Earl Norman tucked a chaw of tobacco in his cheek and slung a handsome 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun over his left shoulder.
“This gun kills at both ends,” said Norman, explaining the shoulder-bruising recoil of his trusty Remington Model 11-87.
Norman, who will be 70 years old next June, joined a dozen or so outdoorsman waiting to take their turn on the firing line Saturday afternoon at the turkey shoot hosted by Bill Lowe on his picturesque Elk Valley farm.
Shooting matches were once a favorite pastime in rural America, but there doesn’t seem to be as much interest in such activities among the younger generation. Competitions are scattered about the countryside. Each fall, the Grantsboro community of Campbell County hosts a series of turkey shoots. There are also turkey shoots held in Anderson and Morgan counties.
“It’s a dying sport,” Scott Jackson said.
“It’s good, clean fun and something the whole family can enjoy together.”
Turkey shoot rules are pretty simple. Competitors fire one shot at an 8.5 X 5.5 inch paper target 30 yards away. The person that gets a birdshot pellet closest to the bull’s eye wins his or her choice of a turkey or ham.
Saturday’s shoot was a benefit for the Elk Valley Elementary School basketball teams. Competitors paid $3 per shot, and there were usually 12 shooters per round. With at least a couple dozen shooters throughout the course of the afternoon, the event generated over $400 after expenses.
Jodey Humphrey, whose grandfather introduced him to turkey shoots, used two different shotguns to win the first two rounds.
“That second one I was (real surprised),” Humphrey said.
“I thought I might win one, but not two.”
Halfway through the second round, the cannonade rousted a cottontail rabbit hiding in ankle high grass between the firing line and targets. Since Saturday was also opening day of rabbit season in Tennessee, several onlookers urged someone to shoot the fleeing critter. But the competitors yelled back that they had only enough ammo to finish the round. So the rabbit bounded harmlessly into the tall weeds and underbrush conveniently located behind the targets.
Later on, Humphrey won a third round with a 12-gauge Winchester 1200 pump action shotgun he uses to hunt wild turkeys.
The only female shooter was Sheila Price, who turned out to be a modern day Annie Oakley when she won round four with a 20-gauge single shot that once belonged to her father.
Price was one of three people that shared that particular shotgun on Saturday. The gun won a total of four rounds.
Kelly Minton, organizer of the Elk Valley shoot, said this likely won’t be the last such event, especially after the success of the first one.
“I’d like to thank Bill and Ann Lowe, Keith Clotfelter, Save-A-Lot in Jellico, IGA, UGO and the LaFollette Press for their support,” Minton said.
“Special thanks to the community and all the parent volunteers.”