Contributors to this thread:
Finding wounded gobblers
Both my son and I lost gobblers we shot this year. We use big expandables and crank our bows down; both shots were pass throughs. Equipment was not the issue, it was our poor shots that passed through the breast (I believe). One gobbler I know lived as we saw him with a hen later the same day. Would like to hear experiences with finding turkeys that run/fly away after the shot. In my experience over the years it's been tough...as much luck as anything since there's seldom any sign after the scene of the shot. Identifying the feathers and where they came from is obviously important. On a few I have found that died over the years there was no blood on the arrow....apparently the feathers clean it pretty well. How many times have you found evidence of blood on your arrow? I have learned several things on birds I've stumbled upon...they've pretty much traveled in a straight line. They will fly up in a tree or hide in a blow down if possible. They can go places you wouldn't think possible. Like finding a needle in a haystack I lucked into a bird 200 yards from where my son shot him once. I came to a 50 yard wide, very thick clear cut and thought there was no way he went through that. There was a small creek bottom in the middle of it and I surprisingly found him there dead. He had to have flown there or pitched down from a tree. Let's hear your experiences. Thanks!
Two hunts come to mind. I was in Missouri 10 years ago, and shot this tom at 22 yards. The 125 gr bh went in one breast, exited out the other on an angle, and sliced through the leg/thigh but the arrow stayed in the bird. He jumped up on his good leg and flew 50 yards out of the field and into the adjacent woods. I followed him within seconds but did not find him during the first grid search. An hour later I returned to the blind, replayed the shot and his flight out of the field and the two trees he had flown between. This time I went into the woods another 50 yards and found blood. Followed the blood 100 ft to a large brush pile and as I looked down into the limbs, I could see feathers. I started to pull limbs out of the way and when I uncovered the tom, he scrambled away, flew up on top of the pile and bailed off the other side, with the arrow still in him. I dropped my bow and ran after him as he again went airborne for 100 ft, ran for another 100 ft and tried to hide again under a blow down. This time I was able to grab him and wack him over the head for his final second of life. I recovered him two hours after I had shot him with the same arrow and BH I use on 600 pound elk.
The second time was last year in Nebraska. I attracted this big tom to me from 150 away, using a HeadsUP decoy. Thought I had a slam dunk shot but hit him through the breast breaking one wing. He ran back the way he had come and disappeared. I waited for 30 minutes and then looked for him along the edge of the woods. It was my second trip quietly walking around this island of trees that he exploded at my feet from the tall grass, but only to get away again as he ran across the cut corn field and into another woods. I waited again and then carefully approached the spot where he had entered and looked in the area very carefully, step by step. No blood. I figured he did not fly across a near by deep creek so I looked along the side inch by inch. Moving down stream, I came up over a low bank and there he way hiding in the grass but still alive. Another arrow through the body produced a dead tom. It was almost 3 hours after I had shot him.
So what contributed to me finding these "lost" birds.
1. I have very good tracking skills.
2. I can read sign and I am very observant.
3. I was looking on my own without anyone else, that might destroy any evidence.
4. I was very quite so not to spook the bird away.
my best, Paul
Always enjoy your posts Paul,whether it's about Coues deer,or turkeys,or whitetails in the midwest.
Paul's advice is excellent as usual!
Out of probably twenty or more bow-shot turkeys I have lost two. Lost another temporarily, but lucked up on him after about a 45 minute search. He was dead deep in the shade of a bush. I had already walked by him twice. The other two I'm convinced were non-lethal hits.
5. and then I will add this thought, ie, " I just know he is around here somewhere so do not give up". And as drycreek stated, "I had already walked by him twice". So the third time paid off. my best, Paul
I have walked by quite a few and found them on the 3rd or 4th pass. They almost always find that FIRST brush pile, blow down or log. That's why I don't chase them. Nothing gets them in the air like a 200 lbs Sasquatch chasing them;0
If you stay still and wait your odds are better. They know they are wounded and dont want coyotes and bobcats chasing them down as they crawl through the woods.
They are UPLAND birds after all and can disappear when they want to.
