Columbia man caught red-handed by DNA test

Tuesday, August 7, 2001 at 12:00am

Who'd ever thought a poacher would be caught red-handed by a DNA test?

Well, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Richard Flatt of Columbia recently pleaded guilty to killing a wild hen turkey during the spring hunting season, an act he committed without any witnesses, but an action that penalized him $712 in court costs and fines.

Tennessee turkey hunters are only allowed to bag "bearded" wild turkeys during the spring season and, except in rare cases, most bearded birds are male. The Giles County hen did not appear to have a beard.

"At the time we discovered the dead turkey, it was approaching dark," said Giles County TWRA officer Leith Konyndyk, "which forced us to wait until the next morning to collect evidence."

Konyndyk and another wildlife officer, Wayne County's Tim Aston said, "We topped a hill on the way to the site, where we found the bird. We saw a maroon Ford truck parked near the spot where we found the dead hen.

"We noticed that the truck contained feathers that were black in color and appeared to have a sheen, kind of like wild turkey feathers.

"We both thought the feathers were breast feathers and this corresponded with the evidence that officer Doug Lowery of Marshall County had found."

The truck did belong to Flatt and he gave the officers permission to gather evidence, which included the feathers and bloodstains from the back of the truck.

The collected evidence was taken to Mike Stockdale, a TWRA enforcement supervisor known for his investigative expertise.

Stockdale sent the evidence for DNA testing and results matched the blood samples with the hen carcass.

"Mr. Flatt accepted a plea bargain when he found out about the DNA results," Konyndyk said. He agreed to pay $131 in court costs and a $50 fine for hunting without permission on property where he wasn't supposed to be.

"He also paid $131 in court costs and a $200 fine for hunting and having game in his possession during a closed season, since TWRA doesn't allow hens to be taken in the spring. And, he agreed to pay the TWRA $200 in civil damages for the dead hen.

Possible problems ahead

In a news release from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency I learned there are possible problems for waterfowl hunters who are planning to attend drawings for blinds in the Gin Creek and Big Sandy Waterfowl Management Units.

Seems they may experience water-level problems during the 2001-2002 season, according to Dan Fugua, WMA Area Manager.

"TWRA is doing everything it is able to do to see that water levels are where they need to be for opening day," Fugua said.

Gin Creek and Big sandy are flooded by the use of a water pump that pumps an average 17,000 gallons of water per minutes. The old pump

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