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Hunter’s rights trump property owner rights

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The Ellis County Press
ITALY - Warning: If you live near a hunting lease and you scare away the animals by being too loud, you could wind up in court.

Galen Morris, 38, was found guilty Sept. 19 by a jury in the County Court at Law No. 2 on one misdemeanor count of disturbing hunters by allowing his children to ride four wheelers and play music on their property during last year's hunting season.

He was found not guilty on a second similar charge.

The Morris homestead shared a property line with a 30-acre day hunting lease.

Since this issue arose the Morris family has moved.

Morris' attorney Mark Griffith said his client was considering appealing the ruling to the 10th Court of Appeals.

'We are looking at all the options,' Griffith said.

Morris was given a standard probated sentence including a year's probation, fined $250, required to pay court costs and perform 40 hours of community service.

Griffith said he could not believe the additional conditions Judge Gene Calvert required Morris to abide by.

'The defendant is not to play any loud music or blow air horns between the hours of 4 p.m. to 12 noon while on the property located on L.R. Campbell Road during deer season,' Calvert wrote as terms of Morris' probation.

Morris said he used air horns to scare off wild dogs and coyotes from his property to protect his children as they played.

Morris said he didn't think it was fair his kids could not act like kids in their own yard by playing music and riding all terrain vehicles on their property.

'I feel your family shouldn't have to take a backseat to hunters and tippy-toe around your property,' he said.

Due to the area's terrain, it would be impossible to see if someone was in the deer stand, unless a person was standing on the roof of the Morris home, Griffith said.

'For all my client knew no one was out there,' he said.

With a deer hunter stand less than 150 yards from Morris' front door, Griffith said as an avid hunter, he would be worried that someone would be struck by a misfired bullet.

Two hunters testified that although they were using high-powered rifles to hunt their prey they did not contact any of the homeowners surrounding the deer lease to inform them they would be hunting.

'It would scare me to death to know someone is using high-powered rifles that close to my home and family,' Griffith said.

The Ellis County prosecutor and the hunting lease land owners were unable to be reached for comment.

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