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About the Process
the proposed locations on the shooting range map.
View and Compare
the original seven proposed site maps.
how a modern shooting range is designed.
to the Public Shooting Ranges landing page

Contact information
For information on the Columbia County shooting range, contact:
Keith Warnke
Hunting and shooting sports coordinator
Bureau of Law Enforcement

The Columbia County shooting range

W6273 King Road, Poynette, WI 53955

Information on site identification process and progress toward completion of a shooting range at Mud Lake Wildlife Area.

DNR to open public range in Columbia County July 24

Update (July 18, 2018): POYNETTE, Wis. – For the first time in more than 20 years, southern Wisconsin target shooting enthusiasts will get a new no-fee public shooting range on public land when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources opens the Columbia County Public Target Range on July 24.

DNR Secretary Dan Meyer will cut the ribbon at 10 a.m. to open the new facility at the Mud Lake Wildlife Area just off King Road – about halfway between Poynette and Rio.

County and local partners will be in attendance and the public is invited. The facility features 100- and 50-yard rifle ranges, a 50-yard shotgun patterning range and a 25-foot pistol range; earthen backstops and side berms and overhead baffles in shooting sheds to ensure everyone’s safety. (608) 576-5243

Shooting range progress

columbiarange columbiarange2
Columbia County shooting range progress

The design of the new facility will feature the following:

  • 100-yd rifle range
  • 50-yd rifle range
  • 50-yd shotgun patterning range
  • 25-ft pistol range

Safety features will include 24-foot-high earthen backstops and 12-ft earthen side berms, with the exception of the side berms bordering the 100-yd range, which will be 18 feet high to provide additional protection to neighboring properties. Additionally, overhead baffles will be installed in the shooting sheds to limit the angle of fire. Once complete, the State Game Farm in Poynette and a local conservation club will jointly manage the shooting range.

View images of construction progress on the Columbia County shooting range.

Panorama Silt fence Doe Erosion prevention Ballistic sand Sod installation
Sod installation Sod installation Sod installation Sod installation Sod installation

Read more about the Columbia County shooting range project in the sections below.


Interest in establishing a range in Columbia County dates back many years to 2000 when a site was identified on Pine Island Wildlife Area off of Levee Road. Following the selection of the Pine Island location, an archeological survey of the site revealed significant archeological features, and the site was no longer considered.

Leading up to and during the master planning process for the current project initiated in 2010, the department received significant safety and neighboring landowner concerns associated with target shooting in parking lots on the Swan Lake and French Creek wildlife areas. The master plan that was approved in 2012 indicated:

The department recognizes the need for a designated and managed public shooting facility in the county. DNR staff are collaborating with local officials and interested sporting groups to establish a public shooting range that meets the generally accepted siting criteria. Several of the CCPG properties were considered in these deliberations, but none were selected. Establishing a shooting range on a CCPG property will require an amendment to this master plan. If a public shooting range is established in the county, the DNR will evaluate options to address concerns about target shooting on these wildlife areas.

  • View the entire Columbia County Planning Group master plan for state wildlife, fishery and natural areas in the county.

The master planning process involved extensive public input opportunities including two open house sessions attended by over 90 citizens, elected state and local officials and organization representatives. In addition, the draft master plan was released to news media, eight local libraries and distributed through over 235 emails to local government officials, citizens and interested organizations.


Based on the number of steps and potential influences (weather, design, bids) the timeline below is an estimate.

Dates Activity
Dec. 8, 2014 Release the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Columbia County Shooting Range which will start the 45-day public review process.
Dec. 17, 2014 DNR conducts an open house to receive input on the proposed amendments to the Columbia County Planning Group Master Plan and the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Columbia County Shooting Range. Open house to be held at the Columbia County Law Enforcement Center conference room from 6 – 8 p.m.
Dec. 17 – Feb. 2, 2015 Department evaluates comments received through the open house and makes modifications to the Columbia County Planning Group Master Plan proposed amendment and the EIS.
Early 2015 Department submits to the Natural Resources Board a scope statement to initiate NR 45 rulemaking to, among others, address target shooting on Swan Lake Wildlife Area, rules to manage all department shooting ranges and provide the DNR with the authority to close specific activities on portions of state-owned lands provided certain conditions, criteria and approvals are met.
Feb. 5, 2015 DNR conducts an open house on the final amendments to the Columbia County Planning Group Master Plan and a public hearing for the Columbia County Shooting Range EIS.
Feb. 13 - April 7, 2015 Finalize proposed amendment to the Columbia County Planning Group Master Plan and the Environmental Impact Statement for the Columbia County Shooting Range.
Feb. 27, 2015 End of the public input period for the Environmental Impact Statement for the Columbia County Shooting Range.
Late Summer-early Fall 2015 Complete Engineering and elevation survey of range site.
Summer - Fall 2016 Final design plans completed
Early spring 2017 Initiate construction of the shooting range.
Spring 2018 Opening of Columbia County Shooting Range
Design considerations

