Have you been scammed by Buckmasters? If so, you’re not alone.

According to a recent report by Grand View Outdoors, a 10-count lawsuit was filed by the state of Alabama against Buckmasters, a well-known deer-hunting association headquartered in Montgomery. In the court filing, the State’s attorney general Steven T. Marshall alleges Buckmasters has, “signed consumers up for Buckmasters memberships without their express verifiable authorization.”

The Attorney General filed the action as a violation of the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Alabama’s charity fraud statutes and the Alabama Telemarketing Act.

Allegations listed in the lawsuit include claims that Buckmasters enrolled consumers for memberships without their express verifiable authorization. According to the court filing, people who were contacted by telemarketers and declined to purchase a membership were sent a membership anyway.

The report said numerous consumers have alleged that Buckmasters has signed them up for memberships without their authorization. These unauthorized memberships were typically created the same way. A Buckmasters telemarketer would call a consumer and try to sell a membership, usually for a five-year period. The consumer would decline to purchase the membership but would often agree to review literature about it. But rather than send literature to the consumer, the salesperson would actually sign the consumer up for a membership without his or her authorization.

Once an unauthorized consumer was signed up for a Buckmasters membership, the consumer would be billed. The State alleges Buckmasters engaged in “aggressive — and illegal — collection efforts …” Collections involved sending five bills to customers. The state claims the language in those bills becomes progressively more aggressive with each bill issued.

For the past several years, consumer complaints about Buckmasters have been made public on several online hunting forums and there are more than 20 such complaints compiled on ripoff.com

According to an article in Outdoor Life, Buckmasters is essentially an online hunting club. Dues-paying members receive a Buckmasters publication in addition to various promotional items and discounts from sponsors. The cost of a two-year membership is $53.95, while a five-year membership runs $136.90. According to the court filing, Buckmasters employed approximately 70 telemarketers at its office in Montgomery, Alabama, and those telemarketers were making more than one million sales calls a year.

The story said that the suit further alleges that Buckmasters failed to meet the state’s charity fraud statutes (the Buckmasters American Deer Foundation is registered as a non-profit organization), did not have a license to operate as a commercial telephone seller and made false statements about the group’s cancellation policies.

Among other wrongdoings listed by the state of Alabama is the Attorney General’s claim that Buckmasters made false representations to consumers during the course of its telemarketing activities. This included simply refusing to cancel memberships.

Buckmasters was founded in 1986 by Jackie Bushman and created magazines and popular hunting-themed television shows hosted by Bushman. In a statement to Outdoor Life, Buckmasters said it has cooperated with the Attorney General’s office and made changes in its telemarketing division.

“The entire staff at Buckmasters, Inc. is grateful to the Office of the Attorney General of Alabama for helping us correct this situation," founder Jackie Bushman said. "We are a proud 30-year-old organization that works hard daily to promote a positive image for thousands of members, deer hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts, sports writers, conservationists and families nationwide.”

In my opinion, Bushman appears to admit the wrongdoing amidst a lot of double-talking hogwash. Instead of promoting a positive image as he claims, Bushman now has cast hunting and all those associated in a negative image. It seems to be that Bushman and his cohorts are more like scam masters than buck masters. I don’t believe for a minute that Bushman and Buckmasters were unaware of what was going on, especially when consumer reports have been so numerous and so public for years.

Zinke visits Boston

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recently spent the last day of a four-day working trip throughout New England with a visit to the New England Aquarium. He met with experts and officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the aquarium, who gave him a briefing on the unique marine life of the area. Zinke was also given a virtual tour of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine Monument from scientists and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Monument Superintendent.

After the visit to the aquarium, Zinke attended a roundtable discussion with local fishermen, lobstermen, and industry advocates, which included representatives from state and federal offices. Zinke was able to hear testimonies from the New England area fishermen, regarding the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. This monument is under review, in accordance with the April 26, 2017, Executive Order.

In the afternoon, Zinke met with his team from the National Park Service, and the Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton. The team toured Boston Harbor and the Boston National Historic Park, which includes various Department of the Interior holdings and historic sites managed by the National Park Service, state, and local entities.

On the first day of his New England tour, Secretary Zinke announced $1.1 billion in annual funding for state wildlife agencies from revenues generated by the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration acts.

“For nearly eight decades, the nation’s hunters and anglers have generated billions of dollars to protect wildlife and habitat simply by purchasing items that help them engage in the outdoor activities they enjoy,” Zinke said. “Their support has helped state wildlife agencies protect our country’s environmental legacy for future generations of hunters, fishers, recreationalists, and conservationists.”

The funds, which are distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, support critical state conservation and outdoor recreation projects. They are derived from excise taxes paid by the hunting, shooting, boating and angling industries on firearms, bows and ammunition and sport fishing tackle, some boat engines and small engine fuel. Allocations of the funds are authorized by Congress. To date, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has distributed more than $19 billion in apportionments for state conservation and recreation projects.

“The conservation and outdoor recreation gains made possible by this funding mechanism, which is unique to the United States, serves as the bedrock of wildlife conservation in our country,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Jim Kurth. The recipient state wildlife agencies have matched these funds with approximately $6 billion throughout the years, primarily through hunting and fishing license revenues.

Massachusetts will receive $3,494,429 through the Sport Fish Restoration Fund and $7,664,947 through the Wildlife Restoration Fund, giving the state a total amount of $11,159,376. New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine also will receive $3,494,429 each from the Sport Fish Restoration Fund and will receive slightly more than Massachusetts from the Wildlife Restoration Fund.

State-by-state listings of the final Fiscal year 2017 apportionments of Wildlife Restoration Program fund can be found at https://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/GrantPrograms/WR/WRFinalApportionment2017.pdf and the Sport Fish Restoration Program fund can be found at https://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/GrantPrograms/SFR/SFRFinalApportionment2017.pdf

Comment on tautogs

Following a recent public hearing, The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is accepting written comments through July 14 on proposed changes to commercial tautog regulations. In addition to moving from being state-regulated to regionally regulated, a commercial harvest tagging program is being proposed to address an illegal, unreported and undocumented fishery that has persisted for more than a decade.

Reports of illegally harvested fish have been documented in cases against fishermen, fish houses, and at retail markets and restaurants. The tagging program, which would accommodate both the live and dead commercial markets, was recommended by the Commission’s Law Enforcement Committee to increase accountability in the fishery and curb illegal harvest. A tautog tag trial was conducted to investigate the impact of the tags on the resource and found no mortality or degradation to fish health.

Written comments should be: mailed to Ashton Harp, ASMFC, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; faxed to 703-842-0741 (FAX); or emailed to aharp@asmfc.org (subject: Tautog Draft Amendment 1). Final action on the proposals is scheduled for August.

Boy mauled by bear during race

According to a report by the Outdoor Hub on June 21, authorities in Anchorage, Alaska, have confirmed the death of a 16-year-old boy who was mauled and killed by a black bear while running in an annual Father’s Day trail race near Bird Creek. The report said that sources say the victim apparently veered off the trail when he was attacked by a large 250-pound black bear.

Just moments before his death, the teen reportedly called his brother to tell him he was being chased by a bear, and was frantically calling for help. Authorities arrived on the scene to find the bear guarding the body. The bear was shot in the face with a shotgun but apparently it disappeared into the brush and is thought to still be wandering the trails, the report said.

Marc Folco is the outdoor writer for The Standard-Times. Contact him at openseason1988@aol.com