Tag Archives: turkey

Bag a Wild Turkey for Thanksgiving

Image: www.realtree.com

Image: www.realtree.com

It might not get the love and attention of its springtime counterpart, but unless you’re a gobbler snob, the fall turkey season is just as good—if not better, given the fitting Thanksgiving overlap. Things like snowstorms and charging through a flock of turkeys like a fullback just don’t happen in the spring. With a little grit and some new tactics, every spring gobbler fanatic can make the successful transition to fall. Here are some tips and tactics to help you come up clutch with a wild bird on Thanksgiving.

Be a Location Scout

Image: bestturkeydecoy.com

Image: bestturkeydecoy.com

As with spring, the key to success is locating birds. But without thunderous gobbles to go by, visual scouting takes on a bigger role. If the area you hunt is mostly deciduous forest, look for the large swaths of disturbed leaf litter created by feeding flocks of birds. Deer will create patches of upturned litter as well, but you know you’re onto turkeys when it looks like somebody drove through the woods with a John Deere. If it’s wet and green, look for an open field where birds can feed on insects.

Booze Cruise

Image: en.wikipedia.org

Image: en.wikipedia.org

For this particular mission, you will be unarmed because firearms and alcohol do not mix. Your mission? Locate the roost. Now that it’s fall, you have the distinct advantage of being able to see through the trees. Brew yourself a hot toddy with Wild Turkey (obviously), and then find a hill or ridgetop with a good view and wait for the birds to tuck themselves in. Hopefully you still remember the location of the roost the next morning. If not, just look for the tree with all the turkey fertilizer underneath it.

Not all who Wander are Lost

Image: picssr.com

Image: picssr.com

Calling in lost birds is one of the easiest ways to fill a tag in the fall. Lost hens and jakes will make singular, sad yelps until they’re right on your doorstep. Answer back with the same type of yelp until the bird is in range. Bad weather? Great! Snowstorms will work in your favor as young turkeys routinely get lost during the season’s first big snow. Humans also get lost during snowstorms, so bring your compass or some more recent technology to avoid having to tell the story at Thanksgiving.

The Bum Rush

Image: www.citypages.com

Image: www.citypages.com

By far the most exciting thing to happen in the fall is locating a flock of turkeys and running at them. Please, please—unload or leave your gun behind before doing this. The purpose of this time-honored tactic is to break up the flock in order to call them back in using your locator yelps and kee-kee runs. For this to work, you really need to give the birds the fright of their lives and get them going in all directions. Once you’ve done that, trade in your wolf mask for a mother turkeys, and let the games begin.

Mr. Clutch

Lakers legend Jerry West was Mr. Clutch because he hit big shots. You know what would be just as cool as Mr. Clutch under pressure? You showing up 15 minutes late to Thanksgiving dinner with a wild turkey under your arm and saying: “You can eat that Butterball if you like, but I’m gonna eat like a pilgrim.”

[Image: www.turkeydog.org]

So It Happened Again: Tips for Next Spring’s Turkey Hunt

Maybe it’s the glimmer of the gun’s metal as the sun came out from behind a cloud that caught the turkey’s eye. Maybe you switched from a light to a dark roast the night before, and the extra caffeine made you more fidgety than normal. Or maybe we turkey hunters should stop making excuses and remember some of the basics while we’re out hunting, at least for next spring.

Use Your Backpack for a Seat Cushion

It happens all the time: You stand up to relieve your aching backside only to discover that 20 yards behind you, a non-gobbling gobbler is flashing you his rear as he runs back into the woods. If you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to hunt effectively. For those who don’t own a turkey vest with a seat pad, a backpack stuffed with an extra sweater will do just fine.

That looks comfy! [Image: http://www.sportsmanswarehouse.com]

That looks comfy! [Image: http://www.sportsmanswarehouse.com]

Know Your Limits

When you can consistently place 8-10 pellets in the vital area at 40-45 yards, you’re ready to hunt. Beyond that, you risk injuring and losing a bird. Now fire the same loads at shorter distances to see what pattern you can expect.

Nice and tight [image: alandavy.wordpress.com]

Nice and tight. [Image: alandavy.wordpress.com]

Scout

Once you identify a good turkey habitat, look for tracks, droppings, and scratched out areas where birds have been feeding. Head back out at dawn the next day with a locator call, such an owl or crow call. If you get a bird to gobble, stop calling and mark it on a map. Excessive calling can make birds shy.

Obstacles

Gobblers want to strut in areas where they can be seen and easily approached by hens. Make sure there are no streams, gullies, fences, or other obstacles between you and the approaching turkey. You also want to avoid calling gobblers from a downhill position. Calling birds uphill is generally fine and in some cases preferred because it enhances visibility.

Image: www.recorder.com

Image: www.recorder.com

Silence is Golden

You have to resist the desire to fill the silence of the woods with your calls. Just because you can’t hear a bird doesn’t mean they’re not working their way towards you. Call for 5-10 minutes and then give it a good 10-15 minute rest. If the gobbler is answering your call but not closing the gap, your best strategy might be to give him the silent treatment.

