Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
Hunter Education and Shooting Ranges in 2020
Americans purchased firearms in record numbers this spring, and it shows in Alaska. Shooting ranges and hunter education programs are a great way to be a responsible gun owner, and Fish and Game can help.
“We’re seeing a lot of new folks come in, new gun owners who are learning,” said John Wyman, who manages the Fairbanks Indoor Shooting Range and Hunter Education Facility. “If someone is going to be a gun owner, they need to be safe, responsible and proficient. We can help with that.”
Not every gun owner hunts, but hunter education is a solid foundation for firearm safety, among other things. Learning to handle a firearm safely and shoot with some proficiency is an important part of hunter education, and typically this involves instructors and students interacting in close quarters. Dozens of Hunter Education classes will be offered this summer in Alaska. Staff and volunteers with the Hunter Information and Training Program plan to minimize risk of vectoring infection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are decreasing the class size for the hunter education certification classes and we have developed protocol for the instructors for sanitizing commonly touched items,” said Ginamaria Smith, who coordinates the program. Classes are scheduled in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Homer, Kodiak, Palmer and Wasilla. Some are already full
Class size depends on the capacity of the facility. For example, Smith said the Fairbanks facility typically accommodates 20 students, and that will be reduced to 10 so students can be spread further apart.
“We’ll be encouraging students and instructors to wear a mask, following CDC guidelines, and we encourage students to bring their own eye and ear protection,” Smith said. “However, we will be providing new eye and ear protection for students to keep.”
As always, students are given a new hunter-orange vest to keep.
Each .22 rifle will be handled by only two students and will be wiped down before and after use. Other certification classes such as muzzleloader will follow similar protocol. For bowhunter and crossbow education the students use their own equipment.
“If people aren’t comfortable, we are encouraging them to re-enroll at a later date,” Smith said. “Classes will be available through the end of the year.”
Jeff Jemison manages the Juneau Indoor Shooting Sports Facility. He said the number of visitors to the range has been down this spring, which has made it easy to social distance. He and most of the staff and volunteers are wearing masks, and only about half the usual number of volunteers are working.
“We’re adamant about keeping a clean range,” he said. “We’re using every other lane, and there is a big washdown after every shift. We’ve elevated cleanliness as much as possible.”
One advantage of the facility is the robust air handling system in the firing range, which filters all the air on a regular basis.
“It’s continually scrubbing the air, and all the dust and burnt chemicals from the powder burning is all pulled downrange away from the shooters into the massive HEPA filter system,” he said.
John Wyman said the Fairbanks range has a triple filtration system that moves from 3,300 to 5,600 CF of air every minute, creating negative pressure.
“It’s moving a lot of air,” he said. “The fact that we’re moving the air away from people is notable.”
The Juneau range is closed for the month of June for maintenance, which is normal. It’s open in July and August, staffed by volunteers evenings and weekends. A nearby outdoor shooting range, the Hank Harman Range, not affiliated with ADF&G, is available.
Wyman said the Fairbanks range is open in June and July; it closes in August and the first half of September for maintenance, which is typically a slow time anyway. Wyman said visitation is consistent for this time of year at the Fairbanks range.
A first-time visitor to Fairbanks ADF&G range receives a safety orientation and a range identification card. Wyman emphasized new gun owners should have a plan for keeping their firearm safe at home and inaccessible to unauthorized individuals, like children in the household.
Wyman said he also appreciates the contribution made to the ranges and wildlife management by firearm and ammunition purchases. A federal excise tax on those items is a major source of support for wildlife agencies across the country.
“That Pittman-Robertson money is a powerful funding mechanism and provides funds for all the states,” he said.
See the links below for hours of operation, locations, and details regarding the ranges and hunter education programs.
Getting a hunter education certificate:
another helpful link for the Fairbanks range - AIM-COMM, the Alaska Interior Marksmanship Committee, is the nonprofit partner organization to the Fairbanks Fish and Game Range.
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