Accident averted: Shooter fires rifle while others downrange at complex

County, Rod & Gun Club say flag, beacon could be solution

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A warning flag at the firing line signifying someone is downrange likely will be added in the coming days. 

Sometimes even a good idea needs a little tweaking, and that’s the best way to describe improvements being made to the rifle range at the Lincoln County Shooting Complex.

When the Libby Rod & Gun Club, with the assistance of Lincoln County Road Department crews, added the new pistol range, workers also added earthen berms as backstops to the downrange rifle range target areas. Targets are at varying distances from 25 to 500 yards.

Last week, Chris Siefke and his father, Tim, pulled up to the range and elected to shoot at the 500-yard target, so they drove their vehicle down the access road that runs parallel to the range, pulling in behind the 400-yard berm to set up targets at the 500-yard marker.

At 500 yards, the targets they established are nearly three-fifths of a mile away from the shooting area.

While downrange, another shooter arrives, and not seeing anyone around, he sets up and begins to fire at the 300-yard targets that are already there.

And, therein lies the concern.

“We’re downrange setting up targets to shoot, and all of a sudden we hear bullets zinging past us,” said Chris Siefke. “We got to our truck and headed back. We started flashing our headlights back that way. We didn’t see him show up, and I’m sure he didn’t see us.”

The Siefkes said when they got to the firing line they talked to a nervous Dylan Rublee, 23.

“There he was pacing back and forth,” Chris Siefke said. “It was pretty obvious, he was pretty shook up about the whole thing. He apologized and said he wasn’t coming back, that he’d find a place in the woods to shoot.”

Attempts to reach Rublee, who works out of the area, were unsuccessful, but he did tell his father, Douglas Rublee about the incident who confirmed the events of March 1.

During Wednesday’s Lincoln County Commission meeting, Presiding Commissioner Tony Berget was asked about the safety measure and agreed to look into a policy change at the range.

Lincoln County Administrator Bill Bischoff said he favored some sort of flag on the firing line to warn newcomers to the line that people were downrange.

Don Clark, the Libby Rod & Gun Club president, said the issue needs to addressed soon.

“That could be very dangerous,” Clark said. “I don’t know whether it’s because of the berms because they’re not that big. They were just behind the target areas. We’ll talk to the board and get something done. What we need is a flag or something to tell when people are downrange.”

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