Conservation Commissioner Mike Considine, in a report to the Conservation Commission, said target shooting in the Musquash had escalated over the past two weeks, with target shooting across the trail among the problems.
“I’m not talking about hunting and I’m not talking about gun control, I’m only talking about target shooting within the Musquash,” he told the commission at its meeting Tuesday, May 27. “It’s escalated over the past couple of weeks – the warm season is here and target shooting is on the rise. I’ve personally seen six occasions of target shooting, and I’ve heard others.”
He said while he was working on the trails, two target shooters came to the back of the Musquash and didn’t realize they were on the other side of the hill.
“I came around and told them where we were – they said, ‘fine’ and left,” Considine said.
Considine said a group of target shooters were also seen near the power lines with a vehicle. They were shooting into a shallow berm, he said, and pointed out to them that there was a trail on the other side of the berm.
“I also pointed out to them that about four or five feet up in the trees there were bullet holes. So I think that it’s very obvious that bullets are leaving the Musquash,” Considine said. And such bullets could end up in neighborhoods, he said.
“The last incident was when I was riding out there on Mother’s Day and there was a bunch of people in the Musquash, with 10 cars in the parking lot, and there were a male, female and a young child walking into the Musquash carrying a gun case,” he recounted. “I asked them where they were going and they said they were going to an area that was safe to shoot, and I said that there really wasn’t an area that was safe to shoot. They told me that the police department had told them that the area they were going to was safe to shoot.”
Considine said he rode around for a bit and heard where they were shooting.
“So I’m coming up the Overlook Trail, thinking they’re near the power lines, and they’re set up on the Overlook Trail shooting into a tree in the direction where the Overlook Trail comes back into the woods,” he said. “They were shooting into the Overlook Trail.”
Considine said they were shooting down and into a tree and had stripped all the bark off the tree.
Considine noted that Bow and Merrimack have enacted ordinances prohibiting shooting in their conservation areas.
“One of the seacoast towns has also enacted a similar ordinance. So towns are taking action against unsafe target shooting on their town-owned land,” Considine said.
Commissioner Mike Speltz asked, “Why did we think for so long that we couldn’t do anything? Who told us that?”
“When you read the RSAs, it implies that, but when I talked to Geoff Pushee from New Hampshire Fish and Game, he said that’s not the case, Considine said.
Considine said Town Manager Kevin Smith is checking with other towns to see what they have done.
“The Town Council is going to have a public meeting to see what the public input is on target shooting in the Musquash,” he added.
He said on two occasions he went to the police to report what he had seen.
“On the third occasion, I drove up to Hickory Hill because I could hear the target shooting, and went over and talked to the target shooter, and as I’m leaving two cruisers are sitting on the power lines figuring out how to get to the target shooter,” he said. “They’re on the power lines on High Range Road – it’s all wet and they can’t get there. I showed them the way in.”
Commissioner Marge Badois asked if they had all-terrain vehicles, but Considine said they walked in.
Considine said he reported the incident on the Overlook Trail and two police officers went with him to the site.
“They said, ‘this is ridiculous, no one should be shooting here,’” Considine said.
He said in one instance, when he attempted to report target shooting to the police, he was told, “I get 100 calls a day about shooting in the Musquash, there’s nothing we can do. I’m not taking your report.”
Chairman Deb Lievens said that needed to be brought to the attention of Police Chief William Hart.
“If the public is being told that it’s safe to shoot there, the public thinks it’s safe to shoot there and there’s nothing they (the police) can do about it,” Considine said.
Considine said that he was concerned that people think there is nothing that can be done about target shooting and thus would not attend a Town Council meeting on the topic.
Speltz said people in his neighborhood have said that they used to go to the Musquash but they are not going anymore because of news reports. “It’s accomplishing exactly the opposite of what we’re trying to do,” Speltz said.
Lievens suggested that the police do what they did with ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) users and pick a Saturday when the shooters are there and go out to the Musquash.
Considine said he contacted the Town Councilors and told them they couldn’t understand the issue unless they went out to the Musquash and walked the site.
“They are literally setting up on the main trail shooting across the main trail into other trails,” Considine said.
Contacted after the meeting, Londonderry Police Chief William Hart said that Considine’s comments are a “deep concern” to him.
“I will cause an investigation to be opened reviewing this sort of thing,” he said. “Certainly anyone who feels that a person is in imminent danger of bodily harm should report that to the police, that’s what we’re here to deal with, and certainly the potential for reckless conduct is something of which we would want to be notified.”
Hart said he was aware of passionate feelings about the Musquash target shooting issue of “what should done and what shouldn’t be done at the Musquash, and we look to our political leaders to give us guidance. In the interim we will do our best to preserve and protect public safety with the resources that the citizens give us.”