How To Humanely Kill A Wounded Turkey

How To Humanely Kill A Wounded Turkey

You shot a turkey in the wild, only to find that it was wounded but not killed. Now what? Instead of leaving it to roam, where it will continue to bleed out or suffer from an injury, you need to try and track the bird so that you can kill it humanely and end its suffering. 

You should never end a turkey’s life by standing on its neck because it will take minutes for the bird to die, which causes it unnecessary pain and suffering.  

Before you head out for your next turkey hunt, make sure you know how to humanely kill a wounded turkey.

It’s not always easy to shoot a turkey a second time, because although some wounded turkeys fall to the ground in shock, others fly off, which makes them more difficult to track. Here are some of the most effective methods that you can try: 


Is Neck Twisting An Ethical Way To Kill A Turkey?

Is Neck Twisting An Ethical Way To Kill A Turkey?

Neck twisting is only a humane method if the manual neck dislocation method can be used. 

Most wounded turkeys are found within a 200-yard radius of where they were shot. Once you’ve found the injured turkey, you might wonder if you can end its life with your bare hands. 

If the turkey you tried to kill is still alive but not moving a lot, you can try to kill it by hand by twisting its neck, but there are some precautions you must take. 

As mentioned above, you’ll need to use the manual neck dislocation method in order to be humane. However, if the bird is too large (over 3 kg/6.6 lbs), this method won’t be effective and cannot be used.

The method involves restraining the bird to reduce its discomfort and fear and if you can’t do that properly, you’ll cause it pain and suffering.

Here are some tips to follow when you do a manual neck dislocation

  • Hold the turkey above its hocks (turkey’s equivalent of ankles) and grasp it securely. You might be able to restrain the turkey by holding its wings if they’re large. 
  • With your other hand, hold the turkey’s head by putting your first two fingers on either side of its neck. Make sure that you’ve got a secure grasp, so the turkey can’t move or wriggle around. 
  • Hold the turkey’s legs against your body and keep its head in place while bending it backwards. You need the head to be perpendicular to its back. 
  • Put lots of force on the neck with your hands so that it stretches. You need to feel the bird’s spine separate from its skull. This needs to be done in a swift, single movement so that the turkey dies instantly. 

Never wring a turkey’s neck instead of using the manual neck dislocation method. This will cause the turkey to suffer, plus it’s very difficult to do and can zap your energy, especially if the turkey is large. 

Never windmill the turkey. This is when the turkey is spun around by its neck to kill it. Don’t do it under any circumstances! The turkey will suffer immense pain for a long time before it dies. 

Can I Just Smack Injured Turkey Against A Hard Surface? 

Can I Just Smack Injured Turkey Against A Hard Surface? 

Using blunt force to deliver a firm quick blow to the turkey’s head is considered effective and ethical in the U.S. and Canada. 

However, make sure that you have a blunt object that will deliver a quick, smooth blow to the turkey’s head so that the turkey doesn’t survive the strike. An ideal object is something such as a metal pipe, fishing priest, or steel rod. 

Using blunt trauma to kill a wounded turkey is ideal for larger turkeys that you can’t kill by holding them against your body and delivering the manual cervical dislocation method. 

Should I Shoot Injured Turkey Again? 

Should I Shoot Injured Turkey Again? 

You can certainly shoot the turkey again if your first shot only wounded it. If the turkey is still moving around but looks like it doesn’t have enough strength to run off, you should shoot it again. Aim for its neck or head so that you kill the turkey quickly. 

There are some important tips to follow to ensure that you kill the turkey instantly: 

  • Aim your shotgun at the turkey’s neck or head as turkeys’ bodies are covered in thick feathers and they also have large wing bones that guard their important organs. This can prevent the shot from entering the turkey’s vital organs.  
  • Aim for the base of the turkey’s wattle, which is the fleshy part of its neck. 
  • Shoot some of your pellets at the neck and others at the head to increase your chances of making a kill. Shooting a turkey in the head is much more humane because you’ll either kill the bird or miss completely, you’re unlikely to injure it.
  • If you’re using a bow, aim for the head and neck if the turkey is facing you directly. If the turkey is turned away from you, aim for the middle of its back to increase your chances of hitting its heart, lungs, or spine. 

Related Questions 

Below are some common questions about dead or wounded turkeys.

How can you check that a turkey is dead? 

Try to touch its eye. If it remains fixed and the turkey doesn’t blink, that’s a good sign. You should also check the turkey’s pupils, if a turkey is dead, its pupils will be fixed and dilated. 

Where should you look for a wounded turkey? 

Where should you look for a wounded turkey? 

Look for any loose feathers, tracks, or bent grass as wounded turkeys won’t usually leave behind a lot of blood. Turkeys head for cover when wounded, so look in areas of thick cover, such as dense brush or thick grass.

What shotgun should you use to kill a turkey? 

A 12- or 20-gauge shotgun is usually recommended for hunting turkeys, the more effective choice being the 20-gauge. 


If you’ve hurt a turkey in the wild instead of killing it, you should ensure that you track it to finish the job. You can’t just leave it behind in the wild because it could suffer a lot or experience injuries that reduce its quality of life.

In this article, we’ve explained some of the most effective ways to humanely kill a turkey and some of the things you should avoid doing so the bird doesn’t suffer unnecessarily. 


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