Hold your fire!

2:02 p.m. on December 31, 2013 (EST)
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What really happened here?  We were hiking in the Stanislaus National Forest over the weekend, following a series of old logging and mining roads above the Stanislaus River.  These roads get some traffic, both from street legal and OHVs, and we were a little disappointed at the amount of trash we saw in a few places.  One particularly area was a clearing at the top of the ridge, where people had obviously not only used it for target practice many times (there were targets on the trees, and shell casings all over the ground) but also dumped a mattress and other trash.  Pretty sad.

We continued on, leaving the clearing on our left, as the road dropped around to the right and then curved back to the left where it crossed over the ridge about a hundred yards past the clearing.  At that point there was an open gate, and it was posted by the USFS with large signs indicating that the road was closed to traffic after December 15th. 

Good, we thought.  We’re about to experience a bit of peace and quiet. 

As we passed through the open gate, we heard a vehicle.  Yep—a large white pick-up was driving along behind us, headed towards the gate.  When it got to the gate, I walked back up to the truck, expecting to have a conversation about the fact that the road was closed to just those kinds of vehicles.

Only then they opened the doors, and I saw the USFS insignias there. 

Oops.

So we had a very nice conversation about the roads and the area—and the two USFS employees explained that there were there to close the gate for the season.  They had come out two weekends ago to do the same thing, but discovered that the back side of the gate had no reflective tape.  They were concerned that someone might run into it at night from the back, and so they had returned with rolls of tape.  (There are some operating mines in the area, so we assumed that the miners would have access to their claims, even during the closed season?)

At any rate, after wishing each other well, we left the rangers to their taping and locking of the gate, and we wandered along the road for another mile or so. 

About when turned around, we heard some shots behind us, and we guessed that someone was now using the clearing to test their firearms, or make America free.  Something like that. 

So we cautiously approached that section of the road, although by now the firing had ceased.  We found the gate closed and locked, but with only a few strips of tape on the back side.  But on the ground were rolls of reflective tape, a pair of scissors, and strips of paper backing from that tape on the gate. 

Huh.

So we walked back up to the clearing, and found the USFS truck there, and another SUV.  The rangers were talking to the people from the SUV, who were clearly the ones doing the shooting.  As we arrived, I saw a citation clipboard in one of the ranger’s hands, and she was filling something out there.  Meanwhile, as we arrived, one of the men from the SUV saw us, and turned to the ranger to ask if they could start shooting again. 

She told him to wait for the Sheriff to arrive. 

We said hello to the rangers, reminded them that their tape and trash were down by the gate (they were on top of that) and started walking back out to our cabin.  About fifteen minutes later we met two Sheriff squad cards, two officers in each, passing us and heading out to meet with the USFS rangers.

So our thoughts:

The rangers were a hundred yards down-range from the shooters, and below the horizon.  I can only imagine their reaction when the shooting started.  I assume that they yelled (although we didn’t hear anything) and ran back up to the clearing in their truck. 

Were the shooters cited?  If so, what was the citation for?  Unsafe operation of a firearm?  If so, how does someone at that clearing avoid violating that law?  They were on top of a ridge!  Even if they had walked down-range and notified the USFS team, and then waited for them to leave---they still would have had us down-range a few minutes later.

(Don’t worry---if we had heard shots on the way back, we were prepared to yell our heads off.)

There was another clearing on this same ridge, a half-mile earlier, and it clearly get used the same way.  So this isn’t just a single incident or place.  That are these shooters thinking?  It would seem to me that there would be justification for posting something about No Shooting in these areas, since they are, by definition, unsafe. 

On the other hand, on the North side of the ridge is a very well defined cut in the hill, where the road makes a tight turn into the cut.  The cut makes an ideal background for target practice, and that spot gets lots of use from firearm fans.  The only way to approach it is from along the road, which is always behind the shooters, as the cut is into a very steep ridge that towers over the road.  So it’s not as if the shooters don’t have another place to go.

What are your thoughts? 

5:23 p.m. on December 31, 2013 (EST)
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I'm glad to hear you were safe!

Shooting signs and leaving trash is one of my biggest pet peeves.  Trashing a place will just lead it to be closed permanently and give everyone who shoots/hunts a terrible rep. 

8:37 p.m. on December 31, 2013 (EST)
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Where you have monkeys you will have monkey business.

Some folks learn only by first hand mistakes.  Hopefully these folks will pick a more secure firing range, next time.  As for the trash; the folks that left that just don't care, but I wouldn't automatically assume litering is part and parcel to being a gun enthuisist.

9:16 p.m. on December 31, 2013 (EST)
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Yep, there are fools in every group.

I've also seen trees that were hacked on and trash left in fire pits by "hikers".

Some people are just irresponsible & careless. Sometimes they get themselves or others hurt.

9:17 p.m. on December 31, 2013 (EST)
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I agree that littering and gun enthusiasts are not one in the same.  In, in the other, safer, gun range, I have met shooters who were policing the area and picking up trash.

 

But the spent shells and casings certainly came from shooters...and those are trash--all to often not picked up.

7:20 a.m. on January 1, 2014 (EST)
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I understand what they did was unsafe, shooting from the ridgetop leaves little backstop unless they were shoooting down into a gully. Shooting with the ridge as their backstop makes much more sense.

But what did they do that was illegal? And warrented 6 responding officers (2 USFS + 4 Sheriff deputies)?

10:19 a.m. on January 1, 2014 (EST)
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That was my question--but in California it is illegal to fire a firearm in an unsafe manner:  e.g. towards other people, even if you aren't aiming at them, up into the air in a city, etc.  And depending on the situation...

California Penal Code - PEN PART 1. OF CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS [25 - 680] TITLE 8. OF CRIMES AGAINST THE PERSON [187 - 248] CHAPTER 9. Assault and Battery [240 - 248]246.3, or here

    • . (a) Except as otherwise authorized by law, any person who willfully discharges a firearm in a grossly negligent manner which could result in injury or death to a person is guilty of a public offense and shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

My guess is that the USFS employees were not going to make that decision, they were going to allow the Sheriff to determine the next steps. 

But if the Sheriff was going to arrest three armed people, it doesn't surprise me that they wanted four officers there to do it.  The USFS staff was unarmed.  

4:22 p.m. on January 1, 2014 (EST)
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I would agree it is criminal to put others at risk due to willful negligence like you describe (if I understand correctly - on top of a ridge with no backstop) since they certainly should have known better.

I like to shoot as much as anyone I know, but the shooter bears the burden of doing so in a safe manner by following a few simple rules which have been well defined by instructors, safety classes, and safety publications.

It seems that takes the fun out of it for some people.

1:37 p.m. on January 2, 2014 (EST)
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Three years ago I had to retake the Hunter’s Safety course for the State of TN to get a permit (I lost my original card obtained when I was 12 years old).

Due to computer issues with the on-line version I had to retake the course over a series of evenings in person and was the only adult in the class.

Second to shooting skeet, the most fun part of the course was the “shoot/ don’t shoot” video, where you see a scene and the instructor stops the video and everyone must holler out “shoot!” or “don’t shoot!”.

The purpose obviously was to train the students to make careful background observations before firing. I don’t want to ever be hiking around the class of kids I was with; those little trigger happy hunters yelled “shoot!” at almost every scene. :)

7:36 p.m. on January 4, 2014 (EST)
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they weren't firearms enthusiasts, they were morons. hopefully, the sheriffs confiscated their firearms. we can only hope.

July 29, 2014
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