Early duck hunting season revives concerns

Early duck hunting season revives concerns
Perico Bayou, between Perico Preserve (far shore) and Robinson Preserve, is a popular place with duck hunters. - Cindy Lane | Sun

PERICO ISLAND – The early duck hunting season – nine days that ended Sept. 29 – revived concerns about the safety and peace of mind of residents in densely-populated Perico Island developments.

“One day, I noticed gunshots by Perico Apartments and Perico Bay Club to my west,” Perico Island resident Tom Hughes said. “There’s not a heck of a lot of space between my building and the water,” where hunters often are concealed.

“It makes me a little nervous,” he said.

When Hughes lived in the Adirondacks, people sometimes were killed in hunting accidents, he recalled, adding that a friend’s dog was shot and killed by a bear hunter.

“I never hike during hunting season,” he said. “It’s perilous.”

Hiking is the main draw at Perico Preserve on Perico Bayou, Neal Preserve on the Intracoastal Waterway and Robinson Preserve on the Manatee River and Palma Sola Bay.

Nearby residents, including Hughes, complained last year to Manatee County commissioners that shotgun blasts at the preserves wake them at dawn, disturb their sunsets and upset people who have seen dead ducks fall from the sky.

The county’s environmental officials who oversee the preserves have no law enforcement powers to regulate hunting, according to Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and Bradenton Police Department officers have told Hunsicker’s staff and The Sun that they can do nothing to stop legal hunting at the preserves, even at Perico Preserve, designed to attract bird nesting.

Hunsicker suggests that hunters use Duette Preserve, a preserve that allows hunting in less-populated east Manatee County. Hunters say ducks don’t frequent Duette, preferring Perico, Neal and Robinson preserves, which are bordered by water.

“As they continue to develop this little area, out of necessity, if you’re going to be hunting, you’re going to be hunting closer and closer to human habitations,” Hughes said. “In the not-too-distant future, it’s going to be problematic.”

The next open duck season is Nov. 23 through Dec. 1, followed by Dec. 7 through Jan. 26, according to the FWC.