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TTAG reader Ripcord sent us a link to the New York Times latest head-shaker about the scourge that is shooting on public lands. Ripcord does some head shaking himself, wondering, “First the open carriers, then the Oath Keepers during  a riot, the ‘gun nuts’ and now recreational shooters. Is there any demographic they won’t vilify to get their propaganda out?” To which the answer is, of course, no . . .

In ‘In Quiet Woods, a Clamorous Gun Debate,’ Times scribe Jack Healy does his best to paint a vivid picture for Upper West Siders of the terror that results from allowing recreational shooting on public lands. An activity that tens of thousands of Americans engage in every year without incident. But predictably enough, Healy highlights this one:

Over the Fourth of July weekend in Pike National Forest in Colorado, a 60-year-old camper preparing to make s’mores with his grandchildren was killed when a stray bullet arced into his campsite. The camper, Glenn Martin, said “ow,” his daughter said, and when his family ran to help him, there was a hole in his shirt and blood pouring from his mouth.

“A war zone,” said Paul Magnuson, who owns a cycle shop in Woodland Park, Colo., and rides mountain bikes in the same forest where Mr. Martin died. His customers have complained about bullets whistling overhead, and Mr. Magnuson said he had gotten used to yelling out to alert target shooters that he was coming.

“Every time in the woods, you feared for your life,” he said. “It was absolutely, completely out of hand.”

The death of Mr. Martin is a tragedy to be sure. And no one would minimize the responsibility shooters have to observe basic gun safety (including Rule #4)  wherever they may be shooting. But as Healy makes sure to point out, shooting isn’t just dangerous and icky, it’s also a threat to the land itself.

There have also been about 130 wildfires here over the past decade, some caused by bullet ricochets or exploding targets igniting dry cheatgrass. One bullet flew across the range and hit a bedpost in a nearby home, and land officials said high school students on a bus had to take cover to avoid careless gunfire. Cleanup crews have hauled away 20 tons of trash a year — refrigerators and car parts, clay pigeons and sofas, even bowling pins.


Just how prevalent are these “shooting violations?”

The federal agencies that manage national forests and open lands have tallied a growing number of shooting violations in the backcountry in recent years. The Forest Service recorded 1,712 shooting incidents across the country last year, up about 10 percent from a decade ago. More than a thousand of those reports ended with a warning or citation, but in some, Forest Service officers did not find who had fired or evidence of a violation after investigating a complaint.

So of the tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of shooters who responsibly use public lands to get in a little trigger time each year, the Forest Service has written a total of 1,712 citations. And given the huge expansion in popularity of the shooting sports, violations have only increased by 10%. That’s basically rounding error.

Again, none of that absolves shooters of the need to clean up after themselves – if only to deprive those who would limit or eliminate their shooting privileges of an excuse. If you’re going to go out and shoot on land that’s not yours be sure to clean up after yourself and, for God’s sake, do it safely. Because if you’re one of the tiny minority who don’t, you’re just giving ammunition (so to speak) to those who would limit your gun rights.

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  1. And how many hikers are plowed over by reckless mountain bike riders each year, I wonder?

    Everyone performing a recreational activity in the Great Outdoors has an obligation to realize that they’re not out there alone, and to clean up after themselves. No matter what that activity is.

    And … Refrigerators? I rather doubt some “gun nut” yahoos dragged the old Maytag out for the purpose of putting holes in it. More likely an illegal dump that just happened to provide an interesting target of opportunity.

    • Some of the popular shooting sites I have seen on gov’t land have been pretty atrocious. There is definitely a small subset of shooters that put bullet holes in whatever they lay eyes on. Garbage, furniture, appliances, car parts. Even found significant bullet holes in various landmarks I’ve gone 4-wheeling to.

      But as with anything… don’t condemn the whole based on the irresponsible actions of a very small group.

      • All the near town shooting places just outside of Colorado Springs are an absolute dump with all the kinds of folks I don’t to be shooting near. At some of those places it really is hard to defend shooting on public lands when folks just turn it into an absolute dump. We’d drive an extra hour out on the 4×4 only trails to get some wide open clear shooting area and then of course clean up our crap…

        • Yeah, Rampart Range was ugly…. it was only a matter of time before the rangers shut it down for essentially being a free-fire dump, or someone getting shot & killed. Too bad it had to be the latter.
          I was part of a small group of guys who regularly went up there to police up all the trash & appliance targets, but usually by the end of the week it was like we were never there. Add to that all the unsavory & unsafe characters that brought beers & drugs…..
          I eventually just gave up on the place for my own safety, and went to Dragonman’s range instead.

