Appalachia Thankful November

Thankful November – Turkey Shoots in the Mountains

collage of photos thankful

“One important pastime for mountain people was shooting matches, and one of the most popular types was the turkey shoot. It was popular not only as entertainment, but also as a way for the sponsor to make a little money.

In the earliest shoots, the participants would actually shoot with flintlock or caplock rifles, in turn, at a live turkey, and the one that killed it first won the match and the turkey. Later, people began shooting at targets with shotguns and the prizes were live turkeys. More recently, with fewer and fewer turkeys being raised and the almost universal shift to shotguns instead of rifles, turkey shoots have been used more as fund-raising events with the prizes ranging from hams to bags of groceries to cases of beer and soft drinks. If any turkeys are involved, they are usually frozen, the winner often receiving a coupon which he can redeem for the prize at a local participating grocery store. The targets the contestants shoot at are usually three-by-five index cards (one card per man per shot), and the winner is determined either by counting the number of shot each gun put through its card, or by measuring to see which man’s gun put a shot closer to an X drawn from corner to corner on the card. Matches can go all day. The sponsor announces at the beginning of each match what the prize is going to be (“We’re going to shoot off a ham now”) and how much it will cost to enter (usually one to two dollars per chance). The men who want to shoot pay the entry fee, and when enough have entered to pay for the cost of the prize and earn the sponsor a few dollars profit, the contestants step up to a rail and shoot—in turn—at the numbered card they have been assigned, each man getting one shot. Then a runner goes and collects the cards and brings them in for the judging and the awarding of the prize.”

—”Foxfire 5″

To read a post I wrote about Turkey Shoots and a story from Pap about his friend winning the prize go here.

Today’s Thankful November giveaway is a used copy of a “Foxfire 5” book. To be entered in the giveaway leave a comment on this post. *Giveaway ends November 22, 2020.


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  • Reply
    November 19, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    Like Jackie I recall Dad hunting for meat & sport but not a Turkey Shoot. The first day of squirrel season was a big event here in SW Ohio. Dad hunted on that day with a boyhood friend 60 years – even tho they lived 50 miles apart in later years.
    We didn’t have wild turkey or deer back in the 1950’s but Dad was invited to hunt down in heavily wooded Vinton County. He was thrilled, as we all were, to kill a buck with a huge rack of antlers that made him a charter member of the Big Buck Club. Thanks for the memories, Tipper & commenters!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 19, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    I used to be a pretty good shot but only went to one turkey shoot. I was just there to watch. What I saw was people paying to shoot for a prize. The only real winner was the man that put on the event. It’s all about taking advantage of a man’s eagerness to show off. Even the winner had to pay more to win the prize than it cost in the beginning. It’s kinda like guy who spends money on education lottery tickets while his kids get lunch at school paid for by taxpayers. Maybe I’m different but it just don’t make sense to me.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    I have already posted one time, but one of the comments made me think of my daddy. He also won marksmanship awards during his time in service. He served during WWII but was not in the war. He kept being turn down because of one leg being shorter than the other causing him to walk with a limp. In about 1944 he was finally drafted. The only gun he ever owned was a single shot Winchester 22 cal. Model 67. He said he paid $6.50 for the new gun and cleaning rod in 1946. He and my uncle would cut stove wood match stems into and cut roses off my grandmothers rose bushes until she caught them doing it. His joy came from squirrel hunting with his rifle. He never sho in completion, the turkeys shoots around here were done with shotguns. After some heart attacks, failing eyesight and unsteady hands, he could still hit pecans in the top of a huge tree in our yard. My son now owns the gun and it is as accurate now as it was when new.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      November 19, 2020 at 7:22 pm

      I learned to shoot with a J C Higgins single shot .22 rifle from Sears. At one time I shot a semi-automatic Mossberg carbine. I shot walnuts out of a tree holding the thing at arms length and sighting it like a pistol. I can see to shoot anymore and I miss it.

      • Reply
        Ed Ammons
        November 19, 2020 at 7:37 pm

        I can’t see to shoot.

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    November 19, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    i would have loved to see a turkey shoot…and also get a chance to visit with everyone…ohh tipper you really spark my imagination. i had to order the doll maker book… really loved it…but was so saddened by what the mom went through…..we dont realize how blessed we really are nowdays… but i really didnt like the ending…dont want to spoil for those who havent been lead by your posts to look up something or pondered over something you wrote.
    again i thank you for teaching us your heritage dear tipper
    have a very wonderful thanksgiving
    sending much love to you all

  • Reply
    November 19, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    Tipper I have never been to one but I know they have them. Not much anymore. I use to could shoot a gun as goid as anybody. My cousin and I would shoot against one another and I would always win. He didn’t like that. My wonderful dad taught me how to shoot. I would put pennies on a clothes line and shoot them off. I even beat my husband at it. I cant do it now as good cause my eyes. Tipper have you ever heard or seen the pull of tabs. They still have them but people dont really do them anymore. People would pay money for so many tabs to pull off to win a prize. It might be a gun, or money, or turkey or a ham. I even done it when I was a teenager. I won $20 Some would pay up to $5 or $10 a pull. That would be for a big prize.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    November 19, 2020 at 12:27 pm

