GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — Four east Tennessee duck hunters pleaded guilty in federal court last month to charges associated with hunting migratory birds with the aid of bait in December 2018.

Through a joint investigation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, TWRA Wildlife Officers charged Dustin R. Carter, 25, of Mosheim, Brent J. Ottinger, 29, of Blacksburg, Virginia, John Cody Shipley, 23, of Greeneville and George Jerriott Weems, 24, of Greeneville, in U.S District Court in October. Each defendant was charged with one count of directing or placing bait to take migratory birds and two counts of taking migratory birds by aid of bait. Through a plea agreement, each man pleaded guilty to one count of taking migratory birds by aid of bait.

Carter and Shipley were each sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation, ordered to pay an $800 fine and lost their hunting privileges for one year. Ottinger received six months of unsupervised probation, was ordered to pay a $400 fine and lost his hunting privileges for six months. Weems was sentenced to 18 months unsupervised probation, a $1,500 fine and lost his hunting privileges for 18 months.

In early December of 2018, officers observed the four men kill eight ducks on a half-acre pond in Mosheim that had been baited with corn. During questioning, each hunter gave written statements that they had prior knowledge that the pond had been baited. Three of the hunters also admitted to hunting the pond on an earlier date harvesting 15 mallards and two wood ducks.

Waterfowl and other migratory birds are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Federal and State regulations prohibit hunting waterfowl by the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area where a hunter knows or reasonably should know that the area

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