It wasn’t that I was “sleeping on the job” as much as it was “misjudged timing” on my part. Although I heard him coming, screaming a response to every seductive cluck made by my hunting partner, M.D. Johnson, the gobbler’s telescopic head crested the knoll much sooner than I anticipated … and I was stuck.
If you’ve ever hunted gobblers for longer than it takes to shoot on after it leaves his roost, then you know just how painful turkey hunting can be. We set up on this particular southern Iowa gobbler a few minutes before noon, which means that my body had been contorted in numerous awkward positions for the better part of the past five hours waiting for a mature bird to make a mistake.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I carry a little too much “cushion” on my backside—which does come in handy while turkey hunting—but all that had gone numb nearly an hour before. So I took the rare opportunity on this setup to recline a bit and extend my legs. And my muzzleloader was still lying by my side when the gobbler crested the hill less than 50 yards away.
One In The Hand … Stuck In The Bush
We were using a run-and-gun style of hunting that morning, and we would set up on any bird that verbalized the slightest bit of interest. We had no decoy set when this gobbler appeared, so he was searching wildly for the source of the calls. I had a long way to go to get my gun in shooting position and absolutely nothing to divert the bird’s attention while I attempted to resituate myself.
And then the “Gobbler Gods” smiled upon me. The tom ducked back behind the hill in attempt to get a better look at the situation, and I whisked the muzzleloader onto my knees just in time to watch his full-blown charge toward the end of the gun barrel.
The tom was at 45 yards and coming hard when I realized this could get messy. I’m not a trophy hunter when it comes to turkeys, but a head-on shot would surely disintegrate the tail of the strutting bird, and it would likely destroy his beard, too. Sure, my No. 1 goal was to level this bird quickly, but if I could have my cake and eat it too, I didn’t want to destroy his tail fan.
And just like that, at 35 yards, the bird stopped, turned sideways and dropped his feathers—BOOM!—and then dropped for good.
The thunder of the shot echoed through the woods and the smoke lingered for a moment in the sunlight. Through the haze I could see the gobbler expending a few last “flaps” and kicks, and I looked to M.D. for a thumbs-up.
As I knelt beside the bird and examined his beauty, I looked back at the cloud of smoke and realized this was as textbook as turkey hunting gets.
• Firearm: Knight TK-2000, all stock except for the thumbhole stock and a 209 primer conversion kit.
• Load: 100 grains of Pyrodex RS loose powder, 1-3/4 ounce Multi-Metal Wad (Ballistic Products, Inc.), 1-3/4 ounce of Hevi-Shot (#7.5 shot), a thin cardboard overshot disk with an “X” scored in the muzzle end, standard Winchester 209 shotgun primer ignition
Note from M.D. Johnson: It’s important to note that I spent a TON of hours on the range experimenting with powders, shot charges, shot types, over-powder wads, wads, over-shot wads … everything that went into this winning combination was tested, changed, tested and had to prove itself. According to the folks at Hodgdon Powders, the load’s running right around 1,200 feet/second, which is slow by some standards, but plenty quick enough for turkeys. And the pattern density is absolutely, ridiculously good out to 40/45 yards.