Montville Township -- An archer permitted to hunt deer on Geauga Park District property killed a dog being exercised in Observatory Park on Tuesday afternoon.
The hunter -- whose name has not been released by park officials -- launched an arrow into the side of a 9-year-old black Labrador retriever named Steel, according to the dog's owner. The trained bird dog lived with Robert Phillips at a Clay Street home adjacent to the 1,200-acre park in eastern Geauga County.
Phillips, 62, said he was outside working with Steel when the hunter shot the dog at close range. He said he heard Steel "scream" from about 100 yards away. The dog had been running back and forth across the park district's property line.
The hunter told rangers that he shot Steel after the dog moved toward him in "an aggressive manner," park spokeswoman Cindy Ford said.
Phillips said that account is believable only if the hunter "has arrows that go around in circles" given the location of the dog's wound.
Observatory Park is one of six properties that the park district opened to hunters this season as part of a wildlife management plan. This is the fourth year with allowed hunting on county parkland, and the third involving deer. Last year, hunters harvested 150 deer from park properties; 36 came from the woods of Observatory Park.
The park district selects licensed hunters by lottery and requires them to pass a proficiency test and attend a safety meeting, Ford said. Hunters are required to stay at least 200 feet away from roads and neighboring properties.
Ford said that the incident took place "well within park boundaries," but Phillips described the location as "8 inches" onto park property.
The hunter phoned park rangers to report what he did, while Phillips dialed 9-1-1 and told dispatchers that "someone just shot my dog with a bow and arrow and killed it." The shooting remains under review by rangers. Deer hunting has been suspended at Observatory Park while the investigation takes place.
Other Geauga parkland open for hunting at some point during the state's bow, shotgun or muzzleloader seasons includes the Ellerin Property and Frohring Meadows in Bainbridge Township; the Rookery and Bass Lake Preserve in Munson Township; and Burton Wetlands Nature Preserve in Burton and Newbury townships.