Eye on the Jr: Jeff Schultz Jr. Iditarod Honorary Musher

Schultz Eye View Moments Before a Dog Team Came His Way (Photo by Terrie Hanke)

Jr. Iditarod has chosen photographer Jeff Schultz as their 2024 Honorary Musher.  For the start of the race while taking photos of the mushers, their dogs and all the action on Knik Lake, Schultz will be sporting bib #1 signed by all the mushers.

A year or two after Joe Redington, Sr. talked Jeff into shooting the 1981 Iditarod, Schultz also became a regular at the Jr. Iditarod.  He estimates it was either 1982 or 1983 when he began making images of the junior racers.  He’s become as much of an icon for the Jr. Iditarod as he is for the Iditarod – he’s always there working to tell the story.  His photos speak volumes and bring the race to enthusiastic fans around the world.

What has brought Jeff back year after year to photograph the Jr. Iditarod?  He says, “The race is a special event, even more than the big one because of the age of the contestants and their perseverance under some pretty adverse conditions and their tenacity.  It’s a way I can give something back to the community.”

Race day starts with Jeff snapping photos of mushers and their leaders as well as notable folks who are on the lake to support the kids.  When the race begins, Jeff will often be standing atop a ladder to get a unique view of each team leaving the chute.

Iditarod photographer Jeff Schultz jumps off his ladder to avoid a collision with a musher during the start of the 2010 Junior Iditarod. (Photo Courtesy of Frontiersman)

Schultz shares an interesting story from his years with the Junior.  “I was photographing the start of the 2010 and was on a ladder as usual down from the start chute.  I was off the trail, perhaps 4 or 5 feet.  Each team that left the starting line ran by me with no problem at all.  But then one team decided not to stay on the trail and basically came right towards me.  I actually had to jump off my ladder, cradle both cameras in my arms and grab the ladder at the same time to get it out of the way.  The sled just brushed by me, pretty intense!”  A Frontiersman reporter covering the Jr. race recorded Jeff’s quick response to the wayward team.  In the photo, the trail is way left of the videographer.

Attending the start in Willow that year,  I witnessed the event Jeff describes.  Indeed it was intense as he jumped in the nick of time to clear the way for the team.  Within  the two minute interval between teams, he was back on the ladder ready to capture the next team as it took the trail.

Schultz knows the great photo spots then speeds back to the finish line. (Photo by: Terrie Hanke)

At the finish, Schultz is everywhere!  He uses a snowmachine to transport to favorite sections of the trail for a unique shot then speeds ahead and is at the finish line to capture each musher with leaders under the banner.  Even the shyest lead dog gives Jeff eye contact and a proud smile upon finishing the race.  He just has a way with animals and an eye for the perfect shot.

Each year Jeff puts together a slide show of all the photos he’s captured during the race which plays during the Jr. Iditarod banquet.  Mushers, family, friends and race fans are thrilled to see the action thru Schultz’s lens – The Schultz Eye View.

Jeff fills in as a Handler (Photo by Terrie Hanke)

No matter what the weather or location – Knik Lake, Willow, Happy Trails, Glenallen or Cantwell – Jeff has been at the Jr. Iditarod to capture the action.  Through his talents, never ending energy, boundless enthusiasm and drive to get the perfect shot, Jr. Iditarod followers have experienced the thrill, challenge and beauty of the trail as well as the character of the canine athletes and mushers. 

The Jr. Iditarod Board of Directors along with race fans, family and friends thank Jeff for his priceless contributions and the support he has shown the Jr. mushers over the years.

The Jr. Iditarod starts on February 24th at 1000 on Knik Lake.  Twenty-one mushers will run an out and back race between Knik Lake and Yentna Station Roadhouse, a distance of 150 miles.  Follow the young racers through the Jr. Iditarod Facebook page and the Jr. Iditarod web page where race stats and tracking are available.  These kids are amazing!  Enjoy the race.