This is the time of year that most of us start seriously planning our fall big game hunts. That planning and preparation generally starts with making sure our firearms are shooting as well as we intend. That “target practice” is also about reacquainting ourselves with the tools we will take afield; improving our firearm handling and, ultimately, making certain that we and those with whom we share time hunting and wandering the backcountry are as safe as possible. This target practice is a big deal, really.
For a very large number of us, our target shooting generally happens at one or another of the various sites along Durr Road — a large open area of public land, managed for us by DFW. Those “go to” target shooting sites have seen restricted use (early morning shooting only) during the dangerous fire seasons of the past several years. This year’s heightened wildfire concerns, however, have prompted DFW to close all its managed lands in eastern Washington to any firearms, use other than legal hunting, until further notice. So what are the safe options available locally as we sharpen up for our coming fall hunting adventures?
In fact, there are plenty of options. Plan ahead a bit, pay attention to the rules in place, and you should see little change in your normal run-up to fall.
There is actually plenty of safe room to target shoot on the public ground around Paradise. This is primarily going to be on regional ground managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and by the US Forest Service in our Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
DNR rules for target shooting are pretty straightforward, actually. (Don’t forget your Discover Pass.) Shooting is allowed between a half hour before sunrise and a half hour after sunset. As of this moment, there are no restrictions beyond those that follow, but be aware that conditions can change quickly.
In my view, the Washington Administrative Code (WAC 332-52-145) which outlines the DNR rules for target shooting simply formalizes the instructions we received from those who got us started on our lifetimes of shooting pleasure.
On our DNR ground, you are free to shoot in a developed location “designed for target shooting” and any area “with an unobstructed, earthen backstop capable of stopping all projectiles and debris in a safe manner.” Do not compromise the safety of “any person, pet, livestock, wildlife of property.” Do not “discharge tracer or incendiary” ammo. Don’t shoot “within, from, along, across, or down roads or trails,” and be more than 500 feet from non-shooting recreation facilities.
You may shoot at any target designed or manufactured for use as a target — homemade targets are fine — and remember that virtually everything else is an “unauthorized target.” Unauthorized targets include signs, vegetation, gates, vehicles, appliances, glass, and all those things you already know you don’t really want to shoot. You are responsible for removing and disposing of your “shell casings, targets, ammunition packaging, or target fragments.”
On our Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Cle Elum Ranger District, the rules are pretty similar. Shoot toward a backstop “significant enough to stop all rounds.” Don’t shoot within 150 yards of buildings, campsites, developed recreation sites or occupied areas, nor across any road or adjacent water. Trees, rocks, vegetation and glass are never to be used as targets. And, of course, you are expected to clean up and remove all shooting debris (casings, targets, and so forth).
There are plenty of safe and welcome target shooting sites in the Forest. Do note the signs at entry points relating to local or temporary shooting restrictions. Note, also, that shooting is prohibited in certain areas of the Forest, such as: Road 49 in the Kachess developed area (1/2 mile buffer); Box Canyon Creek (1/2 mile buffer on Roads 4930 and 4930-120); Highway 903 (1/2 mile buffer to beyond Salmon la Sac); and a 1/2 mile buffer around Lake Cle Elum and Cle Elum River. You may pick up a copy of these rules at the Ranger District Office in Cle Elum.
Want something more formal? Your only option in the county is the Cascade Field and Stream Club’s very nice facility on Hayward Hill.
While this is a members-only range, the Club opens its gates to the public four times a month. Public shooting happens on the first and third Wednesday and Saturday of each month. There is a mandatory 8 a.m. orientation, followed by shooting on the range from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Club charges no fee for this opportunity, but donations are accepted. You may join the Club (and its range) for just 80 bucks a year. You are welcome to just come shoot, or join.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has identified regional shooting ranges, also, at www.wheretoshoot.org. You may find a more distant location that works for you.
Fall is on its way. There are plenty of options for your safe, fun, local, and necessary, preparation.
Jim Huckabay is retired from the Department of Geography at Central. His “WILD WINDS and Other Tales of Growing Up in the Outdoor West” is available online and at bookstores. Contact Jim and join in discussions at www.insidetheoutdoors.com.