Eastern Shore couple ‘profited from exploitive and unethical practices at the expense of the Eastern Shore’s natural resources and hunting traditions’

Josh and Kellie Neuwiller, who have ties to Queen Anne’s, Talbot and Caroline counties, seem to have trouble staying out of trouble.

On September 9, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Joshua and Kellie Neuwiller, owners of Wye East Outfitters, “were sentenced in the U.S. District Court in Salisbury, Maryland, for waterfowl outfitting and guiding without a license during the 2021-2022 season.”

A license is required by the state.

But let’s back up first.

2021 Conviction

In 2016, a large number snow geese were shot from a moving vehicle along Church Hill Road in Chestertown. Snow geese are federally protected.

In October 2021, according to the USFWS, “Neuwiller had been convicted of unlawfully taking snow geese, a charge spurred by a video posted on social media that captured Neuwiller shooting more than 80 snow geese from inside his truck while towing a hunting party on a trailer. The incident occurred along a major traffic corridor, which posed a potential threat to the public.”

The charges Neuwiller was convicted of, according to the USFWS, were take of migratory waterfowl in violation of state law (failure to obtain snow goose conservation hunting permit), take of migratory waterfowl in violation of state law (shooting resting waterfowl) and take of migratory waterfowl in violation of federal law (take of light geese from, or by means of the aid of a motor vehicle).

“Nothing about that was safe, ethical, or sporting,” said Chad Coles, a federal wildlife officer with the USFWS Refuge Law Enforcement Program who investigated the incident.

For that incident, Neuwiller was prohibited from hunting, guiding or outfitting snow goose hunts for three years. 

According to the the USFWS, within two months of his conviction, Neuwiller was personally booking snow goose hunts in violation of his probation and while Wye East Outfitters was booking other waterfowl hunts without an outfitting license for the 2021-2022 season.  

2023 Conviction

In December 2021, according to the the USFWS, Special Agent John LaCorte, began receiving phone calls from people complaining about Wye East Outfitters.

“Some callers reported the outfitter had changed the dates of hunts at the last minute, refusing to refund clients who were unable to reschedule on short notice,” according to the USFWS. “Others complained of a bait-and-switch operation.”

LaCorte, Coles, and Maryland Natural Resource Police officers documented violations by Wye East Outfitters through information obtained from social media, interviews and compliance checks.  Search warrants and subpoenas led to discovering transactions for outfitting and guiding that happened without required licenses.

“We could see that they took down payments for the hunts,” LaCorte stated. “Some would go to the guides, but they were paid mostly in tips. The rest would go to Josh.” 

“The company booked more than 40 hunts without a license in the 2021-2022 season,” according to the USFWS.

The majority of the hunts were for snow geese costing individual hunters $250 to take part in outings with four to 12 participants.

“In total, the investigation resulted in thirty-six separate waterfowl hunting and licensing violations committed by the Neuwillers and four guides employed by Wye East Outfitters,” according to the USFWS. “All four guides pled guilty and paid in forfeitures of collateral posted in lieu of appearing in court. ‘

Kellie “Nicki” Neuwiller was fined $250 and sentenced to one year probation, during which time she cannot hunt, guide or outfit for waterfowl.

Joshua “Josh” Neuwiller was sentenced to 90 days in prison — 30 days for operating a waterfowl outfitting business without a license, and 60 days for violating federal probation resulting from a 2021 conviction for Migratory Bird Treaty Act violations, including shooting from a motor vehicle.  

Now what?

“The defendants have long profited from exploitive and unethical practices at the expense of the Eastern Shore’s natural resources and hunting traditions,” said Ryan Noel, Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement in the Northeast Region. “It’s thanks to tips from the public and our close collaboration with Maryland Natural Resources Police that we were able to hold the company accountable.”

With their “exploitive and unethical practices” no longer a secret in Maryland, the Neuwiller’s set their sights on a different state.

Just two days before the couple’s most recent conviction, there was a post on Wye East Outfitters Facebook page that reads, “Room for 3 on Pennsylvania youth duck this is a free hunt no charge pm for details.”

From June 14 to September 7, there were six posts on the company’s Facebook page about upcoming hunts in Pennsylvania – there were plenty of others before that.

According to Travis Lau, communications director for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, “Looks like neither of them have or have ever had a PA license.”

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