Fall is upon us, which means winter is quickly approaching. Cold weather doesn’t have to deter you from enjoying archery, but it might put a freeze on your outdoor shooting adventures, depending on where you live. Before that happens, visit a public outdoor archery range one more time to shoot and sharpen your skills. While you’re there, volunteer your time to clean things up.
As responsible outdoor recreationalists, it’s our job to be good stewards of the land and clean up the environment — even if we weren’t the ones who trashed it. Maintaining and tidying an outdoor range can improve the facility’s appearance and reputation, which makes newcomers feel safer and more comfortable. Plus, clean ranges are better for wildlife and reflect the archery community positively.
Chances are there’s a public outdoor range near you, even if you’re not aware of it. In fact, the United States has 645 public ranges, including 185 archery-only ranges and 157 combined archery and firearms ranges. Additionally, the Partner with a Payer website says 28 new ranges are underway and 137 ranges are receiving upgrades.
Use these resources to find a range near you:
- Archery360’s Where to Shoot feature.
- National Shooting Sports Foundation’s WheretoShoot.org webpage (use the filter to find archery ranges).
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Range Map.
- State fish and game agencies — contact your agency to ask about shooting opportunities and ranges in your area.
Many state wildlife agencies maintain public ranges, but some don’t receive much TLC due to limited staff and resources. That’s where volunteers from the archery community can help fill in the gaps.
First, determine who owns the range and call the contact person to receive permission to coordinate a small cleanup. Communicate the current range needs and ask what’s allowed to be maintained by volunteers. Some of the most common cleanup options include picking up trash, sprucing up targets, mowing the lawn, painting or staining desks and benches, and painting or replacing the welcome sign or rules board. If the range is down a gravel or dirt road that’s in rough shape and isn’t publicly maintained, confirm it’s OK to fill in holes and trim branches along the entryway. You can also ask if they have any projects they’d like completed, if there’s an age requirement regarding who can help, what the best dates are to conduct a cleanup and if there are any supplies available to use.
After your discussion, you should know who can help, what resources are available and what you can and can’t do. After the call, make a plan and follow up to receive approval to ensure you don’t go against any protocols.
Next, pick a date and time for the cleanup that works for everyone, including the range coordinator and volunteers. Try to work around busy range days and upcoming events or seasons. For example, it’s probably not wise to pick opening day of hunting season or the weekend before opening day because the range will likely be busy and volunteers probably won’t be available. Ask your family or friends to help. If you’re part of a conservation organization or an archery club or team, ask everyone involved to assist. The more people you have, the quicker the cleanup process.
Then, organize your supplies based on what you and the range contact discussed, taking into account the available tools, targets and resources supplied by the range contact. If nothing’s available, you might want to pack trash bags, buckets, gloves, rakes and shovels. Bring a push mower and weed trimmer if you plan to mow the grass. You can also bring targets or spray paint to re-mark bag target dots, if approved. Don’t forget snacks and water, too. On the anticipated date, head to the range with your group and equipment.
After arriving but before you get started, make sure no one is shooting and leave a sign instructing those who stop by to check behind the targets before shooting. Better yet, designate someone to sit on the line to ensure no one stops by to use the range while people are behind the targets picking up debris or tending to the lawn. The range coordinator might also be able to post the cleanup on the range social page or website if there is one. It’s also wise to wear blaze orange to improve your visibility while working.
If you’re feeling ambitious, ask the range coordinator if you can organize a small fundraiser before or after your event to generate funds for future range improvement efforts. If it’s approved, get creative. There’s no limit to what you can do or accomplish.
Remember, cleaning the range doesn’t have to be all work and no play. Have a friendly shooting or trash pickup competition, or head to a pizza place to celebrate and relax afterward. No matter what you do during or after, take pride in knowing you did your part to improve your local range so it’s presentable for the public.