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The Benefits of the Hunter Heritage Foundation
To the casual observer, it sounded a lot like gunfire. Shotgunners poking at clay pigeons, to be precise. But that booming echoing through the Mat-Su Valley was actually the sound of money in the bank. Money in the bank for outdoor enthusiasts across Alaska.
Welcome to the Midnight Sun Shootout.
This annual shotgun target-shooting event raises funds to preserve, expand, and celebrate the age-old traditions of hunting, fishing, and trapping. Donations from participants and sponsors go directly to hands-on, in-the-field programs serving young Alaskans, women, and hunters of all skill levels.
Those programs include:
• Alaska Hunter Clinics
• Youth Shooting Sports
• Becoming an Outdoors Woman
• Alaska Conservation Camps
• Youth Education Summit
• Youth Hunter Education Challenge
• Women on Target
• Refuse to be a Victim
The mechanism enabling these programs is the Hunter Heritage Foundation, a unique partnership between the Alaska Outdoor Council and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. A 1997 Memorandum of Agreement between the Department and the Alaska Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund, the Council’s 501 (c) (3) arm, enables donors to direct tax deductible contributions toward important outdoor programs.
Since its inception, the Foundation has raised about $1.5 million and has spent virtually all of it on programs specifically designed to promote conservation of Alaska’s wildlife by recruiting and educating new hunters and maintaining the enthusiasm of existing hunters.
Why would a state agency encourage hunters?
For many decades, hunters have been the backbone of wildlife management. People who understand and enjoy wildlife are the most effective advocates for wildlife habitat protection and responsible wildlife management, and nobody knows wildlife like hunters do. Hunters also recognize the importance of trained professionals gathering and analyzing the scientific data that are the basis for modern management, and they put their money where their mouths are, in the form of license fees, sporting goods excise taxes, and outright donations to a variety of organizations dedicated to the abiding health of wildlife. Hunters led the first wildlife conservation efforts in this country, and they continue their strong support today. And in the process of nurturing hunted species, they do an immeasurable benefit to non-game wildlife as well.
By holding successful fundraising events and using that money strategically, the Foundation has become the premier Alaska sponsor of outdoor sporting educational programs, such as those noted above. They’ve even begun an Oral History Project to document and preserve Alaska’s rich hunting and trapping heritage by interviewing long-time Alaskans who spent their lives making a living from the Great Land. But the Foundation’s prime function is to create and assist hunters.
Last year, the Hunter Heritage Foundation received donations from a variety of individuals and businesses, and organized several fundraising events. The year’s biggest such gathering, the Midnight Sun Shootout is a “sporting clays” shotgun event, a challenging round of thumping holes in the sky where unpredictably-flying clay pigeons used to be. It’s good fun, and the event attracts well-known shooters from around Alaska and beyond, including one of the event’s original organizers, Senator Lisa Murkowski. Last year alone, it raised $200,000. Organizers expect the 2007 Shootout will be even bigger.
Individual and corporate sponsors support the Shootout both financially and by participating. This year’s event will be held August 9 and 10 at Grouse Ridge, “Alaska's premier shotgun shooting sports club,” near Wasilla. Participants of all skill levels are welcome.
How about bringing your team to the next Shootout?
Ron G. Clarke is an avid falconer and serves as the assistant director of the division of Wildlife Conservation at the Alaska department of Fish and Game
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