Preston C. Minus Jr., 65, of Gainesville, Ala., pleaded guilty and was sentenced recently by U.S. Magistrate Judge John E. Ott on a single count of unlawfully placing bait on his property to lure and attract mourning doves for hunters.
Minus received 36 months of supervised probation, and he received a total fine of $5,775. During the term of his probation, Minus cannot hunt any game animals, and he is banned from offering commercial hunting for migratory birds on any property he owns or controls.
“This sentence should send a clear message to commercial hunting operators who place bait for hunting migratory birds that these types of violations are taken seriously by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the court system,” said Darwin Huggins, assistant special agent in charge for the Service’s Southeast Region.
From Aug. 26, 2009, to Sept. 4, 2009, state officers and federal wildlife agents observed and documented wheat scattered across fields on Minus’ commercial hunting operation, Hill Ranch, aka Idlewild LLC. The wheat was placed in a manner inconsistent with recommended agricultural practices as required by federal and state regulations. On the opening day of mourning dove season, Sept. 5, 2009, agents identified 37 hunters who paid a total of approximately $3,700 to hunt on Hill Ranch. Approximately 84 mourning doves were killed over the baited area.
Title 16 U.S.C. Section 704 (b)(2) makes it unlawful for a person to place or direct the placement of bait on or adjacent to an area for the purpose of causing, inducing, or allowing any person to take or attempt to take any migratory game bird by the aid of baiting on or over the baited area. Under federal regulations, a baited area means any area on which salt, grain or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered, if that salt, grain or other feed could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on or over areas where hunters are attempting to take them. Any such area will remain a baited area for 10 days following the complete removal of all such salt, grain or other feed.
Penalties for placement of bait can result in imprisonment of up to one year and/or up $100,000 in fines for an individual and $200,000 in fines for an organization. Additionally, hunting over bait can result in imprisonment up to six months and/or up to $15,000 in fines.
This case was investigated by special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and officers of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. The case was prosecuted by Henry Cornelius, assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.
For more information about federal laws governing hunting migratory birds, go to http://www.fws.gov/hunting/whatres.html.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, go to www.fws.gov or http://www.fws.gov/southeast/.