It was the day before the Skyline Gun Club’s annual November turkey shoot and a dozen or so people were lining up to shoot shotguns at hand-sized disc targets thrown from trap machines.
“I’m here trying to knock the cobwebs off,” Dustin Jones of Pocatello said. “(The turkey shoot) tomorrow is just for fun.”
Jones said he hadn’t been shooting for several weeks.
While the events are called turkey shoots, the competitors don’t actually shoot at live turkeys. The birds — the frozen kind — are just one of the prizes offered to competitors at turkey shoots.
Participants take turns shooting at clay targets flying through the air, simulating the flight of game birds, or rolling along the ground to mimic small game animals such rabbits. In the Skyline Gun Club’s turkey shoot, competitors shoot five different events, 10 targets each. Door prizes are offered, and there are bonus prizes for hitting certain targets. All participants get a turkey.
“We had 140 shooters (at the Nov. 17 shoot) and we went through 176 turkeys and then I went and got eight more, so 184 turkeys,” said Rick Owen, manager of the Skyline Gun Club located a few miles west of Idaho Falls along the Arco Highway.
The Nov. 17 competition is one of the club’s most popular, he said. The club’s next competition is its Christmas turkey shoot on Dec. 15. Owen said because of colder weather and busier people, the Christmas turkey shoot often doesn’t get as many participants.
Owen spent most of his time running the trap machines at the club’s five-stand shooting building. Participants stand at openings or stations in the building facing a field where targets are thrown from traps. Each station offers different angles and positions so that no two stations are the same. Sometimes, two targets are thrown in succession. The building has heaters inside to keep participants warm during cold months. “And the best part is that it blocks the wind,” Owen said.
The club also has a skeet field with eight different stations and a variety of shots offered. There also is a sporting clays course — similar in concept to a golf course — where shooters make their way through several stations laid out in natural surroundings. This gives shooters practice in various hunting scenarios. The sporting clays course is closed during the colder months.
“The shooting course is like an infinitely variable golf course where the holes and T-boxes are always moving and changing positions,” longtime member Randy Lloyd said. “It allows a lot of variety in target practice. A typical squad of five people will take two to two-and-half hours to complete the 12 or so stations.”
The November turkey shoot attracted people from throughout the region.
“Oh gosh, we had shooters from Pocatello, Challis, St. Anthony, Driggs and there’s some I just don’t know where they came from. Some Utah shooters,” Owen said.
Club member Adam Blanton of Idaho Falls was there to hone his skills.
“I like to keep in practice,” Blanton said. “Looks like I’ll get to do both turkey shoots this year. I do bird hunt and skeet shoot. This keeps me in practice. Gotta reward the dog by knocking down a bird or the dog will lose interest.”
Kathy Lloyd and Deb Janson also were taking practice shots before the turkey shoot. Janson was borrowing a shotgun from her friend Kathy Lloyd.
“I haven’t done this in four years because I had shoulder surgery,” Kathy Lloyd said. “Now I’m back and loving it. You betcha I’m going to shoot tomorrow.”
Janson had recently moved to Idaho Falls and is pursuing shooting with a passion.
“I’m now a member (of the club),” Janson said. “This is my third time shooting a shotgun. I love it. I’m a Californian, I didn’t do anything with guns until I got here. I just bought a pistol for my birthday.”
During the competition, some clays shot down represent special prizes.
“If you hit the white targets you get a package of bacon,” Kathy Lloyd said. “Last time I shot in the competition I brought home the bacon.”