May 01, 2013
Salvaging Meat from a Wounded Wild Turkey
By David Draper
I apologize for the gross photo.
But there’s a reason for this graphic image: I wanted to show you what a broadhead wound looks like on an unrecovered turkey—or, what I assume is a broadhead wound. That’s my best guess as to what happened to this turkey, which I happened to kill with my shotgun last week at a turkey camp with Hidden Valley Outfitters here in Nebraska. The crazy weather patterns we’ve been having made the birds difficult to say the least, so we resorted to guerilla tactics and ambushed this tom on the last afternoon of the hunt. Though I didn’t get a good look at him before taking the shot, he seemed to be doing fine and was feeding with a group of hens and other toms.
It wasn’t until I got home Friday and started to clean the bird that I realized something was wrong. About the time I ran my knife up under his skin, I smelt an odd, sweet odor. Then I saw the wound, which had filled with infection. At first, I thought he had been spurred in a fight, but upon closer inspection I noticed the wound looked more like a pass-through from an arrow. The skin on both sides of the breast had clean incisions about the size of a two-blade broadhead, and the wound was filled with feathers that had likely been pulled through with the arrow. The outfitter had hosted some archery hunter a few weeks before, so the bird had lasted that long at least.
Initially, I thought I wouldn’t be able to salvage any meat and, in fact, considered tossing the bird—minus the legs and thighs, which were fine. But, I felt I needed to do what I could to salvage as much of the breast meat as possible. With some creative cutting I was able to remove a majority of the meat from the right breast. The left side, however, was gangrenous and a total waste.
I was pretty bummed out, but then admitted to myself it was a good thing I took the tom out of his misery. Sure, there was a chance he may have recovered completely, though I highly doubt it with how far the gangrene had already spread.
Has anyone else had something similar happen while turkey hunting? Or any other stories about shooting a game animal only to discover the meat was inedible? I know a friend who once shot an elk only to discover it had been infected with CWD. Wildlife officials advised he throw all the meat and even reissued him a new elk tag. I’d love to hear how other hunters have handled a similar situation.