AR-News: NY - Hunting questioned after bullet hits house

Joe Miele joe.miele at verizon.net
Sun Dec 7 12:45:10 EST 2003


http://www.nyjournalnews.com/newsroom/120703/b0107ohdeer.html


Hunting questioned after bullet hits house
By TERRY CORCORAN
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: December 7, 2003)

SOUTHEAST - Although deer-hunting season ends Tuesday, a recent incident in
which a house was struck by a hunter's slug highlights a growing problem in
a rural county where shotgun hunting is allowed as more and more land is
being developed.

One day after David Skelton heard a noise upstairs in his Rockledge Drive
home, his wife noticed wallboard dust on the carpeting in a guest bedroom.

"I looked around, and I found a large hole in the wall behind the headboard
of the bed," Gina Skelton said. "I could see daylight through the hole."

She walked behind their two-story house and saw a hole in the vinyl siding,
then went back upstairs and pushed the bed away from the wall. That's when
she saw a 20-gauge shotgun slug on the floor. It struck a bed where, hours
earlier, her mother and grandmother had slept.

Police believe it came from a hunter in a field off Nichols Road behind the
house. Residents say it was at least the fourth time in recent deer-hunting
seasons that a house on Rockledge had been hit by a slug.

It's gotten so bad in the Skeltons' neighborhood off Dingle Ridge Road that
few parents let their children play outside during shotgun deer-hunting
season, which started Nov. 17.

"It's like playing Russian roulette," said Rockledge Drive resident Brian
Felton, 40, who has two children and whose shed was hit last year.
"Eventually, someone's going to get shot."

James Orser, who lives on 6 acres off Peekskill Hollow Road in Kent, said
it's an annual event for him to see hunters on his land.

"I won't let the kids or the dog out during hunting season, and I'm afraid
to walk into the woods myself," said Orser, the father of four. "Hunters
trespass through the back yard. Last year, someone got a deer, dragged it
behind my garage, chopped the head off and left the carcass there."

Orser said he's confronted hunters, but that they usually dismiss him. He's
also called police, but said he's found no satisfaction there.

Sheriff Donald B. Smith, whose department is investigating the Southeast
shooting, said the problem is caused by hunters who ignore the law. State
law forbids discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling.

Stan Pascoo, president of the Rockland County Sports Association and a
hunting safety instructor, said buildings occasionally get shot during deer
season, but there is no excuse for it.
"The first thing we teach in hunter safety is to know your target and what's
beyond it," Pascoo said. "That is the prime rule of hunting."

The few hunters ignoring the law are giving a bad name to thousands of
legitimate hunters, Pascoo said.

"These are not the type of people that we, as a hunting community, want to
see hunting," he said.

Chuck Roda, president of the Garrison Fish and Game Club, said incidents
like the one in Southeast should never happen.

"My immediate take on it, as a citizen, a sportsman and a human being, is
that it's horrible," he said. "Somebody did something seriously wrong here."

Roda said his club leases private property in western Putnam for members to
hunt. They post signs on the perimeter, indicating that club members have
exclusive use of the land for hunting,
and post interior signs to warn members when they are within 500 feet of a
dwelling.

State law also prohibits hunting on private property without the owner's
permission. The Nichols Road land that abuts Rockledge Drive in Southeast is
privately owned but had been in foreclosure for years. Word got around,
Skelton said, and the land has been frequented by hunters and people on
all-terrain vehicles.

Skelton, 41, said she's hoping the hunting will stop now that a corporation
has acquired the land. She said a Manhattan attorney affiliated with the
corporation was upset to hear of her predicament and said no one had
permission to hunt. A drive last week on Nichols Road, which has more dirt
than pavement, showed no-hunting signs posted roughly every 25 feet.

Since 1942, Westchester County has only allowed bow hunting. Richard Homan,
owner of Bobcat Sports in Mahopac, said he believes it's only a matter of
time before Putnam County will have to do the same.

"They're building more and more houses on less and less land," Homan said.
Putnam County Legislator Terry Intrary, R-Kent, chairman of the
Legislature's Protective Services Committee, said he had not heard from any
constituents about changing hunting laws in the county. Any change would
need the state Legislature's approval.

But Skelton said someone - be it law enforcement or lawmakers - has to do
something to ensure that next year's hunting season is safe for her family
and her neighbors.

"Somebody is going to get killed," she said. "It was only by the grace of
God that no one was in that bed when that bullet came through my house and
slammed into that headboard. One of the reasons we moved up here was to not
deal with urban issues like bullets hitting your home."

Reach Terry Corcoran at tcorcora at thejournalnews.com or 845-228-2275.Reach
Terry Corcoran at tcorcora at thejournalnews.com or 845-228-2275.



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