July 14, 2013

Open access is flashpoint for hunters, landowners

A shooting in Starks last October highlights the tenuous -- and tense -- relationship when it comes to hunting on private property.

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

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Rogerson was found not guilty of manslaughter, but paid $122,000 to Wood's family in the settlement of a wrongful-death civil lawsuit.

In 2007, Timothy Bean of South Paris pleaded guilty to manslaughter after fatally shooting 18-year-old Megan Ripley near her family's farmhouse in Paris. He was sentenced to two years in jail, with all but 30 days suspended. Ripley's family agreed to the plea deal and reports at the time suggested Bean's willingness to take responsibility and the family's willingness to forgive him played a part in the sentence.

Rafferty said that while hunters are not required to check with landowners before hunting on private property, the warden service strongly recommends it.

Landowner disputes happen more often than most people think, although it's rare for them to become violent, said Tom Doak, executive director of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine.

In most states, hunters are not allowed on private land without permission and in some they must pay landowners for access.

"Maine has some of the most open land policy rules in the nation and I think a lot of people forget that or take it for granted," Doak said.

DETAILS EMERGE IN POLICE REPORT

According to the police report, Robert Pond of Hartford was hunting with his brothers Burpey Pond of Naples and Philip E. Gendreau Sr., 79, of Casco. The brothers have a camp in Starks and have been coming to the area for about 30 years, according to their attorney, Woody Hanstein.

Also hunting with them were Robert's son Cary Pond, 42, of Cocoa, Fla., and Gendreau's son Philip E. Gendreau Jr., 43, of Beavercreek, Ohio.

Robert Pond told police he heard his brother Burpey Pond yell, ran over and saw Hebert holding him in a headlock. Blood was coming from his brother's mouth. Burpey Pond, with his gun slung over his shoulder, was holding onto Hebert's belt, Robert Pond told police.

Robert Pond said he was carrying a Remington .30-06 semi-automatic rifle at his side. He said Hebert grabbed the barrel of the Remington and pulled it toward him.

Pond tried to hold onto the gun but one of his fingers "must have pulled the trigger and the gun went off," he told police. He said he wasn't sure whether Hebert had been shot. He didn't remember seeing any blood.

DIFFERENT VERSION OF EVENTS

Hebert told police he had stopped three times that night to tell different hunters from the party to be careful where they were shooting. He said he was concerned because he has children and pets and didn't want anyone hunting near his house or his sister's, which is nearby.

His land is not posted against hunting.

Hebert said Burpey Pond "went ballistic" when asked not to hunt near the houses, and said, "I have been hunting here for 25 years and nobody is going to tell me I can't."

That made Hebert angry and he told Pond to get off his property. Hebert said when he pointed a finger at Pond, the hunter lunged at him and bit it, leaving an "inconsequential" injury. Hebert said he punched Burpey Pond in the nose -- "a light punch that caused no damage."

The two wrestled, Hebert said, but he did not remember Burpey Pond losing any teeth and said that he never had Pond in a headlock. Hebert said he thought things had calmed down by the time Robert Pond arrived.

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