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Family Mossberg 500c 20 ga Gets a Makeover: Youth Turkey Hunting

by Gunner J. Wittkopp

    Turkey Hunting has always been a family tradition that occurs every spring on our family farm. I remember being excited to get out of school and ride along with my dad up to the hunting cabin where we would meet up with our usual hunting crew. When we arrived, my grandpa was always there early because he had been scouting the fields before we got there. My uncle would also usually join us in the morning hunt.

    One of my favorite parts was participating in all the comradery like waking up and sharing breakfast with everyone. At breakfast, we talked about where we thought the turkeys were going to be roosted and who was going to be hunting where. After driving to the farm, we get out and made the walk out to our favorite spot. I was too young to hunt at this point, so I hunted with my dad and observed everything he was doing. The majority of my learning came from watching him harvest turkeys and showing me how to use different types of calls and how to read the bird’s behaviors.  My early experiences fueled what was the start of, and continue to be a lifelong passion.

    The first shotgun I held was a .410 over under. I used the shotgun for target practice and slowly worked my way up to a larger gun that could be used for turkey hunting. As the 2014 youth spring turkey hunt was approaching, I had to get a 20 ga that I could take hunting. I talked to my grandpa, and he suggested that I should take the Mossberg 500c he didn’t use anymore.  He handed me the gun and said, “don’t bother giving it back, it is yours now.” The gun was perfect for a new hunter because of its weight and did not kick much even with a turkey load.  It was just right for me, and I was ready to begin adding my own history to the gun.  

Walking out to the turkey blind on my first official turkey hunt was such a big moment for me as we headed into the honey hole with the 20 ga. over my shoulder. I was able to harvest a Wisconsin Jake turkey that was roosting right behind us in a tall standing pine tree. I remember watching him work into the decoys and slowly sticking the barrel of the gun out the window and clicking the safety off while I rested the bead on the turkey’s neck, just like I practiced in the backyard with paper targets. I slowly pulled the trigger and saw that I had made a perfect shot. My dad and I were on cloud nine with my first turkey on the ground and we were able to share the moment with my grandpa after the hunt. Over the next few years, I continued to harvest other turkeys with the gun including my personal best Tom that weighed 28 pounds with a 9-inch beard in 2016. After a few years of success, I graduated to a 12 ga and decided to pass the 20 ga down to my brother Grant who was just starting to get into turkey hunting himself.

    Once Grant started to turkey hunt in 2018, he was excited about using the gun because he had seen all the success I’d had over the years. It was now the “lucky gun.” He was 11 years old at the time so the Mossberg 20 ga was once again a perfect fit and a great gun to start hunting with. During his first year, he was able to shoot a Tom while hunting with my dad. After that, he was hooked and continued to have success with the gun for the next four seasons.

    One particular memory that stands out about using the Mossberg 500c was during Grant’s first turkey hunt. It was day one of the two-day season. My dad and brother were heading out while I tagged along and watched from a blind across the field in hopes I would see the turkeys get down and could tell them where they were positioned. That morning we headed out to that same spot where we had killed multiple turkeys in past seasons. As the sun started to rise I could hear the turkeys gobbling from their roost and they seemed to be relatively close by, if not right on top of them. After a while, I looked over in their direction and could see what looked like the fan of a turkey spinning around in a circle. Shortly after seeing the full strut Tom in front of their blind, a loud bang could be heard from their direction followed by a text from my dad saying Grant had made a perfect shot on the Tom. We all celebrated and took some pictures of the big bird he had just shot with the lucky Mossberg 500c 20 ga.

    Now that my brother and I have both moved on to 12 ga. shotguns of our own, we thought it would be a good idea to pass the 20 ga. down to the next generation of turkey hunters but wanted to give it a cool new look, so we decided to get a Boyds American Plainsman buttstock and forend. We decided to go with the Shady Camo design because it almost looks like the bark on a tree and blends in well. It was a simple process to install each piece. For the forend, simply remove the barrel and slide the old one off and put the new one on. To install the buttstock, we had to remove the recoil pad on the old stock and unscrew the stock from the action. Installing the new one was as easy as removing the recoil pad on the new stock and screwing it into the action using the same bolt used in the old stock.

With the 2023 youth turkey season quickly approaching, we can’t wait to see my younger cousins make memories with the 20 ga and hopefully its luck will continue for many seasons to come!

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Original Mossberg 500c 20 gauge

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Mossberg 500c 20 ga. Makeover with Boyd’s Stock – Shady Camo

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Gunner Wittkopp’s 1st Turkey (2014) – Jackson Co. WI                                         

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Gunner’s largest turkey to date (2016) – Jackson Co. WI

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Grant Wittkopp’s 1st Turkey (2018) – Jackson Co. WI                       

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Grant’s largest turkey to date (2021) – Jackson Co. WI