Aim at the true culprit

To the person, or persons, responsible for wounding two horses west of Penhold early Sunday night.


To the person, or persons, responsible for wounding two horses west of Penhold early Sunday night.

Investigators have determined the horses were wounded by a single bullet fired from a .22-calibre gun. The horses were in a pasture in the vicinity of a gun range that residents along that scenic portion of the Red Deer River valley have been lobbying to shut down for years.

And at least one resident claims the horses were hit by a ricochet from the gun range, adding more ammunition to the campaign to shut down the range.

Let cooler heads prevail, warns Staff Sgt. Gord Glasgow, head of Red Deer Rural RCMP. “We need to do an investigation before we jump to conclusions.”

The bullet, fired at night, grazed one horse in the nose, then struck the other, lodging in the animal’s nasal passage. The circumstances suggest that this is a case of someone negligently shooting a gun in the dark. Incidents such as these tarnish responsible hunters and legitimate shooters.

And the Red Deer Fish and Game Association, which is in charge of the shooting range, deserves to be heard before this matter mushrooms into the ridiculous.

Was the gun aimed at the horses? Firearms experts no doubt are exploring that possibility. Who in their right mind would be at a shooting range firing at targets in the dark?

But some area residents in that area are quick to point the finger at the range, complaining about frequent ricocheting bullets.

A few years ago, a stray bullet buzzed passed a hearing impaired child living in the vicinity. Residents jumped on the case, demanding the range be shut down. But the bullet was fired from a road allowance, aimed at a porcupine sitting in a tree by a shooter with no affiliation to the range.

To be on the safe side after that incident, experts assessed the shooting range and gave it a passing mark. At the range, those shooting for target practice or sighting in their guns for hunting are firing into an embankment 26 metres (86 feet) high. Hardly room for a ricochet.

The boxes containing .22-calibre bullets offer a warning that they can be dangerous within one mile (1.6 km).

As it leaves the gun barrel, the heat from the friction reduces the lead bullet to a fairly soft state. If it strikes a solid object, such as a rock, it will ricochet and quickly reduce its shape into a distorted pancake.

Because it’s a small-calibre bullet, much of its punch is absorbed by the ricochet. Is it conceivable that a ricochet would travel on to graze one horse, then still have the power to lodge into the nasal passage of another horse?

Could that bullet retain its shape after the initial ricochet, then hit the horses, unless the gun was fired directly at the animals?

“We’ve tried to have it shut down from ricochet bullets for years,” said area resident Carolyn Nienhuis.

But if bullets ricochet out of the range, where’s the evidence?

Let the police do their work and take the appropriate action, based on their findings.

Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.

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