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Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS > 2006

Judge says man guilty of hunting bears on land baited with M&Ms

By ROBERT WILSON, rlwilson2594@msn.com

April 29, 2006

MARYVILLE - Calling it "a serious issue," a Blount County judge sentenced David Mashburn Friday evening on charges of hunting bear in a baited area.

Mashburn's is one of more than a dozen cases stemming from a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency operation last fall in which officers staked out an area where bear bait had been legally put out but not removed 10 days before bear hunting season started, as state law prescribes.

Three other defendants pleaded guilty to similar charges Friday in General Sessions Judge David Duggan's court and 11 more had their cases continued until June 30.

Mashburn leased the land off U.S. Highway 129 near Tallasee where the arrests were made.

Defense lawyer Charles Currier said Mashburn did not believe he had hunted over a baited area because the bait container, a barrel suspended from a tree about 3 1/2 feet off the ground and filled with powdered chocolate and M&Ms, had already been virtually emptied by the bears prior to the 10-day limit preceding the hunting season.

But testimony by Doug McKenzie, a Monroe County-based TWRA officer, said a considerable amount of the bait remained in the barrel and on the ground around it even on opening day, Sept. 26, 2005.

Mashburn was sentenced to a suspended six-month jail term, a $500 fine, loss of his hunting, trapping and fishing privileges for two years, forfeiture of his bear-hunting weapon and a compulsory hunter education course.

Duggan said he was trying to be consistent in his sentencing in such cases, but also said that the state "relies on its hunters and fishermen for conservation."

Testimony indicated TWRA personnel were already in place near the bait barrels when bear season began a half-hour before dawn that rainy September morning, and they seized the hunters as they arrived on the scene.

Mashburn is said to have driven an all-terrain vehicle past two baited barrels before taking off through the forest in pursuit of a bear.

Mashburn said he was as much as two miles away from the barrels when the order came across a two-way radio confiscated from one of the other hunters to surrender. McKenzie acknowledged that Mashburn willingly complied, but he also testified that bears range wide in the wilderness and that they may travel miles in search of food.

Duggan said the Tennessee law on hunting over baited ground is narrowly drawn and based his decision on a strict reading of the statute.

Copyright 2006, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

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