Jeffery J. Gill, of Clay City, Ill., was found guilty of violating the Migratory
Bird Treaty Act by illegally baiting a field for the purpose of attracting and
then hunting migratory birds. As a consequence of Gill violating several
provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, he was sentenced to 12 months of
probation and ordered to pay a $5,500 fine by U.S. Magistrate Judge Phillip M.
Frazier in U.S. District Court, Southern Illinois District, on April 22, 2005.
The case against Gill began with an anonymous call to the Illinois
Turn-In-Poachers (T.I.P) hotline in late August, 2003. Law Enforcement Agents
from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Illinois Department of Natural
Resources began an investigation and discovered grain had been intentionally
spread across a field owned by Gill’s family in Clay County, Ill. The agents
continued to monitor the field and in early September, 2003 observed Gill --
along with Gregory A. Oestreich of Clay City; Carl H. Thacker and William R.
Edmiston, both of Decatur; and two juveniles – return to the baited field and
shoot mourning doves, a migratory bird.
It was determined that in under three hours of shooting, the six individuals
killed 219 mourning doves -- an amount well over the legal daily bag limit of 15
doves per hunter -- in addition to several non-game migratory birds such as
killdeer, woodpeckers and songbirds. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special
Agent Matthew Bryant, case agent for the investigation noted, “This case clearly
demonstrates the effectiveness of using bait and why it is prohibited. There is
no sport in killing birds attracted to bait.” It was also discovered that the
shooters did not bother to retrieve 31 mourning doves they had injured or killed
in the field that day.
The case was presented to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Fairview Heights, Ill.
and a six-count indictment was returned, charging each of the four men with
violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; the juveniles were not charged.
Edmiston and Thacker each pleaded guilty to two of three counts in which they
were charged in the indictment, while Oestreich pleaded guilty to three of four
counts in which he was charged in the indictment. Edmiston was sentenced to a
term of 15 months’ probation and fined $1,500. Thacker was sentenced to a term
of 12 months’ probation, was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service
and forfeited his firearm to the Illinois DNR. Oestreich was sentenced to a term
of 12 months’ probation and fined $3,000. Forfeiture proceedings will be
undertaken by Illinois DNR for all firearms involved in the offenses to which
the defendants pleaded guilty.
Gill pleaded no contest to four counts of the indictment but pleaded not guilty
on the count of baiting migratory birds for the purpose of hunting them and
decided to proceed to trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Crowe, III prosecuted
the baiting case against Gill on behalf of the United States and Gill was found
guilty following a bench trial before Magistrate Judge Phillip M. Frazier on
April 22, 2005 in Benton, Ill.
The federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the direct or indirect
placement, scattering or other distribution of salt, grain, or other feed to
lure or attract migratory game birds to any area where hunters are attempting to
take them. Violation of the baiting provision of the MBTA is a Class A
Misdemeanor punishable by up to a 12-month term of imprisonment and a $100,000
fine. It is also unlawful to hunt migratory game birds on or over any area where
grain has been distributed in a manner inconsistent with normal farming
practices. Hunting over a baited field is a Class B Misdemeanor punishable by up
to a 6-month term of imprisonment and a $15,000 fine. Hunters are responsible
for familiarizing themselves with the area they choose to hunt to determine if
seeds are present or if migratory birds in the area are feeding in a particular
place in unusual concentrations and display a lack of caution.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible
for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their
habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages
the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545
national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special
management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and
Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The
agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act,
manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries,
conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign
governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal
Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise
taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.