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Salvaging Meat from a Wounded Wild Turkey

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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.

Comments (14)

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from buckhunter wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

You have more guts than I do. I would have pitched all the meat thinking the infection was in the blood stream and tainted all of the meat.

Have shot my fair share of deer with previous arrow wounds. Deer have an amazing ability to recover quickly from most wounds.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

It sounds like you did the best you could, my first turkey had a small green sore looking spot, but it was really only on the skin, probably got spurred and was nearly healed.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ruckinger2 wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I once shot a doe during rifle season that had been hit with an arrow through both front legs and across her chest....a good 16 inches off vital zone. The doe seemed fine when I first spotter her but when I went to recover her, the smell was unbearable.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hermit crab wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I'm not so sure I'd eat that, though I admire your ethical decision to scavenge what you could. Like Buckhunter says, it's likely that at least some type of bacterial infection was throughout the bird's bloodstream and thus in all of the other meat. Absolute best case scenario is it's safe and tastes normal. Yes, you'd likely kill all of the live bacteria through the cooking process, but who knows what toxins may be in the flesh that are definitely not removed through the cooking process.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Redwidow wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I harvested a large sow in Florida a few years ago, and noticed before I arrowed her that she sported a patch of hair missing from her back about mid-way down her spine. The location was partially on her left side, but did pass over and onto the other half of her body, about 6 inches past her last false rib. When I got her back to the lodge and skinned her, the patch of hairless skin was due to an infection that was pretty horrific. It was inside her spinal column, began to spread around the intercoastal muscles on the left side, and completely surrounded that portion of her back strap. It smelled terribly. I wasted the entire animal, I would not risk my health for any game.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kris24 wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I definitely WOULD NOT be eating any of that meat! You say/know this "The left side, however, was gangrenous and a total waste", and you are still considering eating some of this bird? Negative...no way...never....not me!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jay wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I'm with buckhunter; no way would I try to eat that. If you have ever been food poisoned, you wouldn't either.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wp wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I had a similar experience while duck hunting several years ago. I pitched the entire bird. It had festering wounds all over it, but seemed to be flying normally.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rfleer87 wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I would have never ate any of that bird. You never know what kind of bacteria or whatever else it might of had.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from sd211mba wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I appreciate your desire to use as much as possible of harvested game, but as a microbiologist I would advise not to eat that meat. Sure, with right cooking you will likely kill all bacteria. But not all toxins are removed by heat treatment. Also, I hope you did clean up the place where the bird was cleaned with bleach or other strong bactericidal agent. Infection like that, which results in "gangrenous" wound,have high bacterial load and are dangerous.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I don't think I would have eaten the turkey, but believe the bird would have survived the arrowed wound.

Many years ago, a friend of mine had a deer check station along with a processing store and deer would come in all day especially during gun season.

On the next to last day of the gun, deer season, a 12 pointer came in that had been shot, apparently from a tree stand by a bow hunter three weeks prior to gun season. The deer had a half inch of the arrow protruding from the top part of his head that healed over, then proceeded through the roof of its mouth through the lower jaw with a broadhead jutting out the bottom of the jaw.

He had been eating acorns that had collected around the shaft of the arrow in the back of his mouth, and appeared healthy in all other areas until he ended up at the check station during gun season.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nyflyangler wrote 49 weeks 6 days ago

Gee, we have a growing wild turkey population here on Staten Island. Given there's no hunting of them it's only a matter of time before they start attacking people like they do in New Jersey.

If someone were practicing martial arts in their backyard with a live katana, an attacking turkey could easily end up being wounded and the meat would then need salvaging.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nyflyangler wrote 49 weeks 6 days ago

Gee, we have a growing wild turkey population here on Staten Island. Given there's no hunting of them it's only a matter of time before they start attacking people like they do in New Jersey.

If someone were practicing martial arts in their backyard with a live katana, an attacking turkey could easily end up being wounded and the meat would then need salvaging.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I once killed a buck that had been shot in the front left shoulder by one of my camp mates about 2 months before. The wound didn’t look quite as bad as the turkey pic above but almost. He also had a small healed wound that looked like a barbed wire cut on the same leg. After talking it over with the processor, we decided to discard all meat from the left shoulder and any other meat that might appear bad. The only problem was that some of the cuts seemed to have retained some blood which gamed up the taste on those cuts.

I had seen this wounded buck chasing does across a power line easement (it was the rut) but hobbling so bad you knew he would never catch one. But his drive to procreate was so strong that he wouldn’t give up. I shot him through one lung and the heart, knocked him down, he got back up with great effort, started to walk off into woods, leaving me no good shot - my second shot broke his back right leg and he still managed to walk another 80 yds before collapsing! He was an average sized 7 pt for our area but I decided to get him mounted to honor his amazing spirit.

