SPARTA, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A growing legal battle has mounted in New Jersey, with the state claiming that a homeowner was hunting when he shot three bears – but the man claiming it was self-defense.

As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, Robert Ehling well remembers the day last October when he shot and killed three bears on his property in Sparta, New Jersey.

“I put another shot in him right behind his shoulder,” Ehling said.

It was an early morning when he heard his wife scream from their kitchen. A 300-pound bear on their back deck was trying to get inside the home to reach a bag of birdseed.

Ehling grabbed his shotgun and went outside to scare the bear away.

“It stood up and looked at me, and it got a little distracted. It turned its head, and I shot it,” he said.

Ehling said the bear fell over the railing. When he went to take a look, he saw a second bear climbing up to the deck and he fired again.

Then he heard the third bear.

“It was part a growl and part a roar and part a cry – raawrr!” Ehling said.

Once again, he raised his shotgun.

“I hit it right in the head — down it went, and that was it,” he said.

Ehling said New Jersey state Fish and Wildlife officials came to investigate, and he was later issued four summonses for hunting out of season and hunting near a residential home.

Each one carried a $100 fine.

But rather than admit guilt for something he says he is not guilty of, Ehling has decided to fight the case in court.

“I wasn’t hunting,” he said. “It was going to come in to my house. That was a big animal — you’ll see the pictures.”

When asked if he was protecting his family, Ehling said, “I think so, yes.”

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said it cannot comment on a pending court case. It urges homeowners to call police immediately if they encounter an animal at their home.

Ehling said his court battle will continue in late November.

Watch & Listen LIVE