    I remember the turkey shoots where the person with the most shot in the card won a turkey or a ham. A friend told me his dad won several shoots with a tight shooting 410. That was unusual because a 410 doesn’t have that many shot per shell.
    I’ve heard dad talk about the men gathering in at the general store and having 22 rimfire shoots just for the fun of it. At that time every country store kept ammo and would sell the shells by the box or separate. I can remember when you could buy shotgun shells and 22 shells by the piece. I don’t remember the price of shotgun shells but the 22’s were a penny a piece.
    My mom loved to shoot the little 22 rf. ( still in family) and always got a big grin while telling of her shooting daisy heads off.
    A simpler and more freedom time that seems like there is no way back to.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Turkey shoots used to be popular in central Virginia, but I think they’ve pretty much disappeared. My daddy fought in WWII, and after the war, he didn’t have any desire to hunt.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2020 at 10:03 am

    Never heard of a turkey shoot. Around here skeet shooting is popular. Me, i have trouble w/ moving targets.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2020 at 9:34 am

    I’ve shot shotguns at targets a few times. I never owned or hunted with one though. I preferred rifles. There was a time that I could kill game still or running at distances that amazed the older men. Not anymore – hands are unsteady and eyes are not as good. The guns I used are probably still as accurate if in the right hands. I still have a Remington 22 and a Winchester 30-30 that provided a lot of meat for our family. I did kill a groundhog with one shot with the 22 a few years ago but the next one took seven rounds. I never entered competition shoots of any kind. Ammunition cost too much of my meager income to waste it on targets.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2020 at 9:28 am

    Thanks Tipper for bringing back a long ago memory. My dad was always up and ready early with gun to go to every turkey shoot he knew about. This is one of the wonderful memories that always seemed to take place in our big kitchen. They even had a couch over to the side wall to give extra seating/ Dad was not much on hunting even though most kin folk were back in those days. He had been a marksman in service, but I do not remember him bringing home a turkey ever. Perhaps it was a monetary win, but he must have won something to be so enthusiastic each year. Just one of a thousand questions I wish he was here to answer.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2020 at 9:00 am

    Turkey shoots used to bring out a big crowd for fun more than food. With more forms of entertainment offered now than in the 70s must be the reason turkey shoots are seldom heard of in my home town.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 19, 2020 at 8:25 am

    I was never at a turkey shoot. My Dad shot in several the Sportman’s Club hosted. He was a member and at one particular one as I recall him telling about the club officers asked him not to keep shooting because it didn’t look good for him to win as part of the host group.

    As best I recall, the opening scenes of “Sargeant York” set in Fentress County, TN about 1910 are of a turkey shoot. Alvin York is hoping to win a beef to sale to help finance his acquiring a bottomland farm.

    That shooting at straight pins would be some more marksmanship. I can’t see well enough to even shoot at 22 hulls. That’s the main reason I never took up deer hunting when my brother did.

    The return of turkeys to the wild has been one of those wildlife management success stories, like the return of deer and otter. I still remember the first turkey I ever saw in the wild. It was flying in to roost for the night I guess late one winter evening. I was tallying a forest inventory plot just below the crest of a little ridge. Heard it flying in and ran to the top of the ridge just in time to see it running out of sight. Now we usually see them alongside US 441 on the way through the Smokies.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2020 at 7:55 am

    I shot in a turkey shoot one time when I was a teenager and won a ham. The next shoot was for a turkey, I didn’t win, but was in a shoot off with an older man, after shooting about 3 times, it was said that he won. It was still almost to close to call, maybe by half the diameter of the hole. This was back in the 60’s before these new guns or chokes made especially for turkeys. These guns shoot a very tight pattern. I was shooting a no name 16 ga. single barrel gun. Daddy would say you had to shoot something twice with this gun, kill it with the first shot and salt it down to keep it from spoiling until you could get to it with the second shot. We use to have a lot of turkey shoots at this time of year, usually by a volunteer fire department , but seems like no one does does it anymore. I wonder if it has something to do with the times we are living in, concerns about safety. I would enjoy reading the Foxfire book.

  • Reply
    Rebecca Layfield
    November 19, 2020 at 7:48 am

    Ms Tipper I really enjoy reading your post and watching your videos!! Continued blessings over you and your family!! Thank you for having the give aways!!

  • Reply
    Linda Rice
    November 19, 2020 at 7:29 am

    I’ve heard of Turkey shoots, but I’ve never been to one. I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the earlier ones since I’m so tender hearted to animals.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2020 at 7:20 am

    I can’t hit the broad side of a barn. My dad would not be happy with me.

    • Reply
      November 19, 2020 at 10:54 am

      I had forgotten about turkey shoots, they use to be quite popular around here in East TN this time of year. Usually they were put on by the volunteer fire departments. I remember a neighbor who was outlawed from using his old 12 gauge single shotgun because he always won. Once while hunting in South Carolina, the host was laughing about a game warden they had fooled into thinking a local poacher had killed a wild turkey out of season, when actually he had won a frozen turkey at a shoot.
      After he stopped and searched the man’s truck the locals had great fun with the warden.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    November 19, 2020 at 7:03 am

    I remember the first turkey shoot I attended at about age 9. My father thought I was ready to give it a try. When I pulled the trigger of that shotgun I landed on my butt. Every body had a good laugh. I tried again later after I gained my composure and did manage to stay standing. Don’t remember if I hit the target or not. Great memory.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    November 19, 2020 at 7:01 am

    One of my favorite memories as a kid is going to a turkey shoot with my dad. It was the paper target type. My dad had my grandpa’s bolt action 16 gauge. It was cold and we were out there for a long time. I remember it starting in the morning and ending in the mid afternoon.

    Dad won. I’ll tell you, I’m still proud. A turkey you win tastes better than one bought.

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