Lots of possibilities for mobile shooting range
Alaska may not have any wild turkeys for hunters to shoot, but it now has a turkey trailer that will help teach hunters how to shoot.
The turkey trailer is a custom-made, 20-foot tow-behind trailer that is equipped with two high-tech electronic shooting ranges complete with turkey tracks running across the side of it.
The $30,000 mobile shooting range was donated to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks last week by the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Fairbanks-based Alaska Arctic Spurs, the farthest north chapter of the national organization.
It's an odd donation, considering the fact that Alaska is the only state in the country that doesn't have a population of wild turkeys, but it's not about turkeys, Merle Jantz, president of the Arctic Spurs, said of the trailer. The focus of the National Wild Turkey Federation isn't so much turkeys as it is protecting the heritage of hunting, conserving wildlife and educating young hunters, he said.
When the Arctic Spurs came up with the idea of a fundraising project, members wanted to find something that would benefit Alaskan hunters rather than Outside hunters, Jantz said. After meeting with the Department of Fish and Game, the club decided on the mobile shooting range.
"It is pretty impressive," Jantz said of the trailer, which is 8 1/2-feet wide and features two top hinged doors that swing open on one side.
The trailer is equipped with two Laser Shot electronic shooting systems with screens and projectors to simulate different shooting situations, ranging from target practice to big game hunting.
The NWTF donated $15,000 toward the purchase of the trailer and the Arctic Spurs drummed up another $16,000 from four local Fairbanks businesses - Frontier Plumbing Supply ($5,000); Jantz Associates ($5,000); Sportsman's Warehouse ($5,000); and the Westmark Hotel ($1,000).
"People were very supportive," Jantz said.
While there may not be any wild turkeys in Alaska, there are plenty of turkey hunters who have migrated north to Alaska from the Lower 48 and still travel south occasionally to hunt them, he said. The Arctic Spurs, one of three Alaska chapters of the NWTF, has about 75 members, Jantz said. The club raised more than $34,000 at its annual banquet dinner last weekend.
"There's more turkey hunters in Alaska than we ever thought we would find," Jantz said.
The Department of Fish and Game is happy to have the trailer, Bob Hunter, the department's hunting education coordinator in Fairbanks, said.
"It's a substantial donation," Hunter said.
The department has a similar but bigger, 40-foot trailer in Anchorage. That trailer is towed all over Alaska for hunter education programs and has traveled throughout the Southeast and to Kodiak Island by ferry, Hunter said. He envisions the same kind of future for the Fairbanks-based trailer but with more of an Interior focus.
"We've got enough communities on the road system here that we should be able to put it to pretty good use," Hunter said, adding that it will also likely make appearances at local schools.
One of the possibilities that has been mentioned is putting it on a barge and traveling to Interior villages up and down the Yukon River, Kuskokwim and Koyukuk rivers, where hunter education programs are lacking because of the logistics involved in organizing classes and getting instructors there.
"We're still working on how exactly we're going to utilize it," Hunter said. "There area a lot of options."
The turkey trailer will be set up and on display at the outdoor show April 18-20 at the Carlson Center.
Contact staff Writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.