Winning Shooter

Ready aim … Sarah Taylor takes aim during the benefit turkey shoot for the Ashburn Voluntary Fire Department, Sunday. She won the first round of the shoot, beating about a dozen men who had come to compete. Photo by Stan Schwartz

ASHBURN, Mo.—There was a lot of good natured ribbing going on as shooters lined up to take their turn shooting at paper targets set high on the hill next to the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department building Sunday.

All the proceeds from the benefit turkey shoot goes to support the local fire department. Ashburn sits about 14 miles north of Louisiana, nestled right up against the Tom Shanks Conservation Area. About 14 people showed up at noon to take their chance to win some prizes.

“Normally we get a lot more people,” said Justin Tibbits, one of the volunteer firefighters. “Sometimes we get swamped,” he added. They said they have even run out of food. There’s a kitchen in the building where Tibbits and fellow volunteer, Jason Bradney, worked the grill. Bradney would cook for a bit before taking his turn on the firing line. Tibbits stayed in the kitchen making sure everyone got their orders.

Bradney said they usually have about 30 to 40 competitors vying for the prizes—frozen turkeys, tenderloins or hams. The fire department supplies the shotgun shells for the shoot. Each shooter gets one or two tries per round. There is only one shooting lane, so everything is tightly monitored. The shooters are handed one shell at a time as they get into place at the shooting table.

Tibbits looked over the participants there on Sunday and noted pointed out the regulars for the benefit turkey shoots.

“They come to just about every one of them,” he said. The department does multiple turkey shoots per year. They are even thinking about hosting a fishing tournament some time this fall, probably after Labor Day.

Fire department secretary, Christina Bradney, said the lower than normal turnout was probably because of a variety of factors. The Pike County Fair had just ended the night before, the Missouri State Fair was about to start and temperatures were starting to climb. Unless they had to shoot, participants were doing their best to stay out of the sun.

The firefighters had moved their vehicles out of the bays to accommodate the registration tables and the food tables.

Jason said it is an all-volunteer department, with five active members and four on the fire department board. He’s been with the department for just about a year. His son, 13-year-old, Levi, was training to become a firefighter, as well.

“At his age, he can do everything except interior firefighting,” Jason said. Levi is nearly as tall as his father, who stands about 6-foot, 3 inches.

The department was started by local community members, Bob and Betty Wood. The fire station building was built in 2001 on land donated by Gene and Mary Jane McGeorge and family. Christina said both of them died over the intervening years.

Before the couple started the department, Frankford’s fire department would head the call for help when the community needed it. Frankford is about 10 minutes from Ashburn.

Most of the firefighting equipment was donated by the Missouri Department of Conservation. They also get equipment from wherever they can, most of it used but in good condition.

Money from the fundraisers goes for upkeep of the current equipment and to buy new equipment. Christina said they just bought some used air packs from a New Jersey fire department. They had then tested and certified.

“That makes them good for five years,” she said. “Then they have to be certified again.” Other departments have offered to refill them when necessary.

There are about 125 homes within the department’s jurisdiction, but only 50 are sent dues notices. And the dues are just $35 a year, so the fundraisers are a huge part of the department’s operating budget. The next turkey shoot is Sept. 8.

“We also do silent auctions,” Christina said. One of the participants on Sunday showed up with a quad-copter in its box for a future silent auction.

The shoots are also a good way to bring the community together. The participants stick around through lunch. Depending on the number of participants, the shoot can last for about three hours. That gives them plenty of time to share a meal. Even those who don’t want to shoot were welcome to hang out in the fire station.

During the first round, 20-year-old Sarah Taylor, won. She chose a tenderloin for her prize.

For more information about the planned fishing tournament, contact Tibbits at 573-560-8104.

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