One of the wonderful things about living in Arizona is the huge amount of public lands on which one can shoot — there’s no cost, no lawyer-inspired regulations, and a beautiful view.
One such place is the Coronado National Forest (it’s more of a “scrubby desert” than a “forest”, but oh well). I find myself going up Reddington Road to the forest most weekends and having a great time shooting with friends.
Normally, there’s a few things to shoot at lying around: a cardboard box or two, one of those reflective A-frame road barricades, a traffic cone, etc. One can tape paper targets to these, and they make decent makeshift target frames. There’s also usually a little bit of clutter lying around (plastic bags, cardboard ammo boxes, spent shotshells, etc.) but it’s not usually that bad. I make a point of cleaning up after myself, picking up brass, taking down my targets, etc. I also try to take at least a bag or two of trash out with me, so as to leave the range a bit cleaner than I found it.
I enjoy shooting aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and the like. They tend to burst dramatically, but don’t fragment, making it stupidly easy to clean up. Glass shatters and is next to impossible to clean. Shooting old fruit (oranges, apples, melons, etc.) is fun, and the critters on the range take care of the cleanup for me.
I recognize that most people try not to make too much of a mess, and occasionally are unable to locate every piece of brass, or little piece of trash they created. People don’t often think to bring trash bags, and so aren’t able to take out a lot of garbage at the range. It’s understandable, and I don’t fault them for it; I’ve had such days myself. I just try to make up for it when I head out the next time.
Then there are the real jerks. You know them…they folks who haul an old TV or dishwasher out to the National Forest, shoot it a bunch, then leave it there. People who drink a couple bottles of beer, then set the empty glass bottles on a rock and shoot them, leaving shards of glass everywhere. People who shoot a bunch of shotshells, but leave the hulls lying around. What really gets me are the people who deliberately shoot the signs posted by the National Forest Service asking them to not shoot the signs and please pick up after themselves. Jerks.
In the last year or so, I’ve bagged and hauled about 1,500 pounds of trash from the shooting spots at the National Forest near Tucson. That’s 3/4th of a ton, and it’s barely made a dent in the garbage there. There’s still gobs of litter out there, both big and small. This last weekend, my cousin and I removed about 150 pounds of trash, including a shot-up dishwasher that left fragmented plastic all around.
Is it that hard for people to clean up after themselves? Did their mothers teach them nothing? There are ample signs saying that the National Forest Service doesn’t clean up after people, and that it’s one’s own responsibility to make sure things are picked up.
These few jerks make the rest of us shooters look bad. Indeed, things have gotten so bad that the 4th shooting spot in the forest up on Reddington Road has been closed. There’s a new barbed wire fence blocking cars, and posts saying “Restoration Area”. According to the sign, foot traffic is permitted — it’d be nice to get some folks up to the area to clean it up sometime. Maybe if we can really clean up the place, the National Forest Service will see that some shooters care and will re-open it.
In order, these are pictures of one of the non-closed shooting areas suggesting how badly littered it is, my cousin Patrick picking up some trash at the site (we rotated between bag-holding and trash-gathering), the newly-closed “Restoration Area” range, and a sign from the Forest Service.
In short, if you want to be a jerk, just trash the public lands where you can shoot for free. The National Forest Service will close those ranges when things get too bad.
Don’t be a jerk.
Update: I’ve started a thread at AR15.com to coordinate a clean-up effort. If you’re in the area, please join in.