Contrary to popular belief, turkey shoots do not consist of people hunting live turkeys. Rather, they are shooting contests held at veteran's clubs, shooting ranges, and other pro-arms organizations. They are an effective way to raise funds for charity or other events the club will sponsor throughout the year.
Shoots consists of several rounds, a round having a given number of shooters who each have a card they purchased from the club, usually for $2-$10. On each numbered card is a target, with circular outside and cross hairs in the center. In turn, the shooters present their card, which is then sent out to the target by a runner. The runner hangs the card on the designated target area (usually a wall of hay stacks). Once the runner is out of harm's way, the shooter takes aim at the target. Each shooter is allowed one shell and, once they've fired the shot and all's clear, a second runner collects the card for submission to a judge. Shooters continue in succession until the end of the round, when all of the cards are compared by a judge. The shooter who most completely takes out the bullseye wins.
Turkey shoots are usually fundraisers. Shooters pay for each chance they get to shoot, and this money goes towards the expense of the meat (and shells and cards). All turkey shoot "workers" are really volunteers, so after the purchase of the meat, any remaining income becomes the club's profit. To ensure profit, there needs to be a reasonable turn out of shooters. To have a good turn out, the prizes have to be attractive, the atmosphere has to be fun and the judges have to be fair. Prizes vary from hams, pork butts, bacon, ribs, turkeys, deer, and so on. Because winning a turkey isn't as appealling as winning a side of cow, many organizations now call their contests "meat shoots." A well-organized shoot will have selected the best cuts of meat from a popular butcher. It also doesn't hurt if the alcohol is flowing. Yes, that's right. Beer.
Who cares about meat? I need to bring home the bacon!
There are several variations on the regular rounds of play. The most popular is called a money round, or pot shot, in which spectators and shooters participate equally. A designated vendor brings around a card with approx. 25-30 smaller targets, each divided into four quadrants. For one dollar, you can place your initials on a section of the card. One shooter is designated (often an official from previous rounds) to take aim and fire at the target, without knowing who bet on which portion. Whichever section of the card is most hit wears the initials of the winner, who gets the total cash winnings from the round.
I can't get into the particulars on what types of arms and specifications are required. My experience at meat shoots is limited to the role of spectator and volunteer; I've only shot twice and, needless to say, I DID NOT WIN. I do know that most people use 12 gauge shotguns, and that at most competitions scopes and longer barrels may not be allowed. You don't have to own a firearm to participate at a turkey shoot, though. Other participants are usually more than proud to have someone admire and use their weapon. Turkey shoots are as much about shooting the shit and showing guns as they are about actual target practice.
The organization running the shoot is generally well-versed in such functions, and has taken necessary safety precautions. The "guns" are not allowed inside the public buildings and must remain empty-chambered until just moments before one's turn to shoot. Also, the participants in the shoot respect their weaponry, and many are veteran military or hunters who know what that weaponry is capable of. They value their rights and don't want to jeopardize what they've got. Turkey shoots are almost always open to the public; no one wants you to feel intimidated or scared. There won't be a shootout, and no one's going to make you dance. But one note: you might want to bring your earplugs.*
*This one time, as a little kid, I went to a meat shoot without earplugs and my ears were ringing so badly that my grandpa stuffed cigarette butts in my ears to keep them protected. He still calls me butt-head.