suspended, and was sentenced to house arrest and 361 days of probation. He also has to pay the DNR a $1,000 pet replacement fee.
Pusey faces fines and bans in other states for various violations related to the poaching allegations. According to the DNR statement, this includes: $4,125 in fines and costs and an eight-year suspension of a Pennsylvania hunting license; $324 in fines and costs and an indefinite suspension in Connecticut; $700 in fines and costs and suspension of license while on probation in Massachusetts; $2,335 in Georgia fines and costs; $278 in North Carolina fines and costs; and $525 in Tennessee fines and costs.
The attorney representing Pusey declined a request for comment from IndyStar.
The new conviction is part of a pattern of alleged hunting violations by Pusey, according to the DNR and court filings.
Trent Stinson, a detective with DNR, said Pusey was first suspended during the 2019-20 hunting season after a 2018 violation in Tippecanoe County. Court documents show that in 2018 those charges included criminal trespassing, illegally taking a wildlife animal, missing a waterfowl stamp and taking a migratory bird past the seasonal limit.
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Indiana court records also show that Pusey was charged with additional hunting violations in October 2019 and again in March 2021. He was also charged in February 2022 with illegal hunting and stealing a wildlife camera’s memory card.
According to the DNR statement, investigators were also able to find evidence Pusey poached in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Pusey’s infractions in Indiana in 2020 included the ingestion of four spring turkeys, two of which were killed just months after the year-long off-season suspension was imposed.
This is the first time in state history that a hunter has been suspended for life.
Det. Stinson, who was involved in the case, said a 2020 Indiana law change allowed the lifetime ban. Before the move, the maximum suspension was just one year.
Stinson said the DNR used “every tool in the investigators’ book” to monitor and prosecute Pusey’s alleged violations. Law enforcement tracked cellphone locations, researched cellphone contents, used license plate readers and K-9 handlers.
Investigators also searched Pusey’s home and found shotgun casings – the spent shell casings – from previous turkey hunts. Pusey had written on each one the date and state the turkeys were killed, according to the DNR. The evidence included 83 carcasses dating back to 2012, 14 of which were dated within three months of his first hunting ban in 2019.
Stinson said the Indiana DNR has coordinated with other states where Pusey has been accused of violators, as well as the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
“The cooperation of other states has been invaluable and it has been an amazing team effort from all stakeholders involved to document and hold (Pusey) accountable,” Stinson said.
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Officials from other states would immediately cease their activities to help and prosecute the case, Stinson said.
Indiana is among 48 states in an Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact that helps agencies coordinate to deal with people violating wildlife and natural resource laws outside of their home state. Pusey managed to travel to non-compliant states and made a trip to Mexico to circumvent his Indiana hunting ban, Stinson said.
Most states require wildlife caught in the field to be reported, but Stinson said Pusey doesn’t and it takes extensive efforts to track down violators.
The tricky part of the case, Stinson said, is how to prevent violators from re-offending.
“We hope that the actions the court has taken outside of the suspension, including house arrest and public awareness raising, will prevent it from happening again and he will not be activated and will help people hold him accountable,” Stinson said of Pusey .
Wildlife shelters are put in place to keep the population safe and healthy. Wild turkeys are closely monitored in Indiana, and at one time there weren’t any documented ones in the state, Stinson said. In order to maintain a healthy population, it is important to keep track of population numbers and how many are harvested each hunting season.
Douglas Walker of The Star Press in Muncie contributed to this report.
IndyStar’s environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the nonprofit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.