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Sep 11, 2018 11:32 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Trustees Look To Close Duck Blind Loophole That Favors Homeowners

After 30 years, North Sea resident and hunter William Robinson's duck blind was terminated because of a rule in the Southampton Town Trustees blue book. GREG WEHNER
Sep 14, 2018 8:24 PM

The tradition of sitting in one of three privately owned duck blinds and firing shotguns at waterfowl from a spot near Towd Point came to an abrupt end recently for William Robinson.

The 53-year-old North Sea resident has been hunting the waters near Davis Creek for the past 30 years. But he was recently notified by the Southampton Town Trustees that one of his duck blind permits had been terminated—because the Trustees had given his spot to a nearby homeowner.

According to the Trustees’ book of rules, known as the “Blue Book,” a landowner owning more than 250 feet of water frontage has preference for a duck blind in the waters in front of his or her property, whether they are avid hunters or not.

This year, the Trustees have issued nearly 400 duck blind permits to hunters who provide the Trustees with proof of town residency or property ownership, plus a New York hunting license with a federal migratory game bird stamp. Then, based on bay constable recommendation and approval by the Trustees, the hunter is issued a permit to build a blind at a specific location.

Even though the rules attempt to prevent property owners from securing a duck blind permit just to prevent someone from hunting near their property—one requirement is that the permit holder hunts out of the blind at least once per season—Mr. Robinson fears that’s exactly what the property owner, Will Becker, is attempting to do.

“The homeowner has told me that his wife doesn’t like looking at my duck blind, but it’s been there for over 30 years,” Mr. Robinson said. “I just don’t feel that it’s fair, because this guy … he found out this rule of 250 feet, and that’s the loophole he’s using.”

The Trustees are aware of the possible loophole and are looking to make some changes to their rules.

Despite his actions being referred to as a loophole, Mr. Becker said he is just following the rules as they were written by the Trustees.

Mr. Becker, 62, who owns a home in North Sea and lives in Mineola, denied that he is using the rules to set up a placeholder duck blind. Instead, he said is looking to hunt the property, as he said his grandfather Harold Mills did when the 4.5 acres of land was purchased by the family in the 1940s.

“My intentions are to hunt in the honor of my family,” Mr. Becker said on Tuesday. “I’m also looking to make this a safe area for hunters.”

Safety has been a concern of Mr. Becker over the past few years. Ducks typically fly from east to west, according to Mr. Becker, and normally between Mr. Robinson’s duck blind and his home.

One January day when hunters were hunting from the blind, Mr. Becker said, shots were fired toward his home as the birds passed.

“They were supposed to be shooting toward the bay,” Mr. Becker said, describing the wind that day as calm and the tide as low.

As the birds flew between the blind and the house, the hunters stood up and shot at the birds, with pellets from the shotgun hitting a window on the home. Mr. Becker said he was fortunate that the window did not shatter and that people were inside instead of outside.

“Safety is really what matters here,” he said. “When they hunt illegally and shoot in the direction of the home, that’s when I say safety matters.”

After that, Mr. Becker got a copy of the Trustees rule book and noted the rule about homeowners with 250 feet of waterfront having priority to get a duck blind in front of their homes.

When he inquired, he was told he needed to get a hunting permit. So he took an extensive hunting course that focused on safety, and passed the test. Mr. Becker also applied for a duck blind permit for behind his house, and it was granted by the Trustees.

His intention is to have the duck blind in place on the water during duck season only. But he also plans to hunt it.

“Whatever’s being said about me is happy horse shit,” Mr. Becker said. “We believe in hunting. We believe in being safe.”

Mr. Robinson told the Trustees that he does not believe Mr. Becker will actually hunt from the blind, regardless of the rules that say he has to hunt at least one day out of the year.

His concerns, like those of others, have the Trustees scrambling to change the rules to prevent homeowners from taking duck blind locations with the intent of not hunting them.

