My recent blog about public lands closing to recreational shooters (quick read here) has generated lots of heat and some good ideas. Like crackers.
That’s correct: Crackers. Oh, and cheese puffs.
The junk food solution to target pollution.
In case you missed the original blog, which you can quickly scan here, our problem is littering bordering on vandalism. Plinkers and target shooters on public lands leave in their wake spent brass, bright plastic shotshells, plastic bottles, tin cans, cardboard boxes, household appliances, used toilets and anything else they find or drag afield. “Eyesore” doesn’t begin to describe the aftermath. In some locations you find shot up rocks, blasted scenic outcroppings and even damaged ancient petroglyphs.
Such littering and vandalism isn’t new and certainly isn’t limited to shooters, but no other litterers leave such obvious evidence that implicates an entire group. When you see bullet holes and spend cases, who ya’ gonna’ blame? It ain’t ghost busters.
When hikers, birders, ranchers, berry pickers and Sunday drivers stumble onto such sites, gun owners get a black eye. When BLM and Forest Service managers see this trash, they get inspired to close public lands to recreational shooting.
Obviously, responsible gun owners aren’t the problem, but we suffer the consequences. So what can we do? What can considerate, conscientious shooters do to end the abuse and retain our privileges to target shoot on public lands? Reader Clair Ramer has one idea.
Instead of cans, bottles or even paper targets, Clair sets out dry crackers as plinking targets. Hit or miss, the remains are cleaned up by birds, rats, mice. A sprinkle of flour, a dash of salt and no harm, no foul. For more of a challenge, he lays out cheese puffs. Brilliant, Clair. Brilliant. Thank you for that idea.
Many rifle shooters set out clay shotgun targets. Environmentally this is rather innocuous since the clays are made of — clay. But clays are a visual disturbance, especially the blaze orange ones. Even plain black clays show up as unnatural litter. Crackers are cheaper, disappear faster. Naturally deposited objects like stumps and cow chips are suitable targets, too.
Several readers recommended every shooter adopt a common sense, pragmatic ethic of “leave no trace.” Take the responsibility to pick up after yourself and it matters little what you shoot. Admittedly it’s hard to police every .22 Long Rifle case an autoloader spits out, but we can try. The job’s easier if you lay out a large poly tarp to catch the brass. At the end of your session, pour the tarp load into a box. Works with autos and pumps of any caliber.
Other ideas were to shoot reactive targets — those self-sealing plastic ones and various swinging, knock-over steel targets. You get the satisfaction of seeing and/or hearing your hits. When finished, you pick up your re-useable targets and head home.
Self-policing policies are an excellent and natural start, but it only takes a handful of littering shooters to desecrate a site. No one will know if thousands of us “leave no trace” shooters use public lands, so we’ll get no credit. But one littering slob will spread evidence condemning all shooters for months.
“Build more official shooting ranges” is another good idea, but local shooters, shooting clubs and politicians/bureaucrats need to get involved, as they did in the new Utah range project coming to fruition. The challenge with official public ranges is getting the vandalizing shooters to use them. Often public ranges are so difficult to access (limited hours of operation, range officers announcing when shooters can step to the line, load and fire, etc.) and limited in scope (100-yard maximum range) that shooters ignore them and shoot surreptitiously anyway.
So the big question still hangs there: How do we minimize shooter damage/littering on public lands? Responsible shooters know they can practice in isolated, out-of-the-way places and leave no trace, but what about those less caring? Can we police their messes adequately and quickly? Adopt a popular shooting area? Are we crazy for thinking biodegradable targets are the answer? Keep thinking of solutions. Involve your friends. Let’s share ideas. Perhaps we’ll need to start an organized educational movement along the lines of Leave No Trace camping. What do you think?
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