The public shooting range at Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area will reopen on a limited basis.
Officials with the West Virginia DNR say the range, which closed earlier this year, will allow the use of shotguns only for the foreseeable future. Wildlife Managers were forced to close the range to rifle and pistol shooters when it was discovered some shots were travelling several hundred yards downrange and hitting a house.
“Once the DNR became aware of these potentially life threatening conditions, the agency had no alternative but to temporarily close the range and explore options for resolving these safety concerns,” said Rich Rogers, District Wildlife Biologist for the Eastern Panhandle."
An investigation revealed the problems were associated with shooters illegally placing targets on top of the berms designed to catch bullets. When shots were fired through those targets, there was no obstruction to stop them from flying a long distance further. Officials say in many instances semi-automatic weapons were being fired at rapid rates, causing some of the shots to discharge above tat safety barrier atop the backstop mound. There is also evidence of indiscriminate firing, failure to control muzzle direction, shooting from non-designated areas on the range, and shooting after range hours.
“The DNR simply cannot provide direct supervision of the range during all the hours it is open,” Rogers said. “We have been in contact with legislators representing the Eastern Panhandle to explore possible solutions. We have also called upon the National Rifle Association (NRA) for assistance in reviewing range operations and resolving these safety issues. One possible solution being investigated would be to construct a rifle and pistol range across the road from the present range."
Since shotguns don’t carry the energy of rifle and pistol ammunition, they will be allowed in the limited reopening of the range.