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from buckhunter wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

You have more guts than I do. I would have pitched all the meat thinking the infection was in the blood stream and tainted all of the meat.

Have shot my fair share of deer with previous arrow wounds. Deer have an amazing ability to recover quickly from most wounds.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kris24 wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I definitely WOULD NOT be eating any of that meat! You say/know this "The left side, however, was gangrenous and a total waste", and you are still considering eating some of this bird? Negative...no way...never....not me!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

It sounds like you did the best you could, my first turkey had a small green sore looking spot, but it was really only on the skin, probably got spurred and was nearly healed.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ruckinger2 wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I once shot a doe during rifle season that had been hit with an arrow through both front legs and across her chest....a good 16 inches off vital zone. The doe seemed fine when I first spotter her but when I went to recover her, the smell was unbearable.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hermit crab wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I'm not so sure I'd eat that, though I admire your ethical decision to scavenge what you could. Like Buckhunter says, it's likely that at least some type of bacterial infection was throughout the bird's bloodstream and thus in all of the other meat. Absolute best case scenario is it's safe and tastes normal. Yes, you'd likely kill all of the live bacteria through the cooking process, but who knows what toxins may be in the flesh that are definitely not removed through the cooking process.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Redwidow wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I harvested a large sow in Florida a few years ago, and noticed before I arrowed her that she sported a patch of hair missing from her back about mid-way down her spine. The location was partially on her left side, but did pass over and onto the other half of her body, about 6 inches past her last false rib. When I got her back to the lodge and skinned her, the patch of hairless skin was due to an infection that was pretty horrific. It was inside her spinal column, began to spread around the intercoastal muscles on the left side, and completely surrounded that portion of her back strap. It smelled terribly. I wasted the entire animal, I would not risk my health for any game.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jay wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I'm with buckhunter; no way would I try to eat that. If you have ever been food poisoned, you wouldn't either.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wp wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I had a similar experience while duck hunting several years ago. I pitched the entire bird. It had festering wounds all over it, but seemed to be flying normally.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rfleer87 wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I would have never ate any of that bird. You never know what kind of bacteria or whatever else it might of had.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from sd211mba wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I appreciate your desire to use as much as possible of harvested game, but as a microbiologist I would advise not to eat that meat. Sure, with right cooking you will likely kill all bacteria. But not all toxins are removed by heat treatment. Also, I hope you did clean up the place where the bird was cleaned with bleach or other strong bactericidal agent. Infection like that, which results in "gangrenous" wound,have high bacterial load and are dangerous.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 50 weeks 1 day ago

I don't think I would have eaten the turkey, but believe the bird would have survived the arrowed wound.

Many years ago, a friend of mine had a deer check station along with a processing store and deer would come in all day especially during gun season.

On the next to last day of the gun, deer season, a 12 pointer came in that had been shot, apparently from a tree stand by a bow hunter three weeks prior to gun season. The deer had a half inch of the arrow protruding from the top part of his head that healed over, then proceeded through the roof of its mouth through the lower jaw with a broadhead jutting out the bottom of the jaw.

He had been eating acorns that had collected around the shaft of the arrow in the back of his mouth, and appeared healthy in all other areas until he ended up at the check station during gun season.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nyflyangler wrote 49 weeks 6 days ago

Gee, we have a growing wild turkey population here on Staten Island. Given there's no hunting of them it's only a matter of time before they start attacking people like they do in New Jersey.

If someone were practicing martial arts in their backyard with a live katana, an attacking turkey could easily end up being wounded and the meat would then need salvaging.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nyflyangler wrote 49 weeks 6 days ago

Gee, we have a growing wild turkey population here on Staten Island. Given there's no hunting of them it's only a matter of time before they start attacking people like they do in New Jersey.

If someone were practicing martial arts in their backyard with a live katana, an attacking turkey could easily end up being wounded and the meat would then need salvaging.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I once killed a buck that had been shot in the front left shoulder by one of my camp mates about 2 months before. The wound didn’t look quite as bad as the turkey pic above but almost. He also had a small healed wound that looked like a barbed wire cut on the same leg. After talking it over with the processor, we decided to discard all meat from the left shoulder and any other meat that might appear bad. The only problem was that some of the cuts seemed to have retained some blood which gamed up the taste on those cuts.

I had seen this wounded buck chasing does across a power line easement (it was the rut) but hobbling so bad you knew he would never catch one. But his drive to procreate was so strong that he wouldn’t give up. I shot him through one lung and the heart, knocked him down, he got back up with great effort, started to walk off into woods, leaving me no good shot - my second shot broke his back right leg and he still managed to walk another 80 yds before collapsing! He was an average sized 7 pt for our area but I decided to get him mounted to honor his amazing spirit.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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