Um, I know a guy.......we will go with that, who shot one when he was young and dumb during shotgun deer season. Bird was shot at 10 yards broadside from sitting on the ground as the bird walked by. 12 gauge slug knocked the bird back and into a dry creekbed. The uh, shooter, assumed it was dead and damn near had a heart attack when he crested the top of the creek bed and the turkey jumped up and ran straight up a ridge. After huffing and puffing up the ridge the bird was found hiding between 2 dead falls alive and alert. Another round was sent and dispatched the bird. If you told me a turkey could survive a center- mass deer slug from 10 yards I wouldn't have believed it until I saw it with my own eyes....I mean heard about it from a guy I know.
Absolutely agree with Hawkeye. The few birds that have run out of site after being hit I have found them in one of the first few hiding spots available, blown downs, brush piles or whatever. Give them a little time to hide and get sick/er, then slowly trace their path and start looking in these hiding spots, with an arrow ready.....
I have used my Llwellen setter (Molly) 3 times to find dead birds. Actually one was still alive and she ran him down. I marked where I last saw them and waited a few hours and bought the dog back with me. Two were only about 40 yards from where I saw them and tucked up in some nasty thick stuff. The 3rd jumped and ran as the dog was about to grab him. I think dogs are one of the best way to find them! Shawn
I believe that you are better off using a set up that keeps your arrow in the gobbler. The VPA turkey head is a good example. A bird with an arrow in it has a lot harder time traveling.
In answer to your question... fa git a bout it... trying to find a wounded bird that is... Best chance of hangn a bird over your shoulder is # 4-6 shot at 20 yds ,with his neck fully exposed.
Our bird hid as soon as it hit the ground, after flying across a creek.
I'm switching back to Bullhead, neck chopping arrows next year.
Years ago I shot one with a Rocky Mountain Titanium 3 blade head, full pass thru. Bird jumped up and flew to the timber, couldn't find him myself, they had logged 2 years ago and tree tops everywhere. My buddies dog found him in 10 mins, under a brush pile, cleaning him, I shot him through the heart, can't believe he could fly 150yds like that...
I've graduated to waiting til they are length-wise instead of broadside. Shot in the front or the back, broadhead gets more damage done than just broadside IMO.
I'm 4 for 4 since I started using good decoys, set at 10 yds and pick shots VERY carefully...2 of the 4 didn't even take 2 steps. But not hit well, they can go a long ways.
People always assume they are small and therefore less hardy than a deer, a turkeys breast and thigh bones are much tougher than a deer's ribs, IME. I use a full powered setup with WASP Jakhammers.
If you know someone with a deer-tracking dog, give them a call. My two blood-trailing doxies do not care what critter left the blood trail. They have recovered arrow-hit gobblers that might never have been recovered otherwise. -fsh
Any proven bird dog would find a dead or wounded bird.May not be entirely legal but better than wasting the bird.
With a bow, If they are hit through the body with an arrow and you take out a leg in the process, stay calm. Watch them. If they get air and, it's flat, they will come down quickly and find a place to hunker down and hide. Do as Paul said. Stay quiet and, don't go chasing them unless you can get on it. They have to have their legs to get in the air. So, if you've broken one, it wont go far unless you push it.
Personally, if I were to try to consistently kill one with a bow, I'd get a hold of Harold Knight or David Hale. Best turkey bow hunters I have ever sen. They shoot to take their legs out. It works. If he can't run, you got him. If he has only one leg, he can't fly far unless you shoot him high up in terrain and, he can glide off. But, if you break them down, you got em. They have to have a lift from their legs to get into the air.
Turkeys are tough. Plain hard to kill. They are like bears in that its hard for people to tell where to shoot them when shooting for the vitals. Watch some older Knight and Hale stuff. They'll show you. God Bless
Brush piles, downed trees, thick stuff around creek beds....
If you've ever seen how quick coyotes can get in on a dead deer kill, you can only imagine what they can do on a wounded or dead turkey. Odds are if they get to it first, you'll never you know you killed it.
String Tracker has really helped me. Wouldn't turkey hunt without one. Bird dog can also be really helpful.
The few wounded turkeys I have searched for nearly always flew in a straight line from where they went airborne. Crash landing or they may hit and run. But the straight line after going airborne is helpful for locating.
