Shot Strings, No. 3


So I was cruising through my Facebook page looking for something interesting besides deer kills, and lo and behold, I came across a little gem someone had posted about hunters getting the heave-ho from public hunting grounds.

The headline in the post of a U.S. News & World Report link read, “Obama Pushing Shooters Off Public Lands.” We’ve all seen headlines of this type plenty of times before, but public lands and gun and hunting issues have never been at the top of Obama’s to-do list, so curiosity got the better of me and I clicked through.

Interesting read. Seems the Interior Department (most pointedly the Bureau of Land Management) is interested in closing down potentially millions of acres to outdoorsmen who traditionally use such public-access lands for general gun recreation and target practice. Again, not the first time any of us had heard about this kind of initiative from the corporate office. Face it, gun ranges, public hunting lands, and other shooting facilities are always under attack, thanks to the unchecked and ever-creeping ooze of suburbia. I’m sure everyone reading this is just as familiar as I am with the tired fist-shaking angst of the folks who complain about the resident deer eating their newly planted azaleas in their newly minted subdivisions and want them gone, just not by hunters. “You can’t shoot them, for cryin’ out loud!” they protest. “Shooting’s just so, so dangerous!” Yup, it was just that kind of factless-based emotional yammering I expected to come across when I opened the article up, so imagine my surprise when I read this:

Officials say the administration is concerned about the potential clash between gun owners and encroaching urban populations who like to use same land for hiking and dog walking.

“It's not so much a safety issue. It's a social conflict issue,” said Frank Jenks, a natural resource specialist with Interior's Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 245 million acres. He adds that urbanites “freak out” when they hear shooting on public lands.

I almost fell off my office chair. In fact, I was so conflicted in my feelings about these two little paragraphs, it took me a minute to figure out I better put something up on this blog.

At first I kind of wanted to find Mr. Jenks and shake his hand for (almost) saying we hunters weren’t a safety issue. But then I wanted to find him and slap him around for being more concerned about the “freak out” level of a bunch of dog walkers and hikers. Shooters should now go away because we’re a “social conflict” problem? Creative, but thanks, I’ll pass.

Over the years, outdoorsmen in general, and hunters in particular, have cooled their jets and toned down the rhetoric when it comes to the sports we love but that others find offensive. In my childhood, driving to my grandparents for Thanksgiving, I’d marvel at the Pennsylvania hunters who proudly strapped their whitetail bucks to the hoods of their cars after a successful day afield. Now they put their deer in the beds of their trucks and cover them with tarps. Others foraying on the edges of city life learn to keep a regular street coat in the SUV so that, when they drive into town for lunch, their camouflage doesn’t “offend” the locals. Too, we use “kinder, gentler” language, such as replacing “kill” with “harvest” (a move I find ridiculous and offensive to me), and we’ve been taught to argue with the rabid whinings of PETA and Brady Law constituents not with emotion, but with calmly stated facts (actually a good thing, this one). But now we’re supposed to give up acres of ever-dwindling—and well-posted—shooting lands because a dog walker might become alarmed at the noise of gun fire? The urge to be sarcastic here—“They’re wearing their iPods, how can they hear anything?” or “Weren’t they used to gun fire in the city?”—is strong, but I think I’ll follow the credo of keep it simple, and that is to advise we should say, simply, “We’ve given enough already. No. No more. This is our land, too.”

The author recommends: American Rifle—A Biography. She says, “This book seems a fitting partner to the editorial here. Beautiful guns and a long history with them. Let’s make sure neither disappear.”


    • You’d think that, but it’s easier for them to just eliminate the socially unacceptable group. On an up note, see the comment from “wildwilliam”–seems those above have decided to take the reticles off us, at least for the time being. Let’s take the good news for what it is, while keeping an eye on the subject, as it’s bound to come up again. Thanks for your input!

  1. I’m tired of sportsman paying the price for paranoid yuppies. If they don’t like us hunting on public lands then they should stay home or go somewhere else! If we tried to kick them off hunting lands, there would be quite an uproar for sure. The Government always sides with the politically correct side of an issue, instead of showing some balls and doing the right thing.

    • Unfortunately, its seems more and more that political correctness IS made to seem like the right thing. Indeed, it seems that political correctness has shifted to become an agenda of homogenizing a population so that we’ll “all get along” as our differences are erased. It’s one thing to be polite and respect others–two things sorely lacking in today’s society–but when you take away the individuality that we should be celebrating in one another, you run the risk not only of all becoming a dull neighborhood of Stepford Wives, you staunch the inate creativeness of simply being human that drives us forward and keeps us evolving. There you have it–not exactly guns and shooting, but food for thought nonetheless.

