It’s probably best, at the outset, to explain what a meat shoot isn’t.
There’s no hunting and the only meat on hand is wrapped in butcher paper and packed safely in a freezer.
Instead, participants take turns shooting at a cardboard target. The shooter with the best aim literally brings home the bacon.
South Brant Legion, near Oakland, played host to a meat shoot Saturday afternoon.
Inside a heated hut near the legion hall, about 20 men prepare their rifles and twist in ear plugs.
It’s going to get loud.
The caller takes a single shell from the boxes of ammo – stacked neatly by a six-pack of beer – and hands it to the first shooter. The shooter leans his heavy Winchester on the windowsill and aims at a target some 40 paces away.
After squeezing the trigger, he carefully pumps out the spent cartridge into a nearby garbage can and steps aside for the next man.
Though one might think a competition involving twelve-gauge shotguns that boasts “no restrictions” is a recipe for disaster, meat shoots are quite safe.
Participants shoot one at a time and are given their ammunition only after the firing range has been cleared.
“There’s some damn good shooters in there,” said organizer Bob Huson.
Huson, a legion member and veteran of the 56th Field Regiment and Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, runs the monthly meat shoots, which double as fundraisers.
The group spends five to six hours firing shells of various sizes. The bigger the shell, the more pellets – and the more chances to hit the target and claim the prize.
Each round’s top shooter takes home about $20 worth of roast beef, pork and peameal bacon, but the real reward is bragging rights, said meat shoot regular Ray Helmer.
“It doesn’t so much matter about the prizes,” Helmer said. “We have a lot of fun competing against each other.”
Participants – many wearing hunting camouflage – come in from as far as Sarnia and Kitchener, drawn by the camaraderie and the competition.
They bring their own guns, mostly pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns with modified chokes and longer barrels for better accuracy. Unlike other legions, South Brant does not put restrictions on such modifications.
The afternoon wears on and gun smoke mixes with cigarette smoke inside the hut as shooter after shooter takes his turn.
The top shooter changes month to month, but on Saturday it was Vanessa potato farmer Dave White notching the highest scores.
“Don’t shake,” White said of the secret to his success. “Lots of practice, too.”
Legion member Glen MacDonald had the task of changing the targets between shots.
“This is my first time doing it,” said MacDonald.
His perch behind a plexiglass wall near the target gave him a clear view of the firepower being directed his way.
“After the first 15 shots, you get used to it,” he said.
Meat shoots are no picnic to insure, Huson said, but with the average shoot bringing in between $500 and $1,000, they remain a good way for legions, hockey teams, hunting clubs and the like to raise money.
“It helps out the legion, and it’s a lot of fun,” Helmer said.