Twenty-three-year-old Kyle Alstott of Fort Dodge pleaded guilty to numerous charges. Iowa conservation officer Matt Bruner says the investigation started when he noticed online videos from Fort Dodge-based hunting and filming company ATM Outdoors. Bruner recognized Alstott from a previous encounter.
“He’d been charged in the past with a deer-hunting violation and it peaked my interest and we dug into it a little bit deeper,” Bruner says. Alstott co-owns the company with 22-year-old Roman Thompson of Omaha, Nebraska and they had several photos and videos of deer, deer hunts, fishing and other outdoor activities on their website.
“We started comparing pictures and stories and hunts with licenses that were issued with the Iowa and some of the surrounding states to match up whether…these hunts had been done legally,” Bruner explains. “We discovered that there were some discrepancies and the fueled our investigation…to get several search warrants for that information.” The search warrants led to the eventual charges.
He says the search open up a treasure trove of other information on illegal hunting activities. Bruner says the investigation led to the 10 people being charged with numerous violations.
“Hunting deer, hunting turkeys without valid licenses…or using licenses issued to other hunters who were not there. We had issues of the illegal use of bait to attract the animals in illegally, also using a spotlighting to lure them in at night, using illegal weapons and those types of violations,” Bruner says.
He says the end goal would have been to sell the videos of the hunt, but they never got that far as things stopped with the investigation. Officers collected phones, computers, video equipment, deer and turkey mounts, meat and equipment used to harvest the game animals when they executed the search warrants. The 10 individuals were charged in December 2015 and plea deals began in January.
Kyle Alstott pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of illegally killed whitetail buck deer, hunting deer with aid of bait, hunting with the aid of artificial light, unlawful use of two-way radio transmitter while hunting, making false claim for hunting license/tag by non-resident, failure to tag harvested deer, failure to report harvested deer, hunting deer without a valid deer tag, taking whitetail buck without a valid tag, unlawful possession of illegally killed whitetail buck deer in 2014 season and unlawful possession of illegally killed wild turkey in 2014 season. He was fined $1,900 and assessed $4,000 in liquidated damages and restitution.
Roman Thompson pleaded guilty to hunting without a nonresident hunting license and habitat fee, hunting without a nonresident antlered deer tag, unlawful use of another’s deer tag, unlawful use of two-way radio transmitter while hunting, and unlawful possession of illegally killed whitetail buck deer in 2014 season. Thompson was fined $1,760 dollars and assessed $2,000 in liquidated damages plus 80 hours of community service.
Forty-four-year-old Michael Alstott of Fort Dodge pleaded guilty to making a false report, hunting deer without a valid license or tag, unlawful use of two-way radio transmitter while hunting, unlawful tagging of illegally killed buck deer, unlawful transportation of deer without tag, taking doe deer without valid license or tag, and unlawful use of out of county deer tag. Michael Alstott was fined $1,557.
Fifty-three-year-old Randy Vaught of Algona, pleaded guilty to hunting with aid of artificial light, shooting/discharging rifle over highway, and failure to report harvested deer. Vaught was fined 369 dollars and assessed $2,000 in liquidated damages plus 80 hours of community service.
Twenty-year-old Tanner Dawson of Fort Dodge, pleaded guilty to unlawful taking and possession of whitetail doe deer and failure to report harvested deer. Dawson was fined $282 and assessed $1,500 in liquidated damages.
Twenty-two-year-old Mariah Thompson of Omaha, Nebraska pleaded guilty to hunting deer without a valid non-resident license or tag. Mariah Thompson was fined $667.
Forty-four-year-old Matthew Alstott of Fort Dodge, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting a non-resident taking deer unlawfully and unlawful use of deer tag by another and was fined $390.
Forty-five-year-old Travis Miller of Monroe pleaded guilty to hunting with the aid of artificial light and unlawful transportation of illegally taken deer and was fined $390. Thirty-one-year-old Brendon Nicholas of Fort Dodge, pleaded guilty to unlawful tagging of whitetail buck deer and failure to report harvested deer and was fined $282. Thirty-six-year-old Mike Kenyon of Clare, pleaded guilty to failure to report harvested deer and was fined $87.
Kyle Alstott, Roman Thompson, Michael Alstott, Randy Vaught and Tanner Dawson all face license suspension in Iowa and 44 other states that are part of the wildlife violator compact. Roman and Mariah Thompson are also facing charges in Nebraska. The Iowa D-N-R worked in conjunction with the Webster County Attorney’s Office, Boone County Attorney’s Office, Nebraska Game and Parks, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, Missouri Department of Conservation, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service.