A variety of different features can be added to a shooting range to direct range activities as well as to reduce the sound that is emitted from a range while in use. In addition to standard design features such as 20’ backstops, 10’ sideberms, no-blue sky shooting shelters and ADA-accessible parking and walkways, additional enhancements can include:

  • 24’ backstops vs. 20’ backstops
  • Bullet catches on top of backstops
  • 12’ side berms
  • Overhead baffles
  • Toe baffles
  • Shooting tubes
  • Perimeter fencing

To learn more about these features, view the short presentation at "Range Attributes and Enhancements" [PDF]

Master Planning

As part of planning for the Columbia County shooting range project, the Wisconsin DNR received approval to proceed with a master plan amendment process for the Columbia County Planning Group (CCPG) Master Plan at the October 2014 Natural Resources Board meeting. More information on the background of this project and progress since it began in 2001 is available in the background section.

The master plan amendment link below does not include the entire master plan but rather focuses on those areas where amendments are being proposed.

Although not part of the amendment to the CCPG master plan, to help visualize how a shooting range could be developed on the site, a very preliminary range schematic is available at "Range Schematic" [PDF].

In addition to the master plan amendment, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required in order to proceed with the design of the shooting range. Review the EIS and the attachments for the site identified on Mud Lake Wildlife Area – King Rd on the Current Environmental Impact page.

Public comment summary

The public comment period for the EIS and the masterplan amendment was December 23, 2014 – February 27, 2015 and has now ended. A summary of the comments are available in the documents below.

Final approval of the CCPG masterplan amendments and a review of the EIS [PDF] will occur at a future Natural Resources Board (NRB) meeting. Please monitor the NRB website for specific meeting information.

Ad hoc process

After the finalization of the Columbia County master plan, it was determined that a public shooting range was needed in Columbia County. DNR property managers created a list of criteria to evaluate the department-owned properties within the county; these are listed below.

  • Minimize the number of residences within the 1,000 yard buffer to minimize noise.
  • Avoid wetlands or hydric soils or soils with hydric inclusions.
  • Avoid State Natural Areas.
  • Avoid archeological sites.
  • Direct road access is preferred.
  • Located adjacent to major highways and roads.
  • Minimize impact on other recreational users.
  • Minimize impact on blocks of wildlife habitat.
  • Topography that is supportive of developing a shooting range.

This process resulted in the identification of seven potential sites located in the Columbia County Towns of Dekorra, Lowville and Springvale.

An ad hoc citizen work group was formed in January 2014 for further study of the seven potential sites with the goal of recommending a preferred site to DNR for a new range. The three towns with potential sites were each invited to select a member to represent their town as was the Columbia County Board, the Columbia County Sporting Alliance, the Columbia County Conservation Congress, local business and other conservation organizations. DNR regional conservation warden supervisor, Casey Krueger, facilitated the ad hoc committee with assistance from wildlife supervisor Eric Lobner, wildlife biologist Sarah Kehrli, fish biologist Nate Nye, shooting sports and recruitment specialist Keith Warnke and secretary’s director Mark Aquino.

The ad hoc group worked through a process to develop additional evaluation criteria and ultimately narrowed the seven sites to two potential locations, Dekorra Wildlife Area and Mud Lake Wildlife Area. DNR then implemented a public input process to obtain citizen feedback on the two sites which involved department staff attending town board meetings in each town, hosting an open house in Portage to answer questions and posting an online survey which collected feedback for 30 days. All of the comments and information provided was summarized and distributed to the AD-HOC committee for review.

Ad hoc meeting minutes

On April 29, by a vote of 5 to 1, the ad hoc committee recommended Mud Lake Wildlife Area on King Road in south central Columbia County as the top recommendation with the Dekorra Wildlife Area site as the second choice.

Proposal documents
Last revised: Wednesday July 18 2018