A Wisconsin game farm owner is now a felon due to his illegal commercialization of snow geese. On Oct. 20, 2014, Todd David Doughty, 50, owner of the Thunderbird Game Farm in Chilton, was sentenced to five years probation, ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, and had his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges revoked for five years by Chief United States District Court Judge William C. Griesbach.
According to the plea agreement and other documents filed with the court, Doughty illegally engaged in the sale of sausage containing snow goose, a migratory bird. While sentencing the defendant, Chief Judge Griesbach noted a litany of past wildlife offenses which, “spoke to the defendant’s character” and his “disregard for wildlife laws” which necessitated the lengthy revocation of hunting privileges. As a convicted felon, Doughty will never again legally possess a firearm for any purpose.
In this case, Doughty implicated himself by inadvertently tipping off investigators through side activities related to his game farm operation and lodge in Wisconsin. The larger U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation started because of some concerned members of the public and the follow up of game wardens in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Kansas.
In 2007, local game wardens from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources followed up on a couple strange reports of dead owls found along the road in a garbage bag. Wardens reached out to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent and turned over 13 dead long-eared owls that appeared to have been shot.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory, based in Ashland, Ore., analyzed the owls and determined the cause of death to be birdshot, the type of ammunition commonly used in pheasant hunting. The agent on the case noticed that Thunderbird Game Farm was just down the road from the places where the dead owls were first found. After combining that evidence with information received from other states, the Service began an undercover operation to learn more about Doughty and his game farm operation. The agent, with the assistance of the Wisconsin Conservation Wardens, uncovered an illegal operation built around commercializing snow geese, white-tailed deer and other waterfowl as processed sausage at Doughty’s lodge.
As for the original illegal activity that first alerted the public and state game wardens, the undercover elements of this investigation went on to document Doughty’s statements that showed that he routinely shot owls, hawks and other predators that he found at his captive pheasant hunting lodge. His predator control measures were extensive and illegal.