Sometimes there are subjects you just hate to write about and I’ve sadly written about too many of them in the past. What glitters is not always gold and that couldn’t be more true in the outdoors industry. More specifically, the outdoors television industry. Another high profile ‘hunting celebrity’ Gregg Ritz was recently cited with two serious violations that could end his career if proven in a court of law.
Anyone that watches the Outdoor Channel knows Ritz. He’s the guy that produces ‘Hunt Masters’ and was the former president and CEO of Thompson Center Arms. Ritz has done well for himself if material possessions equate to success. He’s the guy that has everything, from his electric bike or UTV to Ozonics unit, 37 Reconyx trail cameras surveying his private farm, the latest greatest equipment, and more. He passes on 4.5 year old deer that he calls by name because they’re not mature enough and he shoots half of his show in slow motion. He checks all the boxes for being a ‘successful’ television hunter and he has the sponsors to prove it.
On January 2 of this year, Ritz killed a deer in Boone County, Missouri on a lease that he had. Concluding an investigation by a Missouri wildlife officer, Ritz was charged with two misdemeanors: illegally killing a deer over bait and wonton waste. (Case numbers 460150 and 460149) Hunting over bait is not legal in Missouri and wasting harvested game is not legal in any state.
The wildlife officer notes were especially interesting as they have two witness statements coming from two individuals affiliated with Ritz and his Huntmaster television show. According to the investigation, Ritz allegedly asked one of the individuals to bait a field in advance of him hunting it and that was the field the deer was killed over. According to the wildlife officer’s report, he noticed corn, milo and sunflowers were “easily found across the entire field” five days after the hunt.
While this might not ruffle your feathers because you see hunters killing deer over bait all the time (where it’s hopefully legal), the next charges are disturbing. Ritz allegedly recovered the deer with his cameraman the evening that he shot it and decided to leave the deer in the woods until the next morning so they could take pictures and video. Taking pictures of a trophy deer the following day when lighting is better is common practice, but I’m not sure leaving the deer in the woods is. At least that’s the last thing I would ever do. According to the report, that’s what Ritz wanted to do.
Five days after the deer was killed, the wildlife officer reported that he went and found the carcass of the deer. It had been field dressed but it was still there, intact. On January 8, six days after Ritz killed the deer, the officer seized the deer’s antlers and entered them into evidence.
What’s the most disturbing is how Ritz responded to his questions. This is an excerpt from the report: “On 2/12/20 I spoke to Gregg briefly by phone. When I asked Gregg if he’d take the deer to a meat processor or taxidermist, he said he would have to call me back. I called him the following day and again asked him about the deer he killed on 1/2/20. He said he left the deer in the woods the evening he killed it and returned the following morning to finish taking pictures and video. He said coyotes had eaten the deer overnight, so there was nothing to salvage and he left the deer carcass on site. I told Gregg that I encountered the deer several days after he left it and that it was still wholly intact, which meant that it was still wholly intact when he abandoned it on 1/3/20. He then acknowleged inititally lying about the condition of the carcass. Gregg also told me he was “floored” about the baiting violation and didn’t know anything about the field being baited. I told Gregg I would issue him tickest in the mail for 1) take deer with bait and 2) wantonly waste deer. In reference to the violations being discussed, Gregg said “I’ve made some poor choices” and “I apologize” each more than once.”
As of now, these are charges against Ritz and he will have his day in court on April 29.
I’d like to believe there’s a logical defense that Ritz will present in court. Maybe the two witnesses were out to get him and he really didn’t know anything about the field being baited. Maybe he ‘assumed’ that his cameraman was going to get the deer skinned and in the cooler because he had better things to do. Maybe this was all just a big misunderstanding.
Ritz posted the photo of his Missouri buck on the Huntmaster’s Facebook page and shockingly, it’s still there. Since the citations, Ritz has been as high profile as he’s ever been attending the Archery Trade Association and SHOT Show pimping his sponsors and supporters. Surely a guilty person would crawl in a hole and hide so maybe Ritz will beat these charges? Either way, Ritz has a stain on his reputation that will be hard to remove. Will the Outdoor Channel continue to air his show? Will his many sponsors stick by him? Stay tuned. These allegations will either be proven or disproven and it will be interesting to say the least.