Pheasant hunting alarms residents

One morning in early Oc­tober, Esther Thayer was gardening along the edge of her yard when she heard what "sounded like World War III."

Birdshot hit the metal roof of her mobile home and that of her neighbor. Luckily, she turned around in time; the shot hit her in the back, and only one pellet struck her face.

Thayer, 81, lives in Riverside Mobile Home Park, near the Mil­ford Drive-In, at the edge of the Fitch-Pomeroy cornfield. The field is one of two spots in Milford where the state Fish and Game Department stocks pheasants ev­ery fall.

From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 each year – pheasant-hunting sea­son – Thayer and her neighbors have to be wary whenever they’re outside during the day.

Thayer has lived here for 29 years, and remembers several other incidents when careless hunters fired in the direction of the park. Hunters don’t seem to realize how far their shots can carry, she said.

Twenty years ago, birdshot that went over the roof of her home hit her neighbor’s cat, she said, and just missed hitting a baby in the face.

Last year, she said she was hit 45 minutes after the season opened, and about two weeks ago, she and her home and car were hit, as well as neigh­bors’ vehicles and homes.

This year, Thayer and her neighbors have had enough. In a letter to Executive Di­rector Glenn Normandeau, they petitioned Fish and Game to discontinue stocking pheasant in the privately owned cornfield.

Sgt. Todd Szewczyk, a Fish and Game conservation officer, said he would recommend an end to stocking pheasant in the field. Along with the petition from the park residents, he also received complaints from a nearby busi­ness and from the driver of a car that was hit on Elm Street.

Hunters "are not paying atten­tion" when they’re swinging their weapons on game, he said.

"It’s unfortunate, because they are ruining it for everyone else," Szewczyk said.

The lead pellets that pheasant hunters use can travel 700 feet. From that distance they wouldn’t hurt anyone seriously, he said, "but it’s unnerving to have it rain" down. Pellets that travel 60 yards or less are danger­ous.

About a de­cade ago, Szewczyk said, a Trom­bly field on North River Road was closed to pheasant hunting after complaints from Ames Depart­ment Store, which was located where Tractor Supply is now.

Szewczyk said the ultimate de­cision about closing a field rests with the agency’s director.

There is one other Mil­ford pheasant hunting spot, on state-managed land near the state fish hatchery on North Riv­er Road. Szewczyk said there have been some problems in the past at that field, but there were no complaints this year.

According to Fish and Game’s website, 12,200 adult ring-necked pheas­ants were purchased and released in about 70 stock­ing sites in 46 towns in New Hampshire this year.

There is also a stocking site on Cemetery Road in Lyndeborough, and near Lamson Farm in Mont Vernon.

Thayer said she has nothing against hunters. In fact, her father had been a farmer in Massa­chusetts and took part in the stocking of his fields with pheasants.

But a few hunters are ruining it for the rest of them, she said, and "the newer hunters just don’t get it."

Thayer’s brother joked to her that he’d buy her a bullet-proof vest for Christmas, but she isn’t amused.

"We need to know that it is going to be safe for us to be outside in our neigh­borhood, to work in our yard and go for walks and not have to worry about some careless hunters aiming in the wrong di­rection," she wrote in the letter to Fish and Game.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.