Hunter sentenced to probation for poaching deer, birds

HANCOCK COUNTY — A Greenfield hunter will serve two years on probation after admitting to poaching deer antlers and illegally collecting feathers and skulls of hundreds of federally protected creatures.

Andrew Hastings, 54, accepted a plea agreement from prosecutors Tuesday in which he pleaded guilty to a Class B misdemeanor of unlawful taking of a deer and a Class C misdemeanor of unlawful hunting of migratory birds. He also was convicted of a Level 6 felony for possession of marijuana after officers found the drug in his home during a search.

Local conservation officers found more than 100 sets of deer antlers, 170 bird feathers and 20 animal skulls in Hastings’ home, along with about 70 grams of marijuana, according to court documents.

Hastings has been collecting deer antlers for many years by illegally shooting the creatures with a high-powered rifle, cutting the horns from their heads with a hacksaw and leaving the bodies behind, officers said. He’d also taken to collecting the feathers of hawks, falcons and vultures protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, court records state.

Hastings was arrested in November and spent five days in jail. Those days behind bars were counted as part of his two-year sentence; he’ll spend the remaining time, about 720 days, on probation.

Officers with the Department of Natural Resources began investigating Hastings after a neighbor reported finding two dead deer in his field. The animals had been shot and their antlers removed, the man told authorities.

After DNR officers arrived to investigate, they saw Hastings walking in the area, carrying a rifle. They followed him to his home and questioned him about the animals, according to court records.

At first, Hastings denied having been out hunting, and he denied having been in the area with a gun; he said he’d been walking in the area after smoking marijuana, court documents state.

Eventually, Hastings admitted to shooting the two animals and stashing the gun in a tree, court documents state.

DNR officers discovered hundreds of antlers and feathers hanging in Hastings’ home and found marijuana in his shed, court documents state. Records show Hasting hasn’t had a valid hunting license since 2008.

Officers confiscated the feathers, two sets of antlers and the skulls of an owl and two turkey vultures as evidence, court documents state.

Hastings was originally charged with two felony and five misdemeanor charges; four counts were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.