'Hunting' over bait earns expensive lesson Sunday, December 21, 2008.
Having traveled to several states through the years, I've had the opportunity to experience hunting over bait and hunting without bait.
There's no doubt in my mind that bait makes a difference -- and anyone who tells you otherwise is confused or just plain fibbing. I've spent a lot of boring afternoons in the field when I wished there was a bait pile out there to spice things up. You probably have, too. You may have even thought about taking a chance and spreading a little around in a no-bait zone. But 11 guys from middle Tennessee will tell you that's a really bad idea. A bad idea with terribly expensive consequences.
Last week in Benton County General Sessions Court, nine hunters were slapped with harsh fines and stripped of their hunting privileges after killing an insane number of ducks over bait during Tennessee 's early wood duck season back in September.
Another hunter connected with the case received similar penalties in November, and one more is scheduled to appear in court next month. I doubt he'll fare much better. I use the term "hunter" lightly in this case because what these guys were doing really doesn't fall under the definition of hunting.
They were poaching -- and they're paying dearly for it, just as they should. As you probably know, the limit for wood ducks during Tennessee 's early season is two per day. Tennessee is the only state in the country that allows such a season for woodies.
These brain donors weren't caught with three wood ducks apiece. They had a sickening total of 169 birds, and they were hunting them over bait.
After fines, restitution and court costs, the whole deal will run them about $3,000 apiece. They all lost their hunting privileges for at least year, and one of them will be sidelined for a whopping seven years.
For a moment, let's just say that killing all of those ducks was the most exhilarating experience of their lives.
Maybe the idea of having a sure thing at their duck camp made for the best pre-hunt good sleep they've ever had.
It doesn't matter. It still couldn't have been worth all of the trouble, expense and embarrassment they're going through.When hunting over bait is allowed, it's allowed for a reason.
When it's illegal, it's illegal for a reason -- and if you violate the law, you'll eventually get caught.
Like it or not, conservation officers have more authority, in some cases, than a highway patrolman. They can come on to your property to set up undercover operations whenever they feel the need.
When you set up to hunt over bait, you never know when one of them might be setting up to hunt you.
Limits are in place for a reason, too.
I've never been a fan of stringent creel or bag limits. I prefer liberal bag limits and stringent penalties for the people who violate them.
The penalties dished out in Benton County last week were harsh, but fair -- and they sent the perfect message to other folks who may be skirting the hunting laws in Tennessee:
Hunt right, or you won't be hunting at all!