Sharp-shooting grandmas issue gun safety challenge

From left, Wynola Possenti, Phyllis Trickey and Dody Maki pose for a photo on March 28, 2012 in Fairbanks, Alaska. The women have the Alaska Grandma Sate Shootin' Challenge named for them. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel) MAGS OUT NO SALES

FAIRBANKS — The commercials are everywhere on local television, on YouTube and at the theater. The “Alaska Grandmas” encourage people to head to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s shooting range for the Alaska Grandma Safe Shootin’ Challenge.

The advertisement concludes with grandma Dody Maki’s unmistakable laugh.

The commercial has drawn more people to the shooting range off College Road, but now there are only a couple of days left to enter the challenge, which began in December.

John Wyman, project director at the department’s range, said the challenge was created to spotlight the facility and encourage gun safety.

Maki, Phyllis Trickey and Wynola Possenti are the grandmas behind the challenge. Wyman said they are great spokeswomen for the challenge because they are safe shooters. They invite friends to the range, are active outdoors and are successful hunters, he said.

“They are really good ambassadors,” he said. “We thought they would be the perfect spokes-ladies.”

Possenti began shooting long ago but relied on her husband’s help. When he passed away, she found it was much different shooting on her own. Refreshing her knowledge about handling keeps her going, she said.

Maki has been shooting since her 20s but started going to the range only within the past 10 years. She is the sharpshooter of the grandmas, having hit the bull’s eye of a rapid-fire pistol target 10 times.

Trickey said the range is important to her and her family. Some of her grandchildren have taken courses in gun safety, and one attended the range’s conservation camp in the summer. She started going to the range herself after taking a gun safety course, which helped her confidence in shooting, she said.

“I can’t believe how many people still don’t know about the range here,” she said.

The actual challenge is two-fold, Wyman explained. Part of it is just getting people more familiar with the range and more involved in its safety courses so they can do more things outdoors comfortably.

The course of fire is the challenging part. Three targets test prowess in hunting, pistol marksmanship and rifle shooting. Top scorers are kept in the records for the grand finale.

On Sunday, the top 10 shooters, plus a few more, will be invited to the final shoot-off at 4 p.m. The grand prize winner will receive a brand new Ruger .22 LR pistol from Frontier Outfitters, a $50 gift certificate from Papa Johns Pizza and an all-summer range pass to the shooting range.

Entrants to the competition should provide their own firearms (a .22 pistol and .22 rifle) and ammunition and must pay for their lane time. They must also have completed the range orientation and safety briefing and have a range identification number. The event is open to all safe and responsible shooters, ages 10 and older.

The range is open each day of the final days of the challenge.

Wyman encouraged everyone to come.

“It’s not just for grandmas, you know,” Wyman said.

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