Shooting sports among kids are booming in Douglas County. But, the good news of growth in the 4-H programs are bringing bad news for those who don’t live on acreage.
Finding a spot to practice shooting air rifles, .22 caliber rifles and muzzle loaders is becoming increasingly difficult.
“We used to shoot in Indian Creek on a separate 40 acre lot, but it caused conflict with people that lived in the area with the .22 noise,” said Troy Taylor, who’s a volunteer Douglas County 4-H shooting instructor.
With thousands of people moving to Colorado, many of whom are finding homes in southern portions of the Denver metro area, outdoor shooting ranges are hard to come by.
Right now, Colorado residents are allowed to shoot on U.S. Forest Service land, but as more people look to practice their skills with firearms, they also battle more people seeking adventure in the same spots on foot, bike and ATV.
“There’s more and more people in the woods trying to take advantage of the amazing public lands that we have in the state and sometimes those different user groups come into conflict and so we needed to find a way and try to address that,” said Frank McGee with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Some children like Kenzie Fox live on enough land that practice is easy and convenient right in her own backyard.
“It is fun because I get to let emotions out and just get to do it for fun,” said Fox.
Kenzie’s mother enrolled her in the 4-H program to teach her safety and respect for others.
“It teaches the kids discipline, responsibility and respect and I think if you’re going to have guns in your home, it’s a big importance to teach kids that these are not toys, that they need to respect them and respect authority and what they stand for,” said LeeAnn Fox.
With hundreds of kids enrolling in the shooting sports program in Douglas County, there are increasing stresses on current shooting spots nestled in private boundaries.
“It is long term relationships with landowners that have space, that’s far enough away that it’s not bothering other residents,” said Taylor.
Now, those who are involved in 4-H, as well as others who enjoy shooting firearms, are relying on the state and county leaders to guide them to safe properties to shoot.
County leaders in Douglas, El Paso, Teller and Park counties are in early discussions with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service to find lands in which people can safely shoot.
Soon, those county and state leaders will be seeking input from those living in these areas.
In the meantime, the Douglas County 4-H groups continue forming and maintaining relationships with private land owners so their programs can continue to grow and thrive.