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Most hunters obey law, officials say

Hunters shooting from the road is in decline, but some crimes dobecome more prevalent during the hunting season, officialssaid.

“Road hunting is not as big a problem as it has been. It’squieted down some,” said Lt. Randy Carr, supervisor of District 5Aof the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. District 5Acovers six counties including Lincoln, Lawrence, Pike, Copiah,Marion, and Walthall.

Capt. Jamie Cummins, director of the district, said the officestill receives a lot of calls from home and landowners about roadhunting.

“We do get a lot of complaints, especially in Lincoln County,because of the number of roads and the high population,” hesaid.

The most common road hunting complaint is triggered by a hunterstanding beside the road with a gun, he said. In many cases,however, the investigating officer discovers the hunter is notactually hunting from the road.

“What may look illegal or unethical is often really just thehunter getting from one place to another,” Cummins said. “A lot ofhunters park beside the road and walk into the hunting area, but apassing motorist will see them getting ready or packing up andassume they’re road hunting.”

Hunters who run dogs are also often accused of road hunting.Many are checking on or collecting their dogs when the officerarrives to investigate, Carr said.

To prove road hunting, officers must be able to prove the hunterhas a loaded gun or has ammunition readily available.

“A lot of it depends on the circumstances, so it’s up to thediscretion of the officer on whether or not he can make a case,”Carr said.

Dog hunters are often misaligned as road hunters, but in somecases it’s also true, the DWFP officers said.

“Most of those arrested for road hunting are hunters with dogs,”Cummins said. “Some do it purposefully, but others may be trackingtheir dogs when a deer jumps near the road. Sometimes it’s just tootempting.”

The criminal penalties for road hunting are pretty strict, Carrsaid.

According to Mississippi Statute 97-15-13, hunting on orshooting across any street, highway or public road can bring a finefrom $100-500 or by imprisonment in the county jail for 60 days tosix months, or both.

Carr said there were 16 arrests for road hunting in hissix-county district during November.

“And that’s in only the first two weeks of hunting season,” hesaid.

November saw a total of 142 cases made in District 5A, includingthe 16 road hunting violations. Other cases included 33 for huntingover baited fields, 15 for headlighting, and eight for hunting froma motorized vehicle.

“The biggest thing we try to stress is safety,” Carr said. “Wehad our first fatal accident here last week.”

In that case, which was ruled a hunting accident, Debbie Furr,51, of Nola Road was hunting alone and accidentally shotherself.

Furr was the third hunting fatality this year. Two other hunterswere fatally injured during accidents on opening day in YazooCounty.

What makes road hunting so dangerous, Carr said, is theopportunity to injure others unintentionally. When still huntingfrom a stand, a missed shot goes into the ground, but when huntingfrom or shooting across a roadway, the bullet will continue totravel until it hits something. Sometimes, that something issomeone’s home or a passing vehicle.

“A couple of times a year we’ll have a vehicle just going thedown road and a bullet will hit it,” Carr said. “Sometimes youdon’t know where it came from. It can be a very dangeroussituation.”