For decades my very good friend John Caldwell was the foremost outfitter in the Midwest. I know of nobody that has been responsible for more successful turkey hunts as an outfitter, guide and hunter as this man. He has since retired from the outfitting business and is now just like the rest of us — he loves to get with gobbling toms in the spring!
Caldwell had spent a long winter taking care of his wife who is very ill and waiting to get on the transplant list for a new kidney. His time has been consumed with this, so I told him I would take care of him come turkey season. I told him I would find some birds, do the scouting, get a blind ready and call and film for him. He gladly accepted.
Takes Friend Hunting
When I told him I managed to accomplish the above list he was very pleased. However, when I told him we would be hunting the Mississippi River levee, like we used to do in the “good ol’ days,” he seemed less pleased. He was worried that high water in the Great River would move the birds to higher ground. I assured him my homework had been done and that we would be OK.
We arrived early and Caldwell was glad to see that the blind I had prepared for us was spacious and well hidden.
“I wish I had this 30 years ago,” he said.
Caldwell went into the blind as I set the two decoys out. I put a strutting jake decoy about half-way up the levee at 15 yards. I put a hen almost at the top. He should easily be able to kill a tom strutting atop the levee at about 30 yards.
I positioned the decoys just to the north of the blind. My scouting had shown the toms were roosting about 150 yards south of the blind. I was filming to Caldwell’s right inside the blind. This way as the gobbler approached from the south, I could film it for about 100 yards before it was in the kill zone. Once a tom got on top of the levee, it could see the decoys and then come right in. Caldwell and I have seen this scenario play out on the levee a hundred times between us. It is a very good set-up.
The Gobbling Begins
We no sooner got comfortable inside the blind when the gobbling started. There were at least two birds gobbling straight in front of us between the levee and the river.
“Is it flooded over there?” Caldwell asked. “Mostly,” I answered. “There are some high spots here and there. And it is dry at the foot of the levee.”
I took out my Mountain Screamer slate call and made four crisp clucks. No less than four toms responded in front of us and one more from 150 yards south of our location.
“I kinda like that,” my partner whispered.
“I thought they would be down there,” I said pointing south. “But I’ll take ’em right where they are today.”
The birds gobbled occasionally from the roost. The four roosted together were much closer and much more vocal than the one to the south. We could tell the birds were down as the gobbling decreased. Hen yelps could be heard from both locations. I made a couple of putts and a few light yelps with the slate. Double gobbles almost rolled us out of the blind! They were exactly where we were, just on the other side of the levee!
Just then a hen appeared on the levee’s crest. She walked down, checked-out the decoys and went back over the levee. That is when I started my, “You cannot resist this” calling sequence. I started with light yelps from the slate call followed immediately by using my Mike Roux Signature Series Mountain Screamer Box Call to make three loud, sharp jake clucks.
Gobblers Gone Wild!
The gobblers went nuts and I told Caldwell to be ready as I started the video camera rolling.
Within just a couple minutes Caldwell whispered, “Mike there’s a hen on the levee north.”
I could not see her because I was set-up to film northbound birds, not the other way around.
“Wait,” Caldwell said quietly. “There’s two, no three hens,” he whispered. “Mike there’s a gobbler, too. No, two!” He was now very excited! “There are four of ’em. There’s four gobblers and they are coming right to the decoy,” he was now beside himself with excitement.
I picked the birds up in the viewfinder just behind the strutting jake. One of the four toms was in full strut.
“Shoot the strutter,” I told him. I zoomed in and heard the safety click off. The tom never what hit him and the other three gobbled in shock.
“That’s another victory on the levee,” I said to my good buddy.
“That felt good,” is all he said through a huge smile.
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