Skip to main content

Recreational Shooting on Public Land

While most public lands are open to target shooting, bad behavior increasingly leads to closures.

Recreational Shooting on Public Land

Glenn Martin was seated around a campfire in Colorado’s Pike National Forest in July 2015, roasting marshmallows with his grandchildren, when he reportedly jerked forward and said, “Ow.”

That was his final word. Martin, 60, had been struck by an errant bullet, apparently fired by another user of the national forest, a recreational target shooter. Martin died on the scene. The person who fired the shot that killed him was never identified.

On many tracts of public land, especially in the West and particularly close to urban areas, the most popular activity isn’t hiking, or camping, or even hunting. It’s target shooting, and highly accessible spots show indelible evidence left by participants: broken bottles, shattered televisions, empty shell casings, shot-up signs.

On one popular tract of public land west of Utah Lake in central Utah, petroglyphs that are thousands of years old have been sniped, either intentionally or unintentionally, by shooters. The destruction of irreplaceable prehistoric artifacts became so intense that the land managers, which include the Bureau of Land Management and the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), petitioned to prohibit shooting on much of the land.


Just this past year, the BLM granted the restriction, closing a 2,004-acre area in the Eastern Lake Mountains to target shooting. The Utah state BLM office cited its authority under Executive Order 12866 and 13563, federal rules that allow land managers to restrict activities that have less than $100 million economic impact and don’t affect the environment or society. The rule specifically noted that it “does not restrict other public activities in or access to or through the Lake Mountains, including legal hunting.”


But the fact that land managers felt they had no recourse other than closure to shooting shows the extent of the problem. One group, Tread Lightly, is trying to educate shooters on appropriate behavior rather than trying to reopen land that’s been closed, which it acknowledges is difficult.

Among the best practices Tread Lightly provides for public-land target shooters: know your target and beyond; don’t shoot across roads; don’t shoot in developed recreation areas; don’t shoot appliances or other household items lest observers think you brought these items to the public parcel; and pack out all target trash, including rifle and shotgun shells, fragmented targets, or any other debris, whether you caused it or not.

As for the Utah Lake public parcel, following the shooting closure, the BLM and SITLA donated 160 acres to Utah County to be used for a public shooting range.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New for 2021: MEAT! Grinders, Vacuum Sealers, Accessories

New for 2021: MEAT! Grinders, Vacuum Sealers, Accessories

MEAT! Your Maker, makers of quality meat-processing tools for do-it-yourself hunters. The company's commercial-grade products are built "with quality in mind, not price point" for fellow hunters.

New for 2021: Kershaw & Zero Tolerance Knives

New for 2021: Kershaw & Zero Tolerance Knives

Get your first look at the new Kershaw Launch 13, Brace, and Lucha-Blackwash, as well as the Zero Tolerance 0762 and 0357.

New for 2021: Browning X-Bolt Pro McMillan & Recoil Hawg

New for 2021: Browning X-Bolt Pro McMillan & Recoil Hawg

Browning's X-Bolt Pro family has grown in 2021 with the addition of the Pro McMillan. An innovative muzzle break — the Recoil Hawg — also joins the line.

New for 2021: Browning Maxus II Shotgun, Wicked Blend Shotshells

New for 2021: Browning Maxus II Shotgun, Wicked Blend Shotshells

Waterfowlers should take notice at the new products from Browning.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

This recipe adds a little something extra to already-perfect venison backstrap – a sweet and spicy relish made with white-flesh peaches.Venison Backstrap with Sweet & Spicy Peach Relish Recipe Recipes

Venison Backstrap with Sweet & Spicy Peach Relish Recipe

Jack Hennessy

This recipe adds a little something extra to already-perfect venison backstrap – a sweet and...

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians; learn more about this tick-transmitted problem.Ticks Making People Allergic to Meat News

Ticks Making People Allergic to Meat

David Hart

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians; learn more about this...

The new Moultrie X-6000 series cellular trail camera and the Moultrie Mobile app are redefining remote and low-impact scouting. Here's why and how one or a network of them can help you.Is a Cellular Trail Camera Right for You? Accessories

Is a Cellular Trail Camera Right for You?

Josh Honeycutt - September 15, 2020

The new Moultrie X-6000 series cellular trail camera and the Moultrie Mobile app are...

See More Trending Articles

More Conservation

Hunters give back with a game meat delivery to isolated, virus-stricken Navajo community.Sharing the Harvest: Hunters Donate Meat During Pandemic Conservation

Sharing the Harvest: Hunters Donate Meat During Pandemic

Joe Arterburn - April 17, 2020

Hunters give back with a game meat delivery to isolated, virus-stricken Navajo community.

Wildlife conservation goes back to its roots with a project to build new bighorn sheep herds.KUIU Creates a New Model for Wildlife Conservation Conservation

KUIU Creates a New Model for Wildlife Conservation

David Draper - August 04, 2020

Wildlife conservation goes back to its roots with a project to build new bighorn sheep herds.

The new requirement is now being enforced statewide. California's Lead-Free Ammo Regulations Conservation

California's Lead-Free Ammo Regulations

Andrew McKean - December 11, 2019

The new requirement is now being enforced statewide.

The outdoor industry gets serious about recruiting new hunters with some curious marketing strategies.Are New Hunter Recruitment Strategies Working? Conservation

Are New Hunter Recruitment Strategies Working?

Andrew McKean - May 05, 2020

The outdoor industry gets serious about recruiting new hunters with some curious marketing...

See More Conservation

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now