Ditto Candor.....straight line. Give them lots of time. Look for feathers, don't expect to find much blood. I've been on a couple of rodeos in multiflower rose patches. They hide real good and will scare the crap out of you when you stumble upon a "still alive" bird.
I don't chase them down if they go out of sight. I'll give them a couple hours or so. Even longer if I have another tag in my pocket. There is nothing to gain by going after them right away so if you don't feel confident in the shot, wait the same as if it was a deer.
What!?? I thought it was impossible to lose birds shot with an expandable broadhead, according to some of the prima donna's? Now, you're telling me it's not true? ;)
Simple answer: Bullhead
Dave- Simple answer: I don't want to use a longer than normal arrow and huge fletching to steer a bulkhead
I'll stick to regular heads. Haven't lost a bird yet. You hit them in the right spot and they die quick.
Is there any reason a bowfishing type setup with heavy braided line wouldn't work? Would assume a clean pass though would mean they would be anchored by the arrow.
Has anyone every tried this?
I lost one once and brought the landowner coon hound in to look for him, got him to smell the blood at the last spot. He jumped the bird about 80 yards from that spot and the chase was on he eventually treed him and I shot him again. By the way this was totally legal as I had check with game and fish about it.
Some really great responses here guys! Thanks you!
Tell me about blood in your arrows on pass throughs. Do you get it on shots not through the breast? In other words, on the birds that ran off and you found them later, what evidence was in your arrow?
WV, is 110% correct!! The best turkey bowhunters I know break them down! Break the thigh where it goes into the pelvis and you will find them!! Scooby
I think remaining quiet and still after the shot has allowed me to find a couple of birds that I wouldn't have normally found. They didn't get spooked, and therefore did not act erratically.
I don't think I have ever noticed much sign on my arrow even on good shots........maybe put a string on that arrow.
"What!?? I thought it was impossible to lose birds shot with an expandable broadhead, according to some of the prima donna's? Now, you're telling me it's not true? ;) Simple answer: Bullhead "
You can lose birds shot with a mechanical the same as you can lose birds shot with a bullhead.
I hit a bird in college on some public ground and I had been after this particular bird for a couple of weeks. We was facing straight on and I hit him slightly off center. He took off running through some thick stuck and back then it was uncommon for us to chase after them after the hit ( I highly recommend not doing this). I searched and searched for that bird and finally found him tucked in along the river where the bank and caved way. I saw two inches of his tail feathers sticking out. That was 6 hours after the shot.
Here is some great anecdotal internet evidence.....I have lost only one turkey and it was due to a poor hit from a fixed head. I haven't lost any other birds. I shot my first gobbler with a fixed head but every other one has been with mechanicals (about15). This means that mechanicals are the best.
It's Bullheads for me from now on.
You just jinxed yourself Mark....LOL!!!! ;)
I should have put a smiley face on there. :)
Just like with big game, depending on circumstances, they can be tracked. However, to paraphrase Paul, tracking takes patience, practice and experience. And just like big game, the best approach is shot discipline and execution, so tracking isn't necessary. Know where to aim, and keep shots close. There's no reason to shoot much past 10 yards for turkeys, 20 max. Also, reducing draw weight or points designed to limit penetration isn't a good idea. You often have to penetrate wing feathers, and the quills on wing feathers are very tough, resilient, and can cause deflections when hit obliquely, especially with a big mech. The arrow impact can also knock them over, absorbing much of the energy. Keeping the arrow in the bird sounds like a good idea, but in the end it's impossible to gauge, and it's far better to shoot through than to not penetrate enough.
Most lost turkeys result from hunters aiming for the spot they are used to aiming for on big game. You must hit farther back and higher. You can't hit a turkey too high. You can shoot over a strutting tom, through the feathers, but if you hit any more than just a nick on the back, you get the spine.
Whether to wait or chase them down also depends on circumstances. If they run off, head up, it's probably better to wait. But know you're not likely to find him anyway. If he's having trouble moving and the cover allows you to see for a ways, I would chase him down. In many places, waiting just means providing dinner to the local predators. My wife lost her first bird to a coyote after I tracked it for a few hundred yards. If there are other toms or jakes with him, give them time to attack him. Often, they'll pin him down and they're all so occupied you can get pretty close. If he flies off, the variables increase exponentially.
