A Maryville man who has been convicted of illegal hunting in multiple states has pled guilty to a felony and several misdemeanor charges associated with illegal bear and deer hunting in Blount and Knox counties.
Chris Caughron, 23, of Maryville pled guilty in Blount County Circuit Court on Friday to various violations related to killing a 400-pound black bear at night and during the closed season last September. Caughron was also convicted in Knox County Circuit Court last month of felony reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon and hunting from a public roadway for shooting at a trophy-buck deer from Pellissippi parkway in December.
TWRA said the circumstances surrounding the Blount County incident indicate that Caughron and his accomplices illegally baited and killed a black bear on Chilhowee Mountain after turning hunting dogs loose near barrels baited with chocolate candy. Caughron evaded law enforcement officers and assisted in illegally dumping a black bear carcass.
The incident on Pellissippi Parkway in Knox County occurred as TWRA Sgt. Joe Durnin spotted a trophy buck just off the parkway and pulled off a side road to take a closer look. Caughron, who was traveling along the parkway at the time, pulled off the side of the roadway and fired a shot at the deer, which was also in the direction of Sgt. Durnin. Caughron left the area and was later arrested after being apprehended on Northshore Drive.
At the time of the incidents, Caughron was hunting without a license after having his hunting privileges revoked out of Illinois for illegal hunting and was prohibited from hunting in Tennessee because of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. This compact means that if a person has had their hunting privileges revoked in a member state, then their privileges are revoked in all participating states.
In Knox County Circuit Court, Caughron lost his hunting and fishing privileges for five years and received two years of probation for the felony reckless endangerment and hunting from a public roadway charges.
Blount County Circuit Court Judge Tammy M. Harrington found Caughron guilty of criminal littering, use of bait to hunt black bear, killing bear in closed season, and refusing inspection. He received six months judicial diversion for each of the littering and wildlife convictions and 30 days judicial diversion for refusing inspection. He was assessed $375 in fines plus four court costs and received 40 hours of community service. Judge Harrington ordered that Caughorn’s hunting and fishing privileges be suspended for two years which brings his total revoked privileges to seven years when combined with the Knox County revocations.
Blount County Wildlife Officer Jeff Pearce said, "This was a collaborative effort between Tennessee and Illinois Wildlife Officers to catch and punish one of the worst of the worst offenders. Caughron and other poachers are thieves of the wildlife and fisheries resources of the citizens of Tennessee and will be prosecuted as such. Without fear or favor, wildlife officers will continue to apprehend and prosecute these criminals."