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Tennessee law calls for serious penalties for illegally hunting big game

For people throughout Tennessee, hunting is more not just a hobby or something to do on the weekends, but rather a way of life. Indeed, the tradition of hunting everything from turkey and deer to elk and bear with rifle, muzzleloader or bow has been passed down by countless generations of families here in the Volunteer State.

As much as hunting is ingrained in the fabric of our state, it's also subject to considerable regulations in order to protect hunters, landowners and, of course, animal populations. By way of example, consider an amendment to state law passed back in 2015 after intense lobbying by residents of Moore and Lincoln counties, who were growing increasingly fearful of the danger posed by illegal poaching on private lands.

The amendment in question increased the financial penalties for illegally killing big game, a misdemeanor, to $1,000. In fact, the amendment calls for anyone caught illegally killing a white-tailed deer with 11 or more antler points to be assessed an additional $750 per antler point.

In the event you believe that this law is never actually enforced, consider the recent experience of a 63-year-old Jefferson County man.

According to reports from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, he shot an 11-point buck located in a hayfield across the road from his driveway back on Thanksgiving morning. Thereafter, he drove his pickup into the hayfield, despite having no permission to hunt there, and gathered the deer.

The deer was ultimately seized by the TWRA and the man charged accordingly. He pleaded guilty and was order to pay $9,250 in restitution, $269 in court fees and a $50 fine. This is not to mention that his hunting privileges were suspended until such time as the restitution and fines are paid off.

What this story serves to underscore more than anything is that Tennessee takes hunting-related offenses very seriously. As such, those facing these -- or any other type of criminal charges -- should strongly consider speaking with a skilled legal professional.

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