As a child, I watched with intense scrutiny and concern the movie “Psycho”. An old Alfred Hitchcox suspense-horror film in black and white who’s main character was a man by the name of Norman Bates. Now Norman Bates had a demented side that caused him to exhibit some psychotic behavior at times. I don’t recall how many folks he murdered in the film, but I do, along with most everyone else, remember the horrific shower scene where he stabbed to death the young hotel guest at his mother’s hotel. It made a big impact on lots of the kids and youth in my generation and we coined the term “going Norman on you” to describe how bad we were going to beat up a buddy by just “going crazy on them.”
Well, it didn’t take long before the Norman Bates description got tagged on to some of the animals we pursued that proved themselves very unusual in behavior and not acting like the other males of the species we were hunting. The term was a mixture of total disgust that the animal would not come in range for a shot, or do the exact opposite of what the other animals were doing. This disgust was also sprinkled with a little bit of respect for the survival instincts that made that particular animal, mostly old gobblers and trophy bucks, almost impossible to kill. We have all faced our “Norman Bates” in the woods and the score has usually gone in his favor. We do “tag one” every now and then and that is what we live to hunt for.
For the past few Springs, A couple of my nephews and I have leased 1200 acres of land in north Greene County for turkey hunting and found the place to be well stocked with birds that I can only describe as direct descendents of Norman Bates ! This year, one of my nephews has killed two birds, both by woodsmanship, not by calling them in, but sneaking up on strutting toms. I have taken a two yr old tom that acted as wary as most 4 yr old trophy toms would in other locations. It took me four hours and three strategic moves to finally get him to mess up and get too close “looking for the hen” who refused to answer his gobbles or show herself. These turkeys are so wary that we rarely see a hen or hear one yelp or cackle. they will mostly just cluck or putt a response to your calls but, stop doing that after and initial few minutes.
The gobblers do gobble back at your calls but every last one, even the young ones, will “hang up” at about 100 yards and gobble at you repeatedly trying to get you to come to them. They just will not come in gun range answering a call in 99% of the cases. I did notice they got a little bit less wary later in the season last year after the hens had started to set the nest so I am placing my hope in that happening again this year toward the end of season. Last weekend, I decided the strategy of the day would be to get “old school” with them and severely limit my calling, call with a small friction call only and limit most of my calls to clucks, putts, and purrs.
Friday morning I awoke to rain pouring outside my window but, got on out to the lease anyway with some optimism about hunting in “wet day mode”. As a child, my dad explained how turkeys like to get out and walk the logging trails or visit small green fields so that was the strategy for the day. Unfortunately, the turkeys did not move, gobble, or even breathe from what I could tell on Friday. Saturday Morning, I again woke to rain pouring outside even after it had cleared off in West Alabama the night before. The weather did clear some around mid morning and I started to hear some gobbling, especially in response to some thunder in the sporadic showers that moved through until around noon. I sat a green field on Saturday afternoon from 4:30 until 7:00 and did not hear a peep.
Palm Sunday morning with a mix of guilt and remorse for “backsliding” and missing church on a Palm Sunday, I was standing on a beautiful hill top well before daybreak thanking God and asking him to forgive my turkey hunting sins. At first light, I heard six different gobblers greet the day and struck out to hunt a location on the lease that I had not yet hunted this year. I hiked over a couple of big hills and into a large open hardwood bottom that was beautiful! I decided to just sit and listen quietly for an hour or until a tom turkey gobbled in close proximity to me. After and hour of hearing nothing, I started out with some very light clucks and a sequence of feeding purrs with a light cluck at the end of each to mimic the sounds I have often heard feeding hens make as they travel through the woods foraging. I would also make it a point to move leaves in a swishing motion to mimic the sounds of a hen scratching back leaves to find food on the forest floor.
Many times, this purring and leaf moving had brought a gobbler in silently or he came in drumming which is great to alert me of his whereabouts. After close to another hour of this activity, with only a cackle and yelp from a passing hen that I still did not get to see, I decided it was time to move. Before I moved, I did decide to break out my mouth caller and give a few yelps since the friction caller was just not getting it done. I started with a plain hen yelp at medium loudness and got an immediate gobble from a turkey that was over the hill in the next hollow. I decided I would cut the distance to him, so I jumped up and ran across the bottom to a brush pile about 200 yards from my previous location. I found a big red oak with some bushes near the base and sat down in a well concealed spot where I had a great view of the transition area I figured him to walk through. A couple more yelps and he gobbled much closer and it was easy to tell he was coming my way. However, like all his kin, he locked up at a hundred yards like he was right on cue.
I was determined to not give him the satisfaction of any more responses, so he started to double and triple gobble, demanding the hen that he heard to come out and walk to him. All I could do was to see if he would let his curiosity, and me, get the better of him. He finally moved into about 75 yards and I could catch glimpses of him strutting back and forth, catch glimpses of his old red and white head fly forward when he blasted out another gobble and hear his loud drumming. He stayed out in front of me doing that for more than an hour and all I could do was watch from my hiding spot. Then he broke out of his strut and started my way, I thought to myself, I got you now! But, he stepped out of view and after 20 minutes of agony from holding my gun to my shoulder and being totally still, I relaxed back against the tree exhausted, and ticked off.
I sat for another 30 minutes and then decided to send out one small cluck. It was immediately answered with an emphatic gobble from him and he had moved up the other side of the bottom and was now a hundred yards behind me. This gave me enough room to reposition and I figured to call him back with some soft clucks. He came back to the end of the huge blown down tree I was sitting on the other side of and I could catch a glimpse of him when he gobbled. He was so close I cold feel his chest rattles when he blasted out the demanding gobbles but, he would not step around the brush top for me to have a shot. Nothing more I could do but wait him out and see if he came around the end. After another 30 plus gobbles, he went silent and walked off, I knew he would not respond to anymore calls so i sat there for another hour or more hoping he would mess up and slip back in silently.
I looked at my watch and it was ten minutes after one o’clock. He had first responded to my call a little after 8:15 and we were both tired. I guess you could call it a draw, nawwwwhh, whipped again, in the spring woods. Some hunters in the area call it Mantua (pronounced man-che way) Madness since that is the closest cross roads community to the property. I call it Norman Bates’ world, home to psycho gobblers who just “ain’t right”.
I am looking for a new lease somewhere else next year! Anybody who wants to lease some turkey rights just send me an email !
Any of you guys that do kill a nice bird and want to have the photo posted, send it to me! email@example.com
Until next week, Hope you get the opportunity to find a big dumb turkey in your sights!