Use head loppers if you like the idea. Many of us don't. No matter what they advertise, they're much more critical of tune and form. They need their own longer shafts, which are not as easy to carry, handle, or shoot out of a smaller blind. You also need to be more careful shooting something that big out of a blind window.
Good post by Ziek. Agree with nearly everything. I shot a bird years ago with an #80 bow and got 2" of penetration with a big mechanical. I've also seen fixed blades bounce off wing butts. Head loppers are great, I shoot them, but shoot spots indoors all winter with the same 30" arrow. A #60 bow with 7" brace height and 35" ATA. I also have to be VERY careful to not hit the window. Still, I love it and the quick kills. Nearly all of the birds I have killed for 20 years have been within 15 yards. Once I did the math, I started shooting head hunters exclusively. The only exception I've seen to Zieks post is when Jake's or Toms charge a wounded Tom, almost always for me they have given them the incentive to fly off or really get out of Dodge. If they can't and they encircle the Tom, it's proof he CANT get away and almost always I rush them and grab him.
What convinced me was the loss of a couple birds between me and my buddy in the last years with seemingly perfect hits, and the bird I shot this year. I hit it with a fixed blade 65 lb longbow with a 650 grain arrow, penetrated and broke the wing, penetrated and broke the hip socket, and then bounced out. All my other turkeys were complete pass-throughs. Luckily, with the broken wing and leg it didn't go very far and ended up in a close-by creek, where I easily recovered it. When I boned it out I saw that the arrow never even entered the body cavity! What Ziek said above was exactly what happened, I remember seeing the bird being knocked off it's feet when I shot before everything became a blur of scattering turkeys, it's body absorbing all the energy from the arrow. I'm glad I got lucky, but the margin of error is thin on those birds. I bought a pack of Bullheads and test shot them with no problem. Since I shoot fingers and use large feathers there were absolutely no flight issues and I just had to screw them onto my standard hunting arrow - hits right with my other arrows. I think when you combine the width of the Bullhead with the width/height of the neck/head you actually have a vital zone that is as large or larger than the high long narrow vitals on the body. Plus, little or no tracking/searching, at least in most cases.
DOG. I realize you don't take one with you but if you do use it. The first time I used my dog I had shot one that got airborne into trees. I crossed a creek with my dog and told him to fetch the bird. He went off and I went the other way looking in the trees and brush where I thought he would be. After a half hour I called my dog to head home. He came to me and stopped about 10 feet from me and wouldn't come. I finally thought something was up so I said fetch he turned around and took me to a fallen tree and the bird was tucked tight under the tree dead. Had another one I shot in the back and thigh. He was on a hill and started flapping headed down hill and got airborne. Saw where he went into a brushy area. Got the dog and went after him. The dog found him but the bird took off with one leg hanging down. I went over where he was hiding and there was a 10" wide area of bloody grass. We headed off in the direction he flew. The dog was ahead and about 200 yds from where we first jumped him the bird took off right towards me with a leg hanging down and disappeared never to be seen again. I had two more that the dog flushed out on a hill one he dove on the other one he found 100yds away and dove on it as it tried to fly. Breaking their back and legs on a steep slope doesn't work for me. They have always headed downhill and got airborne.
Dang, Beav...your turkeys go to college? No wonder it took you so long to get one!
Of course birds can escape with a big mechanical, but the odds aren't as high that they will.
Joe...our birds in Kansas, unfortunately, aren't born with those cool red target dots on them.
And anybody who says shotguns don't wound turkeys is lying to others, and themselves.
Dogs are illegal to use in turkey hunting in every state that I know of, unfortunately. Except for Bullheads, I've had blood on the arrows of every bird I've shot with an arrow. Not much to trail as per sign. But i'm not as good as Paul. Just ask Paul, he'll tell you. :-)
If you made what you feel is a lethal shot leave your bow locked in your vehicle and go out with a dog. Your on a recovery not hunting. Splitting hairs I know. I talked to a warden here about using my dog to recover an animal without a weapon. He said that he had no problem with it. I could get another warden day something different. If I've searched to the point of giving up I'm going in with a dog. I do not like wasting an animal I have shot. If I get cited I'll pay up. I will go to court and plead my case though. I could also be sited for wanton waste.
