By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MILFORD TWP. - Their spacious home, made of red brick with white vinyl siding, sits on a knoll at the edge of dense woods and expansive fields.It's an idyllic rural setting, offering views of woods and distant rolling hills. But Mike and Cara Loriz say the commercial bird-shooting operation abutting their 45 acres in this north-central Butler County township has punctured their bucolic lifestyle with the noise of shotguns and the peril of flying lead pellets.
"Sometimes it sounds like a war zone," said Cara Loriz. "One time, we were sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner and - ka-boom! - the shooting started."
The Lorizes' battle with the bird-shooting preserve, called Ridgewind Quail Hunt, is in the Butler County court system and will surface today at a meeting of the Butler County Board of Zoning Appeals in Hamilton.
The board will decide whether the county erred in issuing a permit for the preserve in 2001. The Lorizes filed a lawsuit against the county, the Ridgewind Quail Hunt owners and a national group that held shoots there. In response to that lawsuit, a visiting Butler County judge ordered the preserve to close last September until the Board of Zoning Appeals made a ruling.
Mike Simmons, who shares ownership of the preserve with Charles Keller, strongly disputes the lawsuit allegation that his business is a noise nuisance and a safety hazard.
"To me, that's ridiculous," Simmons said.
He said the Loriz family's house is 500 yards from the field where the hunting goes on for quail, pheasants and partridge-like birds called chukars. "I can't believe the noise disturbs them," Simmons said.
The preserve uses about 90 of its 160 acres. Its conditional permit had authorized it to operate from September through April.
Most of the shooting occurred on weekends, Simmons said. But no more than two or three hunters would be there on a weekend day, he added. The only exceptions were three field trials, a judged competition involving hunters and their dogs, he said.
Simmons said that he and Keller are very conscientious about safety and have instructed hunters to stay away from the Lorizes' property.
"Our customers are told not to cross over to where they would even stand a chance of shooting over into his property," he said.
But Mike Loriz, who has lived on the site for seven years, said pellets have been shot onto his land.
"Once, hunters fired three shots at a quail that was between me and them," Loriz said. "The pellets went right above my head into a tree. The hunting range has forced us to abandon most of our property."
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