While there may be very few, if any, wild turkeys in the state of Alaska, that doesn't mean the Juneau Gun Club can't hold its annual Turkey Shoot the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
The combined shooting event, hosted by the Juneau Gun Club, the Juneau Shooting Sports Foundation, the Juneau Archery Club and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, will be comprised of several different competitions involving both skill and chance. No actual turkeys will be shot. Activities will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Juneau Gun Club and ADF&G Hunter Education Facility at 5670 Montana Creek Road and will end around 3 p.m.
Contests range from target shooting to trap shooting and will feature games that don't involve shooting anything. The prize for each event is a turkey. Both children and adults are welcome to join in the festivities. Each event will have a small entry fee.
At the same time and for the third straight year, the JSSF will hold shooting competitions in the new Juneau Hunter Education Facility, which held a grand opening Sept. 26. The JSSF is responsible for promoting the indoor range at the JHEF.
The event at the indoor range will be comprised of multiple target-shooting competitions, also with both chance and skill involved.
Juneau Gun Club Treasurer Steve Bennett said the events will not necessarily favor the best shooters.
"We have turkey silhouette targets at 50 feet that they shoot five times. You count the number of hits on the target, and that's your score. Then, you draw a number, one through five, out of a hat and add it to your score, which accounts for the chance portion," he said. "The highest total score is the winner. That prevents the person who is a skilled marksman from taking all the turkeys. It gives the kids a better chance to win, even if they aren't as proficient."
Bennett said, to even things out, they let the younger kids shoot from a supportive position while adults are not allowed to shoot with support. He also said it's difficult to say what age group for children is too young.
"Last year, we limited the pistol to age 16 and up because we weren't sure how it would work for the younger kids," he said. "Staffing is critical because you want to make sure the kids are under control."
He said rifles are different because the muzzle is easier to control, so kids of a younger age are able to shoot rifles. Safety is paramount at the event, and there will be coaching and guidance for novice shooters.
All the guns, ammunition, bows and arrows will be provided by the Juneau Gun Club. There will also be food provided by Helping Hands. Money raised will go toward supporting the two entities responsible for hosting the event.
"All the profit we get goes toward supporting the two nonprofits, the Juneau Gun Club and the Juneau Shooting Sports Foundation," he said. "The JSSF works with (ADF&G) to keep the cost of the archery and firearms part of the indoor range down. They are kind of the liaison between the community and ADF&G for use of the indoor facility."
Bennett said this event is a way to show the people of Juneau exactly what the two organizations are doing.
"It's more of a community function to get people out to the two facilities to see what we do and to see where they can come recreate," he said. "We love to have the youth out there, because they really love to win a turkey and take it home with them. We like to see the parents bringing the kids out there and getting involved."
The Juneau Gun Club has made a resurgence thanks to the efforts of members of the community and the organization. Bennett said roughly 10 years ago, the club was on its "last leg."
"They didn't know how the next light bill was getting paid, so a couple of guys eight or 10 years ago decided to resurrect this thing," she said. "They really got busy and we ended this year with 170 members, I think. Now we're in the black and we're doing events all the time, so it really has made a comeback."
Bennett said the turkey shoot is one of the club's biggest events.
"If it's good weather there's usually tons of people out there," he said.
Participants are advised to dress warmly and bring ear and eye protection.
Matthew Tynan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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