Shooting Safely

Tips for responsible target practice.

Grab your .22, call a few friends, and head to some nearby national-forest land for an afternoon of target shooting. You have an old television that seems like an ideal target—it’s the makings of a great afternoon, right?

Not so fast. However innocent these plans seem, there are some things to consider. Have you thought about the mountain biker coming around the corner or the kid running ahead of his parents, enjoying his sense of adventure? What about hiker taking her dog for an afternoon stroll? In Montana, target shooting is a fun pastime and necessary for the upcoming hunting season. Unfortunately, target-shooting locations like Moser Creek in Hyalite have become dangerous for hikers, bikers, and campers. Trash and shot-up appliances have piled up, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars per year and creating acres of bullet-ridden trees that will take decades to regrow.

Target shooting with responsible etiquette is allowed, even encouraged, on national-forest land. You can have a good time while not endangering others or leaving a mess strewn across a scenic meadow. Keep these responsible target-shooting practices in mind next time you head out:

  • Know where you are and ensure that a natural backdrop, such as a hillside, is behind your target.
  • Select a safe location away from roads, trails, and private or state lands.
  • Respect other recreationists. National-forest lands are for all users.
  • Never shoot from your vehicle, across a road, or toward a trail.
  • Remember target shooting is prohibited within a half-mile of Hyalite Road #62 and South Fork Hyalite Road #620.
  • Choose appropriate targets, using cardboard boxes with paper targets attached. Glass bottles, appliances, and hard plastic all shatter, making for difficult cleanup.
  • Attaching targets to live trees damages and kills the tree, leaving a forest of dead, dying, and shot-down trees.
  • Signs and gates damaged by target shooting are expensive to replace, utilizing scarce funding that could be used to improve to recreation sites—including the potential for a developed shooting area.
  • Keep it clean. Target trash is litter and when you leave it on public land, you trash the reputation of responsible hunters and shooters. Take a garbage bag with you to gather all target materials, spent cartridges and casings, clays, and other trash.

Lastly, enjoy your national forest and make sure your activities do not interfere with others.Remember that irresponsible or dangerous target shooting may necessitate additional restrictions.

Wendi Urie is the recreation program manager for the Bozeman Ranger District of the Gallatin National Forest.