By Phil Cooper - Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Hunters in the Idaho Panhandle are happy about the reopening of a local shooting range where they can safely sight in their hunting rifles.
The 100-yard range at Farragut State Park reopened to the public Saturday, June 1. The range is west of Bayview, between Coeur d'Alene and Sandpoint.
The range is administered jointly by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. It is now open for public shooting the first and third Saturdays of each month through the summer on a first-come, first-served basis. Hours are 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
There is a $5 range use fee in addition to the Farragut State Park entrance fee. Firearms are limited to rifles, including .22-caliber, centerfire rifles less than .50-caliber, and muzzleloaders up to .54-caliber. For now, no handgun shooting is allowed.
The Farragut range was originally part of the Farragut Naval Training Station built in 1942. After World War II, the range was turned over to the state and opened for use as a public shooting range.
The range was open to the public for about 60 years before being temporarily closed by court order over concerns about noise and safety when plans were announced to improve the range.
Idaho Fish and Game has used $260,000 from hunting and fishing fines, timber sales and National Rifle Association grants to improve safety and reduce noise at the range. The work entailed lowering the range, building 12-foot berms to muffle noise and contain bullets, and installing overhead safety baffles.
During the time the range was closed, shooters were sighting in firearms in places where there were no specific safety rules, no established backstops, and no boundary fences or warning signs. Many of these places were on national forest or nearby state lands. Used targets and empty casings were left behind in frequently used locations and the areas became littered eyesores.
The reopened range has strict safety rules with on-site supervision by Fish and Game, high berms and sand pit backstops, noise and bullet containment baffles, perimeter fencing, and facilities for disposal of used targets and casings.
"We're certainly pleased to reopen the range," Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore said. "Former range users will see a dramatic difference in the shooting venue, and neighbors can see the steps we've taken to improve safety and reduce noise."
The range is authorized for up to 500 shooter visits per year. A hearing is scheduled for later in the year about possibly removing that limit. In the future, Fish and Game plans to complete work to open a 50-yard and a 200-yard shooting area of the range.
Phil Cooper is the regional conservation educator in the Panhandle Region.