ANTONITO — With hunting season rapidly approaching, the area shooting range will be a popular place, but it needs attention, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officer Rod Ruybalid told the Conejos Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) last Thursday.
Ruybalid said CPW approved a small grant for repairs and some metal targets may need welding or replacement.
San Luis Valley residents now have a safe location for shooting rifles, shotguns, handguns and rim-fire weapons.
The Conejos County Public Shooting Range, which officially started up in September 2014, is open to the public free of charge.
“This is the only public shooting range in the San Luis Valley,” said Ruybalid, district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “CPW and Conejos County are committed to maintaining a quality public range where people can safely participate in shooting sports and for hunters to sight-in and practice for the hunting.”
The facility includes: A range for high-powered rifles, with 10 covered shooting benches. Targets are placed from 100 yards to 600 yards; a rim-fire range for .22 and .17 caliber rifles, 10 covered shooting benches and targets from 25 yards to 175 yards; a shotgun range to which people can bring their own throwers and clays; a handgun range; women’s and men’s restrooms.
The range is open every day from 8 a.m. to dark; an automatic gate is in operation.
Shooters must bring their own ammunition and paper targets. Reactive steel targets are also hanging permanently at the rifle ranges.
Users of the range are asked to pick up trash and spent cartridges, take their targets home, and keep the area clean.
Honing shooting skills is very important for hunters, Ruybalid said.
“Hunters familiar with their equipment through practice make hunting safer for everyone, and practice improves marksmanship and builds confidence. Practiced shooters know their limits and develop restraint when presented with a shot outside of their effective range.”
Commissioner John Sandoval commented the range is heavily used and there is evidence that it’s being misused.
Patrolling isn’t always possible, he noted, and a camera could be helpful, but it still won’t stop it all.
An individual caught shooting the wrong caliber weapon at another section of the range could have his or her privileges revoked, and there has been quite a bit of alcohol abuse.
Ruybalid said the private range between Del Norte and Monte Vista has had just as much trouble replacing targets, so the problems aren’t unique to Conejos County.
Sandoval suggested going to the range to see what is needed, then scheduling a workday to make it happen. In addition to equipment, the range for high-powered weapons also has drainage problems.
According to CPW materials, hunting is not a once-a-year activity. It is an outdoor passion, and takes a lifetime to hone all the skills needed.
Marksmanship, in particular, is a trait held in common with bowhunters, wingshooters, waterfowlers and rifle hunters. It is an especially important skill for ethical hunters as it may mean the difference between a hit or a miss, or between a ‘clean, one-shot kill’ and an animal suffering for a period of time. All it takes to be an excellent marksman is practice, practice, practice!
According to CPW, hunters familiar with their equipment through practice make hunting safer for everyone, while practice improves marksmanship and builds confidence. Practiced shooters know their limits and develop restraint when presented with a shot outside of their ‘effective range.’
It’s also important to practice on the range section suited to one’s weapon.
"With archery season set to begin soon and rifle season following close behind, it’s important to get the range into shape," said Sandoval.
Especially important for non-resident hunters is practicing at altitude. Since scopes and equipment may get knocked out of alignment during transport, practicing at a range close to the destination provides a last minute equipment check.
Colorado offers convenient and diverse public shooting ranges that are open all year round, and a large number of private ranges invite the public in as guests or offer public ‘sight-in’ days just before major hunting seasons.
Sporting clay facilities also may be noted in the range listings that offer them.
The range is located west of Antonito. From Antonito, travel three miles west on Colo. Highway 17 to Conejos County Road 11 then one mile south to the corner with Conejos County Road E.5.
For more information about target shooting and learning how to sight-in your rifle, search “rifle sighting” on the CPW web site, cpw.state.co.us.