Deer Hunters and Landowners at Odds

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Hunters who use dogs to hunt deer have run afoul with some of the Panhandle's private landowners, so state wildlife officials are considering tougher rules to punish hunters and trespassing dogs, and hunters are not happy.

When Martin Sewell isn't at work as Calhoun County's Supervisor of Elections, or with family, he's tending to his beloved hunting dogs.

Sewell heads Calhoun and Gulf County's County Line Dog Hunting Club, and with that comes a very clear opinion about new rules proposed by Florida's Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The new rules would make clubs like his responsible for the actions of individual hunters who allow their dogs to trespass on private property.

"The problems need to be addressed on an individual basis, not on the blanket permit basis. I don't think the legalities will ever hold up in court," says Martin Sewell, Hunting Club leader.

Other hunters at this meeting Thursday night agreed.

"Why can't you pick that individual out? Punish him. Give him three strikes and send him home," says John Scott, a Jackson County hunter.

But landowners like Ed and Mary Beth Kamiski say they need tougher rules for hunters vs. landowner to restore peace to their homes and their surrounding property.

"Consistently, every year since we lived on the property for ten years, we've had problems during dog hunting season," says Ed and Mary Beth Kaminski, Bascom landowners.

The Kamiski’s say the problems range from small disturbances to conflicts with rude hunters. Still, they're counting their blessings.

"We've had our mailbox stolen, some damage to our fence. We haven't had near the extent of other individuals who have had homes burned or property destroyed, not yet anyway."

Sewell and other hunters say there are some negligent hunters, but by-and-large, he says most landowners are exaggerating.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioner officers say they need to impose tougher rules because hunting clubs have not done a good job policing their members.