Posts Tagged ‘Riverside Co. Sheriff’s Dept.’

Illegal Target Shooting on Hwy. 243

October 15, 2010

Rocky terrain along Hwy. 243 near Banning was the site of potential target shooting recently

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The Mile High diner’s sandwich board along Hwy. 243 read, “Welcome Hunters,” and outlined a few specials. Welcoming hunters seemed out of place for a tree-hugging town like Idyllwild that’s situated in a national forest. Yet, it’s legal to hunt deer this time of year–in restricted areas–which means away from civilization, and certainly not from the road.

Still, coming around a bend towards Banning, a hunter appeared in dark camelflage gear with a rifle slung over his shoulder.  He had the bearing of a military man (trim with good posture) and wore a camelflage hood, instead of a cap. He was walking towards his car parked in the pullout. There was another guy in the driver’s seat.

For that split second when I passed, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of that gun. It had such a long bayonet, almost looked like a sniper rifle. It scared me a little because it was broad daylight and I had teenagers from China in the car. I didn’t want to field any questions of why a strange man was carrying a rifle along the road.

Certainly it was legal to hunt in these parts, but this guy was hunting (or scoping out his territory) at 1 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon about a half mile from the Zen Mountain Center, a buddhist retreat, and a popular RV park a little further beyond. It didn’t seem right, so I called the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in Banning.

They immediately connected me to the Riverside County Sheriff’s dispatch operator. She wanted to know what the hunter looked like, what he was wearing, his race, the make of the car, who was with him, and how long ago that this happened. Of course, I couldn’t remember much because I was so mezmerized with that rifle.  All I know was there was another guy with dark hair driving, and the car was pointed in the direction of Idyllwild.

A buddhist retreat is located 1/2 mile from where the hunters were spotted

However, one good thing I remembered was mile marker 2o:15. A CHP assigned to Idyllwild once taught me to look for mile markers when reporting accidents or anything along highways. Better than landmarks, it helps them pinpoint where events have happened.

I asked the dispatcher if it was legal to hunt there.

“Yes, in certain parts,” she qualified. “But not from the road and certainly not near civilization.”

She said she’d send someone right out to investigate.

On my way back from LA the next evening, I saw a neon Caltrans sign by the Zen Mountain Center flashing these warnings: “No Target Shooting, and no campfires in yellow posts.”

Out of curiosity, I pulled over in the same pullout by mile marker 20:15. The sun was just setting and there was still some light left.

Looking over the edge of the pavement, I was shocked. The terrain below was so rocky and steep that not even a Bighorn Sheep could make it through there without difficulty. There were piles of rocks and sharp, yucca shrubbery. The few, bare trees were still blackened from the fire that swept through there three years ago. Anyone with any sense would never attempt to walk through that terrain. You could twist an ankle and easily lose your footing and fall a ways down.

So those hunters must’ve been survivalists to come up from that terrain. And what could they possibly shoot from there? No deers are out mid-day, and it’s particularly bleak terrain. There would only be ground squirrels, snakes and hawks around. However, quail and doves could be a possibility, but they usually like to be around water, and there was none in sight.

A Caltrans "No Target Shooting" sign went up immediately near the Zen Center

Target shooting is likely, but reckless so close to a highway and near people in the canyon. The road to the Zen Mountain Center was clearly visible from the pullout, and you could see the large water tower from the RV park nearby.

Now I know why the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department acted so quickly to apprehend those hunters, and order the Caltrans sign. Naive or arrogant hunters need to know the rules around here. The terrain is dangerous for them, and their recklessness disregard is dangerous for us.

For more information on hunting in Southwest Riverside County, visit the California Department of Fish and Game’s web site at There is a 64-page “California Hunting Digest” that outlines all the rules and requirements. For reference, Idyllwild, Palm Springs and Hemet are located in the D-19 hunting area, while Banning, Morongo Valley and Joshua Tree fall into the D-14 hunting area.

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