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'It was a barrage'

Allen Walters' 2011 ended with a bang.

"It was a barrage," said Walters, who walked onto his back porch Saturday morning as a stray group of shotgun BBs rattled off the side of his home.

One of the steel BBs hit him below the left shoulder blade as he turned his back to the incoming wave, said Walters, 53, of Ashland.

"Blam, blam, blam, blam, they were blasting away all morning," he said. "All of a sudden, the side of my house starts getting pelted "… and this isn't the first time."

Walters' house is on the 700 block of St. Andrews Circle, sandwiched between the short cul-de-sac and Crowson Road. About a quarter-mile to the southeast, in the center of a 160-acre private pasture, is a small pond.

A group of hunters has been using the pond during the last couple of winters for waterfowl hunting, he said.

The property is outside city limits, and it is legal to shoot firearms there.

On Saturday, shots coming from the pond woke up Walters and his wife at about 7 a.m.

"It sounds like a war zone over there," he said.

About an hour later, Walters' 16-year-old son, Quaid, said he heard a spray of BBs hit the back of the house.

Walters, who called police when a group of hunters from the same pond shot his house last year, let it go.

Then, at about 9:15 a.m., he heard more blasts, walked outside, and was shot.

The BB left a small welt below his left shoulder blade.

"I was furious," Walters said. "If you get hit in the eye with a pellet traveling at that speed, it might put your eye out."

Walters found 15 BBs scattered around his back porch, and called the police.

Ashland police, Oregon State Police and a Jackson County sheriff's deputy responded, but couldn't charge the hunters with a crime, Walters said, because the hunters were outside the city limits and the shots were accidental.

Last year, the group of hunters got off with a warning, but Walters thought that was because he asked police to go easy and "just educate them."

OSP Sgt. Kirk Meyer said OSP gets similar calls each year from residents who live along the Rogue River, a popular duck and goose hunting area, and most all end without a charge.

"It's tough to say that it's reckless endangerment," said Meyer. "It's just kind of a tough situation.

"Unless there is damage or injury, you don't have a lot to go on," he said.

An OSP trooper spoke to the hunters and took a few BBs that Walters had collected on his property, Walters said.

Walters said although police won't issue charges, he plans to take legal action against the hunters, who could not be contacted for this story.

The property where the duck pond sits is owned by Douglas and Nina Healy of San Clemente, Calif., Jackson County property records show.

They rent out the land to ranchers for cattle, and separately rent out the historic Patrick Dunn Ranch house, on the southeast end of the property, said Merilee Cameron, who rents the Dunn house.

"There are homes surrounding that pond "… and the interstate is right beside it," she said. "I don't want people hunting there."

Cameron said she called the property's cattle ranchers to unlock a gate for police on Saturday, who were following up on Walters' call.

"They were as surprised as we were," she said. "We don't know who was out there, neither of us. "… It's kind of unsettling."

Kathleen Adams, 54, of the 300 block of Crowson Road, said she is tired of the hunters shooting guns so close to her neighborhood. Her home sits a few hundred yards from the pond.

"They have a right to do it," she said, "but they're obviously being very irresponsible with how they use their weapons."

She said most of the neighborhood is concerned about the continual shooting, but don't know what to do.

"You don't just shoot somewhere that your shots are going to end up in someone else's backyard," Adams said. "I guess we'll just keep yelling at them."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.