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Daddy, Uncle Jack and the Turkey Shoot
by Patricia (Pat) Corbett Keadle
~With additional comments by O'Bruadair~

I have never been to a Turkey Shoot. I see signs here and there but haven't ever been intrigued enough to go watch. When I was younger, I was told by my uncle that they lined up the turkeys and shot off their heads...eeeewwwwww. Plenty reason right there to avoid that little experience.

When I was about 10 or 12, we were visiting at Grandmama's after she had retired from being the jailer in Orangeburg. We spent every weekend there for as long as I can remember.

Anyway, Uncle Jack came in and said, "Bill [my daddy], let's go over to the turkey shoot . . . wherever."

Daddy had a brand new Oldsmobile, white leather seats and all, so he said, "Let's take Marty's [my mama] '53 Chevy."

Boys will be boys, and it got later and later and finally they came back to the house.

"How many did you get?" said Grandmama. "A few," said Uncle Jack.

Now, mind you, I had a vision of yukky headless corpses so I wasn't really up to looking.

You could hear Grandmama laughing from out in the driveway. Going out there, I looked in the trunk. (Now remember, Uncle Jack was a deer/coon/possum hunter and Daddy had been a sharpshooter in both the Marines and the Coast Guard.)

The trunk of Mama's black 1953 Chevrolet BelAire was packed with poultry. I mean PACKED. And they were all ALIVE. I believe there must have been 15-16 LIVE turkeys in there.

So at that moment I discovered (1) Daddy was a good shot, (2) Uncle Jack was a good shot, (3) 16 turkeys will fit in the trunk of a '53 Chevy.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Small aside here. While Daddy was off to war, Mama stayed with my grandparents at the jail and worked across the street as a bookkeeper for a poultry processing plant.

I believe she gave Mr. Houser, the poultry man, a couple of birds; he processed the rest and Mama got the feed sacks as a bonus. I wish I still had those pajamas. Softest material you could ever sleep in.



I think you are right about the original turkey shoots. In the old days they would put a live turkey (with a foot tied to the ground) behind a large log. They would scatter corn on the ground and as the turkey pecked at the corn his head would appear and disappear behind the log. Each participant would be given a shot (with a rifle). If you hit the turkey you claimed the bird. I’m sure there were plenty of side bets involved too.

Hitting a target as small as a turkey’s head with an iron sited rifle from 30 or 40 yards, especially a target that was bobbing up and down would be no mean feat of marksmanship.

I have been involved in several modern turkey shoots over the years. These are always pretty much local affairs and are usually conducted to raise money for a charity. The ones that we held were for the benefit of the local Future Farmes of America.

Here are the basics, but as I said these are local so the rules may vary from place to place.

First, no live animals are involved (the SPCA would pitch a fit, even though I can’t see that this would be any crueler than chopping the head off the turkey or shooting a wild one in the woods).

Each participant would pay a fee for a target card. Cards were about the size of a sheet of paper and are set up on posts 30 yards from the shooting line. Each participant fires one shot at his card with a shotgun. We always provided the ammunition. This assured that every participant would be shooting the same type of ammunition (we always used a low brass #8 shot).

Whoever had a pellet hole closest to the marked center of the card won the round and the turkey or ham (in which case it was a ham shoot and not a turkey shoot) plus any side bets! The turkeys were from the Winn Dixie duly purchased, dressed, wrapped and frozen.

This was as much a test of the shotgun as it was of shooting skill. If your gun could shoot a good tight pattern you were much more likely to have a pellet hit close to the center, but you still had to be able to hold a good steady aim while standing on your hind feet (no rests or props were allowed).

There was a good dose of luck involved in this too. Even if your gun would not shoot a tight pattern and you couldn’t shoot worth a fiddlers d--n you still had a chance to get a pellet close to the center by blind luck! I have seen people win rounds and have only one pellet in the card but this did not happen very often.

Guess the luck was part of the fun. It was a way for Baptists to gamble and not feel guilty about it!

There were ways to cheat at this and I guess people being people (even Baptists) someone would try occasionally. We once had a fellow who was shooting an extremely tight pattern every round so we kind of got suspicious. One of the “officials” checked his fired shell after the next round and the upper half of it was gone! He had been taking his pocket knife and “scoring” the plastic shot-shell so that when fired the top half would break away with the shot instead of the shot exiting the end of the case. This, of course, held the shot together until it got way down range and thus shot a lot tighter pattern. Needless to say the culprit had his ill-gotten gains confiscated and he was banned from the firing line!

Guess in the old days they might have tied him down behind a log!


While O'Bruadair remains an anonymous visitor, we do know something about Pat Keadle. She graduated from Nursing School at the University of South Carolina (downtown U) a really long time back. (She says they had metal bedpans and glass syringes at that time.) She swears she is Southern by the Grace of God. Her mama was an imported Yankee from New York City. Pat's daddy was a Marine -- and who could resist that blue uniform and white hat? Pat can trace her "Daddy's people" way back to the 1700s. She lives about 3 miles up from her daddy's homeplace with her sweetie, Bruce, hubby of 41 years.

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