The Payson Men’s Golf Association is well known for its “Turkey Shoot” formatted links tournaments, but a marksmanship contest more similar to a real hunt could be an upcoming Tonto Rim Sports Club-hosted Turkey Shoot in which entrants can win one of about 35 to 40 Thanksgiving birds to be awarded.
TRSC member Ed Niebch is predicting the shoot, set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 17 at the Jim Jones Shooting Range south of Payson, is going to be a smashing success partly because last year’s shoot drew goodsized crowds of marksmen and women.
“We had about 50 shooters (last year) and are expecting even more this year,” Niebch said.
Last year’s shoot marked the revival of a fall hunting tradition that for unknown reasons had fallen by the wayside in Gila County and around the country.
Realizing the events were on the decline, a handful of TRSC members including Niebch, met and decided on a goal of breathing new life into the once-popular rural America custom.
“We hadn’t had them in a long time, so we decided to start them up and hoped they would become an annual tradition,” Niebch said. “It looks like they will.”
Shooters in Saturday’s competition can enter four competitive options — archery, handgun, , rifle and shotgun with slugs.
“They can try just one or all four,” said Niebch.
For this year’s event, organizers have streamlined the shooting process so that entrants will not have long waits to take their turns.
“We’ll have about four people shoot at a time, retrieve their targets and then select the winners and award the turkeys, said Niebch.
Entrants should bring their own rifles, pistols or bows and arrows, but those who don’t own a shotgun with slugs may borrow one from Niebch.
Shooting slugs from a shotgun is not widely popular in Arizona, but is in the East and Midwest where those types of firearms are used to hunt deer.
“Last year the shotgun (competition at the Turkey Shoot) drew a lot of interest,” said Niebch. “There was one of the old Ithaca Deerslayers (shotguns) that several people used and won with.”
Although the Deerslayer is a shotgun, it can be deadly accurate up to 200 yards in 4-inch groups using slugs.
Those who enter the shotgun competition will be shooting at 50 yards.
Archery will be from 25 yards, handgun from 15 yards and rifle at 100 yards.
Shooters may use any type of sights — iron, scopes or red dot.
The fee is $2 per shot, which last year’s results proved can be a bit risky or very profitable.
“Some spent as much as $20 and didn’t win a turkey, some others shot just once and won,” said Niebch.
For more information, call Niebch at (928) 468-9075.
Original turkey shoots date back to colonial days when the contest involved using live turkeys that were tied down and shot from 25 to 35 yards. If the turkey died, the shooter received it as a prize to be served up as Thanksgiving dinner.
Those types of shoots began to draw extreme criticism from a wary public for supposed cruelty and soon they vanished from the American scene.
Those early types of shoots also gave rise to the military terminology of “turkey shooting” meaning catching the enemy off-guard or out-gunned to the point of being unfair.
Today, turkey shoots are popular mostly in rural America. Most are held to support charities like volunteer fire departments, civic organizations, scholarship programs, Boy Scouts and school groups.