PACIFIC, Wis. - Pull into the parking lot of the Swan Lake Wildlife Area and you will find it to be littered with shell casings and a sign warning shooters of a nearby neighborhood to the east. The sign is now difficult to read. It is riddled with bullet holes.
"Unfortunately, we got, as with everything else, a few bad eggs in that dozen and half carton. It is spoiling it for the ones who try the hardest," said Herb Shulz, a hunter who uses the location to sight in his rifle.
That's how shooting began at the location years ago. Now instead of being used a few times a year by hunters it is used regularly for target shooting. Without established shooting stations or targets, the range is random at best.
"There's a safety issue here. There are quality of life issues here. There are people that are shooting at all hours of the day, early morning, late night and after dark," said Bill Devine, Pacific town chairman.
One nearby resident reported having a bullet land near him.
Two years ago 211 residents signed a petition requesting the DNR close the parking lot to shooting. They are frustrated it is still continuing.
"I'm an avid believer in sportsman's rights. I want to be clear on that," Devine said. "I'm also an avid believer that they can be done properly and if you're going to discharge a weapon, it should be done in a safe, controlled environment. If it is target shooting, it should be at an approved range and done in a safe environment. Not only for the target shooters, but any other people that may be utilizing the property."
A spokesperson for the DNR said the agency is aware of the residents' concerns. The DNR is in the process of establishing a public shooting range in Columbia County. That proposal is moving forward.
Residents of the town of Pacific see the two shooting ranges as being separate issues and want the makeshift shooting range at Swan Lake Wildlife area closed.
"If you're going to be shooting out there with any rifle you have to be in the parking lot to shoot," Devine said. "Anybody else that wants to use that state-owned land is going to have to get out while target shooting is going on and hopefully get to their destination safely."
When Schulz finished sighting his rifle, he picked up his spent shell casings plus those of others littering the area. He hopes the area remains available to him and other hunters, but realizes that may not be the case.
"People that are abusing this, if they continue to abuse it, we're going to lose it," Schulz said.
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