  2. Unfortunately in states such as Utah the recreational shooter is his own worst enemy. They haul all types of household goods out to the desert and shoot them for a few hours and leave them. It is common to see computers, TV’s, couches and all types of furniture strewn in among the bottles and cans. The BLM continues to move the “no shooting” line further from communities but that seems to encourage illegal shooting because the recreational shooter doesn’t want to drive too far from home. I volunteer as a RSO at a city owned range in order to keep it open as a safe, clean place to shoot but many don’t like the rules at an established range. Until the average shooter realizes the damages to the sport we will always cause ourselves to be seen in a bad light.

    • Isn’t there some sort of multi-county initiative to put together a large shooting facility on public land? I thought I heard about something being put together in that area for exactly that reason.

      • There has been talk of a shooting complex for years but most of the growth has been to the west, where the county wants to build the range, and the opposition is getting louder as the number of nearby homes increases so I will believe it when I see it. If everybody would select safe areas, good backstops and clean up the mess they bring out we wouldn’t have an issue. If……..

  3. Whenever I am hunting, shooting, or fishing on public land I always carry out more garbage than I bring in. Even if its just a small wrapper or something. Cans are a bonus here in MI with the 10c deposit.
    Everybody should be doing this. No excuses.

    • During my time in Michigan years ago, I easily paid for my own beer just by collecting cans. It definitely made being a cheap alcoholic a lot easier, but at least it kept me in shape!

    • Even in my teens many moons ago I’d pack out more than I showed up with when fishing or shooting. Slob shooters and fishers are a monumental hot button with me. There is simply zero explanation or excuse for it. Last year I had a friend from Holland visit and when we went out for some shooting I was thoroughly embarrassed for the amount of trash at the shooting spot in the otherwise pristine desert he enjoyed seeing so much.

  4. Might as well have had the entire article be, “OMG stupid people!”

    Yes, there are stupid and inconsiderate gun owners. Just like there are stupid and inconsiderate drivers, motorcyclists, parents, pilots, boat owners ….

  5. Feeding the public lies, half truths, propaganda; I guess the New York Times does know a little something about a “…Dangerous, Filthy Business”.

  6. As a kid in SoCal I used to go shooting at the Lytle Creek Recreation area. I have to admit a lot of shooters turned it into a dump. About anything you could imagine that could be dragged up a dirt road and shot apart was, and then just left there. The Forest Service did eventually shut it down as a shooting area not out of any bias against shooting, or safety concerns. They just couldn’t keep up with the mess… no matter how many boy scout troops or other clubs ran clean up projects.

    I don’t blame the Forest Service at all– we shooters did it to ourselves.

  7. Wonder what the stats are of forest fires started by hipster trash boozing and smoking joints out in the wilderness vs shooters blowing up tannerite… Oh right pot doesn’t hurt anyone, my bad.

  8. “Even bowling pins” >>> Oh-no, not BOWLING PINS… The horror…. Hold me Shipmate…I’m scared…

    This article is nothing more than a creative writing exercise for some ate-up liberal arts major.

    The sad part is people actually fall for this tripe.

  9. Let’s be constructive. If you are going to hone your shooting skills in a State or National Forest, start with choosing a proper location: some place with a large and fairly steep berm/hill for a backstop, where “large” means the berm rises at least 10 feet higher than your barrel when you are shooting at handgun ranges. Seek an even higher berm if you are shooting beyond 50 yards.

    Second, expect bullets to skip off of flat ground and keep going. I discovered this first hand. I was shooting at targets about 30 yards away and I was a good 10 feet higher than my targets. My sheet metal garden shed was beyond the targets. Days later, I discovered multiple bullet holes in the sheet metal — some of them over 5 feet above ground level. I would have never imagined that a bullet hitting the Earth at that much of an angle would skip and keep traveling with any significant velocity.

    Finally, pick up your mess and take it with you when you leave.

  10. He may have been a bit controversial for a while, but hats off to my AZ instructor and friend, Cope Reynolds. When we took instruction from him in the White Mountains, he made damn sure we had a huge, safe backstop with zero trees to the sides, or in back of the target frames.
    Every day when we broke camp, we spent quite a while making sure our spent shells got picked up, as well as recovering trash left by others.
    I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  11. “…There have also been about 130 wildfires here over the past decade, some caused by bullet ricochets or exploding targets igniting dry cheatgrass.”


