Changes coming to Oconto County shooting range

Changes are coming to the Oconto County Shooting Range

OCONTO COUNTY - Changes are coming to a closed-down shooting range in Oconto County.

County officials temporarily shut down the Machickanee Forest Shooting Range in the spring, after stray bullets damaged property in the area.

John Duggan, Oconto County, says stray bullets came right through his yard.

"I was cutting and splitting wood right here. I had ricocheting bullets coming from the range," said Duggan.

Duggan's experience is one example of what prompted Oconto County to temporarily close the shooting range.

The County Forest, Parks and Recreation Committee has approved a plan to keep the range where it is, but change the layout of the shooting area.

"The intent is to change the direction, more north, northeast. If there are any stray bullets that leave the range, hopefully no stray bullets leave the range, but if they do leave the range, they'll be going to the area where there are no homes for two to three miles," said Bob Skalitsky, Oconto County Forest, Parks and Recreation Administrator.

Skalitsky says the range is normally open every day. He says options include reducing the times the range is open, and raising the daily shooting fee.

Skalitsky says the new range will get a facelift as well. Plans are in the works to improve safety, so shooters can focus on the task at hand.

"We'll put in shooting benches, where there's a canopy, a roof if you want to say that doesn't allow the shooter to see blue sky on the berm. It's called a no-blue-sky," said Skalitsky.

Skalitsky says he will apply for a grant to cover 75% of the estimated $150,000 project. He says a county shooting range fund containing nearly $70,000 will cover the rest.

Duggan says he wishes the range would move to another site, but in the meantime he will enjoy the tranquility in the area.

"It's been nice that it's been quiet the last several months. But we knew it wasn't going to be permanent. We want it to be safe, and I think the county wants it to be safe as well. I want my family to feel safe being on our property as well," said Duggan.

If the grant is approved, the county hopes to begin construction in the spring of 2015, with the opening of the new range, later that year.