  2. The article give us a full expression of opinion but did not tell what the regulation was. What public lands? Where? How close to what city? When was it announced? Was there public comment? Who said no guns? I don’t think Obama said so, some BLM middle manager said so. Are we going to be reading this stuff through the next year? Spare me these political screeds. I want to read about guns and shooting.

    • Gunny, couple things. One, iff you had clicked through to the U.S. News article, you’d have seen that no regulation was named there. In fact, it said regulatoins were being drafted–and last time I checked, “being drafted” meant such a thing is in the creation stage. I Googled quite a bit to see if I could find anything in ink that looked official regarding such a proposal and failed, so I assume that, just as the article said, no regulations have been formalized to even the point that public commentary session dates have been named. However, given the rather reliable reputation of the U.S. News and World Report, I hardly doubt the article’s author made up the article just to incite a riot among gun owners who use BLM land to shoot on, merely that Mr. Bedard had come across some information about some governement proposals in their infancy that could have an impact on shooters.

      As for your comments about political screeds and wanting to read about guns and shooting, I fail to see where this article was NOT about guns and shooting. Was this an editorial? Absolutely. But this is a blog, not a gun or products review column, and I have a reasonable amount of freedom to choose what topics to write about.–there are ample gun writers out there covering every new gun, box of ammo, and latest gear to hit the market (including other bloggers and authors on the Gun Digest site), and while I may eventually insert such reviews from time to time, it’s unlikely such essays will be the meat and potatoes of my essays. Personally, I try to find something different each time I put something up, something that will resonate somewhere, sometime, across a wide variety of gun owners and recreational shooters and promote useful conversation. To that end, it’s just fine that you didn’t appreciate the topic I covered here. Others did. Nobody can please everybody all the time, including me–but I don’t go out of my way to spare anyone anthing except insult or injury. And, so, while I hope you’ll join me here occassionally to read about the guns and shooting issues that mean something to you, it’s also okay to “turn the channel” when I don’t.

  3. Hey Frank, why not set up certain days for the Yuppie crowd and certain days for the people who like to shoot guns or is this just too simple of a solution?

    To simply ban gun owners is not the solution, why not ban the yuppies instead, then they won’t hear any gun shots?

    It sounds like BLM hasn’t thought this all the way through yet.

    Sounds like another one of BLM misguided stunts, sticking their nose in where it doesn’t belong. I am referring to the killing of wild horses so the cattlemen can have more grazing room for their livestock. Although the BLM claimed that the wild horses were causing damage to public lands. Someone needs to investigate this and simply follow the money changing hands under the table.

    If BO, (Barack Obama), is behind this, well one can only imagine that this is just another one of his attempts in trying to disarm gun owners.

    As for the shooting of deer in urban areas, well would those homeowners rather see hundreds of over populated starving and dead deer laying all around their pretty lawns? That’s a sad picture for anyone to bear.

    Consider too the increase in car/deer accidents with the over population of deer in urban areas. The conservation department has tried birth control for deer but it didn’t fair too well. Removal of the excess deer is very costly and just trying to catch the deer in the first place is not practical.

    Actually there may not a practical solution that everyone will like or even agree on, maybe a compromise between yuppies and gun owners is what is needed!

    Something to consider…

    • In case no one else has heard, here’s a news headline, from today’s Huffington Post –
      “WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Wednesday it will not impose new restrictions on recreational shooting on public lands, a Thanksgiving gift for thousands of gun owners and hunters concerned about a draft plan to limit target shooting near residential areas.”
      So we can go back to reporting and blogging on other issues!

    • Excellent point about the deer/car accident rates (among your others). This is a point too often left out of hunting and land use debates. Thank you for your input!

  4. Tonto National Forest, Scottsdale, Arizona
    From: Martin Dillian (
    Sent: Wed 6/29/11 12:38 PM
    (widely distributed nationally)


    I paid a visit to the ranger station at the entrance to Bartlett Lake this morning to inquire into a reasonably new sign posted in Scottsdale’s jurisdiction on Cave Creek Road before the turnoff onto Bartlett Lake Road. Simply, the sign says “No shooting”. No city or state ordinance is posted nor is any geographic area specified. Nor is there anything on the sign that would immediately indicate that it was Tonto Forest-related other than the coloration and construction of the sign (wood rather than metal) which is typical of signs applicable to Tonto National Forest. Still, I wanted to inquire.