    Exploding targets I understand. Exploding…. duh….

    But a ricochet? How? How is that even possible?

    • Hey, wait a minute….. wasn’t there just a question about Mythbusters? Maybe this is the answer…. Bust the Myth of Ricochet fires.

      PS – the edit timer is still behaving wacky.

    • It depends on the range, of course. A ricochet off of a rock can throw a spark and start a grass fire around here. We’ve had several at the BLM range near here. Shooting in the summer is banned after noon because it gets so incredibly hot (the hottest day last week was 107, and the other five days were over 104) that it is easy to start a fire. (Lightning caused fires have burned 250 square miles in the county due west of here, to give you an idea what conditions are like). And then there are the idiots who insist on shooting tracers (illegal in California), and those have started a couple small fires too.

  12. Littering is not exclusive to firearms. Many miles of off-road trails specifically constructed for off-road vehicle have been closed under similar complaints. Many off-road clubs have volunteered their time to clean up the trails, but all to often, the trails are closed anyway. Even if the gun community offers to clean up these sites, I am sure the complaints will persist and the sites will be closed anyway. Essentially, these government agencies tend to “capitulate” when the left calls for banning any activity they disagree with. A leftist organization will threaten a lawsuit, and the agency will “negotiate” a settlement thereby avoiding judicial and legislative scrutiny.

  13. I’ve been hiking in places like this. They speak the truth. People need to take responsibility for themselves, and clean up their spent ammo and cases, and use proper berms. Anyone that disagrees is certifiably insane.

    • Why is it so darned hard to simply pass a law that if you are caught and found guilty of leaving junk behind in the wilderness; be it gun related or not, you just go to jail for X months/years/whatever? Or get flogged or something? It would pretty much solve the “problem” overnight, as it largely has in Singapore. No reason to ban some activity that maybe possibly just might be associated with some of the littering. If littering is a problem, ban littering. Don’t ban not littering.

  14. Even in Canada we have a similar problem with shooting up garbage in various unsupervised places. But every time I think about this, I’m reminded how the Chief Firearms Officers in the provinces go out of there way to make it hard to open new shooting ranges. It’s a bit like the street racing situation- especially after they closed up the race tracks in and around the city.

  15. Yesterday, it was George Zimmerman and Andy Hallinan who were “making us all look bad.” Today it’s recreational shooters who are “making us all look bad.” I can’t wait to see who gets the blame tomorrow for “making us all look bad.”

    You know who really are “making us all look bad?” Sellouts and apologists, that’s who.

    And here I thought that only cannibals eat their own.

    • Unfortunately, Ralph the Times is right here. The recreational shooters on the Pike forest are a disgrace. The range areas are trashed, and people are spilling into the woods for new shooting locations without regard to other users. I use to visit frequently to shoot, camp, etc. I stay away now.

  16. Clay pigeons? Really?

    Doesn’t the New York Slimes realize they’re made from, in essence, dirt?
    Hey you! Pick up that clay. Dontcha know that’s litterin?

    I’m usually very secretive about the spot I go long range shooting. Even still, I always take a garbage bag with me so I can leave it cleaner than when I got there.

    • And feces is organic material, but you still bury it. While the feces is a hygiene issue, the bright clays are a littering issue. The color detracts from and degrades the natural beauty around you.

      My father in law’s range allows the clays to degrade naturally. While they are isolated and well out of the public view, and go to great lengths to keep the property looking nice, the near carpet of orange bits is a little unsightly.

  17. I deal with this all the time & it’s only the anti-gunners who have a problem, solely because they hate guns.

    You can shoot in the same spot, year after year, and it only takes one of these people to hike/bike/dogwalk through and all the sudden they’re the authority of that property, even though it’s owned by the taxpayers. Since they deem what your doing is dangerous, and what their doing is not, you lose and they win in their mind. Then stories like this appear, and all it does is get support from the left and shared on social media. Once its on social media people only read the headline and cast their judgement from there.

    It’s a new battlefront everyday… what’s next?

    • I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times that I have hiked or mountain-biked through woods during hunting season, with the crack of gunfire sounding in the distance — and yet here I am without any holes in my body that I wasn’t born with. Amazing, no?

      And the worst people with whom I’ve shared the woods are — guys on dirt bikes. No, they don’t litter. No, they are not impolite. No, they are not unsafe. But they do tear up the trails something fierce and turn every flat track into a whoop-de-doo. frankly, I rather share the woods with a hundred hunters or plinkers than one dirt biker.

