Features — 03 October 2013


In the Public Eye: This Mississippi range serves as a fine example for public facilities

The constant “pop-pop-pop” of primer caps igniting was an immediate indicator that this public shooting range facility is well used. The second clue was not being able to find a parking spot anywhere near the action, and this was during the torrid summer off-season. Something was attracting the crowds.

Range management and operation

Located on the north end of the Ross Barnett Reservoir near the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area off State Highway 43 and the Natchez Trace, just north of the capitol city of Jackson, the Turcotte Shooting Range www.mdwfp.com is operated by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.

The range is open Thursday through Sunday of each week at varying hours to meet public demand and maintenance schedules of the 200-plus-acre site. Annual resident range permits cost $40 and senior permits cost $20. Nonresidents pay $80 a year.

Management oversight of the Turcotte Range is performed by Steve Moore, the state range director. Moore is a retired Navy pilot and a graduate of the Jeff Cooper shooting school, Gunsite, in Arizona. Moore manages three other employees that serve as range officers and maintenance personnel.

These four people are responsible for the day-to-day operation, maintenance and safe conduct of the Turcotte Range. They take their work seriously with limited resources to keep an exceptional shooting range facility open to the public.

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Comprehensive public range

Turcotte features ranges for pistol, rifle, sporting clays, two Olympic-style skeet ranges, a 5-Stand “Kamikaze Dove Field,” and a 3D archery range. There is also a separate shotgun patterning range and a “Little Turcotte” youth shotgun training range under construction by a local Boy Scout Troop.

The pistol range offers 16 shooting lanes at 3, 7, 15, 25, 50 and 60 yards with paper stands and various fixed or movable steel targets. The handgunning target range and shooting positions are laid out on concrete walkways to keep shooters out of the mud during rainy conditions. The 60-yard positions are under a covered roof. Each shooting position has a gear shelf built on the pole next to the position. Sitting benches line the tie wall backdrop just below the check-in center.

The rifle range has 14 covered shooting positions from seven fixed shooting benches. Some of the benches are made of heavy-duty wood while others are weld-fabricated metal. Available movable target stands can be engaged from 50 yards out to 300 yards. Shooters can bring their own paper targets or buy them at the check-in office.

The day I visited the rifle range I noted a wide variety of firearms on the line. I saw everything–one fellow with a Benjamin pellet rifle, one with a .54 caliber muzzleloader, another with a modern sporting rifle on an AR-15 platform, and another with an AK-47 and a Chinese SKS. Other shooters were hunters sighting in scoped traditional bolt-action rifles as they got ready for deer season.

The sporting clays course is a tightly constructed layout of 12 shooting stations stretching over a distance of .6 mile through the woods. This presents the shooter with a very challenging event. Space is tight for both running rabbits and dodging doves on this course among many other challenging shooting stations. Clays shooters can rent electric golf carts from the range for a mere $5 a day to traverse the course. Some may opt to walk, but with guns and gear, a shooter might find the cart an inviting option.

Turcotte uses an electronic clays-counting system when solo shooters elect to use the course when the time delay is selected. A complete clays round is comprised of 50 shots. The range charges $.25 per clay, a full round costing $12.50. This is very inexpensive shooting recreation for the general public or organized event groups to enjoy.

The Kamikaze Dove Field was created to give wingshooters, specifically dove hunters, an opportunity to fine tune their field-shooting skills ahead of the annual dove season. Dove hunting is a huge family and fellowship hunting season in Mississippi. It is also traditionally a season to engage and instruct young hunters in proper shotgun safety handling and smoothbore shooting techniques, along with providing them actual shooting skill practice.

Also on site at Turcotte are a hunter education training classroom facility, a range office for check in and out, and a District State Wildlife Office with conservation agents available. Maintenance and equipment facilities are also on site.

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Safety is paramount

“At Turcotte safety is everything, and I mean everything. That no cliché here,” said Moore. “When I was training at Gunsite with Cooper, shooting safety was literally drilled into our heads. I use the same temperament and strident adherence to safety I learned from Cooper.

“Every shooter driving into Turcotte and walking into the range office first must sign in, then read and sign off on our rules sheet that consists of over 50 safety rule statements. Our main four rules are pretty simple, including: (1) all guns are always loaded, treat them that way; (2) never let your muzzle cover anything you’re not willing to destroy; (3) keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target; and (4) always be sure of your target.”

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Moore continued the discussion.

“One of the statements on our safety rules list pretty much sums up our ultimate policy on safety: ‘Shooting, while not inherently dangerous, is terribly unforgiving of mistakes. Turcotte Range is an open, public shooting facility; therefore, everyone on range property, whether or not they are shooting, assumes their own responsibility.’ Turcotte Shooting Range fosters self-reliance, but, at the same time, the staff keeps an eye on all of the shooting activities.”

Mississippi’s Turcotte Shooting Range is an example of a public shooting range that is well managed and highly popular. Just try to find a parking space on a busy weekend.

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