Game Trails TV

Big Fin

Staff member
Dec 27, 2000
Bozeman, MT
Looks like another hunting celebrity operation hits the dirt. Maybe they failed to pay their taxes, and if so, could find employment in DC.

End Of The Game Trail?

Only weeks ago, Game Trails, a hunting facility in Northwestern Kentucky, was billing itself as the "proving grounds for the hunting and shooting industry" and notifying hunters they were taking advance reservations for the 2009 hunting season and were expecting their limited hunting opportunities to fill up quickly.

Today, it is history, following an 18-month long state and federal investigation that concluded with Game Trails and its site manager pleading guilty to "numerous misdemeanor violations of the Lacey Act of taking wildlife unlawfully, and for making false statements to Kentucky officers about the takings and interstate transportation of wildlife." Game Trails and site manager, William Dirk McTavish, Jr., 43, of Paducah, paid a total of $50,000 in fines.

Another former Game Trails employee, Robert Christopher Helms, 40, of Booneville, Indiana, still faces up to five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a felony count of threatening a federal witness. His sentencing is scheduled for June 11.

In August 2007, Kentucky wildlife officials noticed "numerous inconsistencies" while comparing and analyzing 2006 Telecheck deer harvest data with data that Game Trails LLC had supplied to Quality Deer Management Association in Georgia.

After Kentucky wildlife biologist David Yancy raised those concerns with Kentucky conservation officers, they began a lengthy investigation that involved reconciling the Telechecked deer harvest reports of Game Trails clients with information subpoenaed from QDMA.

They didn't jibe.

In fact, the investigation turned up "numerous instances" of "Game Trails employees, their friends and family chronically taking over-limits of deer, outside hunting season parameters, supplying false information to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and using social security numbers of Game Trails clients without their permission to Telecheck their deer harvests."

Kentucky DFW Lieutenant Greg Noel and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent John Barham discovered hundreds of deer jawbones and documentation tying them to Game Trails after traveling to Atlanta, and serving a federal search warrant at QDMA's headquarters.

By sending the jawbones to another state, Game Trails was guilty of transporting illegally taken deer out of state. That transport constituted the Lacey Act violations.

The 12,000-plus acre site, bordered by about 4½ miles of Ohio River, was owned by Kimball International and leased to Ritz and sharecroppers.

The previous owner had used local draw hunting to manage the deer herd, but that Game Trails eliminated that practice because it interfered with its filming and big buck hunting routines.

As a result, the herd grew quickly and Game Trails contacted QDMA to evaluate and make recommendations about improving the deer herd.

As part of the information process, Game Trails supplied QDMA with completed data sheets and jawbones of harvested deer.

A guilty plea for Lacey Act violations has apparently spelled the end of the trail for Game Trails - at least in Kentucky.
That data, collected during Noel's and Barham's investigation, conflicted with Telecheck data. That discrepancy formed the backbone of what one observer called "an airtight government case" against Game Trails.

For the hunting industry, Game Trails case is more than another case of dubious business dealings. It's one many in the industry hoped would simply go away. That's because of the affiliations of Game Trails with many of the brand names in the outdoor

Game Trails' sole-proprietor owner is former Thompson/Center Arms owner Gregg Ritz. And Ritz' use of his many connections in the industry to promote Game Trails has many very nervous.

For years, Game Trails has been a go-to locale for television hunting programs. Thompson/Center, Realtree, Winchester, Hunter's Specialties, Nikon, Under Armour, Federal, Bad Boy Enterprises and others regularly used the property to host outdoor writers and film television shows to promote and test their products.

In fact, a brochure for Game Trails touts the success of the Game Trails property that was regularly documented on "Realtree's Monster Bucks, Bass Pro Outdoor World, Tales of the Hunt, Game Trails (hosted by Ritz), Petersen's Hunting" and various other television shows. Additionally, the brochure reads like a who's-who of writers who have hunted the property and praised the "unbelievable quality of the deer and turkey populations."

State and federal officials have not yet released the names of those hunters whose names and social security numbers were unknowingly used on false Telecheck reports. When that information is released, the sheer number of outdoor celebrities who have used the facility may mean their names were unknowingly -and innocently- tied to the Lacey violation.

Officials stress that Game Trails clients whose names were used in the Telecheck reports are not under suspicion of having done anything to violate any state or federal game laws. Neither has QDMA, billed as a "partner" in the management of the deer herd on the property been accused of any wrongdoing.

The acreage that made up Game Trails was leased land, owned by Kimball International which harvested oak, walnut and chestnut trees from the property. Yesterday, we were told that the lease was no longer in effect and the property was being "repurposed" by Kimball.

Investigating officer Noel says the property has been "vacated" and Game Trails is "moving its operations to Ohio."

The telephone numbers for Game Trails are no longer in service, and the website that formerly featured pictures of many of the best-known names in the hunting industry is "under construction".


