Exclusive look at an undercover poaching sting

FOX Files
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(KTVI)-- Conservation agents often have to go undercover to protect Missouri's wildlife. Investigators believepoaching is the most dangerous and lucrative in the Midwest.  

It's hidden camera video, you'll only see on Fox.  It happened in the Southern Missouri town of Birch Tree, where an under agent set up a taxidermy shop to catch poachers.  They were looking for wildlife violations, similar to what conservation agents catch in deer decoy stings. Conservation Protection Manager Gary Cravens described the brazenness of outlaws who will shoot from anywhere.  Cravens said, "They see some type of animal they want to shoot, they`ll shoot it regardless of where it is or who it`s on." Chris Hayes asked, "On public roads?" Cravens responded, "Oh yes, state highways, gravel roads, doesn`t make any difference." Hayes followed up, "With other motorists around?" Cravens answered, "Yes."

Poaching can also be spotlighting or hunting out of season. But you'd never know it was poaching, just looking at a deer mount.  So agents set up this taxidermy shop to try to catch it all.  In one case, men come into the shot and seem to notice a deer they've strung up - moving.

You can hear someone say, "Is the buck still alive?"  Another man points and says "twitching."

They agree the deer is alive, but they don`t seem to do anything about it.  The deer slowly dies.

Cravens said, "It`s kind of sad to think there are people like that, that intentionally go out and do that kind of stuff, but we know they are. That`s our job to stop that, or at least slow it down."

You might be wondering where agents put the camera, to get such a good view without being detected.  They put it inside the head of a deer mount, with no way to be able to see it without ripping it open.

Agents nettedevidence of hundreds of violations, including illegal firearms and deer mounts, antlers and furs from poaching.

Jim Miller, of Big Daddy's Taxidermy said, "It`s cheating, It`s stealing and it gives all the rest of us a black eye."

No one appears more angry about it than legitimate sportsmen.  Miller called a poacher... "crook, burglar, thief. Sportsmen don`t like poachers. They`re outlawsand we treat them as such."

Miller operates his taxidermy shop in St. Charles. He showed us the strict records he keeps to help agents trace the wildlife.

Miller said, "This is just one of the logs. Everything here has a log number on it. You can see up here all the tags."

Miller says most hunters follow an ethical code called `fair chase,` which gives animals a fair chance to escape and sportsmen an equal playing field.  He said that allows nature to thrive.  Miller added, "There`s a strong tradition of conservation, that`s followed through like at the end of the 19th century. Things were pretty much disappearing because we killed everything and finally it`s all coming back. It`s taken a long time, but it`s great."

The Missouri Department of Conservation called their sting- Operation Wall Hanger.  They documented nearly 300 serious wildlife violations.

Agents not only caught guys bragging on hidden camera, but the agents also secretly injected illegal hides with a tiny GPS tracker, so poachers couldn`t later say, "hey it wasn`t me."

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