Turkey baiting case is silent

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, April 18, 2024

LEXINGTON — Two weeks ago, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commissioner Leonard Bentz said he was informed he was cited for a turkey baiting violation.  Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks only comment is the case is under investigation and they could not provide further comment.

The department has not confirmed Bentz’s citation nor if any other people were cited in the investigation. Bentz is the only person involved in the case who has said anything publicly.

The citation came after a conservation officer found Bentz hunting a private property in Holmes County on March 29  where crickets had been released a few days prior. Bentz said he did not know the crickets were there. He wrote in a statement via email that he had specifically asked the landowner to ensure there was no baiting on the property before hunting that morning.

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The landowner later admitted to releasing crickets a few days before the hunt and had not known they had constituted as bait, Bentz claimed in a statement. 

Attempts to obtain additional information this week have been unsuccessful. At one point Wednesday, the MDWFP law enforcement bureau had The Daily Leader on hold for an hour in an attempt to speak with Chief of Law Enforcement Jerry Carter. The call was taken off of hold when a man, calling the department about his boaters registration, was patched through. 

A follow up phone call informed The Daily Leader that Carter had gone home for the day and a message would be left for him to call back Thursday morning. At time of publication, there has been no returned call from the MDWFP. It is not unusual for law enforcement to decline comment on pending investigations. 

Holmes County Sheriff’s Office and the Holmes County Justice Court have not returned emails or phone calls requesting additional information regarding the case. Turkey baiting citations are paid through the justice court of the county where an offense takes place. 

Mississippi law is clear that no baiting is allowed of any kind in hunting of wild turkeys. Baiting is defined as “shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or grain or any feed whatsoever has been deposited scattered as to constitute an attraction or enticement,” according to Mississippi Administrative Rule Title 40, Part 2, Chapter 3 Rule 3.3. The baiting of wild turkeys is a Class II violation and the person shall be punished with a $100 to $500 fine plus jail time under Mississippi Administrative Rule Title 40, Part 2, Chapter 2, Rule 2.4. 

We will provide updates as they are available in this developing story.