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4/17/2013 2:00:00 PM
Hunt Park Owner Speaks Out
Forest Peaslee (right) and his brother Daniel Peaslee display a sign they hope to have installed on the gate to the Peaslee Mountain Hunt Park in Somerville. (Sherwood Olin photo)
Forest Peaslee (right) and his brother Daniel Peaslee display a sign they hope to have installed on the gate to the Peaslee Mountain Hunt Park in Somerville. (Sherwood Olin photo)
By Sherwood Olin

Forest Peaslee Jr., would like the general public to know the Peaslee Mountain Hunt Park in Somerville is a fully licensed, legal operation; one that has a perfect safety record and high customer satisfaction since it first opened for business in 2006.

Peaslee was irate after a story appeared in The Lincoln County News April 11 edition that publicized the fact that up to 28 large animal skeletons were found in the park, which is located on land that is part of a trust held in Neil Peaslee's name. ("Remains of large animals found in Somerville hunting park," Page 1)

Forest leased the 80-acre site from his brother, Neil. A third brother, Daniel Peaslee, used the land as a pen for farm animals and served as a guide for hunts in the park.

As printed, Forest Peaslee took issue with several points in the April 11 story. He disputes the allegations that there are 28 skeletons in the park, that animals were left in the park to starve, and he disputes the right of the state or Neil or Eric Peaslee to enter the park without his permission.

The two-page lease agreement, which Forest provided to LCN, contains no language addressing either party's access to the site.

Forest said the complaints are related to an ongoing civil lawsuit between Forest and Neil. Eric Peaslee, Neil Peaslee's son, who has served as land manager for the property since March 15, described the lawsuit as an attempt by Forest to make Neil pay for trees Neil cut on land Neil owns.

The lease agreement renews automatically every five years. If one party or the other wishes to terminate the agreement, they must notify the other in writing, within six months of the expiration date.

The agreement has already been renewed once and has three more years to run before it comes up again.

At the time of the original story, Forest Peaslee declined to comment on specifics beyond offering that it is a legal hunting park. Peaslee said he declined to comment because of the civil suit. "If I could have said something I would have," he said.

Forrest Peaslee takes issue with the original story, particularly with the insinuation that he starved his animals, indicated by a picture showing bark apparently eaten off a tree. Peaslee said such behavior is not uncommon in the wild.

"It insinuates that I starve my animals," he said. "It insinuates that they were so hungry that they ate the bark right off the trees."

Forest Peaslee does not dispute there are animal bones in the park but, alleging Eric Peaslee is an unreliable source, Forest said he doubted there are as many bones as Eric claims.

Eric Peaslee stood by his contention, supported he said, by photographic evidence. As of April 16, Eric Peaslee said he has discovered 38 skeletons.

Forest notes that state investigators produced an official notice about the proper disposal of animals, but the state declined to investigate, finding no evidence of wrongdoing.

Forest Peaslee claims whatever bones are in the park are there legally. The bones may have come from animals who died of natural causes or may have been left over from coyote hunts, an accepted practice wherein a carcass is used to attract the skittish predators.

Peaslee said he never offered guided coyote hunts at the park, but said certain, trusted clients, and his brother, Daniel, have hunted coyotes at the location. Peaslee estimates maybe a half dozen or so coyote hunts have occurred on the property since the park opened.

Over the past week, after the article appeared, the Peaslees have been engaged in an ongoing battle of no trespassing signs. Forest said his signs have been stolen and he has locked the gate three times since Sunday and three times his lock has been cut.

With the gate open, at least one red deer has escaped from the property. Forest has alerted the neighbors and notified the state, as required by law.

Forest also notes that, as the licensed owner of the hunt park, he is responsible for keeping the gates locked and the animals contained.

For his part, Eric said he has been on the property every single day since March and has seen no evidence of red deer on the site. The park is licensed for red deer, fallow deer bison and elk. Eric said he has seen little evidence of a live animal population on the site; certainly nothing as big as a red deer.

Forest Peaslee said he hoped to reopen the park this fall but is not likely to, due to clear-cutting his brother has done on the site. Where there was once heavy forested undergrowth has now been cleared out to the point where animals have little place to hide.

Eric said the cleared area primarily involved trees that have been stripped of bark.

Previously the heavy ground cover and challenging terrain made conditions right for a difficult hunt in the park, Peaselee said. "It is a harder hunt than it is in the wild," Forest said.

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