If you like target shooting but are not familiar with this area, it can be a bit confusing to figure out where to go. With a checkerboard of BLM, Forest Service, and private property in and around Marys Peak, it is especially important for OSU students who may have brought firearms or recently purchased a gun to find out where it is legal and safe to shoot. In an effort to reduce the number of good people getting pinched due to confusion or lack of proper information, Corporal “Big Al” Schermerhorn of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office decided to reach out to the community. His message is simple: know where you are and whose property you are on at all times and you should be A-OK.
The issue of good kids getting pinched has come about mainly due to inadvertent trespassing and littering. “There isn’t a private timber company in Benton County that allows anyone to target shoot in their property,” said Schermerhorn. Twenty-five years ago this was not a problem. In the past the timber companies and outdoor lovers honored a sort of unspoken agreement to not bother each other or cause any trouble. A critical point has been reached, however, and timber companies have become increasingly staunch and with good reason, too.
Littering in these areas, primarily Marys Peak, has driven the timber companies to take action. People bring TVs, washing machines, clay pigeons, and shoot their beer bottles. This garbage is often left behind with spent shotgun shells and presumably Monster energy drink cans. “When I was growing up and we went shooting we always brought garbage bags with us. We took out more than we went in there with,” said Schermerhorn. He added that last year he led a group of 50 volunteers to Marys Peak where they removed 26 truckloads of garbage.
There are areas of public land on Marys Peak, BLM and Forest Service, where shooting is allowed. It is vitally important to know where those areas are and to make sure you know when you are on them. Schermerhorn recommends carrying a Garmin with the Hunt Oregon package. This will run you about $30 for an SD chip update and it will tell you all of the landownerships in Oregon. “If I pulled into your front yard and hit down and enter, it would show me your name…it’s that good,” stated Schermerhorn. With color-coded ownerships, one can easily identify whose property they are on and whether or not they are where they are supposed to be. If $30 is too steep for you, call the sheriff’s office and ask where to go. In fact, Schermerhorn, who is one of the office firearms instructors, has provided his contact information and encourages anyone interested in shooting to get in touch if they have any questions at all.
While possibly time-consuming or inconvenient to do the research, it is the individual’s responsibility to know whose property they are on at all times. In other words, Schermerhorn has no choice but to bust you if you are caught on private property and it does not matter if you thought you were somewhere else. “I don’t like catching good kids and giving them a record,” lamented Schermerhorn, but the officers are only responsible for apprehending violators. They do not have the power to deem it a violation rather than a crime. That is the job of the District Attorney who can charge you with trespassing with a firearm, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $7,500 fine whether or not there were “No trespassing” signs.
So where should you go in the Corvallis area? Schermerhorn encourages people to head up Marys Peak and look for a Forest Service road between mile markers 3.6 and 3.7. This will lead you about a quarter of a mile through a Forest Service gate and into an old out-of-the-way quarry with a bank to legally shoot into. Another safe place to shoot can be accessed by heading out to the 3000 line at Marys Peak. From there you can take the Wilderness Tie road to a rock staging area with a large berm to shoot into. Schermerhorn also recommends the Albany Rifle & Pistol Club where one can also learn firearm safety. There is no target shooting at Flat Mountain, the top of Marys Peak where many of the trails are located. OSU has some areas that do allow hunting, by permit only. Last year Schermerhorn had to arrest a couple of students for shooting in the McDonald-Dunn Woods, owned by OSU and used for biking, hiking, and research.
While Schermerhorn is a firm believer in the Second Amendment, he is a “firm believer that just because people have the right to bear arms, they should [also] be educated, people should take classes, and they should know what the primary gun safety rules are.” Do not point guns at people, do not have your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot, assume every gun is loaded, and be sure of what is behind your target. Those are the primary gun safety rules and this should be your mantra every time you head out to shoot.
Overall the takeaway message for shooters and non-shooters alike is know where you are. Know what property you are on and how other people use that property. If you are a shooter, call Big Al—he is friendly and genuinely wants to help you stay out of trouble. If you are a non-shooter, know where shooting is prohibited, wear bright colors, and stay on the paths. Accidental trespassing and accidently injuring someone with a firearm is a serious offense that will stay on your record for a long time, so take the extra time and get informed.
By Anthony Vitale