BRADENTON – Duck hunters say they have just as much legal right to enjoy their favorite outdoor recreation as the people who use Perico Preserve and Neal Preserve.
Residents of neighborhoods bordering the preserves and people who walk and bike in them are complaining to Manatee County Commissioners about the unexpected gunshots of duck hunters after two stories in The Sun uncovering the activity near Perico Preserve, a bird sanctuary, and nearby Neal Preserve.
Commissioner Misty Servia has expressed concern about duck hunting, while commissioners Betsy Benac and Priscilla Whisenant Trace, both hunters, have noted that hunters have rights.
The county attorney’s office is researching the issue and will be rendering a legal opinion on the commission’s options, County Attorney Mitchell Palmer told commissioners last week.
Hunting is not allowed in county preserves, except for Duette Preserve in east Manatee County. However, duck hunters can legally shoot birds on the wing while standing or boating in state waters bordering preserves if they are properly licensed, trained and armed with the right weapon and ammunition in season, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
From The Sun’s Facebook page:
“I live next to the west side of Robinson Preserve. Hunters were blasting like crazy this morning. At one point 24 shots were fired in succession.” – Deborah Trivin
“A ridiculous idea!! That is no place for hunting…how stupid!!” – Bethany Bryant
“Shooting in near vicinity of houses and people walking or riding in the preserves is insane.” – Alexander Pearlie Hammers
“Just because a waterfowl hunter is pursuing game near a county preserve does not make him an unethical hunter,” Evan Laskowski wrote The Sun. “If he has the proper licenses, uses steel shot or an alternative to lead, does not shoot before legal shooting hours, does not shoot over his bag limit of ducks and retrieves his game then he should not be labeled as unethical. I agree there are plenty of unethical hunters but that label should not be given to people who are trying to enjoy time in the outdoors by participating in a legal activity.”
Joseph Walters wrote on The Sun’s Facebook page that “… shotgun shells used for bird hunting pose literally almost no threat. They are being fired on an upward trajectory. The load of the shells is small diameter pellets with a small lethality window if they follow established laws regarding firing weapons within set distance of homes. Even if somehow the load were to reach the residential neighborhood it would not have enough kinetic energy to pose any threat of death or bodily injury.”
“The Florida law states that hunting is allowed if shooting in the opposite direction of buildings/homes. Your uneducated fears are not warranted,” Jeffrey Carter posted in response to comments including Deborah Trivin’s “I live next to the west side of Robinson Preserve. Hunters were blasting like crazy this morning. At one point 24 shots were fired in succession,” Bethany Bryant’s “A ridiculous idea!! That is no place for hunting…how stupid!!” and Alexander Pearlie Hammers’ “Shooting in near vicinity of houses and people walking or riding in the preserves is insane.”
From The Sun’s Facebook page:
“So we can mow down marshes and mangroves to build homes in wetlands but we can’t duck hunt public waters for a 45-day season?” – Kevin Kunze
“It’s called a harvest. Like people have been doing for centuries.” – Jeffrey Carter
“You’re likely now living in an area that was formerly wild. Duck stamps that all waterfowl hunters must purchase are used to fund the protection of the remaining areas of the exact same type of area your neighborhood now occupies.” – Joseph Walters
“Thank you for the article! I have been looking for a new place to bring all of my friends to come hunt!” – Joe Pulido
The conflict is not confined to neighborhoods near preserves.
Suzanne Wright, of Wild Oak Bay, which borders Sarasota Bay, told Manatee County commissioners last week that she confronted two hunters in her neighborhood, the second time this month that officials have heard from the public about the issue.
“Duck hunting on Sarasota Bay – I never dreamed that would ever take place,” she said. “We have boaters and kayakers and fishermen, and where the hunters were there are a lot of fishermen.”
Her neighbor, Stuart Smith, reported his concerns last week to the legislative assistant for Florida Rep. Will Robinson, for whose family Robinson Preserve is named. Meagan Hebel had not heard about duck hunting near the preserves, but promised to contact the FWC and investigate, he said.
“People don’t know that they’re not in danger,” Smith said, adding that he hopes the county will act wisely to balance the competing uses.
“I believe the issue in Manatee County boils down to a conflict between different user groups,” Laskowski wrote. “The waterfront homeowners understandably don’t want to be woken up early in the morning to the sound of gunshots. Kayakers and hikers do not want to feel unsafe in the preserve. Hunters want a place to participate in their recreational activity. Unfortunately, as our shorelines become more and more developed the vast unpopulated hunting land the county officials speak of dwindles.”
“Hunters need to understand that a little respect and courtesy goes a long way. They should not be hunting within feet of someone’s sea wall even if they legally can,” he wrote. “People also should be aware it is illegal to harass, threaten or interfere with a hunter who is legally hunting.”
Sunday, Jan. 27 is the last day of duck hunting season, which this season was from Nov. 17 to 25, 2018 and from Dec. 8, 2018 to Jan. 27, 2019. Florida hunters can target several other bird species, including geese, crow and dove, seven months out of the year.