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FWC Investigator Receives Wildlife Officer of the Year Award

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The National Wild Turkey Federation presented Florida Fish and Wildlife Investigator Gregory Todd Hoyle with the National Wildlife Officer of the Year Award for his extraordinary dedication and commitment to Florida’s natural resources.

February 17, 20243 min read

"Receiving this award was a really a big surprise," said Officer Hoyle."Officers all over the country do a lot of really important and significant work. To win an award singling out the work I have done really means a lot, and I am really thankful for it."

Hoyle received the Wildlife Officer of the Year Award at the 48th annual NWTF Convention and Sport Show, sponsored by Mossy Oak.

The Wildlife Officer of the Year Award is given to individuals who have excelled and demonstrated exceptional performance in the following areas: teamwork and innovation, attitude and leadership, and achievements and accomplishments.

Hoyle's relentless pursuit of an egregious wild turkey poacher over the span of a two-year investigation speaks to his dedication to the resource and his drive to ensure wild turkeys in Florida are plentiful for future generations to enjoy.

In the spring of 2020, Hoyle, an FWC Investigator II, began investigating rumors of a suspected poacher, Brent Hurst, of Steinhatchee, Florida.

In response to information from the public coupled with shared social media posts, the FWC began an investigation into the illegal taking of wild turkeys that would span more than two years, involve multiple suspects and account for at least 150 wild turkeys taken illegally.

The initial investigation in 2020 provided evidence that Hurst had taken over the season bag limit for wild turkeys, conservatively poaching 15-20 wild turkeys during the spring 2020 season.

Given the extent of the violations uncovered during the 2020 season and the necessity to ensure Hurst would be held accountable for his actions, the decision was made to extend and widen the investigation to gather all information regarding his poaching activities. During the spring 2021 season, the FWC executed search warrants on Hurst's social media accounts, cell phone records and monitored his movements to confirm and corroborate the timing and locations of wild turkey kills.

As in 2020, the results from the investigative work provided evidence that Hurst had far exceeded the season bag limit of two wild turkeys per person and had killed more than 30 birds during the spring 2021 season. Evidence also showed Hurst killed several gobblers illegally during the closed season. The investigation in spring 2021 provided evidence that he had also committed armed trespass on multiple occasions in four Florida counties. The poaching didn’t stop there. Evidence showed Hurst had harvested more than the season bag limit for deer (five deer per person) during the 2020-21 deer season. In fact, investigators estimate Hurst poached 20 buck deer during the 2020-21 general gun season.

Due to Hurst's poaching activities in 2020 and 2021, FWC investigations consulted with the Florida Office of Statewide Prosecution and extended the investigation into the spring 2022 season. Additional evidence was collected that Hurst had again far exceeded the season bag limit for turkeys, poaching at least 15 birds for the season.

Additional evidence was collected to further solidify cases of armed trespass and several gobblers poached during the closed season. Over the course of the investigation, officers were shocked by the crass, brazen and egregious nature of both Hurst's illegal exploits and his social media posts bragging about the number of wild turkeys he poached, often trespassing to do so, and his confidence in his ability to elude law enforcement.

On Sept. 20, 2022, FWC officers executed search warrants at Hurst's house in Taylor County and a hunting camp in Lafayette County. Two shotguns (Hurst's 12-gauge and his son's 20-gauge), Hurst's iPhone, 312 turkey feet/spurs, 155 turkey beards, and 21 sets of deer antlers were seized during the searches.

Additional suspects have been identified, and the investigation continues. 

Hoyle, the principal investigator on the case, has been assisted over the course of the investigation by numerous FWC officers, along with law enforcement officers from partner agencies, but he has undoubtedly been the driving force that brought this case to completion. His tenacity and perseverance are a credit to his character and to the FWC.

“Investigator Hoyle has put in countless hours protecting Florida’s natural resources,” NWTF co-CEO Kurt Dyroff said. “His determination to provide justice for our natural resources and bring a habitual poacher to prosecution is a testament to his dedication. On behalf of the entire NWTF, we thank him for his service, and we are humbled to award him with our Wildlife Officer of the Year Award.”

About the National Wild Turkey Federation
Since 1973, the National Wild Turkey Federation has invested over half a billion dollars into wildlife conservation and has positively impacted over 23 million acres of critical wildlife habitat. The NWTF has also invested over $9 million into wild turkey research to guide the management of the wild turkey population and to ensure sustainable populations into perpetuity. The organization continues to deliver its mission by working across boundaries on a landscape scale through its Four Shared Values: clean and abundant water, healthy forests and wildlife habitat, resilient communities, and robust recreational opportunities. With the help of its dedicated members, partners and staff, the NWTF continues its work to provide Healthy Habitats. and Healthy Harvests. for future generations.

Filed Under:
  • Convention and Sport Show
  • Wildlife Law Enforcement