Hikers, hunters and desert shooters get too close for comfort

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- A group of hikers near Saguaro Lake say they were pinned down by gunfire over the weekend.

It's hunting season in the area and the shots are believed to have been random.

The area is also open to target shooting. That means hikers, hunters and target shooters can all get a little too close for comfort.

Brian Edger said bullets narrowly missed him, his daughter and a friend Saturday as they hiked a dry wash near Saguaro Lake.

"I was laying down in the dirt and I took their heads and I had their heads covered and I'm praying to God that if there's somebody who's going to get shot, let it be me," Edger said.

Even though they're full of bullet holes, signs make it clear that target shooting is forbidden south of Bush Highway near Highway 87 and near the lake and the river, but allowed where Edger's group was hiking on the north side of the busy road.

"We were walking back and we started getting fired on from up on the ridge up here and it was terrible," he said. "We got pinned down. We couldn't get out of there for a half an hour."

Target shooting in the desert is growing in popularity.

"I know people shoot out here a lot and I like shooting, but when they're shooting and the bullets are just whipping right by out in the middle of nowhere and there's trails back there it's a little concerning," said dirt biker Ryan McClennan.

"Unfortunately, we do have some people that are irresponsible," said Gary Hanna with the Tonto National Forest.

Hanna said there's an ongoing effort to educate desert shooters.

"We want to try to ensure our forest users a reasonably safe environment out there in which to recreate in," he said.

If you're out in an area that's closed to target shooting, those areas could still be open to hunters and it is hunting season right now for a lot of different kinds of birds.