“This is one of the topics that has come to the board on several occasions,” President Ed Warner Jr. said at a public hearing on Wednesday, September 5, on proposed new regulations meant to address the issue. “It’s up to us to make sure that hunting is preserved and protected and maintained in the town, and that each one of the spots are used, not just take a spot and have someone put a duck blind there as a placeholder.”

The proposed regulation changes, which Mr. Warner said are a work in progress, include removing the 250-foot clause altogether, in addition to other revisions, like changing the time period during which a resident can get a hunting location permit from anytime before December 31 to between August 1 and October 31. Blinds can only be in place October 1 through April 1; various waterfowl can be hunted in Long Island waters from November through March.

The new rules also would require permit holders to have their blinds inspected by the Southampton Town bay constables before December 31 of each year.

None of the rules is expected to help Mr. Robinson get his duck blind back.

Last Wednesday, Mr. Robinson asked the Trustees what could be done to get his spot back, or whether he could get a different spot to make up for it.

Assistant Town Attorney Martha Reichert told Mr. Robinson that his permit was terminated, because that is how the rules are currently written. Mr. Warner concurred.

“The way the rule books are written … he has more than 250 feet of waterfront property. He has preference over you at that location,” Mr. Warner told Mr. Robinson. “He’s acquired his hunting permit, and he submitted an application for that area.”

Mr. Warner added that if the homeowner does not hunt in the blind at least one time during the year, Mr. Robinson would be at the top of the list to get the spot back.

As far as being relocated, Mr. Warner told Mr. Robinson to contact the bay constable to see if there is a spot where he could put the blind that fits within the regulations.

No action was taken on the proposed modifications to the duck blind rules, and the public hearing was left open. It is expected to continue at the next Trustee meeting on September 17 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

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Ducks - 1
Hunters - 0
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Sep 14, 18 8:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
No shortage of ducks, a natural food source.
By MoronEliminator (215), Montauk on Sep 14, 18 9:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
Don't worry, nobody is coming for your guns.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Sep 14, 18 9:36 AM
Mr. Becker's quote is the first time in decades of reading the Press that I recall profanity being written.

Ever increasingly, on the South Fork and elsewhere, the desires of the wealthy are given priority over the rights of people with less money. Those with more resources are better able to navigate the system and have their preferences prevail.

Mr. Becker has valid concerns about how safely people are hunting near his home and did properly follow regulations to terminate Mr. ...more
By Aeshtron (431), Southampton on Sep 14, 18 10:20 AM
White people problems
By C Law (354), Water Mill on Sep 14, 18 10:54 AM
It’s unfortunate that this article is being framed as rich out-of -towner vs. local guy. According to the article, Mr Becker’s family purchased the land in the 1940’s. It did not take a rich person to buy four acres of land in North Sea in the 1940s. Mineola is a middle class neighborhood, as well. Both Mr Becker and Mr Robinson make valid points.
And Greg Wehner, come on- the permit was just “ ‘plain’ terminated.” (?)
By fishcove (39), southampton on Sep 14, 18 12:20 PM
Actually, over four acres was still a tidy sum back then.

Remind us again how the men who framed this nation felt about generational wealth?

By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 14, 18 8:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thought you had to be a RESIDENT, lives in mineola???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Sep 14, 18 12:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
The guy owns land in the town. "The Dongan Patent guarantees every town freeholder's right to access and use this land and its resources. "

It does make me wonder how the town interprets "commonalty" though ... "The patent, a document which granted the Freeholders and Commonalty of the Town of Southampton access and rights to common underwater land, rights of way to the water, marshland, and common areas, also created the Board of Trustees to act as stewards for these title lands."
By Michael Tessitore (76), East Quogue, New York on Sep 14, 18 4:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
As a paralegal specializing in administrative law, the byzantine water rights of western US states got nothing on Long Island, LOL!
By oneseriousSicilian (63), medford on Sep 20, 18 11:48 AM
So, he had to obtain all the legal requirements to hunt. So, one can safely say he's not what one would call "avid". Personally, I'd like to see his trophies and firearm collection.

