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San Bernardino National Forest closes forest to recreational target shooting because of fire danger


The San Bernardino National Forest staff invoked its annual “fire season” shooting closure on the whole forest under the guise of protecting against wildfire. The closure was announced Wednesday this week will continue until the end of January unless the closure order is lifted because of some voodoo formula of rain and smoke and wind direction.

There is no formula for “when” discharge of firearms is more likely to cause a fire the agency can show you. In fact, the only study done on the possibility of bullets from a firearm striking something and starting a fire prove it would be effectively impossible in actual field conditions. The study used precisely angled steel plates and peat moss as tinder under the plates (and I challenge you to find any kind of field conditions that might duplicate this), and it still found that bullets causing fire were nearly impossible.

The study did not consider that idiots flicking still-burning cigarette butts, playing with fireworks, using illegal tracer ammunition, or otherwise being stupid and careless are the cause of the fires. Of course, they are going to blame the gun. Blaming the gun for a stupid or insane human act is hardwired into our society today. So when questioned, people don’t say what really happened. “We were trying to see if we could make this pop bottle of gasoline exploded.” No, they say, “it just started while we were shooting.” And the Forest Service buys that and blames the gun.

I can’t tell you how many times the “cause” for wildland fires is listed as firearm discharge from recreational shooters. I can tell you that no one can prove – prove -- to you that people using legal ammunition and target shooting on public lands have ever started a fire by simply shooting.

But here we are with our annual closure. Of course, in one of the only sane things in this forest order, it doesn’t apply to hunting discharge of firearms (which sort of hints right there that it’s not the gun’s fault). But now recreational shooters are banned from the handful of places left on the San Bernardino National where you can still target shoot.

But, hey, it could be worse.

Citing no peer-reviewed science, the Angeles National Forest simply banned all recreational target shooting over a decade ago and closed all the dispersed public shooting areas on that Forest. Oh, they used a whole bunch of feel-good excuses – public safety and lead contamination of ground water were the two big ones I remember. Either of those would be hard to actually document as justification.

But these are gun/shooting restrictions, and the reaction from most of the public: “(Yawn!).”

Oh, but you were riled up when they closed the wilderness to all visitors for less capricious reasons.

Did you know that smoking except within an enclosed vehicle is also now banned on the Forest? Apparently anyone stupid enough to smoke is also too stupid to know to put their cigarettes out, dead out, if they are smoking on a hiking trail or picnic area. But we don’t want smokers out their fouling our air when weren’t in the mountains, do we?

No more open campfires because we are all apparently too stupid to know how to keep a campfire under control or know when to snuff it out and how to do that so it doesn’t get out of control. But most of you are too stupid to know about campfires, so the three or four of us not that stupid acquiesce to this rule.

Of course, I’m being sarcastic. But the point is that these public land agencies aren’t even challenged on so many of these stupid closures and restrictions on the public any longer.

Jason Hairston, KUIU

founder, dead at 47

Jason Hairston, the founder and owner of KUIU, an outdoor clothing and gear company specializing in high-quality hunting products, died this past week at 47. The cause of his sudden death has not been released.

Hairston had just returned from a successful dall sheep hunt in Alaska with Donald Trump Jr., and the hunting community was still green with envy last fall, when Hairston shot the new California record and Nelson bighorn sheep world record in the Orocopia Mountains this past fall. He contributed $235,000 to sheep management for that hunting tag.

A professional football player with short stints with the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, Hairston retired in 1996 at just 24 due to the lingering effects from a broken neck he suffered during his junior season at UC Davis during a Division II playoff game. In a 2016 interview with the Daily Mail, Hairston believed he was suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which is found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma like those endured by football players.

"I played linebacker, and the way I played the game, I led with my head. I played the way they tell us not to play now," he said then. "I have all the symptoms of CTE."

A native of Orange County who was living in Dixon, Hairston founded KUIU in 2009 and built it into a company that did $50 million in sales in 2016, according to Forbes.

Donald Trump Jr. posted a tweet to Hairston after hearing of his death.

“Jason, I have no words. I will always remember our adventures and sharing a campfire with you. They will be some of my fondest experiences in the outdoors. You were and will continue to be an inspiration to all outdoorsmen and women for generations to come. Thanks for the friendship and the memories buddy. I’m going to miss you.”

On August 20, Hairston wrote on Instagram, “It is not easy to find a great hunting partner who appreciates the suffering of a tough sheep hunt. @donaldjtrumpjr and I covered a lot of tough miles. We were pounded with rain, snow, fog and high winds. It made this hunt one we will never forget.”

Jake Franklin, a friend of Hairston’s and his guide on the hunt for the world record desert sheep, posted a photo of Hairston and his young son Cash with the record sheep on Saturday.

“We are among the few lucky enough to spend time afield with Jason. He was the man that inspired us and fueled our direction. His drive, positivity, and complete confidence radiated throughout those that surrounded him. Jason breathed new life into our industry and fought without cease to insure our hunting heritage continues for generations. His torch has been passed on and it’s up to all of us to continue his legacy and take on his drive to better the world we live in,” wrote Franklin.

Volunteer clean-up and work

day at San Jacinto Wildlife Area

There will be a volunteer San Jacinto Wildlife Area clean-up and hunting blind brush-up day Saturday, Sept. 22, according to Tom Trakes with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The work will begin at 7 a.m. and conclude around noon. All volunteers should bring gloves, shovels and/or hoes, and wire pliers.

Trakes is also asking any volunteers with access to palm fronds to bring as many as possible for the blinds.

If you have questions, you can call the wildlife area at 951-928-0580.

Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 909-887-3444.

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