The Desert Dispatch is a daily newspaper serving the communities of Barstow, Dagget, Fort Irwin, Hinkley, Lenwood, Newberry Springs and Yermo.
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Tuesday, September 2, 2003
High Desert gun owners no longer can shoot at Hodge Road
BLM proposes to increase open shooting areas
By JAMES RAMAGE/Staff Writer
VICTORVILLE -- It used to be that if you owned a gun in the High Desert and didn't want to pay for target practice, you could go to an area just west of Interstate 15 between Victorville and Barstow and blast away to your heart's content.
Gun owners said the area, just off the Hodge Road exit, had been open for years as an informal, public shooting range.
Dozens of signs scattered around the Hodge Road site greeted Dan Harley, a recreational shooter from Apple Valley, when he ventured there last month to do some shooting. The signs warn people not to shoot there and to stay off the land.
"Where's a legal place to shoot?" Harley asked in apparent frustration. "Over the past couple of years, we used to be able to go out into the desert and shoot guns. We traveled an hour total, out and back, to get there."
As far as legal shooting areas go, a San Bernardino County ordinance divides its land into areas where one can fire shotguns only, and areas where one can fire "solid" projectiles, such as bullets, according to Barry Nelson, chief ranger at the Bureau of Land Management's Barstow Field Office.
While shotguns expel a spray of pellet-sized projectiles no more than 100 yards, bullets can travel farther than a mile, Nelson said, making any errant shots dangerous.
Nelson said the Hodge Road site was public land up until several years ago, when Western American Services of Woodland Hills gained ownership of it in a land exchange with the BLM. The company left the land unchanged until a microwave communications tower was recently constructed nearby, Nelson said, and the warning signs quickly followed.
As a result, the BLM thought that it could do something about the dearth of open spaces for shooting.
"We felt that the existing no-projectile zone was too restrictive," Nelson said.
Working with the California Department of Fish and Game, and the County Fish and Game Commission, the BLM drew up a proposal in late July to reduce the size of the area covered by the county's shotgun-only ordinance.
Ultimately, the commission must approve the proposal, Nelson said.
The current shotgun-only ordinance's northernmost boundary is Highway 58, extending from Hinkley Road west to the Los Angeles County line, Nelson said. The proposed change would drop the boundary southwards to Shadow Mountain Road -- opening up miles of wide-open areas with safe backdrops for projectile-shooting weapons use.
But until a convenient new site becomes available, many who want to do some target shooting somewhere will have to pay to for it.
The Apple Valley Gun Club has already seen a profit from the Hodge Road site closing. They've reported an increase in business on weekends, when the club is open to non-members, and charges each adult shooter $7 a day, according to overseer Homer Keith.
"There's nothing around," he said. "A lot of people have joined up with us as a result of the closing."
WHERE TO SHOOT
• Apple Valley Gun Club, 16699 Stoddard Wells Road, Victorville; call 245-8702 for hours.
• Lion's Club Gun Range, Highway 18 and Rabbit Springs Road, Lucerne Valley; call Gary at 248-6207 for more information.
• West Victor Valley Shooting Club; private club; call 948-2245 for membership information.
James Ramage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 951-6242.
I have shot there a bunch and couldn't believe they put that tower there and still allowed shooting. It was at the top of the hill people were shooting into. That whole area is OHV where bikes and quads can rip up the place but theres no where to shoot or hunt jacks with at .22. The only reason it was legal to shoot on the west side of hodge was because like the article said its private land but it was never posted. The east side of Hodge and everything else off 15 is BLM.
used to be the last hunter on my block
At $120.00 a year, my West End Gun Club membership is the best investment I've made in quite a while. 24 hour access, 7 days a week. Now I just need a cheap pig lease.
You can still shoot there - you just have to go further around the hill to the right, or to the other side (left, as you enter the area and leave the pavement) of the valley. Read the signs - they say something like 1000 feet from the tower and a half mile from the road, I think. Go past the signs. Use a rangefinder if you want to go the "minimum." (This is sarcasm....)