Turkey Shoots could well be the original all-American sport. Going back to way before colonial times, the tradition rests on the informality of a few folks getting together for a good-natured shooting competition where anybody could win, and everybody eventually does. What may surprise you about this sport is the make-up of competitors. If you’d think this is a pastime dominated by middle aged men, you’d be only partially right. The ghost of Annie Oakley is surely smiling down on ladies who are making waves at the gun range.
Less than six months ago Melissa Doak, a dispatcher at Lake Front Lines, decided to tag along with her brother and dad at the Lorain County Ely Chapter Izaak Walton League’s Sunday morning turkey shoot. Melissa had enjoyed shooting pistol at a range in the past, then some girlfriends told her about all the fun they had at a turkey shoot.
Her first time there she was green as could be, but the rules are simple. Each shooter fires one shot from a resting position on a circular target down range. The one with a shot closest to the center, wins. So her first time out Melissa borrowed a gun, took careful aim, and won! “It got me hooked.” The traditional prize of a turkey shoot is a frozen turkey, hence the name, but prizes usually vary. Her first prize was a pack of Bob Evans sausage and bacon.
The next day Melissa went back to work and told everyone about her new hobby. To her surprise, she found a lot of interest from her co-workers. Her boss even donated gift certificates for a trip to Casino Niagara as a prize in the next shoot. Besides an extended family including uncles, cousins, her brother and Dad, Melissa soon found herself joined by several girlfriends and co-workers. “I love it, I come every Sunday. I’m still new, but I’m getting better each week. I’m still getting used to it and today’s the best I’ve done in a while, so I feel pretty good about that!I’m having a lot of fun!”She says it’s becoming something like a “girl’s night out”, only on Sunday morning.She’s since picked out a Remington Model 870 20 gauge (she received it as a Christmas gift) and has been a regular on the range.
I asked why women should get involved in such a non-traditional, male dominated activity. She replied, “Stress relief, it’s good for your confidence too. Even if you don’t win, it’s good for your focus. It makes you feel like it’s up to you; you’re in control at that moment. You have to be relaxed, otherwise you can’t do it. Each time you get closer, you feel like, better pride. Like, I can do this!”
Melissa’s exuberance for the sport really boils over. She says it was the easiest thing to get into as a beginner. “I encourage everyone to come out. I would love more people to come to this place. We’ve made so many friends here, it’s not even funny. Everyone’s so nice. They’ll let you use their gun, they’ll let you use their rest or their sandbag. If they don’t win and you do they’ll be happy for you!” As we stood there talking behind the range we were interrupted by a small celebration as Melissa turned to one of her cheering friends. “You won? Yay! My friend, Cindy, won!”
Of the twenty-two competition rounds that Sunday, fifteen were “meat shoots” which had a meat prize, while the other seven had some other prize or cash as the take-home. “Everyone likes the meat shoots, actually” says Jim Scheel, range officer and scoring judge. Shoots will be held every Sunday through the first week of May at the club grounds at 21334 Foster Rd in Penfield Township.
Other Turkey Shoots include the Sunday morning shoots include the South Cuyahoga Sportsmen’s Association at 19300 Ridge Road in North Royalton and Saturday morning shoots at the Holland-Bond VFW Post 7576, at 7576 Poorman road in Vermillion Township.