Repeat offender receives state's 1st-ever lifetime hunting ban for poaching wild turkeys

A Tippecanoe County man accused of poaching wild turkeys in Indiana and as many as six other states was handed Indiana’s first-ever lifetime hunting suspension following an extensive criminal investigation.

Hanson Pusey, 25, of West Lafayette was sentenced last week in Warren County Circuit Court after pleading guilty to misdemeanor counts of hunting without landowner consent, illegal taking of wild turkey and failure to record taking of wild turkey.

The case was investigated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in conjunction 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 this "was the first lifetime suspension of its kind in state history."

Pusey's hunting privileges had previously been suspended in 2019 for one year due to hunting violations. But just months later, new allegations surfaced in early 2020. The IDNR statement said conservation officers received information then that Pusey "was still hunting and taking multiple turkeys illegally in Indiana and other states."

The statement said conservation officers "also documented Pusey helping family and friends poach turkeys."

In addition to the lifetime hunting ban in Indiana, Pusey was sentenced to one year in jail, with all but four days suspended, and ordered to serve home detention and 361 days of probation. He also must pay a $1,000 Animal Replacement Fee to the DNR.

Wild turkeys are increasing in numbers and range, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Wild turkeys are increasing in numbers and range, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Pusey faces fines and bans in the other states for various violations related to the poaching allegations. According to the DNR statement, that includes: $4,125 in fines and costs and an eight-year hunting license suspension in Pennsylvania; $324 in fines and costs and an indefinite suspension in Connecticut; $700 in fines and costs and license suspension during probation in Massachusetts; $2,335 in fines and costs in Georgia; $278 in fines and costs in North Carolina; and $525 in fines and costs in Tennessee.

The attorney who represented Pusey declined an IndyStar request for comment.

The new conviction is part of a pattern of alleged hunting violations by Pusey, according to DNR and court records.

Trent Stinson, a detective with DNR, said Pusey was first suspended during the 2019-20 hunting season following a 2018 violation in Tippecanoe County. Court documents show those 2018 charges included criminal trespassing, illegal take of a wild animal, failure to possess a waterfowl stamp and taking a migratory bird above the seasonal limit.

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Court records in Indiana also indicate Pusey was charged for more hunting violations in October 2019 and again in March 2021. He also was charged in February 2022 for hunting without permission and theft of a trail camera’s memory card.

Investigators were also able to turn up evidence suggesting Pusey was poaching in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts, according to the DNR statement. Pusey’s Indiana violations in 2020 included taking four spring turkeys, two of which were killed out of season just months after he was handed the one-year suspension.

This is the first time in state history that a hunter has received a lifetime suspension.

Det. Stinson, who was involved with the case, said a 2020 change in Indiana law allowed the lifetime ban. Prior to the change, the maximum suspension had been just one year.

The DNR used “every tool in the investigator’s book” to monitor and track Pusey's alleged violations, Stinson said. Law enforcement tracked cell phone locations, researched cell phone content, utilized license plate readers and K-9 handlers.

Investigators also searched Pusey’s home and found shotgun hulls — the spent shell casings — from previous turkey hunts. Pusey had written on each one the date and the state where turkeys were killed, according to the DNR. The evidence included 83 hulls dating back to 2012, with 14 of them dated within three months of his first hunting suspension in 2019.

Stinson said the Indiana DNR coordinated with other states where Pusey was accused of violations, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Other states’ cooperation was invaluable, and it was an amazing team effort by all the players involved to document and hold (Pusey) accountable,” Stinson said.

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Officers from other states would drop what they were doing at a moment’s notice to help out and see the case through prosecution, Stinson said.

Indiana is among 48 states in an Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact that helps agencies coordinate to deal with people who violate wildlife and natural resource laws outside of their home state. Pusey managed to travel to states not aligned with the compact to hunt as well as taking a trip to Mexico to skirt his Indiana hunting suspension, Stinson said.

Most states require wildlife taken in the field to be reported, but Stinson said Pusey was not doing that and it required an extensive effort tracking violations down.

The tricky part of the case, Stinson said, is how to keep violators from reoffending.

“We hope the measures the court put in place outside of the suspension, including home detention and making the public aware, are effective at preventing this again and he is not enabled, and people will help hold him accountable,” Stinson said of Pusey.

Wildlife protections are put in place to keep populations safe and healthy. Wild turkeys are closely monitored in Indiana and at one time there were none documented in the state, Stinson said. Keeping track of population counts and how many are harvested each hunting season are important to maintaining a healthy population.

Douglas Walker of The Star Press in Muncie contributed to this report.

Karl Schneider is an IndyStar environment reporter. You can reach him at Follow him on Twitter @karlstartswithk

IndyStar's environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the nonprofit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: West Lafayette, IN man gets lifetime hunting ban for poaching turkeys