This happend to me last week. 8 am I get a shot at a tom ten yards away. I shoot and my arrow goes low for some reason, I hear a wack but wasn't sure where I hit him. I sit for 20 minutes, and then I get up and start trailing the bird. Going through a swamp I heard him flapping and moving through the woods. I get to where I had heard him and I hear him again, still haven't seen him though. I keep moving and I finally spotted him half running away, I finally figured that I must have hit him in the leg. Now here is the tough part. He had gotten onto some private land. I hiked back to the truck, drove around the block and stopped by the house where I figured the bird had gone. nobody home. So I had to get to work but I figured I would check back later to see if someone was home. Around 5:30 or so I was able to make contact with the landowner and told him what happened and asked if I could go look for the bird. He said sure and went with me to help look. about 30 minutes later Mick jumped the bird and he flew off about a hundred yards. We had to follow him and jump him 2 more times before he got tired enough that I was able to finally get to within 20 yards of him and get a second shot on him. Finally got my hands on him and yes I had shot one of his legs off. PS: it was also my birthday. Long day for sure.
Totally agree DL. A law preventing anyone from tracking a wounded animal with a dog is ludicrous!
Great job persevering on that gobbler tflight. A true hunter!
Looking for game, without your weapon, is still considered hunting on federal refuges. We have a problem with deer crossing from private to a USFWS refuge in central Kansas. They can't cite you for wanton waste if you've done the best the laws will allow. I've checked it, repeatedly, with state and federal wardens. Sometimes, though, tough decisions must be made between personal ethics and the law. Many game wardens understand that.
"You can lose birds shot with a mechanical the same as you can lose birds shot with a bullhead. "
Nope. Birds lost with a mechanical are injured and may go off and die without being recovered. Birds missed with a Bullhead are nearly always clean misses to live another day without injury.
Writer, that's why these Nebraska birds are getting smarter!
My son Matt killed this tom yesterday. When dressing it he had a slice down his breast made by a broadhead. It was green and infected but you'd never know it by the Tom's reaction. Came in running and gobbling. And no, it wasn't my turkey they are hunting CT and my mishap was in NY.
Happens sometimes when turkeys fly out of LaGuardia.
Dave beat me to replying to Matt's post-- no doubt you can lose birds hit with mechanicals or bullheads. The difference is, of course, that many die and are not recovered with a mechanical (or standard fixed blade) and that almost never happens with a bullhead. That's an important difference...
Ermine, I was resistant to swap over for the same reasons you mentioned. Plus, I had a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality too. However, once I switched I have "seen the light"! Actually, I certainly don't think it's the "only way to go", but I do think it's a really great option that a person should at least try before he dismisses it. Sounds like Jaq recently tried it for the first time and loves it too. It's not about lopping the head off a bird, it's about the bird being only one of two things after the shot-- dead or just fine.
I shot a tom low and eviscerated it. Could see intestines hanging out as it flew to the edge of the timber. It was getting dark so I went home. Has the next day off for a continuing ed class. Blew it off to go see if I could find the bird because I felt bad I wounded it. He was alive and no more than five yards from where I saw him last. He stood there and allowed me to get an arrow in him at twenty yards. Pays to give them a little time I guess.
"Birds missed with a Bullhead are nearly always clean misses to live another day without injury. "
Well.....nearly always is another way of stating Bullheads can and do wound turkeys. There is not perfect broadhead for any animal and all we can do is try to pick the one that performas and suits our likes and dislikes the best.
I watched my daughter try to shoot a gobbler this year with a Bullhead and he was so violently attacking my decoy and pecking its head that he never would stand still for a shot. I think Bullheads are great options and I understand fully why people choose them, I just like mechanicals better as they are lethal and don't require stationary heads or equipment modifications. The real advantage that Bullheads have over any other head is that it makes it simple for even a novice to pick perfect shot placement.
Another advantage of them (bullheads) is you rarely go through the things you see on this thread as it relates to recovering a bird. I mean lets call a spade a spade, for most, your're sitting in a blind, with a set of decoys out in front of you 7-10 yards away. In comes Mr. Tom, oblivious to what's in the blind, and for all intents and purposes can't see you draw if you know what you're doing. What's left other than making a good shot? I can see how the recovery should be challenging. Like the compound was to the recurve, wood to aluminum, to carbon, the Bullhead is that much of a game changer. Just shoot them low neck if you don't want the head to come off.
