Not giving up on a tough spring turkey

The writer arrowed this tom on public land recently. Although the shot looked perfect, he ended up leaving the bird overnight and recovering him the next morning.

The Nebraska longbeard was shouldering my jake decoy while standing in full strut. To say I was excited would be a gross understatement. The tom, my first bird sighting in 12 hours of blind time, had come in on a string and I’d already shot a bunch of feathers off his back. I really, really, didn’t want to whiff twice.

So I buried my pin on his chest and let fly with arrow number two. This arrow chunked into the bird and he limped off. When he was 20 yards beyond the decoy, he low-flew into the woods. I sat there wondering how he wasn’t stone dead and decided I’d give him an hour, then sneak in to size up the situation.

After more than an hour, I did just that. And I jumped the bird from underneath a deadfallen oak tree. He flew once again, and I looked at the time and realized that I couldn’t afford to bust him again. I marked last blood and backed out to spend a fretful night in my tent wondering if a coyote would stumble across the bird, or if he’d simply figure out another way to slip out of my life.

He didn’t, and surprisingly, he was lying where I’d last watched him fly. When I lugged him back to camp I skinned him and checked out the entrance and exit of the arrow. The damage was extensive, and how that bird survived for five seconds after the shot, I have no idea. I know that few critters cling to life like turkeys, and this bird was no exception.

He was also a good lesson on giving them time to die for a less-than-perfect shot. Most of us underestimate a turkey’s will to live while overestimating how well we shoot. This is a bad combo. If you’re out this spring and skewer a bird that doesn’t die within sight, take your time during your recovery. If you’ve got a few hours to give the bird, give him all of that.

And once you begin your search, proceed quietly and keep your binoculars ready. I’ve seen a few mortally wounded longbeards hide really, really well, and if your bird still has his head up when you approach, you need to either back out or make a follow-up shot. In either case (and many more), it pays to be very careful with your post-shot followup.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Hunting, Tony Peterson, Turkey