The curious case of deer-dog hunting and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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Imagine you are a Vietnam veteran, a hunter, and an NRA member.

And imagine that in your retirement you set up a remote homestead and you buy – yes, you buy – 60 acres of solitude where you can live peacefully and raise your horses and dogs.

Sounds like you found your own slice of heaven.

But then again, this is Florid-duh.

Along comes the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC), which issues permits to people who like to “hunt” by setting packs of dogs loose on unsuspecting deer. These dogs set out into the woods and, as one can imagine, wreak havoc in their paths while in pursuit of game. The theory is that the dogs scare the deer out of the woods and into the waiting gaze of a rifle scope.  It’s called “deer-dog hunting.”

Whatever.

This is normally not a major problem, except when the area where these permits are issued is inside the Blackwater Wildlife Management Area (BWMA). What makes this area relatively unique is that it also happens to contain large parcels of land where people, like Bill Daws and his wife Sherrie, reside. (Did I mention that they OWN their property?)  Apparently, and this may come as a shock to some, the crazed deer cannot read and will often jump fences and leave state-owned land in fear for their lives – and no surprise, the dogs can’t read either and they will follow. The dogs and the deer rarely stop and ask for permission to enter the property, but the deer will try to hide among the horses.

You can imagine what happens next.

It’s bad enough that these people have to deal with ravenous packs of dogs charging across their PRIVATE PROPERTY and harassing their livestock and tearing up property, but according to a lawsuit being brought against the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the owners of those dogs aren’t exactly behaving like Orvis catalogue gentlemen. With “random” fires set near their property, fences torn down, and convoys of trucks parking outside their fence-line, while firing so-called “warning shots,” it is safe to say that the Daws don’t look forward to the upcoming deer-dog hunting season.

So here’s the rub.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission does not dispute the disruption. The agency is well aware of the harassment and the loss of peaceable enjoyment by the owners of this PRIVATE PROPERTY. In fact, that’s a given. Nor does the commission deny that it has the power and the authority to do something about this. It already has in other parts of the Blackwater Wildlife Management Area. But for some inexplicable reason, the agency chooses to allow this relatively rare kind of “hunting” to go on in an area where families reside and must endure this unquestioned harassment, aggravation and threat to liberty.

The Daws family has tried to reason with the deer-dog people (puh-leeez) and have pled their case to the commission, all to no avail.

So this week, they have filed a suit against the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission seeking at least an immediate injunction to the issuance of these permits. Attorney David Theriaque, who represents the property owners in this matter, says, “We support hunting in the BWMA. That is not at issue. We simply want the FWCC to cease allowing this kind of hunting, as it directly threatens – and the agency knows that it threatens – the peaceful enjoyment of our clients’ private property.”

As if to shed any doubt on the level of harassment, by 8:30 a.m. the day after the suit was filed, the deer-dog folks have already posted onto their Facebook page, “Fight’s On!!!!”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.