I call horse****.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 14, 18 4:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well the permitted use of these duck blinds should be extended to allow for nature observation, research, and photography as well and not just hunting/shooting.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Sep 15, 18 10:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
What happens if every homeowner with 250+ ft of water frontage opts to apply for a duck blind permit? Would there be any space left for non homeowners? Would homeowners technically be able to take over all available duck blind space?
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Sep 14, 18 5:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
I have to put myself in the homeowners shoes. If I could legally get the blind next to my house I would do it too. That being said should it be legal? That's like saying 100 yards out to the water from my Gin Lane beach house should be mine only to swim, fish. Where does it end?
By lirider (288), Hampton Bays on Sep 14, 18 10:09 PM
There should be a requirement that the blind is used - by legal residents and their guests -instead of using the rule as a squatter's option to prevent hunting in the vicinity of the owner's house. We made these rules, now they're being used against us. And then, Ducks Unlimited folks, they will be coming after your shotguns too...
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on Sep 15, 18 12:02 AM
The whole thing stinks. Robinson hunted there for 30 yrs, now he can’t. It’s not fair and the rules should be amended.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Sep 15, 18 6:03 AM
30years of hunting this spot and now the homeowner has found a loophole to get rid of him. Seems like the wealthy are finding loopholes left an right . It’s ruining the quality of life for the local people! NO homeowner should be entitled to the spot at the edge of his property. If the homeowner wants to hunt....tell him to get on the waiting list like everyone else ! Self entitled a*******

See u September 16 at Town Hall
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Sep 15, 18 7:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
Oops See u September 17 ! Monday! 6pm
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Sep 15, 18 7:33 AM
Becker just stuck his thumb in the eye of fairness. It’s not right and should be reversed. If anyone ever tried to get a duck blind in a new spot, good luck. Robinson followed the rules and gets screwed in the end.most blinds have been in families for generations.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Sep 15, 18 8:12 AM
2 members liked this comment
I’m still partial to Crescent Duck Farm’s brand, thanks.
By SDG1776 (114), Southampton on Sep 15, 18 9:03 AM
SDG, it might be easier to shoot ducks at crescent farms!!!
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Sep 15, 18 9:08 AM
I thought so too, but my duck blind permit application for Crescent Farms was denied!
By SDG1776 (114), Southampton on Sep 15, 18 4:20 PM
3-packs of Kleenex brand facial tissues are for sale at Stop-N-Shop. Crying into those in private might be a little more respectable than into the laundered sleeves of local officials.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Sep 16, 18 6:32 AM
To be fair I believe Robinson has 4 duckblinds
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Sep 16, 18 5:26 PM
chief1 do you know this for fact? if so site the locations
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Sep 16, 18 5:36 PM
Different blinds for different weather conditions! This whole thing stinks. Can’t imagine this happening when Ed Senior and Peter Corwith were on the Board!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Sep 17, 18 4:19 AM
You always want the wind at your back. If you don’t go duck hunting, they don’t get it.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Sep 17, 18 5:59 AM
1 member liked this comment
Easy fix Trustees, just change the Blue Book!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Sep 17, 18 8:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
Where does the blind swiper buy his insurance? Asking for a friend.
By Gillnetter (105), Hampton Bays on Sep 17, 18 1:48 PM
I am not anti hunting. I just would like Ducks Unlimited or any related group to patrol the beaches and remove the wounded ducks that have died and washed up on the shore or died in the dunes. My dogs seem to roll in every one when we walk the beach, yuck.
By TheTurtle (143), Southampton on Sep 18, 18 4:55 PM
Turtle , even young duck hunters are taught to track & finish their shot if their dog doesn't retrieve it. I'd bet it's casual weekenders or summer folk leaving wounded ducks about.
By oneseriousSicilian (63), medford on Sep 20, 18 11:55 AM
1 member liked this comment
Cant Wait to See This "Duck Blind". And Don't Forget to Get Out and Vote for Marc Molinaro for Governor......Otherwise Cuomo is going to Tap the Databases and Wreak Havoc on Hunters and Gun Owners.
By Brady (15), Southampton on Sep 23, 18 9:53 PM