EAGLE MOUNTAIN — Utah County Sheriff's deputy Jo Murphy feels she's been more than patient with the recreational shooters in the Eagle Mountain area. Until now, she has been posting signs and issuing more warnings than citations.

But she's getting exasperated.

The shooters have come so close to piercing the metal housing on the equipment at the city's water tank that she's concerned. They've dented the concrete tank walls.

"They could have corrupted the entire culinary water supply for the Ranches area, which is just over the hill," she said.

Electrical power towers and natural gas marker poles have pockmarks from bullets. Some posts are riddled beyond recognition.

A small Dalmatian in the town center area, a family pet let out for a walk, recently took a bullet in its leg.

Meanwhile, Murphy's bright yellow "No Shooting" signs have been ripped down, torn away and found wadded up behind targets. She issued a warning to somebody sighting in a rifle who claimed not to know it is illegal to shoot within the town limits only to find him back the next day in the same spot.

"The town's been here now for five years. I think that's long enough for people to know it (is illegal to shoot within the city limits)," Murphy said.

"And I don't buy for a minute somebody who's just moved here telling me they've always shot here. They have to know things have changed. We have 2,500 people out here now."

Murphy is aware that within the 45 square miles designated as part of the town of Eagle Mountain there are areas like Hidden Valley that have been used for target practice and hunting for years. But, she notes, that's over.

"We have people out here now hiking, jogging, four-wheeling. You can't have people shooting. It's dangerous. I stop people all of the time. Hidden Valley's the worst. I can come out here and fill a garbage bag with the spent cartridges."

Those violating the no-shooting law include adults and kids armed with everything from BB and pellet guns to shotguns and high-powered rifles with a bullet velocity range of up to two miles. They shoot year-round at rabbits, badgers, raccoons, birds, old propane containers, signs and fence posts, whatever they find. Murphy finds a wide variety of litter at the target sites.

Hunters are not usually the problem. "They tend to know and respect the rules a little better," Murphy said. "It's the recreational shooter looking for somewhere to target practice." Murphy said there is still plenty of area south on U-68 to do just that.

"They don't need to do it close to homes and people," she said.

The fine for firing a gun within Eagle Mountain's city limits can be up to $500 and include a year in jail. It's a Class B misdemeanor to disobey the city ordinance which says no firearms of any kind may be discharged within the town limits.

State statute prohibits firing a gun within 600 feet of a dwelling.

"People move here so they can have the freedom to hike and explore and roam," Murphy said. "They shouldn't have to worry about getting shot in the process."

E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com