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Federal Agents Raid TV Hunter's Home

Federal Agents Raid TV Hunter's Home

By Ben Hall. CREATED Mar 25, 2013 - UPDATED: Mar 11, 2014

DICKSON, Tenn. -- A Dickson deer hunter cannot believe the federal government spent years investigating a case that began when he bought the wrong hunting license in Kansas.

William "Spook" Spann was prosecuted under the century old environmental law called the Lacey Act.

The act covers a wide array of environmental violations, including the transportation of wildlife that has been illegally taken.

The Lacey Act came under fire in 2009, after federal agents used it to raid Gibson Guitar.

But Spann told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that his case should be a wake-up call for hunters across the country.

Federal agents raided his home four years after he killed a deer on a Kansas hunting trip. 

Agents took the antlers from the deer Spann killed and charged him with a felony.

Just last month, Spann pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, and he spoke to NewsChannel 5 for the first time about what happened in the case.

Spann is a professional hunter who goes by nickname "Spook." He has his own TV show called Spook Nation. The show follows him as he hunts big game, mostly deer, with a bow and arrow.

But a Kansas hunt, captured on his show back in 2007, got him trouble with the federal government.

"It was the hunt of a lifetime," Spann said. "This stuff that has happened doesn't take that away from me."

Spann said that he did not realize that the Kansas hunting license he bought only allowed him to hunt on his personal farm.

He had recently bought a farm in Kansas just so he could hunt deer.  

Court papers show he also paid the farmer beside him $5,000 for the right to hunt on his land. 

Spann tracked the deer and killed it on his neighbor's farm. He thought the permit he had purchased covered hunting on his neighbor's land, but it did not.  

Spann told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that, for $100 more, he could have bought a permit that would have allowed him to hunt off his own property -- with the permission of the landowner.

"I don't care if the license was $75 or $175.  I would have bought the right one had I known," Spann said.

The Lacey Act got a lot of attention when federal agents raided Gibson Guitar in 2009, and again in 2011, claiming the company illegally imported exotic wood. Gibson paid a $300,000 fine, but claimed it did nothing wrong.

It led some in Congress to say the federal government was overusing the Lacey Act and that the law is too broad.

Federal agents raided Spann's house in 2011 and seized just one thing, the deer antlers from that Kansas hunt.

"If they'd have asked me I'd have gave them rack," Spann said about the antlers.

Spann added that the experience won't keep him from hunting, but he's stunned the federal government spent years on a case like his.

"I feel like it's a lot of expense for something that didn't deserve it," Spann said.

In February, Spann pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for that Lacy Act violation. He admitted killing the deer without the proper permit and taking the antlers out of Kansas.

But Spann said that it was just too expensive to battle the government in court.

He paid a $20,000 fine and can't hunt in the U.S. for six months -- all because he bought the wrong hunting license in Kansas.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas said that it is cracking down on people who hunt illegally in the state.

A spokesman confirmed the facts in the case and added the office plans to continue prosecuting cases under the Lacey Act.

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

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Ben Hall is a veteran reporter at NewsChannel 5. He has covered the state legislature, presidential campaigns and is presently part of NewsChannel 5's award-winning investigative unit.