With the state Land Board designating 40 acres off the Daniel K. Inouye Highway as a shooting range, Hawaii Island gun owners now have a place to legally practice their marksmanship.
The clearings in a hunting area near mile marker 16 had long been used by hunters and other gun owners as an unofficial range, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
“The short-term plan was to mitigate an immediate need by designating the area as a public shooting range under state law,” said Robert Farrell, Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement administrator, in an emailed statement.
“… However, the intent is to provide opportunities for the public at large and not just hunters.”
The board approved the authorization during its Feb. 23 meeting in Honolulu, making the area the only official shooting range on the island.
DLNR says that designation went into effect immediately, though no improvements have been made to the area and no rules have been posted. A valid hunting license or watershed permit is required to enter the area.
Hunting in the area is limited to weekends and holidays, but Farrell said the intent is to allow the shooting range to be used seven days a week.
No gun owners were present when a reporter visited the clearings Thursday morning.
The area is unimproved and shooters bring their own targets. A few targets, some propped up by rocks, were left behind, and spent shells are scattered on the ground.
Farrell said in the email that DLNR will make improvements to the range, including signage. A kiosk with rules also will be posted, he said.
A DLNR spokesman said more information will be available next week.
State law prohibits camping, hunting, alcohol, fires, use of explosive devices and pets in public shooting ranges.
Tom Lodge, a hunter who chairs the Hawaii County Game Management Advisory Commission, said an official shooting range was much needed for the island. But he said he wants to make sure the area is used safely and responsibly.
“This really is a huge step forward in my personal opinion and we applaud it,” he said. “But we want it to stay applaudable.”
Lodge said the Big Island Gun Club, of which he also is a member, might be able to help sponsor the range and provide a covered area and clear firing line for shooters to use.
Gun or hunting groups also could help keep the area clean, he said.
“This is our house, so let’s respect our house,” Lodge said.
DLNR also is looking at proposing an area in the Manuka Natural Area Reserve in South Kona as a public shooting range.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.