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Hunting incident sparks concern

A Friday encounter between a Springridge Road resident and a shotgun-toting deer hunter has raised questions about firearm laws on Bainbridge.

Returning to his home near the boundary of Gazzam Lake Park at 4 p.m. Friday, Richard LaBotz said he was disturbed to see a man carrying a shotgun walking toward the trail that leads to the park.

LaBotz approached the man and asked what he was planning to do with the shotgun. According to LaBotz the man said he was planning to shoot a deer.

LaBotz, who had never heard of someone hunting in the Gazzam Lake area or anywhere else, called 911. A Bainbridge Police officer responded and walked with the man back to the parking area.

Bainbridge Metropolitan Park and Recreation District Services Director Arlan Elms said he was disturbed to hear about the incident. Carrying firearms, let alone hunting, on park district-managed parks is prohibited, he said.

“Our parks are for public use and enjoyment, but definitely not for hunting,” Elms said.

BIPD Lt. Sue Shultz said a report from the incident was not available, and was not sure how the incident had been resolved. According to Shultz, hunting is legal on Bainbridge Island, regulated by Kitsap County and the discretion of landowners. According to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, the county now regulates the discharge of firearms while the state regulates game hunting.

Bainbridge has adopted a code that prohibits the discharge of a firearm, “where there is reasonable likelihood of injury to humans, domestic animals or property except upon a rifle or pistol firing range.”

A statewide late buck season for hunters using modern firearms ended Nov. 16. A late archery season for muzzleloader and archery hunters ends Thursday.

In its Monday meeting, the city council’s Community Relations and Public Safety Committee heard from several citizens with concerns about the use of weapons. One resident reported seeing a deer with an arrow stuck in it. Another complained of hearing gunshots from fishing boats offshore at night.

Council member Barry Peters said he would like the committee to look into hunting and firearms law in the coming year.

“It’s my understanding that there is a surprising amount of latitude on the island for gunshot and bow-and-arrow activity that could be very dangerous for residents,” Peters said. “Thats why I would like the council to at least look into the legality of the issue.”

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