Personally, I can see only one problem with a meat shoot: I’m not that great of a marksman.

Here’s how to beat the winter weather: A unique event in downstate Illinois combined a gun auction and a shooting contest in which local residents could win meaty prizes to take home.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

In the town of Edwardsville, Ill., a community of about 25,000 people some 25 miles northeast of St. Louis, a Sunday afternoon earlier this month featured guns, moose and meat.

Technically, Moose, as in the town’s Moose Lodge 1561, which sponsored the 2nd Annual Gun Auction and Meat Shoot. According to a report in the Alton Telegraph newspaper, the auction, organized by Moose Lodge member Mike Jones, drew about 150 people, despite the wintry weather.

“Jones was reached out to by Gary Niemeier, a close friend and co-owner of Ahrens and Niemeier, to help organize the auction,” the newspaper reported. “The auction had bids on guns that ranged up to $2,000,” Jones said.

“Some of these guys are members [of the lodge],” he explained, “some of these guys are just out for the guns.”

And for the meat, which we’ll get to in a moment.

The gun auction was a consignment sale, which allowed local residents to put their guns up for bid. According to the story, the event was advertised for months ahead of time, giving people plenty of time to make plans to attend the sale.

Okay, no offense to the good people of Edwardsville, but I’m guessing that the social calendar wasn’t exactly jam-packed on a Sunday in February. Nevertheless, this concept is brilliant.

If you’re into guns, it’s a great way to add to your collection, with the sellers right there in attendance in case you want depth and detail on your weapon of choice. In Edwardsville, this particular auction was conducted by a professional auctioneer from Ahrens and Niemeier, which makes for a much livelier event, in addition to what were likely some good deals to be had.

Auctions are fun, but let’s get to what made this event so fascinating.

Making Sundays special

According to the newspaper, along with the gun auction, the Moose Lodge also conducted a “meat shoot.” What’s a meat shoot, you ask? It’s a contest that allows shooters the chance to win boxes of meat, if they can score a bulls-eye on the target.

It’s sheer genius.

Robert Straub, meat shoot chairperson from the lodge, organizes meat shoots about three or four times in the spring and as many as eight times during the fall hunting season, when shooters obviously would benefit from additional target practice.

“The goal is simple — shoot a cardboard target as close to the bulls-eye as possible,” the newspaper story related. “Not only does the event ease the burden of a grocery bill, it also provides residents with entertainment on a Sunday.”

You got that right.

Who doesn’t enjoy some good, wholesome target practice? Only with this difference: a meat shoot gives participants the chance not just to load their weapons but potentially to load up their freezers, as well.

The fee at this contest was $2 a shot, with only “approved” shotguns allowed, and to ensure fairness, all shells provided by the Moose Lodge. The entrants were permitted to purchase as many shots as they wanted in an attempt to win the meat prizes, which ranged from slabs of bacon to boxes of ground beef patties to cases of pork chops or steaks.

This is a terrific concept, and it needs to spread to many more rural towns where hunting is big and local butcher shops and small processors need the business boost. The local meat company would benefit from the visibility and an opportunity to create new customers likely to be enamored of the quality of their products — doesn’t anything you win, rather than purchase, always taste a little bit better? — and the lodge or service club would raise some funding for its local projects, which are always in need of support.

Personally, I can see only one problem with a meat shoot: I’m not that great of a marksman. Like a teen-ager at a carnival trying to win the giant panda for his girlfriend at the “knock down the milk bottles” booth, I’d probably come out ahead financially by just buying the meat outright.

But that’s just me. □

Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator