I stepped outside to undertake the next step in the pony shuffle, and the first thing I heard was gunshots. During hunting season the sound of gunshots is fairly normal where we live because we live adjacent to the public land of the Routt National Forest. But it isn’t hunting season right now. Occasionally on the weekend I’ll hear gunshots indicating someone is doing target practice in an old gravel pit a quarter mile away, but these shots were much closer. Too close for comfort, in my opinion. My dog doesn’t like gunshots, and she let me know she was pretty uncomfortable with the situation, too.
I loaded the ponies that were due to head to pasture into the horse trailer, noting that they didn’t seem too concerned about the ongoing noise. I on the other hand was becoming more agitated because I knew I was going to have to confront the shooters on my way out. I also had in mind the dreadful news I heard in 2006 about the Fell Pony mare Lunesdale Spangler being shot on Roundthwaite Common in Cumbria. I later learned Spangler was then the most recent of four Lunesdale ponies that were shot. I hoped my ponies wouldn’t share those poor ponies’ fate.
We live in a fairly isolated location, but things have changed around us significantly in the past few years. An epidemic of mountain pine beetles has killed 90% of the mature trees in the forests of our region, so the secluded forest road that is our driveway is now much more visible than it used to be. People park along it where it crosses public land, bringing them closer to our home than they ever used to come. It’s taking some getting used to.
I have never handled a firearm and know nothing about them. I also don’t know the particular regulations that govern users of firearms on public lands. I decided, then, that I needed to approach the shooters with a simple question: what was the range of their firearms? I could then assess whether our home and my ponies were in danger. It turned out that the shooters didn’t know the range of the weapons they were shooting, so I told them that just two hundred yards away there was a house and livestock and I didn’t want anyone hurt or an animal injured.
The fact that the shooters didn’t know the range of their firearms did not help my anxiety. Fortunately, my question about range seemed to make the shooters think twice about their choice of target practice location, as they were gone by the time I returned from pasture. And of course I’ve added to my to-do list a phone call to the local office of the Routt National Forest to find out what rights I have regarding people doing target practice so close to my home.
(c) Jenifer Morrissey, 2014