Duck hunters raise hackles in Sunset Beach

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

Just when you thought it was safe to call Sunset Beach paradise, for humans and fowl, boom!

That’s the sound resident Jim Thomas says has been startling him and his wife awake in the early mornings as duck hunters descend on Tubbs Inlet.

It’s been ongoing since the opening of duck-hunting season last fall. Thomas says he’s been complaining for the past four seasons.

It starts around 6 a.m. and goes for a couple of hours, according to the Thomases. They’ll be sound asleep when “all of a sudden, these huge booms shake the house, and they’re huge,” says Thomas, an attorney and author of a best-selling book, “Negotiate to Win.”

Thomas has been trying to follow his own advice and negotiate with the town about what he deems illegal hunting activity within town limits posing noise and safety issues.

On a number of occasions, he has seen hunters in boats actively firing on unaware Tubbs ducks, along with “motored boats passing directly in the line of fire. Hopefully the duck hunters are smart enough to suspend their fire for a minute, but if they’re distracted, there could be a tragedy,” Thomas says.

For one thing, he says children play at the end of the point, well within range of hunters’ shotguns.

Last Thursday morning, “there was more aggressive gunfire than we’ve ever heard in five years,” Thomas said as he and his wife ducked and hunkered down for cover inside their inlet-front home on North Shore Drive East last Friday. Hunters in their boats were so close, Thomas said he could hit ’em with a rock from his house.

“You hear it every year—bang, bang, bang—50 shots,” said Thomas, who shot photos of hunters standing with their guns in the inlet and on dry land across from his house with his cell phone and emailed them to the police department.

“There can be absolutely no doubt that they are well within town limits, that they are not on a waterway, and that they are violating the town's firearms and noise ordinances,” Thomas wrote. “I would appreciate the town’s laws being enforced without further delay.”

“It sounds like a war out there,” Jackie said.

“This is a residential community,” Thomas said. “It is not Dodge City. This isn’t the OK Corral out there.”

And people—especially those living in the otherwise peaceful paradise of Sunset Beach (except for its politics)—“should be able to sleep to a reasonable hour within the limits of this town,” he said.

Yes, he has called the police department to complain. He’s also sent back-and-forth emails.

“We get the litany of excuses from, ‘It’s not illegal,’ to ‘Yes, it is illegal, but we can’t enforce it because we haven’t got a boat,’” Thomas said. “They have a list of excuses from ‘we don’t have a boat’ to ‘the dog ate my homework.’”

Or, if the state attorney general deems the hunting activity is on a waterway, “maybe the laws don’t apply,” he says he’s been told.

While legalities of winter gunfire at the Sunset Beach Corral are debated and negotiated, Thomas wonders if the town finds similar ambiguities when it comes to summertime fireworks—emphatically, no and nada, he says.

This week, however, Sunset Beach Police Chief Lisa Massey said her department would pursue the hunters.

“We’re going to cite a citation for a town ordinance violation,” she said. Violators, she added, will be “subject to court.”

Last Saturday, three marked police cars also arrived, according to Jackie.

The good news—for Sunset Beach humans and ducks—is the end of duck-hunting season is Feb. 1.


Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.