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Aiming For Bacon: A Day At A Meat Shoot

The first thing you need to know about a meat shoot is that they don’t shoot animals.

“That’s not a crazy question, you know, we get that a lot,” said DeeDeeLakas, laughing a bit. “Do you shoot the meat? No, you shoot the target.”

Credit (Maria Altman/St. Louis Public Radio)
Mark Knight (holding gun) says he’s been attending the meat shoot at the Elks Lodge for about five years and intends to become a member. He says he first began going to meat shoots as a kid when he visited his grandfather in southeast Missouri.

Lakas sits at a long table outside Elks Lodge 2316 in Florissant with a cash box in front of her. The wife of one of the members, she’s signing up shooters at $3 per round. 

Most of the money will go to the Elks’ charitable work, but the winners will walk away with meat; a different cut for each of up to 30 rounds.

“You can win bacon, which is really popular, Miller Ham, they have pork loins, T-bone, sirloin roast, porter house, New York strips, turkeys,” Lakas says. “There are a lot of different choices.”

Credit (Maria Altman/St. Louis Public Radio)
Mark Knight takes his turn. Shooters aim at the black dot in the center of a 5 x 5 inch white target about 60 feet away.

An announcer calls out that Round One is beginning. It’s noon and the shooting will go on until dusk.

Gunshots pierce the air about every 30 seconds during each round, and the 12-gauge shotguns are loud.

When their name is called participants step into a sort of hut and take aim at a 5x5 inch white card about 60 feet away.

Whoever hits closest to the black dot in the middle of their card wins the round.

Mark Knight says last year he won so many times others asked to use his gun. He leans against his truck with his gun resting open tailgate.

“I’ve won a few times this year,” he said. “It’s just the last few weeks I’ve been shut out, so I’m due today.”

He says he’s been coming here for about five years, mostly to hang out with friends and enjoy some shooting without leaving the city.

I ask him how he got into meat shoots in the first place.

“Actually, I started doing this a long time ago with my grandpa,” Knight recalls. “We’d hit the meat shoots down around the Cape Girardeau area. Down there you have to travel a little farther, of course.”

This Elks Lodge is only 10 minutes from Knight’s home, he says. And there are lots of other shoots in around the area in both Missouri and southern Illinois.

Meat Shoots Around The Country

Yet, the shoots are not unique to this region.

“Most of the ones up here in Ohio are called Turkey Shoots,” says Linda Tubbs.

She 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. Soon, she says, people were calling them and giving them information.

“There’s are a lot of different names for them. They’re called still shoots, card shoots, board shoots,” she says. “I think there are probably more shoots in southern states, and there are a lot on the East Coast.” 

Tubbs says rules vary from place to place, but generally shoots use shotguns, paper targets and winners take home some cut of meat.

Credit (Maria Altman/St. Louis Public Radio)
Elks member Don Motzkus has served as a judge at the weekly meat shoots at Lodge 2316 for six years. He uses a jeweler’s loupe to figure out who has won when it’s too close to call with the naked eye.

And The Winner Is...

At Elks Lodge 2316, Don Motzkus is the one who decides who the winner of each round is.

He’s had the job for six years and says shooters rarely question his decisions, although once in a while someone will jokingly offer him money.

“Hey, that won’t work,” he laughs. “You ain’t got enough money.”

When the call is close Motzkus uses a jeweler’s loupe to determine whose shot takes up most of the black center dot. He described the tool as the thing you see on TV when people look at diamonds.

In the seventh round he finds Mark Knight just falls short of another shooter.

Knight shakes his head in disbelief.

“I knocked out 7/8 of the black dot and still I lost,” he says. “It don’t get no closer than that.”

Knight takes the loss philosophically. He says there’s always next week.

For The Wilsons It's A Family Affair

Doug Wilson and his daughter Mackenzie talk about their "shoot off" at the meat shoot.

Credit (Maria Altman/St. Louis Public Radio)
Sixteen-year-old Mackenzie Wilson and her father Doug Wilson pose with her shotgun. On this day they had a “shoot off” to determine which of them had won the round after a tie. “And I beat her,” Doug said with a chuckle, “but she does good . She’s won quite a few times.”

Follow Maria Altman on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.

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