Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS: > 2004


By Sean D. Hamill

Special to the Tribune

Published January 5, 2004

A Lake County hunter who defied a month-old Lake Zurich law banning hunting a quarter-mile outside village borders will test the ordinance in court this month, fueling debate over an issue that has been criticized by both pro- and anti-hunting factions.

Lake Zurich officials approved the law after a shot goose landed near children waiting for a school bus.

They face skepticism from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and a Lake County board member, who believe it could be struck down in court.

"If it can't be enforced, we'll go back to the drawing board," said County Board Member Michael Talbett, who lives in Lake Zurich and would like to resolve the problem.

Talbett believes that would mean trying to change a state law that allows hunting on unincorporated land, as long as shots are fired at least 300 feet from a residence.

"The state law applies everywhere," said Talbett, a lawyer. "But what works in Downstate Illinois may not work up here in our county."

Meanwhile, hunter Robert Sprow, 42, of Island Lake vowed to battle his case in court.

"I'm just going to go to court and see what they're going to do," said Sprow, whose court date is Jan. 23.

Police ticketed Sprow after being called out at 9:15 a.m. Dec. 12 to an open field near Old McHenry and Midlothian Roads, where Sprow leases 60 acres for his hunting club, Ultimate Waterfowlers.

Jeff Mangano, who lives in the Wicklow Village East subdivision, called police after hearing shots.

The subdivision sits near a site where Sprow has erected a duck blind, and he regularly brings people out to hunt during goose season.

"There were five or six gun shots and I called to request a warning [to Sprow]," Mangano said. "But police suggested that a ticket would be better."

The next day, Sprow was issued a ticket for hunting within a quarter-mile of Lake Zurich's borders, a non-criminal municipal offense punishable by a fine of up to $750.

"They all knew that this was coming," said Lake Zurich Police Chief Bill Urry. "We're just waiting to get it into court and see where it goes."

In the Wicklow subdivision, the situation has parents concerned.

Mangano can see Sprow's duck blind from his home. The subdivision's playground is 150 yards from the area where much of the hunting goes on, he said.

Besides the goose that plummeted near children, Mangano said, the roof of his home has been hit by shot from shotguns.

"Every year its been getting more serious," said Mangano, who has two young children.

Area hunters are supporting Sprow. The Illinois Federation for Outdoor Resources, a statewide hunting and recreation group, has offered to help him fight his case.

"We just think the village overstepped their boundaries," said Jack Ward, executive director of the organization.

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