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Knockout Punch

Thank You Dave Hallman for being a major sponsor of Left In The Field Outdoors


Hello Mr. Kightlinger! My name is Gary from Edinboro Outdoors, and I would like to congratulate you on winning a Mossberg SA-410. The message caught me off guard, and I listened to it again. I couldn't believe my luck, and I was excited to go and pick up my new gun.


I stopped at Edinboro Outdoors one day after school to pick up my new toy. Gary showed me the SA-410 and then told me about the turkey edition Mossberg makes. The gun I won was all black, but I wanted to upgrade to the Bottomlands camo turkey edition. Gary put the all-black .410 away and disappeared for a minute.


Gary returned with the Bottomlands Turkey edition of the SA-410, and the camo pattern was incredible. This gun came with a removable turkey site, an extra full turkey choke, and a picatinny rail for mounting a scope. The gun was also tapped for a sling, making it easy to carry in the woods. I told Gary I wanted that gun, filled out the paperwork, and waited for my background check to pass. Before leaving, I purchased a few boxes of Federal TSS for the gun.


Once I got home, I went to the basement to look at the two red dot scopes in my gun cabinet. After looking at the Browning red dot and the Vortex red dot, I decided to put the Vortex on the gun. Next, I used my Caldwell Lead Sled and a laser to bore sight the gun. The only thing left for me was to shoot the gun at a target. That task would have to wait for another day as I ran out of daylight.


Soccer practice and rainy weather kept me from shooting my new gun. Finally, I had an open evening to pattern the SA-410. Because TSS is expensive, I decided to use cheap .410 ammunition to ensure I correctly aligned the red dot scope. I placed a clean target at twenty-five yards and fired one shot at the target.


The target indicated I needed to adjust the red dot scope a few inches up and a few inches to the right. After hanging a new target, I returned to my gun and adjusted the Vortex scope. I loaded another shell into the chamber and shot again. The second shot peppered the center of the target. I was impressed with the pattern and was excited to see the TSS rounds in action.


I replaced the peppered target with a new turkey-splattering target. I walked back to my gun and loaded one TSS round. Carefully I aimed at the target and slowly squeezed the trigger. As I walked toward the target, I could see the TSS performed well and kept a tight pattern. After carefully inspecting the target, I moved the red dot scope down one inch. I was ready for turkey season to begin.


The thermometer read thirty-four degrees when I woke up at 4:45 am on the opening morning of turkey season. My son emerged from his bedroom and slumbered to the kitchen. He ate a bowl of oatmeal, and I had a banana. After finishing breakfast, we went to the basement to get changed. Dressed in our warm camo, we grabbed our guns and headed to the garage to get in the car.


Heavy frost made everything sparkle in the faint light. Sam and I whispered as we listened and watched the sun come up. The morning was calm and eerily quiet. A few distant gobbles were all we heard. We continued talking about school and soccer, but everything was quiet.


Time flew by even though we hadn't seen or heard any birds. Sam said he was getting hungry and wanted to have a second breakfast. We started packing up our gear and a bird gobbled near us. We sat back down and scanned the woods to our right. I made a few soft calls with my Mountain Hollow diaphragm mouth call, and the Tom gobbled again.


Sam scanned the hillside of the open woods, looking for the gobbler. I couldn't see a turkey, but I knew he was close. After waiting a few minutes, I gave another round of soft yelps. The Tom never replied. We sat for another half hour, but the bird went silent. Sam stood up and declared he was starving and needed to eat. I unloaded my gun before grabbing the decoys, and Sam did the same. We walked back to the car, wondering where the gobbling Tom had gone.


The following week, I hunted every morning before school. I got into the woods before sunrise and then had to leave by 6:45 am. Each morning I heard a gobble come from the same area. I have a few enormous beech trees on my land, where turkeys love to roost each night. Every morning I tried to set up closer to those trees in hopes of calling in a gobbler.


Although I set up closer to the beech trees and saw the gobbler, I couldn't call him in. I called in his two buddies one morning, but they got a free pass. I wasn't interested in shooting a Jake this early in the season. Besides, I enjoyed watching the turkeys interact with my decoys, and the two Jakes didn't disappoint me. Each of them jumped on my decoy, trying to mate with it.


After hunting the first week of the season, it was apparent I had to devise a better attack plan. I decided to give my property a break for a few days to see if that would help the situation. Hunting a different property yielded the same result. Turkeys would gobble on the roost, fly down, find hens, and then walk in the other direction.


Giving my land a few days off was killing me. I knew a large longbeard was there, but I didn't want to spook him to another property. On the morning of Friday, May 13th, I went back to my property. I snuck into the pine thicket that was near the beech trees. I had never hunted in this area, but I wanted to give it a shot.


As the sun came up, I heard a loud gobble. The Tom was in his usual tree, and I was less than 50 yards away. I forced myself to be patient before making any calls to him. The familiar sound of flapping wings told me he had left the roost and was on the ground. I decided to call softly, and he hammered back with a thundering gobble. I reached down and turned on my Vortex red dot scope.


My heart began pounding when I heard the gobbler spitting and drumming. I knew the Tom was close, so I sat motionless, watching to my left. There he was! The gobbler's white head glowed like a giant lightbulb. I watched as he disappeared behind a large pine tree. Slowly, I raised my gun and switched off the safety. The love-sick gobbler was heading toward my decoy setup.


The longbeard materialized, like a ghost, from behind the tree. He strutted towards the decoys and dragged his wingtips on the forest floor. Spitting and drumming loudly, I waited for my opportunity to take a shot. Locked in on my decoys, he closed the distance to twenty-five yards. My heart races out of control!


Looking through the scope, I placed the red dot on the turkey's white head. I didn't want to shoot him in full strut, so I made a soft yelp. The gobbler raised his head and lowered his tail feathers. Touching the trigger lightly, I heard the SA-410 erupt. The gobbler dropped immediately and lay motionless. I was astounded at the devastating knockout punch the TSS delivered.


Walking over to the gobbler, I heard another bird sound off in the distance. The Tom that gave me fits for the first part of the season was finally wearing my tag. The gobbler had a thick, 8-inch beard and matched 1 3/8-inch spurs. Dropping to one knee, I closed my eyes and said a short prayer of thanks.


My phone began to vibrate in my pocket, and I knew it was 6:45 am. I needed to grab my decoys, hustle home to clean the bird, and then get to school. After getting the decoys, I threw the gobbler over my shoulder and headed home. My legs felt light even though I was carrying a heavy bird. My morning was off to a tremendous start.


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