The sight of pumpkins and red-gold leaves on the trees signal a special time of year for members of the Bountiful Lions Club - their annual Lions Turkey Shoot, one of the biggest trapshooting events of its kind in the West.
Scheduled the weekend before Thanksgiving, Nov. 19-20 this year, the Lions Turkey Shoot is expected to attract nearly 8,000 shooters and spectators to the Lions Range, located near the "B" in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains east of Bountiful.Proceeds from the annual benefit shoot will be used by the Bountiful Lions to help the blind and deaf and to build community projects in Bountiful.
Turkey Shoot chairman Tim Tate said this is the Lions Club's 50th anniversary trapshoot and more than 1,300 frozen turkeys, weighing an average of 11 pounds each, and more than $1,500 in prizes, including a color television set, a 12-gauge Remington 870 shotgun, rifles and a variety of sporting goods and camping equipment, will be given away to trapshooters and others during the two-day contest.
"Events will include several kinds of trapshooting contests, including singles, doubles and some special shooting events - some with novel innovations - and splatterboard contests. We'll have four traps set up, and they will be working full steam from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday."
Tate said he expects more than 25,000 shotgun shells will be fired during the Lions Turkey Shoot. "The usual trapshooting contest has five contestants shooting at five birds apiece from five positions. The one with the highest score wins.
"Often there are ties, and we have to hold shoot-offs to decide who wins the turkey. Sometimes, top shooters fire several times and from long distances to decide the contest, and it gets pretty exciting, for shooters and spectators both."
He said people from as far away as southern Idaho and the Provo area, from Vernal and Tooele and Grantsville come to the Lions Turkey Shoot each year. They range from some of the best shotgun shooters in the area to beginners, he said, and the Lions keep shooters in their own class to promote fairness.
"A lot of people wait all year for the event and stay throughout both days to shoot, watch the action and enjoy the company of friends in our warm clubhouse."
Lady Lions keep the clubhouse fire going through both days and provide a variety of hot and cold drinks, hamburgers, hot dogs, chili and other treats. The proceeds from the Lady Lions booth goes for their own charities, including helping the blind and deaf and supporting local civic projects.
Lion Horace P. Beesley, who joined the Bountiful Lions Club 50 years ago and is a charter member of the club, said he always thinks of the movie "Sergeant York" when somebody says turkey shoot.
"Early in the film, Gary Cooper, who played Sergeant Alvin York, enters a turkey shoot to win money to buy a farm and wins event after event.
"The target was a live turkey. Whoever shot the turkey's head off got the turkey. The target was placed behind a log so you could only see the turkey's head, if he raised it up over the log.
"The idea was to either wait until the turkey's head appeared and then shoot accurately and swiftly enough to hit it, or, as York is depicted as doing, make a noise so the turkey will raise up out of curiosity."
Later, York used the same tactics to knock off enemy troops, Beesley said.
The Lions Club used live turkeys at their earliest turkey shoots, too, Beesley recalls, "but we didn't shoot at them. We had the turkeys - some of them weighing 20 pounds or more - penned up in a corral, and when a shooter won one, he had to go into the corral and get his prize. Sometimes it was a lot easier to win the turkey than to capture it," Beesley said, smiling.
Later, the Lions club started giving away frozen turkeys as prizes and, Beesley said, "everybody, especially housewives, appreciated the change."