Target practice at Savannah River has fishermen concerned

By: Stephanie Baker
By: Stephanie Baker

Local fishermen say bullets are flying across the Savannah River...but the people firing the weapons are not technically breaking the law.

"They were shooting straight, on the level, out from the bank. It was direct on the level," says fisherman Henry Rotan.

It was target practice...and the targets were floating past the place Rotan usually casts his line.

"They had a bunch of guns out there, pistols, high-powered rifles, shotguns...they had it all," he says.

Georgia law says shooting guns on personal property is usually okay, as long as it's done responsibly. There is no specific law against firing at a target across the river...so cases like this are up to the discretion of the officer.

Rotan's concern is that bullets are flying toward a public waterway.

"It may hit the water and bounce," he says. "You don't know where it's going to go."

An undercover SWAT team officer with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office says the ammo travels fast. It can be lethal even after it passes through things like water and glass.

"We took a couple of home windows from a demolished house and shot through them," the officer told News 12. "The bullet would still travel back here."

He showed us how powerful hunting rifles can be. At a 200 yard range, a shot is deadly. And bullets fired from this kind of rifle can travel over a mile.

"That's very dangerous, especially for people in the boat going up and down the river," says Rotan. "You may not see people, and that's the bad part about it."

Now, watching for hidden danger is part of the weekly fishing trip.

The fishermen reported this incident to the Department of Natural Resources, but that department deals more with state hunting and fishing regulations.

This is more of a matter for the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. But the county doesn't regulate target practice. That means that legally, not a whole lot can be done.


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