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A Place to Shoot

Several weeks ago the NC WRC announced a public meeting about building a public range in Burke County on Pisgah Game Lands north of Lake James. If you are not aware, it is part of the mission of both the WRC and U.S. Forest Service to provide public shooting ranges. They receive funding for it. Unfortunately, many folks are not gun friendly and about half the folks at the meeting opposed the range. There is currently a petition drive going to gain hunter/shooter support for the range.

A recent article in the local paper reported that the Haywood County Sheriff’s department had plans to build a range for law enforcement officers to practice and qualify on a deactivated landfill. Again local residents were up in arms (no pun intended) because of the noise and perceived safety hazards. It was just over a year ago that the same thing happened in Buncombe County when plans were nixed for a proposed range on the old landfill on River Road in Woodfin. Officers currently have to drive an hour to the Justus Academy in Ednyville to qualify.

Add to that the number of customers who come into the store and relay stories of neighbors calling Sheriff’s deputies when they legally fire weapons on their land. I guess by now you catch the drift of this column. As we just celebrated our founding liberties there is one that is continually under assault. Our 2nd Amendment right to Keep and Bear Arms assumes there is also a privilege to shoot those same arms. Not if some people have their way.

To all of those out there that do not want ranges built on inactive landfills or public land I have three words: Get over it. These ranges are planned to minimize noise and designed with safety in mind. Hunters and shooters have contributed billions of dollars through Pittman-Robertson funding for both wildlife habitat and shooting range development. Not only that, but isn’t this a safer option than someone just going out in the woods, setting up some targets, and blazing away? Believe me that does happen.

To all the hunters and shooters out there I have only two words: Get involved. Stop sitting around expecting someone else to take care of the problem for you. From the national level where environmental and animal rights groups are trying to ban lead in ammunition to local residents who do not like guns or shooting sports, our heritage is under assault. You better get off your duff and get involved by attending public meetings to support range development. If you don’t, one day you may show up at a range to find a big “Closed” sign hanging on the gate and no longer have a place to shoot.

The Asheville Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society will be holding their Conservation Fundraising banquet on August 16th at the Crest Center in Asheville. This annual fundraising event includes several raffles and both Silent and Live auctions. A portion of the net proceeds goes into a fund used by the local chapter for wildlife habitat development. If you are interested in attending you can email dale.pennell@mcgillengineers.com or download the registration form at www.ruffedgrousesociety.org and click on the Banquets tab in the middle of the Home page.

Who out there knows what a kokanee salmon is? Nantahala Lake has spawned two state records for kokanee salmon in less than a week. On June 6, Fred Mix, of Rainbow Springs, broke the existing record of 3 pounds, 9 ounces, held since 2009 by Ashley Swann, of Swannanoa, after reeling in a 3-pound, 15-ounce fish, using a homemade spinner.  Five days later, on June 11, Jeffery Todd Smith broke Mix’s record, catching a kokanee salmon that weighed 4 pounds, 1 ounce. He used flashers and dodgers as lures. Kokanee salmon are found in North Carolina only in Nantahala Lake, having been stocked in the mid-1960s by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in an attempt to establish the species as a forage fish.

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