      But here’s the thing — it’s not my choice to make. If I can’t deal with the bikers, I’m the one who needs to get out, not them. Unfortunately, the granolas and leftards don’t roll that way. What makes that even worse is that, in most states, hunters and shooters pay for the whole shebang, from land acquisition to trail maintenance.

  18. What does the desert look like after burning man or some of those other libtard “festivals” ?

  19. The Sloan shooting area at mile marker 15 south of Vegas is a garbage heap. I am constantly amazed at the crap folks bring out, shoot up, then leave behind. The area closest to the road in particular.

    When we used to go there we would drive way back in, away from the folks that don’t know or care about Rules 1-4 (seriously, I’ve seen folks setting up to shoot across where others are shooting on several occasions), and we pack out what we bring in.

    As I write this there is an ‘Art’ exhibit in the Clark County Government Center dedicated to the trash people leave behind at the Sloan shooting area. It is a very, very sad statement on those that use the area.

    I would not be surprised to see this area shut down in the near future. And since the BLM has shut down damn near everywhere to vehicle access (meaning you can’t get to the open shooting areas because the land to get to them is closed to ANY vehicle traffic) yet another means of ‘gun control’.

  20. A lot of the popular outdoor shooting spots here in the greater Phoenix area have become congested and full of trash. We can have a positive impact, though: contact the land managers and ask for help organizing a cleanup. If they provide a rollout container, you can provide some volunteer hours picking up trash and tossing it in said rolloff. You can write off your time, mileage and expenses as volunteer service and you’ll be providing good PR for the shooting community. Plus it’s a good opportunity to collect brass for recycling / reloading.

  21. I’ll be one of the last people on earth to give the Times a high five (I’m more inclined to give a single finger, if you catch my drift), but I do agree with a bit of gist in this story. As a North Carolinian and an avid outdoorsman who lives close to the Croatan National Forest, I wish lots and lots of my fellow shooters would practice safer techniques and for the love of God and Mother Nature, clean up after themselves. They have ruined a lot of natural beauty in an otherwise pristine place. Now don’t get me wrong – they’re far from the only problem out there. We have the trash dumpers, the “muddin”’ drivers, and the many other degenerates who don’t think twice before wrecking the land. But there are definitely lots of shooters who are leaving their mark on the Croatan too, in a very negative way.

  22. I hate to agree with the NYtimes, but every single semi-popular BLM area I go shooting at gets ruined by freakn idiots who do not clean up after themselves. I always bring 2 extra trash bags, always fill them and I barely make a dent. More $500 illegal dumping citations need to be issued to these morons.

    Granted its true that @#$% morons exist everywhere, at the gym @#$% who don’t wipe their sweat or rerack weights, work people who leave their dishes in the break room sink, etc…

    Yup, that 1% of the population that is a dipshit ruins it for the rest of us.

    • +1. I know one good place to shoot thats not crapped up, and I wont tell anyone but a couple close friends, and we clean up after ourselves religiously, just so there is no sign to alert the trash shooters.

      Then again, its getting to where you dont want to be on BLM land alone, or near dark anyway in SoCal, as people have been robbed of their guns by crooks who go there just for that alone.

      Also, the couple of decent informal ranges that are within an hour drive from San Diego both sit right on the friggin’ superhighway for illegal alien smuggling. For that matter, you stand a very good chance of being shot by coyotes or the Border Patrol if you are armed anywhere south of I-8 after dark.

      You are better off paying for a decent long-range gun club membership, just to be safe.

  23. Fvck the old gray lady. Thats become a rag for the wanna be rich SJWs in NY to read to know what to say at the Kook Kids Klub meetings in clubs and starbux, while waiting for the perfect man to sweep them off their feet.
    Or the old queens and chattering nabobs of the press who compete for scraps of attention from the likes of HRC and the One, and various minions and poobahs of the bureacracy in NY to DC. They dont even know how completely irrelevant they have become. I stopped buying the Times years ago, and refuse to give the digital edition so much as one click.

  24. Yeah, the people who are unsafe are a bane to us all, but it shouldn’t ruin things for the rest of us.

  25. I noticed the article called lands where guns are allowed to be shot “free-fire zones”. They’re pushing that term now for anywhere guns are allowed. Any area where concealed carry permits are recognized? A free-fire zone. As if you’re freely allowed to shoot whatever and whoever you want. Just because you carry a gun legally doesn’t mean all other laws are null and void.

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