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Ronnie Dunn testifies about hunting in Ranch!!

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Country singer testifies at trial
Ronnie Dunn says he took part in deer hunt at Peru farm.

Tribune Staff Writer
Ronnie Dunn of the country music duo Brooks & Dunn leaves the federal courthouse Tuesday after testifying in the trial of a man charged with conducting illegal deer hunts near Peru, Ind.

SOUTH BEND -- The second day of Russell Bellar's trial on charges that he staged illegal deer hunts at his farm near Peru, Ind., featured country music star Ronnie Dunn as a witness.

Dunn, part of the Brooks & Dunn singing duo, testified Tuesday that he took part in a hunt in January 2001. In exchange, Bellar listed the entertainer in promotional materials as one of his clients.

Jurors saw two shoulder-mounted white-tail bucks killed in the hunt, including one with an impressive 12-point rack, which Dunn hung in his Nashville home.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Schmid called Dunn and other customers of Bellar's Place to testify about selecting trophy bucks to kill, seeing feeders near elevated tree stands and using various type of weapons.

Dunn hunted without a license, while other customers from Georgia and Mississippi exceeded the one-buck annual limit and used weapons not permitted in Indiana. State law also prohibits using bait to lure deer.

The other customers paid thousands of dollars for the deer they killed.

On cross-examination by the three defense lawyers, the witnesses said they had minimal contact with Bellar about state hunting regulations and other details of their guided hunting excursions.

Dunn signed a few autographs before leaving the federal courthouse through the lesser-used south door, where a McGann's Executive Limousine Service vehicle waited to pick him up.

Bellar is charged with 38 counts related to illegal hunting and selling and transporting contaminated meat across state lines. The meat was tainted because it contained agents used to tranquilize so the deer could be moved about the 1,200-acre fenced hunting preserve, the government alleges.

The allegedly canned hunts began in 2001.

Bellar claims he bred and raised deer as domesticated animals, or livestock, and had the state's permission to charge hunting fees.

Hinds Thomas Jones, who managed the deer farm for Bellar, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife protection law.

Jones is expected to testify against Bellar.

Staff writer Matthew S. Galbraith:

[email protected]
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I hate canned hunts. However, if Bellar had met the requirements of operating a fenced deer farm, what are his hunting violations? Is the state saying he is not licensed, while he believes he is?
It's all over now but the sentencing.

Bellar copped a plea to three felonies and the feds dropped the rest.

Over 500K in fines and a little "cooling off" time in the pokey.
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