Judge will rule on celebrity hunter case by the end of July

A federal judge in Kansas City, Kan., said Friday that he would rule by the end of July on the government’s request to have celebrity Tennessee hunter William “Spook” Spann jailed for violating terms of a plea agreement that banned him from hunting for six months.

Spann, 50, is accused of participating in hunting activities on his property in Dickson, Tenn., during turkey season this spring and spreading bait to lure the birds, a violation of Tennessee hunting regulations. Prosecutors have asked U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. O’Hara to revoke Spann’s probation and force him to spend 90 days behind bars.

In November, Spann pleaded guilty to one count of transporting unlawfully taken wildlife across state lines in violation of the federal Lacey Act, and he was sentenced in February to three years of probation. In addition to paying a $10,000 fine and $10,000 in restitution, he was ordered not to hunt anywhere in the U.S. for six months and not to violate any hunting laws.

That case arose from a 2007 incident in which Spann killed a deer in Stafford County, Kan., on land adjacent to property he owns. Because he had purchased a nonresident deer permit that allowed him to hunt only on his own property, he violated Kansas law when he shot the deer on neighboring land.

He then violated federal law when he transported the antlers across state lines to Tennessee. Federal agents executed a search warrant at his house on Jan. 25, 2011 — more than three years after the Kansas hunt — and seized the antlers.

Spann contends he did not violate the six-month ban on hunting.

He testified Friday that hidden camera footage does not show him spreading “scratch grain” around his property as authorities claimed, but instead shows him placing mineral licks on the ground, which are good for wildlife.

He also testified that he didn’t think he was violating probation when he led guests — including starting Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker, backup quarterback Rusty Smith, running back Jerious Norwood and members of the country band Bush Hawg — around his property while they hunted in the spring.

He acknowledged setting up a decoy for Locker and Smith, saying it was broken and they wouldn’t have known how to do it right, but he didn’t think that was hunting.

“I never considered anything outside of carrying a weapon and shooting something was hunting,” he said. “Had I been told that, there’s no way I would have been out there.”

Spann has a hunting show, “Spook Nation,” on the Pursuit Channel and is frequently featured in wildlife articles because of his reputation as a big-game trophy hunter. He testified Friday that he loses money as a professional hunter and that he has to pay the Pursuit Channel to air his footage.

Tennessee wildlife officials began investigating claims that Spann illegally placed bait on his property too close to turkey hunting season, which is a misdemeanor, after his former cameraman tipped them off in late March.