DURANGO, Colo. (KDVR) — A bullet grazed the arm of a man hiking in the San Juan National Forest over the weekend. 

A couple was finishing a hike on Steven’s Creek Trail north of Durango around 1 p.m. Sunday.

“It was President’s Day weekend. It was 1 o’clock. It was a beautiful, sunny, bluebird gorgeous day,” the hikers said. “There’s obvious ski tracks. There’s another car parked up there where the trailhead was, so there’s obviously a lot of people and foot traffic on the road.”

They were descending CR 253 when they say they started to hear the sound of gunshots. They believed the recreational shooters were aiming toward a deserted area of the forest and continued their hike back to their vehicle.

“I would have never in a million years thought they would be shooting up a public road,” the hikers said. 

According to the hikers, the bullet flew between them and shrapnel or a fragment hit the male hiker’s arm.

“It ricocheted off of something and then deflected off at me,” he said. “An inch over and it would have been in my stomach.”

The bullet left a small red mark on the man’s arm. He did not suffer any significant injuries. 

According to the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, the man was shooting at a sign along the road. 

Is shooting allowed at national forests?

National Forest lands are open to recreational target shooting. However, there are strict safety rules. 

“Firearms must be used in a safe manner. You cannot discharge a firearm or any other weapon…on or across a road, trail or body of water,” San Juan National Forest spokesman Scott Owen said in a statement. 

While most people do recreate safely, the hikers are now hoping their close call is a wake up call for others. 

“Don’t assume that if you hear gunshots in the National Forest that people are using them responsibly,” the hikers said. 

The hikers believe the road sign has been used for an extended period of time as a target on multiple occasions.

“There are a lot more people out there recreation, so something needs to happen so these close calls don’t keep happening because we’re not the only one,” the hikers said.

The hikers called 911 following the incident.

According to the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, the hikers and recreational shooters engaged in a verbal altercation. The recreational shooters “left at a high speed” and deputies stopped them in the 34000 block of Hwy 550.

Authorities say one of the men confessed to shooting the sign and encountering a male behind it. He was issued a summons for prohibited use of a weapon, third-degree assault and criminal mischief. 

“A message was left with the Forest Service requesting follow up regarding the damaged sign,” La Plata County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chris Burke said.