A newly-permited hog-hunting camp has Hernando County neighbors fearing for their safety

Camp management says it's perfectly safe

RIDGE MANOR, Fla. - Standing on the edge of his Ridge Manor property, Matt Rich posts a sign warning hunters and trespassers to stay away.  It's a sign Rich and his fiancee, Tracy Brown, did not think would be necessary, until yesterday.

"I'm in fear of my life, to be quite frank," said Rich.

On Monday, in a vote of 3-2, the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission approved a special exception permit for the "I Live Wild" hog-hunting camp that sits right next door to Rich and Brown's property.

The camp is an 80-acre private stretch of land where people can pay to hunt hogs, fish, and camp.  Agritourism at its finest, according to property manager Ron Ritter.

"They go stay at hotels.  They buy gas.  They eat at the restaurants," said Ritter . "This allows a much safer opportunity for people to hunt than on public grounds or in other situations."

But "safer" is certainly not the way some of Ritter's neighbors see it.

Rich and Brown said they regularly get woken up in the middle of the night by gunfire.  Both also mentioned an incident where they say an armed drunken hunter once stumbled up to their property.

"He had a shotgun in his hand and a flashlight.  He was shining it up toward our house," said Rich.

"I'm very uneasy about us being out here.  When I'm home, I'm constantly checking my horses and my animals," said Brown.  "I can't relax.  I can't relax in my own home on my own property."

But Ritter denied those events ever happened and questioned some of his neighbors' motives.

"These people had a hidden agenda for making up these stories and opposing us, and it had nothing to do with safety," Ritter said.

He says what's done at the hog-hunting camp is perfectly legal and will continue.

"It's a beautiful place.  Enjoy it, and let other people enjoy it," said Ritter.

But the only way Brown will enjoy it, is when it's closed.

"What if my daughter's skin is pierced with a bullet," Brown asked.  "I have to fight.  I have to stand up and try to help put a stop to something that isn't right."

The couple says they plan to appeal the county's decision.  They hope to be granted a meeting with county commissioners soon.

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