Firing Line: Guns Ablaze at the Maston

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A year ago a father and son were mountain bike riding on the Maston trail when the father heard a bullet zing overhead. He braked to a halt and grabbed his son off his bike and both fell to the ground.

Moments later a woman riding with her dog came on the father and son and hearing a gunshot, joined them prone in the dirt.

When the shooting subsided and the mountain bike riders felt it safe enough to ride the short half mile to the informal Maston trailhead, the father called the Deschutes County Sheriff's Department who dispatched an officer to the scene. The deputy checked the area for shooters and made an incident report.

After hearing about the incident, I went out the next day and found a target practice site strewn with a couple of dozen recently fired large-caliber shell casings.

More recently, Phil of Phil's Trailhead fame came close to some heavy target shooting on a seldom-used section of Maston trail. Other local mountain bikers have reported the same situation.

So what gives? Is shooting allowed on the Maston allotment? And if it is, shouldn't it be in a restricted area? If not, why isn't the area posted and some form of enforcement policy?

"Currently, there are no restrictions as to target shooting or hunting on the Maston," says Bill Dean of the BLM office in Prineville.

And, he added, there are no plans to change that policy. That noted, he did indicate that when the Cline Buttes Recreation Plan is finalized in the near future and a permanent Maston trailhead is established: "There's a good chance the target shooting will go away."

So until then riders need to be wary, particularly on spur trail sections of the Maston closer to the Deschutes river canyon. In spite of interjecting a note of paranoia, the primary trail at the Maston is riding extremely well these days.

And if the Maston isn't appealing, the Horse Butte loop is in great shape. Note that given the mild winter, both the Maston and Horse Butte will probably be no longer suitable (read dusty and sandy) by early April instead of early June as in years past.


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