Plea agreement reached in Trempealeau County captive deer farm case

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced this week that Brush Ranch Outfitters, LLC, a Galesville, Wis., captive deer farm, pleaded no contest to several hunting-related charges stemming from a 2017 case in which the farm was accused of running an illegal deer-hunting operation.

The Trempealeau County Circuit Court approved the plea agreement which calls for Brush Ranch Outfitters to pay $17,505 in civil forfeitures for charges, including: the unauthorized taking of live animals from the wild; providing incorrect information to the department; trapping with illegal methods; failing to register deer; and, possessing game during the closed season. Multiple trophy bucks also were found to be illegally harvested and ordered confiscated by the court.

In addition, Brush Ranch Outfitters owner Travis Brush, and employee Randall Hoff, were ordered to each pay a forfeiture of $2,152.50 for illegally placing bait. Both will lose their hunting and trapping privileges for three years – with a one-year credit for the year spent on bond with a condition prohibiting hunting.

A state investigation conducted by the DNR’s Bureau of Law Enforcement revealed Brush and Hoff placed illegal bait piles to lure wild deer into their captive deer farm through alterations made to the fence. According to statements made by Hoff during the investigation, deer were lured in to improve genetics within their captive deer herd. Brush Ranch Outfitters knowingly allowed wild deer to enter their captive deer farm where deer hunts were sold for profit.

DNR Chief Warden Todd Schaller said the case sends a message of zero-tolerance for this type of abuse of wildlife.

“This case has everything to do with the preservation and health of the state’s highly valued white-tailed deer resources,” he said. “Captive deer farm fences, like the one at Brush Ranch Outfitters, are closely regulated in part to prevent the spread of disease between wild and captive deer. Brush Ranch Outfitters actions encouraged contact between wild and captive white-tailed deer in direct conflict with current fencing regulations.”

A special prosecutor for the Trempealeau County District Attorney’s office, Brad Novreske, said it was critically important that penalties were leveled against the individuals and the business.

“Hunting is an important family tradition and part of the state’s heritage,” Novreske said. “And it also is a major economic driver – as many smaller businesses rely upon the safe, legal, ethical and quality hunting opportunities in Wisconsin.”

Novreske also said the plea agreement was made separate from the Brush Family’s $10,000 donation to the Association Conservation Clubs of Trempealeau County.

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