    I encountered a polite and sincere young uniformed employee who informed me that ‘no shooting’ is now applicable throughout Tonto National Forest (and pretty much everything from Phoenix to Flagstaff is a national forest of one kind or another – immediately north of Tonto National Forest is Prescott National Forest). I was informed there is no place that it is legal to shoot unsupervised on AZ-administered national forest property. When asked why and when this policy had changed, he politely implied that the those above his pay grade made the decision because they considered shooting a fire hazard.


    I asked when the restrictions would be lifted, such as during monsoon with increased relative humidity or in the colder and wetter months of the year when fire dangers were negligible. While he didn’t say so in response (circumventing a direct answer), I got the impression that there is no intention to lift the restriction under any circumstances. Continuing, I asked if the ‘no shooting’ restriction was more a matter of an anti-gun sentiment rather than a genuine concern for fire safety. I could tell I was making him very nervous due to his body language (arms crossed across his chest) and he replied that as far as he knew, the reason was to avoid fires. I politely disengaged at that point, thanked him, complimented him for handling himself well, and exited.

    While there is no doubt that it has happened somewhere, and can happen, when is the last time you are aware of a significant forest or wildland fire caused by discharge of firearms? Anywhere in the country? Me either.

    Since the two primary causes of fire are nature and people, and because people like to recreate in wilderness areas, the forest service seem to think the way to prevent forest or wildland fires is to keep people out. And one way to keep people out is prohibit recreational access to the most law-abiding among us, the recreational shooters. It would appear that what the forest service is intentionally doing is to incrementally institute another gun-free zone, this time on the pretense of fire safety. Before it was the children; now it’s fire safety.

    Constructively such a prohibition constitutes a statewide ban on recreational gun use in the national forest for any reason. People can still camp, have open fires when and where they are not prohibited, recreate with ATV and motorcycles, boats, etc., but recreational target shooting (arguably the safest -statistically – of all recreational activities undertaken in the wilderness areas) is apparently now verboten (prohibited by the dictate of an unaccountable czar, and not the result of any legislative action which is answerable to the voters).

    I thought to be argumentative and chose otherwise. I could have asked if because of the remote possibility of a child drowning, maybe nobody should be allowed to have a swimming pool, or if because of the possibility of an automobile accident involving the other driver’s use of alcohol or drugs, shouldn’t we ban the use of automobiles. Maybe we should permanently deny any vehicles and campfires in any state recreation area, or god forbid regain control the migration of illegal aliens through our national forests. Maybe the threat of terrorism should be sufficient reason to restrict air travel rather than deal with the problem itself. Oh, that’s right. Never mind. Anyway, the decision was not the irresponsible bureaucratic act of this polite young man, so I let the matter drop.

    Given that less than 17% of all land in Arizona is not government owned, and citizens cannot discharge a weapon within municipal areas even if on private property with exercise of reasonable safeguards, not even a pellet or BB gun, not even a weapon configured for ‘blanks’, it would appear that our recreational use of firearms other than at a tightly controlled government range is being choked off.

    This does not bode well for gun rights …. sure you can own guns in AZ, and carry them, but you can’t use them (for practice and recreation). And to make matters worse, the AZ Constitution safeguards you right to firearms for self-protection, but not for recreation. That’s not freedom. Sounds more like the absurd rules of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    These people never give up.

    Marty Dillian

    Does the Constitution matter? If it doesn’t, then your freedom doesn’t matter.

    Free or equal – our voting choices in 2012. How will you vote?

    • Marty, wonderful commentary. Thank you very much for your input. I can’t say that had that been me instead of you on the Tonto hearing about no hunting because of a fire hazard, I wouldn’t have felt there was an ulterior motive to such restrictions, either. And it souds that if, from your description of the Forest employee’s body language and answers, he is indeed just towing the company line. Unfortunate that he couldn’t be more forthcoming, but he has a job to keep, too.

      Are we paranoid about issues such as these? Maybe, but it’s difficult not to be. The “they’re out to get us” mentality is a tough one to get around, because there’s so often ample proof that every time gun owners and shooters give an inch, the proverbial mile is taken. I applaud your insightful response (and doubly your politelness to the employee when you ended the conversation–lots of folks could learn from you). Stay vigilant, stay polite, stay involved, talk about your observations here and other appropriate places, and fight the good fight the right way.


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