Judge dismisses duck blind lawsuit

POINSETT COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of local hunters that wants to stop the agency from removing permanent duck blinds on public land.

Circuit Court Judge Randy Philhours ruled Friday that the lawsuit was filed in the wrong venue.  He said the lawsuit should be filed in Pulaski County.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission amended its regulations, in August, that had once allowed hunters to leave decoys overnight or hunt from permanent blinds on Big Lake, St. Francis Sunken Lands, and Dave Donaldson Black River Wildlife Management Areas (WMA).

The amended regulations say that hunters may not hunt from permanent blinds or leave decoys overnight on WMAs.

They are in effect for the 2012-13 waterfowl season.

Copyright 2012 KAIT. All rights reserved.


POINSETT COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – The fight to prevent a state agency from removing duck blinds extended to a courtroom Friday.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) asked a circuit court judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a group of local hunters that wants to stop the agency from removing permanent duck blinds on public land.

The hunters organized themselves into a group called the St. Francis Lake Association, and its members decided to sue to keep blinds in several wildlife areas, including the St. Francis Sunken Lands.

The AGFC now wants that lawsuit thrown out, but it will have to wait a few days to learn a decision from Circuit Court Judge Randy Philhours.

"They're not going to eliminate it (duck hunting). They're just going to make it harder," said Bart Benson, a member of the St. Francis Lake Association. "We just don't feel like that they hear our voice."

Benson says duck hunting will be more difficult if the AGFC institutes its plan to remove permanent blinds from public lands.

"I've known five generations of people that's hunted out there," Benson said about the St. Francis Sunken Lands, "and I've got four generations that's hunted. I'm hoping there'll be more but not to say that we won't hunt out there, but it makes it so much more complicated."

The commission hoped to remove the blinds by October 15, but a judge issued a stay preventing the agency from doing so.

The commission says removing the blinds is necessary to prevent further abuse, like habitat destruction and hunter harassment.

"We would work with them. Whatever conditions we would try to hash out, but they don't act like they want a deal," Benson added. "They want to do away with them (the blinds)."

With little chance of compromise, Benson says he hopes the judge allows his group's lawsuit to move forward.

"They (the AGFC) thought we were just going to lay down and let them have it, and they found out that we had a little bit of funds and we wanted to make sure we had our day in court," Benson said. "That's all we can ask for."

The AGFC's legal counsel declined a request to comment on Friday's hearing.

Judge Philhours plans to issue a ruling on the dismissal as early as next week.

Copyright 2012 KAIT. All rights reserved.