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Recovering Your Bird
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Tracking & Recovery Systems Department


A turkey's reaction to being shot with an arrow will vary.  A bird hit in the spine will collapse immediately.  An arrow that pierces the heart or lungs, without breaking a leg or wing, may require you to do a little searching.  A similar hit that does break a leg or wing will generally result in a quick recovery.


A bird hit in a non-vital area is nearly impossible to recover if you are not using a string tracking device.  No one knows for sure, but most hits are probably non-vital.  For purposes of this discussion, consider a liver hit the same as a non-vital hit because the bird will definitely run or fly away.  A liver shot is fatal, but without a String Tracker or Electronic Arrow Tracking System to use, you will not know where to look to find the very-dead turkey.


If a turkey runs or flies away, pursue it at top speed, keeping it in sight or within hearing.  Listen for the sounds of the bird running in the leaves or the flapping of its heavy wings.  It is easier said than done to keep a wounded turkey in sight.  Most of the time, a bird will get out of sight before you can get close.  When you are using a String Tracker and Electronic Arrow Tracking System , like you should be, it is not as important to pursue the bird immediately. 


Regardless of the situation, you should try to mark the direction of flight or running.  Try to pinpoint the landing spot or the direction of travel.  If you heard the bird make a crash-landing, pinpoint the location.  The SECRET is to use landmarks or sight on the landing spot with an Orienteering Compass.


A wounded turkey will normally find a hiding spot within 200 yards.  It will hide almost anywhere.  You may find them in brush piles, under or by a log, in a creek bed, under leaves or bushes, in tall grass, in a hayfield, under a large rock outcropping or up against the base of a large tree.   Generally there will not be a blood trail to follow.  A bow hunter should always search for several hours before giving up on one of these trophies.


There are a couple of things I have found to be true most of the time regarding wounded turkeys.  First, they will take the route of least resistance.  Generally, this means a running turkey will head downhill or stay on level ground versus going uphill.  Secondly, they will fly or run away in a fairly straight line.  If a fence interferes with the straight line path, a wounded bird will usually follow it rather than try to go under or over.  I have used a High Quality Compass to help determine a predictable line of travel for a wounded bird many times.


When you finally locate a wounded bird, don't start yelling and patting yourself on the back and don't run at the bird.  Many turkeys have gotten away from such overly excited bow hunters.  Calmly get within 15 yards of the bird.  Try to shoot a second arrow into the bird, but don't get too close before you shoot, because a wounded bird will not hold its position forever.  If the turkey does jump up and starts to get away, run it down if possible.  Having at least two persons following a wounded turkey is a good idea.  It may keep the bird confused allowing one of you to catch it.


Wounded birds can routinely be collected if you have a Turkey Recovery System in place and know how to use it.

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