Turkey shoots have long been a southern Thanksgiving tradition, with the practice dating back to the early 19th century when live turkeys were tied down in a pen and shot from 25-35 yards away, a much less humane approach as compared to today’s turkey-less competitions.
Since 1963, the East Cooper Outboard Motor Club (ECOMC) has operated the Goldbug Island Turkey Shoot. Now in its 60th year, it began as a modest fundraiser to raise money for several local East Cooper charities. Overall, the organization has raised more than $540,000 through this annual event.
The ECOMC exists to serve the interests of boat owners, to promote the safe use and conservation of our natural resources, to own and operate a private boat landing and related property, to provide a means of raising funds for scholarships for needy students and for contributions to local charitable organizations. Randy Howe has been a member for over nine years. “I was immediately moved by the interest of the club to promote coastal conservation and camaraderie of liked interest in boating and fishing,” shared Howe. “Equally as important [is our role in] giving back to the local community through raising money to give to local scholarships and charities such as Meals on Wheels, Windward Farm Home for Children, Camp Rise Above, Coastal Conservation Association, Turn90 and many others.”
Howe initially served as the organization’s Turkey Shoot chairman before moving through the ranks to eventually complete a two-year term as commodore of the club. He currently serves on the board in an advisory role. The Turkey Shoot remains one of Howe’s favorite club events. “I am 63 years old, and a turkey shoot has been a Southern tradition for as long as I can remember,” he reflected. “I can recall as a child going to local shoots where actual frozen turkeys and ham were given as the winning prizes. Today most of the prizes are given in the form of a gift card to your local grocery store to purchase your turkey or ham.”
Ideally situated in Mount Pleasant near downtown Charleston, Goldbug Island has been the perfect home for this beloved local tradition. “We place a strong emphasis on safety, while delivering a traditional fun family event,” described Howe. “We host this event with a minimum of 18 people staffing different responsibilities to ensure a safe entrance, exit and participation in this southern tradition. We have a huge firepit to enjoy while waiting for your number to be called with the beautiful backdrop of saltwater marsh and the Intracoastal Waterway.” Those who compete in the contest will shoot a shotgun using a target practice shell with 300 to 400 small pellets at an 8 x 10-inch paper target with a crosshair on it. The participant who gets the closest pellet to the middle of the target wins the prize.
Aside from being a fun way to raise money for charity, the annual Turkey Shoot is an important part of the fabric of the South that carries forward to future generations through this special event. “One of the most meaningful things to me, outside of raising money for local charities, is what it means to the folks that participate. It creates an opportunity for families to pass on this southern tradition to their children and grandchildren in a fun and safe environment,” said Howe. “I love hearing from some of the adult participants on how this tradition was passed on to them from their parents and grandparents.”
This year’s event will be held on Goldbug Island at 1560 Ben Sawyer Blvd. in Mount Pleasant, starting at 6:30 p.m. The dates and rules for participants are listed below.
By Heather Rose Artushin