PORTAGE, Wis. - On Wednesday the Department of Natural Resources shut down a makeshift gun range.
Located off County Road P a few miles southeast of Portage, the unofficial range at the Swan Lake Wildlife Area has generated neighbor complaints of noise and fear of stray bullets. While it's legal on state land, DNR officials said the activity has been concerning for too long.
"Probably almost half as long as I've been here, which is 10 years or so, that we've gotten complaints and the litter has been constant over that time," DNR representative Bob Manwell said.
He said people have brought everything from old television sets to bottles, cans and produce for targets.
The agency closed a 3-acre portion of Swan Lake, but the parking lot will stay open with a trail from the lot providing access to the remaining open areas of Swan Lake.
Despite the closure, the DNR plans to open a new range for the public about 6 miles away at the Mud Lake Wildlife Area. It could open in the fall of 2015, but it has to clear a couple regulatory hurdles first.
"We're trying to provide safe and well-designed facilities for everyone to enjoy the shooting sport, whether they're hunters or recreational shooters," Manwell said.
Several private shooting ranges have also agreed to allow non-members to use the facilities on certain days and hours of the week, including:
- Dane County Shooting Range, 5184 State Highway 19, Waunakee. Offers rifle and handgun shooting. Open weekends April - August, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Fees: $10 per person per day.
- Hope Rod & Gun Club, 3435 Sigglekow Road, McFarland. Offers pistol shooting. Open Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. Fees: $10 per person per day. Phone 608-838-5817
- North Bristol Sportsman's Club, 7229 North Greenway Road, North Bristol. Offers rifle, pistol, shotgun and archery shooting. Open Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Phone 608-837-6048.
- Milford Hills, W5670 French Road, Johnson Creek, 53038. Offers rifle, pistol, shotgun and archery shooting. Open daily 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Fees: $12 per hour per person or $16 for a day of shooting. Phone 920-699-2249.
- Lakeview Rod & Gun - S80W11401 Shultz Lane, Muskego, 53150. Open by appointment call Paul at 414-466-0395 or Mike at 414-430-0681
- McMiller Sports Complex, S103W38754 County Road NN, Waukesha, 53119. Offers rifle, pistol, shotgun and archery shooting. Open Thursday - Sunday. Phone 262-594-5900.
"We know there's a demand there and the master plan process we went through in Columbia County also showed there was demand for shooting in a controlled setting," Manwell said.
Meanwhile, anyone who enters the closed area at Swan Lake could face a fine.
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