New member
Mar 28, 2001
Ohio but my heart is always in the woods
Here is a official reply

Game Trails’ Responds to Inaccuracies Regarding Charges

For Immediate Release

Sturgis, Kentucky. April 8, 2009 Misstatements of fact and misleading information related to a misdemeanor case involving Game Trails, a company with operations in Kentucky, has prompted this release to clarify the record.

On March 19, 2009, Game Trails, LLC, and its general manager Dirk MacTavish plead guilty to misdemeanor violations of the Lacy Act. More specifically, the violations were technical in nature and involved the mistagging and telechecking of deer. Both Game Trails and Dirk MacTavish paid fines. No other sanctions were imposed: no probation; no loss of hunting rights; and no loss of outfitter’s licenses. Gregg Ritz was neither charged nor plead guilty to any violation, misdemeanor or otherwise.
At all times throughout the process, Game Trails and Dirk MacTavish were forthright and cooperated fully. The mistakes in tagging deer were admitted and the matter was resolved. As noted, only fines were paid on technical misdemeanor violations. The case has been officially closed.

The relevant facts with regards to this case can be accessed through the United States District Court, Western District of Kentucky, Owensboro. However, the same cannot be said for subsequent reports, which have been littered with half-truths and false accusations. The facts have been misconstrued and inaccurately characterized. This statement will present the truth.

In addition to the aforementioned, the relevant facts are as follows. In 2006, Games Trails was instructed by an agent of the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife and mandated by the land owner Kimball International to reduce the number of deer on the property to help reduce crop damage. Game Trails had been informed by Kimball’s on-site manager that the crop damage caused by deer population had resulted in Kimball International offsetting the tenant farmer’s annual lease in the amount of $35,000. Authorities at Kimball advised Game Trails that its lease would be terminated if the deer population was not reduced.

In an effort to comply, Game Trails conducted the largest ever camera survey for whitetail deer in association with the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) to determine the proper number of deer to be harvested. A formal report was presented to Kimball International by the QDMA with a recommendation to harvest 200 deer. However the Commonwealth of Kentucky conducted an independent deer damage assessment and concluded that the harvest number was far greater than 200.

Game Trails sought the advice and cooperation of local Kentucky authorities to request and receive special consideration with the harvest process. The request for special consideration concerning the deer management program was rejected. Instead, Game Trails was informed that if it needed assistance in reducing the population, then it should consider allowing local authorities, their friends and family access to hunt. This idea was not satisfactory to Kimball.

QDMA, on behalf of Game Trails, then appealed directly to officials in Frankfort, Kentucky, the state’s capitol, to request special consideration for the doe harvest. Again, Game Trails was denied special consideration and was informed no consideration would be given as long as Game Trails was in possession of the hunting lease.

Later, in 2006, Kentucky issued Game Trails several hundred Animal Control tags to accommodate the additional deer harvest requirements. The harvesting of the deer and use of the Animal Control tags were improperly managed by a former Game Trails’ site manager, who applied the tags to any hunter; essentially “community tagging” the animals. The former site manager performed all operational aspects of the business and personally tagged every animal. He was later terminated for performance issues unrelated to this incident. It must be noted that no deer went unchecked and all deer were harvested by licensed hunters.

To further clarify and correct the misinformation circulating we would like the public to know the following:

Neither Dirk MacTavish, General Manager of Game Trails, nor Gregg Ritz, owner of Games Trails, tagged or tele-checked any of the deer harvested;

There were no charges or fines levied against Gregg Ritz;

Neither Dirk MacTavish or Gregg Ritz made false statements to
Investigators, or any other authorities;

Neither Dirk MacTavish nor Game Trails lost their outfitting
license, hunting rights or were placed on probation;

Every deer killed was processed and given to families in need;

With the exception of this 2006 incident, no other violations were found to have occurred during the period in which Game Trails occupied the property;

Felony prosecution of former Game Trails’ employee Chris Helms is only incidental, and is unrelated to this matter; neither Gregg Ritz nor Dirk MacTavish have any involvement with that case; and Kimball International sold the Sturgis, Kentucky land last November (four months prior to this event) and the new landowner chose not to sublease the hunting rights, resulting in Game Trails closing its Kentucky operation at present.

Due to the mistagging and telechekcing at Game Trails, the personal and business reputations of Game Trails, Gregg Ritz and Dirk MacTavish have all been unfairly tarnished. Mistakes were made, and a fine was paid. But Game Trails and Gregg Ritz have built a name of excellence and integrity in the industry, and these technical violations should not diminish that reputation. It is unfortunate that multiple inaccuracies have worked to do just that. Basic fairness dictates that those involved should be judged on the facts of record in this case, and those facts alone.


Well-known member
Dec 20, 2000
So they are a member of the QDMA and it is a federal offense to send the jawbones to their HQ?

No, it's illegal to send illegally harvested game animal parts across state lines. If you kill a critter legally you can take it, send it anywhere.

I've been through some of that country, very nice property they had access to.
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