SALLISAW, Okla. (AP) -- Orchard owner Billie Auffet is fed up with deer eating up her profits. Now, she wants the state to pay or get out of her gun's way.
Auffet said she tried guns, traps, even lion dung to ward off the deer that have shriveled a crop of 2,000 healthy peach tree sdown to about 600 trees.
After the out-of-season control efforts landed a family member in trouble, she decided to sue the state Department of Wildlife Conservation for financial compensation for her crop losses. A status hearing is scheduled next month, and then the 5-year-old case could go to trial.
"State statutes say I have a right to protect my property," Auffet, 70, said.
Auffet and her late husband started the orchard atop Brushy Mountain in 1974. The family used to shoot about five dear a year, said Auffet's son, Jerry. "Now, you could go out at night and shoot 30 and not hurt a thing," he said. "You wouldn't make a dent."
The family won't be opening the big red sale barn this spring. Their lawyer, Todd Hembree, said Billie Auffet has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"I think she would have no problem continuing with the orchard if she was allowed to protect her property, but that's never been on the table," he said.
Billie Auffet said that seven years ago, an agent arrested her nephew and three other people for shooting deer that were snacking on the orchard.
The state Attorney General's Office is defending the Wildlife Department and contends the case is without merit.
"The plaintiff has numerous options available to protect her property from deer damage, including obtaining a permit to take deer out of season," said spokesman Charlie Price. "Expecting the state to pay for damage caused by the deer is unreasonable."
Jerry Auffet said the out-of-season plan is rife with complications. It limits the number of deer that can be killed and the Wildlife Department must be called with each death.
The family tried traps, firing guns in the air and using human hair and lion dung in hopes the odors would scare off the deer. Nothing has worked, they say.
"The bottom line is we love this," Jerry Auffet said. "Farmers should be allowed to protect their investments."