Monday, April 20, 2009

McMiller: The Longer Story

We've already mentioned that the McMiller range is in process of re-evaluation. This post will be the short version of the longer story.

McMiller was built with Federal Pittman-Robertson money (the tax you pay on sporting goods, including guns and ammo) at the south end of the Kettle Moraine Southern Unit.

While the State was happy to take the Federal money, there were a number of influential politicians who did NOT want a gun-range operating. (Surprise!!) However, the DNR eventually engaged an operator (Wern Farms) who managed to make a profit and create a lot of happy customers. Wern Farms has a renewable lease and the State of Wisconsin gets a piece of the revenues "off the top" at McMiller, in addition to its base lease revenues.

The current DNR manager for the Southern Unit of Kettle Moraine is not happy with the gun range, regardless of its monetary contributions to DNR. This became obvious when he delayed renewing the lease--and then came up with a number of proposals which would do two things:

1) Make it much more difficult to operate the range at a profit; and
2) Make it much more difficult to retain good, experienced employees.

The "profit" changes include requiring Wern Farms to build overhead "capsules" for the rifle and pistol ranges; requiring non-lead shot for the trap/shotgun range; and reduction of hours of operation. The "non-toxic" shot requirement would effectively close the shotgun range; steel shot is harmful to shotguns, and the alternative, "Hevi-Load", is extremely expensive. Reducing the hours of operation would affect gross revenues, thus creating a larger overhead burden for open-hours, meaning the cost to the patrons would rise. And of course, "capsules" are expensive to build AND to maintain.

In addition, DNR proposes to ban black-powder shooting AND "large caliber" weapons. No definition is provided for "large caliber"--does this mean .30-06, .308, .30-30? Does it mean 8mm, or .50 Cal? Finally, the DNR proposes to halt ammo sales from the clubhouse--another source of revenue and profit-dollars to the operator.

As it turns out, the local-developer angle is not involved here, (at least, not to anyone's knowledge.) This appears to be only a Southern Unit DNR issue.

At this time, higher-ups in the DNR are reviewing the lease-offering again, and McMiller will be operating until late June under the old lease terms.

Do not rest easy. McMiller can go away. Keep your legislators informed of your opinions!!

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