'Meat Shoots': Examining A Rural Tradition

Jan 20, 2014
Originally published on January 20, 2014 3:52 pm

If you drive off the interstate and head down a county road, in many parts of the country you’ll often see signs for “meat shoots” at local VFWs or American Legions.

It’s a sport some may not be familiar with, but meat shoots are an integral part of rural culture — and often serve a purpose.

Civic organizations, conservation groups and individuals will hold meat shoots as fundraisers for people in need, for example after someone suffers a house fire or a devastating illness.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Maria Altman of St. Louis Public Radio visited a shoot at Elks Lodge 23-16 in the suburb of Florissant to find out more.


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From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Meghna Chakrabarti. It's HERE AND NOW.

Have you ever seen a sign for a meat shoot at a local VFW or American Legion? Now, it's a sport that some may not be familiar with, but meat shoots are an integral part of rural culture, particularly for civic organizations and conservation groups that will hold meat shoots as fundraisers for people in need, for example, for someone dealing with a devastating illness or after losing everything in a house fire.

From the HERE AND NOW Contributors Network, St. Louis Public Radio's Maria Altman visited a shoot at Elks Lodge 2316 in Florissant, Missouri to find out more.

MARIA ALTMAN, BYLINE: The first thing you need to know about a meat shoot is they don't shoot animals.

DEEDEE LAKAS: That's right. That's not a crazy question, you know. We get that a lot.


LAKAS: Do you shoot the meat? No, you don't. You shoot the target.

ALTMAN: DeeDee Lakas sits behind a cash box at a long table outside the Elks Lodge. She's signing up shooters at $3 per round.

LAKAS: What are you buying?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I'm buying the last two.

ALTMAN: Most of the money will go to the Elks' charitable work, but the winners will walk away with pounds of meat.

You can win bacon, which is a really popular one, Miller Ham. They have things like pork loins, T-bone, sirloin roast, porterhouse, New York strips.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: All right. We're starting round one.

ALTMAN: The shooting begins at noon, and will go until dusk.


ALTMAN: And it's loud. Participants use 12-gauge shotguns. They're aiming at a five-by-five white card about 60 feet away.


ALTMAN: Mark Knight says last year, he won so many times, others asked to use his gun. But his luck has changed.

MARK KNIGHT: I've won a few times this year. It's just the last few weeks, I've been shut out, so I'm due today.


ALTMAN: He leans against his truck. His gun rests on the open tailgate. Knight has been coming here for about five years, he says mostly to hang out with friends and enjoy some shooting without leaving the city.

How did you get in to coming to meat shoots?

KNIGHT: Oh, Lord. Actually, I started doing this a long time ago with my grandpa. Yeah. We'd hit the meat shoots down around Cape Girardeau area. Down there, you have to travel a little farther, of course.

ALTMAN: Meat shoots are fairly common in Missouri and Southern Illinois, with many places holding the events to raise money for charity. But it turns out the shoots are not unique to this region.

LINDA TUBBS: Most of the ones up here in Ohio are called turkey shoots.

ALTMAN: Linda Tubbs and her husband Denny run turkeyshoot.net out of their home in Marion, Ohio. After traveling to shoots in several states, the couple decided to start their website for fun and list as many of the events as they could find.

TUBBS: I think there are probably more shoots down in the Southern states, and there's a lot on the East Coast. There's a lot of different names for them, but they're called still shoots, card shoots, board shoots.

ALTMAN: No matter the name, Tubbs says most places use shotguns, paper targets and winners take home some cut of meat.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Round seven, shooter four is the winner. Round eight, shooter eight.

ALTMAN: Back at the Elks Lodge, someone has to decide who the winner of each round is. Don Motzkus, a lodge member, has had the job for six years.

DON MOTZKUS: They don't even question me at all most of the time, you know, because I've been doing it for so long and they know that I'm fair. How much does it take to bribe you? That don't work. You ain't got enough money.


ALTMAN: When the call is close, Motzkus uses a jeweler's loupe to determine whose shot takes up most of the center black dot. After looking through the special magnifying glass, he determines Mark Knight just falls short.

MOTZKUS: We had three on eight. You're going to be mad.


ALTMAN: Knight shakes his head in disbelief.

KNIGHT: Oh, yeah. I knocked out about seven-eighths of the dot, and still I lost. It don't get no closer than that, does it?

ALTMAN: But, he says, there's always next week, at this meat shoot or some other around St. Louis. For HERE AND NOW, I'm Maria Altman at Elks Lodge 2316 in Florissant, Missouri.

CHAKRABARTI: This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.