Written by David Hawley, Wild Turkey Report
For a turkey hunter, there are few things that they hold more dear-and cause more contentious conversations-than the business end of their spring pursuits. When hunters choose a weapon to kill a spring gobbler with, they want something that they are supremely confident in, and perhaps even a weapon that feels as if it is an extension of their turkey hunting soul.
I have always been a sucker for the nostalgia that growing up amidst the Mossy Oak culture brought about. The late 80s and early 90s were a special era for Mossy Oak and the sport of turkey hunting, and I soaked up that goodness like your grandmothers’ best batch of biscuits does to gravy. As I began to age and entered the professional world, and thus had a little of “my own money,” I started scouring eBay and other platforms for vintage Mossy Oak apparel to don as I chased the wild turkey. I may or may not have scoured my dad and grandfathers hunting closets also!
For me, original Bottomland or Greenleaf was not just an effective pattern to wear while in the spring woods, it was a badge of honor. It was a memory of a crisp March morning with my father and grandfather; it was returning to the camp to see Mr. Fox and a gobbler he’d bagged. I suspect for many that wear Bottomland or Greenleaf today, it harkens back to those earliest memories of the sport. When someone sees a fellow turkey hunter in them, they see someone who belongs because they likely have those same memories and emotions too.
In the late 2000’s, I began to get inquisitive about a series of guns that Remington produced in the early 1990s that featured original Bottomland and Greenleaf patterns. I’d recalled seeing a few of these guns around, still being used by friends who had purchased them back in the day. After a number of miscues using some of the guns I was using at the time, I decided it was a sign to dive headlong into a search for at least one of these cherished Remington’s.
You would be hard pressed to find a more solidly built gun than an early 1990’s Remington shotgun. In addition to some of the tightest feeling actions and a solid stock rise and trigger pull, the guns just looked like turkey guns. The 21” barrel models really appealed to me due to their maneuverability. When turkey hunting in the Deep South, longer barreled guns I had hunted with just seemed to always find a branch or vine at the worst moment. With the proper choke and shot combo, the short barrel would not be a concern. Even before loads like TSS, these guns threw incredibly consistent patterns.
In 2009, I was able to find an 11-87 Special Purpose-Big Game in a 21-inch barrel, covered in Mossy Oak Original Bottomland. This particular model featured rifled sights, presumably a dual purpose gun for those that also liked to deer hunt with slugs. The gun was listed on a secondary market website, and was owned by a gentleman in New York. I believe I purchased the gun for $500, and was a nervous wreck as I wired him the money and awaited the arrival to our local FFL contact.
Upon arrival, the gun was as described-in mint condition. The magazine plate did not have a single scratch, indicating that it is likely the gun had never, or rarely, been used.
I took a few turkeys with that gun the next couple of springs, but my desire had expanded to fill out my collection with every one of the guns Remington offered in Original Bottomland and Greenleaf, sans the SP-10 in their ten gauge offering. I like my shoulder where it is, after all.
In total, I would be on the search for four additional guns:
- A Remington Model 870 in Bottomland with a 26” barrel. Offered starting in 1992, I believe the original intent was for the gun to be more of a waterfowl gun;
- A 26” barreled Remington Model 11-87 Special Purpose Synthetic-Turkey in Bottomland;
- A 21” barreled Model 870 SPS-Turkey in Greenleaf;
- A 21” barreled Model 11-87 SPS-T in Greenleaf.
I used an article written by the legendary Nick Sisley from an old Mossy Oak turkey hunting magazine from 1994 called Full Strut as a guide of which guns to target, as well as original pics to ensure no excessive wear or modifications had been made.
I found the 870 Bottomland pretty quickly in the summer of 2010. With its 26” barrel, I decided to make it my waterfowl gun, and as it took on wear and tear from that pursuit, it kind of became a do-all gun. A really sharp and special do-all gun, I might add. The 11-87 SPS-T in Greenleaf was my next purchase, and became my turkey gun of choice in 2012 or so. It still holds that title today.
In talking with a number of people, including Nomad’s own turkey gun guru Jason Hart-a man who has at least a dozen or more of these rare guns-the 870 in Greenleaf would be the most difficult to find. At the time, he’d only had one in his possession, making us collectively think the model had a fairly limited production run. It’s possible that this model, or others in the lineup, were sold at NWTF banquets in the day, but we had no concrete proof of that. The exact number produced of all these models is something I have yet to ascertain.
Fast forward to 2014, the year in which when I fell in love to my wife, Byrne. One weekend while visiting her in Birmingham, my close friend Jared Lowe texted me that he’d found a mint condition 870 in Greenleaf in a pawn shop in North Alabama. I casually mentioned to Byrne that the model was the only gun I lacked (or so I thought, more on that later). Not thinking anything else of it, on Christmas morning my then fiancée gave me a great shock when she brought out a mint condition 870 in Greenleaf with a big red bow. She’d contacted Jared and being the gentleman he was, he agreed to sell it to her. What would we do without a great woman and a great friend?
I now had four Remington’s, but was not really using the 11-87 SPS-BG with the rifled sights. A lifelong friend had seen the gun and asked if I was interested in selling it. I sold it to him and he uses it today and is actively searching for more to match it. That left me with three, until I stumbled across an 11-87 SPS-T in Bottomland in a pawn shop in Huntsville, Alabama. The gun was mint condition and at a very reasonable price. It seemed like fate, and I purchased it on the spot. I had completely forgotten that there were two 11-87 Bottomland models.
While I hunt each spring morning with the 11-87 SPS-T in Greenleaf, and will soon be outfitting the 11-87 in Bottomland to match my current red dot and choke combo, each of these guns has a special place in my turkey hunting heart. The stories behind the guns, from the search to find them and the questions about how they were used before I bought, are a backdrop to their current and future use. Each of these guns will be used by my sons and hopefully my grandchildren in the spring woods.
For the time being, I am done searching for these guns, mainly due to the prices they now command. It is not uncommon for a mint condition 11-87 SPS-T in Greenleaf to go for $1500-$2500 on the secondary gun market sites depending on the willingness of the bidders. Although it seems perhaps the 870 SPS-T in Greenleaf may be the one with the most limited circulation, they do command a similar price in the rare event they make it on the secondary market.
Overall, these guns are special, and one could argue they are a fundamental piece of the Mossy Oak story. One could also argue that the shorter barreled models are the perfect turkey guns. What one cannot argue is that for those fortunate to hunt with them, the emotion of carrying these pieces of turkey hunting lore with them is a feeling that is hard to describe. Perhaps it is best to let the blast of the shotgun do the talking.