By Amelia Cole
A federal judge recently banned the Indiana host of a former hunting television show from hunting for 30 months after he illegally shot a trophy buck.
In December of 2013, Christopher Brackett shot a deer he dubbed The Unicorn Buck in Jefferson County, Indiana, and transported it across state lines.
He was found guilty of violating the Lacey Act, a federal law that makes it illegal to knowingly sell or transport any wildlife that was killed illegally, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In September of 2014, Brackett aired footage of the kill of the impressive white-tail on the hunting show he hosted at the time, Fear No Evil. The unicorn buck sported 11-points and a unique antler formation that garnered it the catchy nickname. The only problem? Brackett had shot another deer, an 8-point, just a few minutes prior. Indiana conservation law states that you can only shoot one buck per season.
Six years later, after unedited footage of Brackett shooting the two bucks was leaked on YouTube, he was found guilty in January of violating the Lacey Act.
The video of the crime has since been removed from the public sphere due to a copyright claim.
Joshua Thomas, a conservation officer from Jefferson County, Indiana, described the video: “It’s seamless, it happened within minutes. He essentially shot this 8-point, and then out steps what he calls the Unicorn Buck. You can hear him loading a muzzleloader, and within minutes he shot that second deer.”
Brackett abandoned the 8-point, then purchased a second deer permit under his cameraman’s name and returned to retrieve the smaller buck, according to court documents. The following day, Brackett transported the poached unicorn buck to Illinois. As soon as he crossed state lines, the crime became a Lacey Act violation, Thomas said.
On Jan. 14, U.S District Judge Michael Mihm sentenced Brackett to pay a $26,500 fine, $3,500 in restitution to Indiana and banned him from hunting or possessing firearms for 30 months.
“The federal guys, they don’t play games,” said Joe Bacon, the president of the Indiana Deer Hunters Association.
When a wildlife crime is prosecuted only at the state level, the fine is usually $500 or less, said Bacon, who advocates for harsher poaching penalties. “It’s just a slap on the wrist.”
The case shows that even those in the entertainment industry are not above the law, according to a Fish and Wildlife Service press release.
People commit wildlife crimes for many reasons, but the pressure to produce exciting content may have encouraged Brackett to illegally kill the unicorn buck, Thomas said.
“Those guys have to produce to be on TV. They have to show big deer being killed,” he said.
Bacon quit watching hunting shows years ago.
“Several of us in the hunting community consider that deer porn—it’s not real,” Bacon said.
The offense was not Brackett’s first violation of wildlife laws.
He has also been cited for attempting to import a black bear from Canada without a proper permit, killing a deer without a tag in New York and transporting a deer without proper documentation in Alberta, Canada, according to the government’s Jan. 14 sentencing commentary from January 14th.
Some people violate conservation laws because they are genuinely misinformed or inexperienced, said Robert Finn, a conservation officer with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “With Brackett, that wasn’t a mistake. He knew what he was doing.”
Taking an extra deer or two is a bigger deal than one might initially think, Bacon said.
“Every deer I kill affects everybody around me,” he said. “We have conservation laws to protect the resource that belongs to all the people.”
While most hunters love to hunt and do so ethically and legally, there are exceptions, Thomas said. “The more I work this job, the more I realize just how crazy people are in terms of what they’ll do for that next biggest deer.”
The question is, will this sentence prevent Brackett from hunting illegally in the future?
“We would like to see that it would work,” Finn said. “But only one person can answer that question, and that would be him.”
“It’s best if I don’t comment,” Brackett said when asked about the case.
His attorney declined to comment.
Leave the guy alone. By listening to the comments i see why the federal government comes in and regulate us out of existence, they are always invited in by the purists amongst us. I live in Florida and have to travel over 10 hours to hunt in Georgia since the Florida DNR has made it close to impossible to hunt in Florida
I AGREE WITH ALOT OF THE THESE COMMENTS, HOPEFULLY CHRIS SEE AND FEELS THE IMPACT OF HIS MISTAKE. BUT WE AS HUNTERS NEED TO STICK TOGETHER AND NOT CONTINUE TO BEAT THIS GUY UP.ONLY TIME WILL TELL IF HE SEE’S THAT HIS MISTAKE AFFECTS US ALL,HOPEFULLY HE DOES.
Brackett didn’t make ” one mistake ” as you claim.
He has multiple willful violations and convictions, none of which were “mistakes”.
They were willful committed crimes that reflect negatively on the entire hunting community.
“We should all band together and support him” Really?
Sorry George, but to support him would be to condone his selfish criminal poacher behavior.
Well I see everyone here is crucifying chris.sure he messed up but don’t tell me that you haven’t. We all have at sometime. What he did was wrong. If you were in that situation what would you do. Sure you’d say I’d do the right thing. But there’s that thought in the back of your head that says,wait a minute. I could get away with this.what I’m saying is don’t go judge hom for one mistake. Your not the law. He’s paying for his mistake. Lets all get together as fellow hunters and help support him through this. Dont judge a person for one mistake.
his shirt says it all…KILLER….not hunter
Very sad! To much emphasis on Monster bucks! The hunt and how the game is used ,shared is just as important! My fourteen Year old daughter has gone from a three point to a seven point ,which have been shared with the land owner and used by our family! The 2019 buck has been used during the Pandemic!
Why havent we seen the same treatment for everyones beloved uncle ted he has been busted numerous times for poaching and illegal taking of game animals but he still hunts
What he did gives a black eye to all hunters because this makes the news and makes all hunters and hunting show tv hosts look bad. I believe most hunters and hunting TV hosts try to follow and abide by the game laws but that doesn’t make the news.
Very sad . I used to like Barckett. His show was entertaining. But turns out he’s a real DB . Shooting the bigger , second deer shows his real character. Who hasn’t had a bigger deer come by shortly after just shooting a deer and using your tag ?What one dose at that moment truly shows a person’s ethics.
Not to mention the way he treated his camera man. Sorry Chris but you’re not a hunter you’re a has been tv star.
Excellent. As a lifelong hunter myself (65+ years) I am happy to see real justice prevail. I do think some amount of jail time should have also been incurred, but that’s just my opinion. I have witnessed a huge change in hunting within my life and it hasn’t been a change for the better. Hunting has become a “sport” or a “social event” today for so many who neither understand or respect the animals they kill. I’ve seen far too many “hunters” step out of vehicle who look like they’ve just stepped out of an Cabela’s catalog. They have all the best equipment money can buy, they will be placed in some fancy “shooting house”, and then, when they or someone else kills their trophy, they will have it cleaned and dressed by someone else. This is not hunting. This is just killing for a thrill or for a trophy, and it saddened me greatly. The human race seems to be devolving instead of evolving.