Wild goose hunt worries Northampton neighbors

  • Nearby residents are concerned after learning a field on Island Road in Northampton owned by Ken “Skip” Pepin, shown Tuesday, has been used for hunting geese without his permission. 123 Island Road is in the background. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nearby residents are concerned after learning a field on Island Road in Northampton owned by Ken "Skip" Pepin, shown Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020 has been used for hunting geese without his permission. 123 Island Road, from left, 152 Island Road and 174 Island Road are in the background. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nearby residents are concerned after learning a field on Island Road in Northampton owned by Ken "Skip" Pepin, shown Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020 has been used for hunting geese without his permission. 174 Island Road, from left, 178 Island Road and 4 Ferry Avenue are in the background. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nearby residents are concerned after learning a field on Island Road in Northampton owned by Ken "Skip" Pepin, shown Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020 has been used for hunting geese without his permission. 174 Island Road, from left, 178 Island Road and 4 Ferry Avenue are in the background. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nearby residents are concerned after learning a field on Island Road in Northampton owned by Ken "Skip" Pepin, shown Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020 has been used for hunting geese without his permission. 123 Island Road, from left, 141 Island Road and 145 Island Road are in the background. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lenny Brakey, a friend of Ken Pepin, fills a truck with corn Tuesday from Pepin’s field off Island Road in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/22/2020 7:42:37 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Just after 8 a.m. last Tuesday morning, Sheilah Bolger woke up to what she described as “rapid gunshots.” She ran out of her house onto Island Road to investigate.

Ken “Skip” Pepin was picking sweet corn at his field on River Street, across the river Oxbow from the neighborhood, when he heard the shots, too.

“We heard bang, bang,” Pepin recalled while talking days later at his farm stand in Easthampton.

Bolger and Pepin both went toward the shots and saw hunters in a field that Pepin owns on Island Road and uses to grow sweet corn and asparagus. There they found hunters and half a dozen dead geese, Pepin said.

Recently, there had been geese in Pepin’s field, and several people have asked if they can hunt them.

“Every one of them, I said ‘no,’” he said. “I don’t allow people to hunt there because it’s residential.”

In the past, he has let people hunt on an Easthampton property he owns, as it is not residential. “I wouldn’t want to wake up in the morning to hear guns in my backyard,” he said.

Neighbors were upset about the shooting.

“I was pissed, I was just really pissed,” said Johnny Siera, who heard gunshots and saw the hunters. “I sit on the porch with my five-month-old. It was just ridiculous they were doing that so close to the house.”

One neighbor found some kind pellets from a gun on his roof, according to Bolger and Siera. “Somethings amiss when we can hear shots that clearly and pellets land on people’s houses in a residential neighborhood,” said Kent Alexander, a neighborhood resident.

Though some neighbors were upset and Pepin said he didn’t give permission, the hunting seems not to have broken any laws. A spokesperson for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs said in a statement that the Environmental Police “investigated the situation and found the persons to be in compliance with all Massachusetts hunting regulations, and the case has been resolved.”

Without permission, hunting with a gun on someone else’s land must occur at least 500 feet from a dwelling or building, according to state law. “Hunting, fishing, and trapping are permitted on private land that is not posted against trespass; however, some towns have bylaws that require written permis sion,” a guide on the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife website reads. “As a courtesy, ask the landowner for permission in advance.”

Wayne Feiden, Northampton director of planning and sustainability, said he didn’t know of any city regulations that require written permission in the case of no trespassing signs. “Only for city-owned conservation land,” he said. “On our land yes, we allow hunting in a couple areas and mostly don’t allow hunting.”

‘Set off’

Days after the incident, half a dozen neighbors convened next to the field for a socially-distanced meeting with their city councilor, Jim Nash. They aired frustrations about the shooting and police’s response.

Alarmed by the noise, Nina Foley said she called the police and that they told her that the hunting was legal. The loud noise and fact that hunters were killing geese upset her 9-year-old son. “My son couldn’t go to school,” she said. “We were set off for most of the day.”

On Tuesday morning, other residents called the Northampton Police Department, too.

“Multiple calls for shots fired from multiple parties hunting geese in the field south of Island Rd … Parties are several hundred feet away from the houses. No officers sent per Sgt Satkowski,” reads the narrative of a call log written at 8:29 a.m.

Neighbors were upset it took multiple calls to get a response from the police. “I’m not happy that the police didn’t respond in a way to serve and protect,” Alexander said. “It’s certainly not a healthy sight when a neighborhood complains and it’s dealt with in an offhand manner.”

Police Capt. John Cartledge said the department first received calls about the incident at 8:12 a.m., and an officer was dispatched to the area at 8:29 a.m.

When neighbors told the responding officer about the pellets found on a neighbor’s roof, Bolger and Siera said the officer did not believe them. The neighbor then found the pellets on his property.

“I just am shocked by the dismissiveness by the police and the lack of concern for the community,” Bolger said.

The officer let one hunter drive away without talking to him, said Bolger and Siera. “The police literally just watched the dude get in his car and drive away,” Siera said. “We were completely dumbfounded … There must have been seven or eight maybe nine neighbors on the street that were completely outraged and dumbfounded as to why this was happening,” Siera recalled.

Though not breaking the law, neighbors felt the hunters made a bad judgment call. “What they did was idiotic, even if it was legal,” Siera said. “I understand it’s hunting season and that’s fine. There’s so many places to hunt — don’t do it in front of a residential neighborhood.”

The NPD did not release the police report documenting the incident after the Gazette requested it.

“We are still investigating, so we typically don’t release active cases,” Cartledge wrote in an email.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.


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