There was a day when any old gravel pit would do as a makeshift shooting range. Not so anymore. Today, most of those gravel pits are posted and gated off. These pit owners are concerned about somebody, an ATVer or recreational shooter, getting hurt and hiring an attorney to recover damages.

For the recreational shooter or hunter who wants to zero in his new rifle, it is getting almost impossible to find a safe, legal place to squeeze off a few rounds at a target.

There is hope on the horizon, however. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), using Pittman-Robinson funds from federal excise taxes on ammunition, is now providing grant money for the development and improvement of organized shooting ranges in Maine and elsewhere.

According to Maine’s Shooting Range Access Program Coordinator, Walt Stinson from Standish, Maine Fish and Game Clubs will have access to about one million dollars for shooting range development ( $750,000 from the Feds and $250,000 in local cost-sharing).

At this point, about 17 state fish and game clubs have submitted proposals to USFWS for developing and expanding area shooting ranges. If all of these applications are approved by both MDIF&W ( Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife) and USFWS, there will be in time, $500,000 worth of new shooting ranges at various clubs around the state.

Of course, the wheels of government move slowly, especially with any grant process. Stinson, who has been working with the clubs in putting together their proposals, says that there has been “a learning curve this first year,” but the applications are in various stages of the approval process.

Stinson has been on the job about a year. One of his assignments has been to get the word out to the Fish and Game clubs, to let them know that this money is available for shooting range construction and expansion.

There is a 30 percent cost-sharing component. For example, if a club proposes a $10,000 shooting range, it must contribute $3,000 or an “in-kind” value of that equivalent. This can be in materials provided or simply “sweat equity.”

It is not too late for a Fish and Game Club, or other shooting-related organization, to get in on the action. During 2014 there is still about $250,000 of USFWS grant money that has not been spoken for. Organizations wishing to submit a proposal for construction of a shooting range, or simply looking for more information, should contact Walt Stinson at 233 5937 or his boss, Mike Sawyer, the safety officer for MDIF&W. His email address is: [email protected]

A footnote. Stinson indicated that he will be stepping down from his post as soon as MDIF&W finds a suitable replacement. Stinson believes that a successful applicant for this part-time position will be a person who has had grant-writing and administrative experience, as well as an interest in recreational shooting and, preferably, a civil engineering background.

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The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.” Online information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com or by calling Diane at 207 745 0049.


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