I have to keep this week's column short and factual because my older daughter is getting married Friday, June 8, 2012. She just turned 26 on June 6. It seems like it was only last year when I took her out into the woods at the Izaak Walton League during the squirrel season or fishing at the Belington Reservoir or at Teter Creek Lake.
About two weeks ago, I got word that a public shooting range in the state had to be closed because of vandalism. The person who initially informed me thought it was the range at Stonewall Jackson Lake Wildlife Management Area. A few days later, I talked with the West Virginia Division Resources Police Captain of District 3 about this. He did not know anything about this, mainly because I had been given the wrong information.
The public shooting range that had to be closed is the one at Pedlar Wildlife Management Area about ten miles west of Morgantown. Last week, I got a thorough report from Hoy Murphy in Charleston about the vandalism and the extent of the damage.
The shooting range at the Pedlar WMA cost approximately $111,000 to build in 2007. Now, this is not state taxpayers money. This is money that comes from the sale of the various hunting licenses sold statewide. On the morning of May 10, 2012, this shooting range was completely shut down because of vandalism and reported disregard for the rules of the shooting range.
People were bringing all sorts of items to shoot, instead of paper targets (cardboard boxes, vegetables, plastic jugs, etc.) and then leaving their trash on the ground for someone else to pick up. The DNR also built target frames for shooters to mount their targets, and they were also shot up along with the roof that covers the shooting benches.
There is evidence of people shooting toward the lake and over the ridge behind the target area, causing a bullet to hit a building close to a residence. To be able to do this, a person had to shoot up in the air or into the trees, elevating the gun barrel completely over the target area of the range. This is a clear violation of the public shooting range safety rules.
The DNR police officers have been aware of these problems for some time. Patrols for the area were increased. However, continued abuse of the property and vandalism continued to the extent that the shooting range had to be closed.
Public use of this range is difficult to accurately determine because of the transient nature of user groups. The DNR estimates between 10,000 and 15,000 people visit this particular range on an annual basis.
The DNR does have plans to reopen the shooting range. There will have to be increased restrictions on the time of use and how this range will be used. Other undisclosed options are also being considered.
These shooting ranges are open to the public and were built for the convenience of hunters and those who like to target shoot.
However, the DNR is now finding evidence that this range is being used mostly by non-hunters who have absolutely no respect for the range safety rules.
Hunters need to fully realize these ranges were built with the money they shelled out for their licenses. It is their property being destroyed when vandalism occurs. When they see this at any public shooting range, it must be reported to law enforcement immediately. When they see someone shooting in an unsafe direction, this needs to be reported quickly.
The DNR must have full cooperation from all who use these ranges so they can stay open. Money being spent for repairs could be money used to build more shooting ranges in the future.