Lowcountry tradition gives people a shot at winning a turkey
By Bryce Donovan
Photos by Kylie Jeffords
November isn’t exactly the ideal time to be a turkey.
But at least one Lowcountry tradition has decided to shift with the times and give our poultry pals a little break. Ironically, this stay of execution is called a turkey shoot.
“I know it sounds weird, but we don’t actually shoot any turkeys,” says Randy Howe.
Howe, who is the chairman of the East Cooper Outboard Motor Club (ECOMC) Goldbug Island Turkey Shoot, says that over the years the Southern tradition has gone from people shooting turkeys to winning a frozen turkey – or even a gift certificate to a grocery store to buy a turkey.
“I like to think we’ve gotten a little more civilized over the years,” he says with a laugh.
Turkey shoots have been around for more than a century – in fact they are believed to date back to the 1800s – but over the years they have become less about shooting wild birds and more about sharing family traditions and raising money for charity.
“It’s a fun, family event that continues on a tradition that’s important to a lot of folks,” Howe says.
Howe’s event is one of two annual traditions in the Charleston area where the main goals are to provide a fun activity for the entire family as well as raise money for a good cause.
Here’s how the turkey shoot works: each person has a shotgun – it can be their own or the event will provide one – along with one shell (also provided) and a small target with crosshairs on it. Ten people shoot at the same time and whoever out of the 10 is closest to the center of their own target wins. (Somewhere in the distance, a turkey gobbles in delight, its life spared another day.)
Howe says you don’t even have to be particularly adept with a firearm to win one of these things.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of skill involved,” he laughs. “Sure, it helps if you know how to shoot a gun, but you could have 100 pieces of shot hit the target and if there’s one other person who hits it with just one, and it’s closer, they win.”
Howe stresses that turkey shoots are less about shooting at targets and more about families coming together, spending time outside and sharing stories – all in the name of a good cause.
“Every dollar we raise stays in our community through local charitable organizations,” he says.
Howe, who has been the chairman of the ECOMC turkey shoot for 5 years now, says the event is open to anybody willing to having fun.
“We get a wide variety of people at these things,” he says. “Experienced shooters right on down to folks who have never shot a gun in their life.”
They have plenty of people on hand to help even newbies get the hang of it. Naturally, safety is always a priority. Howe says at their event they typically have 3 or 4 safety officers walking the lanes to make sure everybody is following the rules.
So, if you and your family are looking for something a little different to do this Thanksgiving season, be sure to check out one of these turkey shoots in Charleston.
What: 28th Annual Barrier Islands Little League Turkey Shoot
When: Starts Oct 25 and goes every Friday and Saturday (7-11 PM) until Thanksgiving.
Where: Barrier Islands Little League facility, 3362 Maybank Hwy., Johns Island.
Cost: Cash entry per round (generally $3-$5); each round’s winner receives a frozen turkey, ham or other prize.
More info: Bring your own shotgun; officials will provide ammo. Concessions will be available for purchase. Call 843-559-4198 or visit www.barrierislandslittleleague.com to learn more.
What: 56th Annual ECOMC Turkey Shoot
When: Runs Nov 6-27 and is open each Wednesday through Saturday in that timeframe from 6:30-10 PM. It will also be open the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 25-27) before Thanksgiving.
Where: Goldbug Island, 1560 Ben Sawyer, Mt. Pleasant (across from Toler’s Cove Marina)
Cost: $5 per person. One shot. Closest to the crosshairs wins $25 gift card.
More info: To date, this event has raised over $375,000 for local charities. If you bring your own gun, it must be 12- or 410-gauge only (barrel length of 36” or less). Ammo provided. Food and drinks as well as t-shirts will be available for purchase. To learn more, visit www.goldbugisland.com