About 20 years ago on my first turkey hunt I used one of those spring grabbers that slides on an arrow to keep the arrow from doing a pass through. Hit a Tom and he tumbled around, the got up and flew off with my arrow. Then I went to a string tracker. Shot a bird in some oaks. It was a pass through and it took off flying. Line was screaming out of that thing like id snagged a carp. The arrow pulled up to the bird and cut the line. It's amazing to me that I can shoot an elk and do a pass through but hit a turkey in certain spots and it won't go completely through.
Well this past week I shot my first recurve bird but it was not without drama. At the shot he jumped up and flew straight up. I figured he was going to fall but instead landed in the top of a tree about 50 yards AWAY. I watched him for about 2-3 minutes when he came down flapping and hit the ground. I figured he was dead but gave hm about 30 minutes before going after him. Was unable to find him and was circling the area when he flushed and flew another 70 or so yards before going down again. I had a good mark on where he went down so I waited a good hour before going after him again. I found him very close to where he went down and was able to grab him when he got tangled up in a tree trying to take off again. I had always thought that if you break one of the drum sticks he could not take off. This was not the case with this bird. The left leg was broken in two high up the leg and he was still able to take off twice.
DL - Turkeys are light enough to knock out of the way. Elk are not.
I haven't gutsed up to go after turkeys yet, but when/if I do, I will go with either a guillotine head or a good-sized, FIXED 2-blade - maybe 3 - and wait for a chance to shoot the midline from front to rear, or more likely the reverse. Because even though I used to perform various surgeries on them, eyeballing the internal anatomy through all of those feathers is a skill I have yet to cultivate.
I think the problem with big mechs on turkeys is the same as the problem with big mechs on big game; you get into that much width, and penetration is compromised. I have clipped the primaries off of turkey wings with tin snips and it was WORK to take them much more than one at a time, so I can only imagine how effective those heavy feather quills would be if you were trying to punch through a whole bunch of them at once, and on a bird that is light enough to be shoved out of the path of the arrow....
Maybe some day I'll have killed enough of them to take it casually, but I'm not there yet.
And FWIW, one of the LW guys - who is a SUPERB shot and can hit whatever the hell he wants with an #80 recurve and a 640-gr arrow clocking something around 200 fps... He uses a string tracker on turkeys. I think if he used a rubber blunt, he could just walk over and the bird would already by plucked by the impact, but to each his own.....
"Well.....nearly always is another way of stating Bullheads can and do wound turkeys."
Well of course they can- they have 3 razor sharp blades and obviously could make a non-vital cut on a bird. Odds of that are extremely slim comparatively.
"There is not perfect broadhead for any animal and all we can do is try to pick the one that performs and suits our likes and dislikes the best."
Totally agree. You all can shoot what ever the heck floats your boat! I'm convinced the need for threads like the OP posted here would go down dramatically of more people shot bullheads. However if you don't want to do that, regardless if I think that's a good idea or if i think you have a valid argument to not do it, then don't. Different strokes for different folks- even if we don't agree...
^^ This. All I can say is when I first started shooting turkeys with a bow, I lost 2 of the first 3 birds. One of the birds lost was a good hit in the vitals, the other I'm not sure. There was a lot of high grass nearby along with a creek where I lost sight of both birds after they ran off. There will always be some situations where killing and watching/tracking birds with regular mechanical will lead to a recovery. But, since I switched over to Bullheads, I've never lost a single bird. Anybody who thinks shooting turkeys with Bullheads is a slam dunk has never done it. And anybody who claims to have never lost a bird with a mechanical either hasn't killed many turkeys yet or is lying. I would ask, if you're such a great shot with a mechanical that you can always place an arrow in the baseball-sized vitals, why wouldn't you dispatch them cleanly with a Bullhead? Do you shoot turkeys in the body with a shotgun too?
"...if you're such a great shot with a mechanical that you can always place an arrow in the baseball-sized vitals, why wouldn't you dispatch them cleanly with a Bullhead? Do you shoot turkeys in the body with a shotgun too?"
Lots of reasons....the main reason being I would have to pass on many close encounters.