The San Francisco Chronicle - Maui hunting ranch owner Jeffrey Grundhauser pleaded guilty on Thursday, Aug. 23, to a federal misdemeanor for taking an unlicensed hunter to shoot game animals in a case stemming from a broader investigation into the interisland smuggling of harmful invasive species for hunting.
Grundhauser faces up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 1 at U.S. District Court in Honolulu.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Song told a judge that Grundhauser took an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent hunting in June 2011 even though the agent said he didn't have a Hawai'i hunting license.
The agent, who posed as a hunter from Oregon, killed two axis deer and one mouflon sheep. He paid $1,250 for Grundhauser's guide services.
The ranch owner's attorney, David Hayakawa, noted his client wasn't charged for flying the animals between islands by helicopter, which is the aspect of the case that has gotten the most media attention.
Hayakawa said Grundhauser provided two female and one male deer to a Hawai'i Island individual, but he believed the animals would be kept in pens. Hayakawa said Grundhauser received in exchange 11 Big Island sheep for his Maui ranch, but he stressed the animals were kept in enclosed areas at all times and are all accounted for.
The state never introduced axis deer to Hawai'i Island, but sightings of the animals on that island have increased in the past few years, and invasive species officials believe people have been smuggling them to the island to expand hunting opportunities.