Preserving our natural outdoor environment is important if we have any intention of maintaining it for generations to come. Whether you’re shooting in the wild or simply spending some quality recreational time in the great outdoors, we all have to do our part.
Luckily the vast majority of outdoorsy types are pretty responsible, and respect their surroundings by not causing damage to natural habitats, littering or disturbing others. They go out, have a great time, pick up after themselves and leave things the way that they found them.
Unfortunately, there are a percentage of those that aren’t nearly as conscientious. With little regard for anything but their own amusement, these folks can leave a path of destruction behind them that not only causes physical damage, but can negatively impact the perception of outdoor pursuits in some cases (including shooting sports and hunting). The numbers are likely low overall, but it doesn’t take much to potentially ruin things for others. It seems like every year there’s some jackass in the news that has done something monumentally stupid in a National Park or has caused a serious accident. The problem is that public opinion can be strong and hard to change.
We experience this type of thing on our own property from time-to-time. We have a rural place that backs onto a large area of forested land and leased farmland that can be popular for certain unscrupulous hunting types. They basically sneak onto the property to hunt ducks, turkeys and whitetails with no permits (and often out of season). They’ve broken fences, torn up trails and fields with ATV’s and have shot at game very close to homes in the area. The problem is that bullets and arrows don’t really respect property lines. There are kids and pets all over the place and we had a neighbor lose a horse when some genius shot it with a bow thinking that it was a moose (news flash: there are no moose in the area). I even had a full-on Rambo looking dude come out of MY woods to ask me if he could borrow some hay to feed the deer because he felt sorry for them. I hope I don’t look that dumb. In any case, it doesn’t happen a lot, but enough to cause some buzz around hunting and shooting in general. A few bad apples…
Now aside from the standard rules around gun safety and not being intoxicated while shooting, a lot of the things that we can do to be more responsible in the outdoors are simple common sense. It seems a little silly to have to even mention certain things, but then we also have to do things like print DO NOT EAT on those little silica anti-moisture packets that are found in a lot of products…
Research / Know the Area
Before you pack-up and head out to an open area that you think is OK to shoot in, be sure to double-check that the land isn’t privately owned. For public lands, it’s also a good idea to be aware of any regulations or restrictions that may exist, or if the area is protected in any way. When it comes to hunting, obviously work within approved areas, in-season and with permits where necessary.
What You Shoot
This would include both the type of rounds you use, plus the targets you shoot at.
Don’t use tracer or any type of incendiary rounds (for obvious reasons).
Use approved targets only and ensure that the type is OK to use in the area that you’re shooting within (eg. cardboard / paper / clay etc.). Also don’t mount them to anything that doesn’t make sense. For hunters, always aim ethically and don’t harass or kill other wildlife.
Do not use trees, cacti, rocks or other natural objects as targets. It’s not only irresponsible, but also illegal in some areas.
Don’t shoot at signs, buildings, vehicles, anything historical or archeological etc. – just don’t.
Where You Shoot
This again would seem all very straight forward, but you’d be surprised. Maintaining the safety of people and reducing the risk of damage to surrounding objects is clearly a critical element when shooting outdoors.
Do not shoot if there is ANY chance of people being in the area. This includes other shooting or hunting parties, or proximity to residences, recreational sites, campgrounds, trail heads, parking lots or boat launches etc.
Never take a shot unless you can clearly see your target, and you know what lies between and beyond.
Ensure that you have an appropriate backstop for your shots.
Don’t shoot across roads, trails, waterways or into caves. This reduces the risk of hitting someone or something other than your intended target.
Take Care of the Environment
It’s everyone’s responsibility to avoid damaging or disrupting natural ecosytems and habitats. Don’t really need to explain it further.
Watch for and heed signs that designate restricted wilderness areas, including seasonal breeding and nesting environments.
Avoid disturbing ecologically sensitive areas like meadows, wetlands, streams and lakeshores.
Always practice minimum impact travel methods by staying on trails and avoiding the use of motorized vehicles where possible.
Use established campsites only, away from water resources, and do not fell trees or branches for firewood or shelters.
Be sure to pack out all litter, including any pieces of targets and spent shells or casings.
Practice proper fire safety protocols.
Do the Right Thing
Even when no one is watching, always try and be a responsible outdoor citizen, whether you’re shooting or not. It pays off for everyone in the long run.
Pick up and dispose of debris or waste items even if you didn’t leave them.
Obey ALL posted signs.
Always respect the rights of others, including private property owners, recreational trail users, campers, boaters and others so they can enjoy their activities undisturbed.
Leave gates as you find them.
Be sure to ask permission from the landowners when crossing private property.
Call your local ranger station or land manager to report any vandalism that you may find.
Always try and leave the area better than you found it.
There is no shortage of resources available online and through organizations like the U.S Forest Service, that can provide all of the information necessary to help everyone be safe and responsible when undertaking activities in the wild. The more that we can help to sustain our open spaces and the species that thrive within, the better off we’ll all be.
Sign up for K-Var’s weekly newsletter and discounts here.