According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Greeneville, the hunters were — Dustin Carter, 25 of Mosheim, Brent Ottinger, 29, of Blacksburg, Virginia, John Shipley, 23, of Greeneville and George Weems, 24, of Greeneville. All four were charged in a three-count court document last month.
The charges were 1) Directing or placing bait to take migratory birds — one count; and 2) Taking by aid of bait migratory birds — two counts. All four men pleaded guilty last week to one count of the “taking” charge. Here are their sentences:
Carter — one year probation, $800 fine and forfeiture of hunting privileges for one year.
Ottinger — six months probation, $400 fine and forfeiture of hunting privileges for six months.
Shipley — one year probation, $800 fine and forfeiture of hunting privileges for one year.
Weems — 18 months probation, $1,500 fine and forfeiture of hunting privileges for 18 months.
Each hunter faced up to six months in prison and a $15,000 fine.
According to the plea agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was contacted on Dec. 5 of last year by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency about an illegally baited hunting pond in Greene County.
State officers then went to the pond and saw about 30 live Mallard ducks, some spent shotgun shells laying on the ground, two dead American Robins and a game camera mounted on a post facing the pond. Court records state the officers returned the next day to collect evidence, namely a bait sample of corn from the pond.
Four days later on Dec. 9, three officers returned to the pond before daybreak to see if any hunting activity would be taking place. Shortly before sunrise, court records state the officers saw four men shooting at duck flying around the pond. After a few volleys were fired off, the officers approached the hunters.
The four men all had hunting licenses and were carrying legal shotguns, but each one admitted to the officers they knew the pond had been baited. According to the plea agreement, Carter admitted to placing the bait sometime around Nov. 10.
Three of the hunters — Carter, Weems and Shipley — also admitted they had hunted the pond on Dec. 2, harvesting 15 Mallards and two Wood ducks.