Shhh! [Image: venturebeat.com]

Shhh! [Image: venturebeat.com]

The Pill Bottle Turkey Call

A tube call, if done properly, is a loud and versatile addition to any turkey hunter’s arsenal. All you’ll need is about ten minutes, a utility knife, a pill bottle or 35mm film canister, one latex glove, and a rubber band. Here are some quick steps to make a pill bottle turkey call that’ll help you while you’re on the hunt.

Scissors, a latex glove, a small knife, and a pill bottle.

With these simple supplies, you can make your own pill bottle turkey call. [Image: http://www.bowhunting.net/wildturkey.net/Articles/NWTF-2003-MakingTubeCall.html]

1. Using a utility blade or sharp knife, cut a half circle out of the lid. Be sure to cut through the plastic seal on the underside of the lid or else the call won’t work. Following that you’ll want to cut off the bottom of the pill bottle.

2. Cut a 2×2 or 2×3 inch rectangle out of a powder free latex glove. Fit the latex over the cutout leaving a 1/4 inch of space between the latex edge and the bottom of the half circle. Make sure you secure the latex with a rubber band.

A bunch of pill bottles made into turkey calls.

Simple to make and easy to carry with you, there’s no reason not to make your own pill bottle turkey call. [Image: http://www.customcalls.com/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1237255671]

3. To use the call, place your bottom lip along the latex slit (the cutout should be facing up) and your upper lip along the lid’s edge to form a seal. To yelp, say “shuck” into the call. You can tune it by adjusting the size of the gap or tightness of the latex.

A man blowing into a pill bottle turkey caller he made.

And just like that, your pill bottle turkey call is complete! [Image: http://www.wideopenspaces.com/make-personal-diy-turkey-call-pill-bottle-pics/]

And that’s it! Now you’re ready to bag that bird with a bit of extra help. Check out our Fish & Wildlife Apps before you head out, and good luck on your hunt!

A Wild Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner

Here are a few tips to ensure that your wild turkey roast is the most flavorful bird that’s ever graced a Thanksgiving Day feast. And we’ll let you take all the credit.

Wild Turkeys vs. Domesticated Turkeys

Wild turkeys are not your average grocery store turkey. A wild turkey is agile, built for speed and survival. It flies into the trees to roost at night, and uses its long, muscled legs to outrun danger. All of this physical activity equates to a leaner bird, with more dark meat and stronger connective tissue. A domestic turkey, on the other hand, doesn’t fly and is definitely not a runner. In factory farming practices, a domestic turkey leads a sedentary life, promising a larger, broad-breasted bird with more white meat. However, a heritage breed of turkey, like the Bourbon Red or Narragansett, can look similar to its wild cousins when dressed: narrow-breasted, leggier, with more of that flavorful dark meat.

Taste Comparison

Taste is another difference between wild turkey and their domesticated brethren. A factory-farmed bird is typically raised on corn-based feed, giving consumers the turkey they’ve come to expect: lots of bland white meat. The family farmer may supplement their heritage birds’ feed with forage, which translates into more delicious flavor. A wild turkey relies solely on foraging, and eats acorns, beechnuts, weed seeds, insects, wild berries and fruit found in wooded areas. This diet adds to the distinct, full flavor of wild turkey meat. While we know that wild turkey is delicious, there are those who believe it to be tough and gamey. Correctly preparing your bird will win over any nay-sayer seated at your table.

Brining is Crucial

Someone holds a freshly plucked wild turkey

A plucked wild turkey ready for brining [Image: honest-food.net]

Brining your bird makes all the difference. By not brining, you risk having your bird dry out too much during the roasting process. If you are very concerned about the bird tasting too gamey, after you brine try soaking it in buttermilk overnight.

The Pioneer Woman’s Favorite Turkey Brine

Courtesy of Ree Drummond at The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

  • 3 cups apple juice or cider
  • 2 gallons cold water
  • 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups kosher salt
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons peppercorns
  • 5 whole bay leaves
  • Peel of 3 large oranges

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover with lid.
  1. Allow to cool completely. Then pour into a large brining bag or pot. Place the uncooked turkey in brine solution, and refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours.
  1. When ready to roast, remove turkey from brine. Discard the brine. Submerge turkey in pot or sink of fresh, cold water. Allow to sit in clean water for 15 minutes to remove any excess salt from the outside.
  1. Remove the turkey from the clean water, pat dry, and cook according to your roasting method.

Ready to Roast

A roasted wild turkey on a platter with herbs

Make a wild turkey the center of your Thanksgiving table this year. [Image Credit: Travis Rathbone]

Since wild turkeys have less fat, keeping them moist while roasting is crucial. There are many ways to go about this. Try sliding a few pats of butter under the skin. Or, if you find there’s not enough basting liquid in the pan, have some chicken or turkey stock on hand. If you have skinned your turkey, keeping the turkey moist is a bit more difficult. Try soaking cheesecloth in cooled bacon fat; place this fatted cheesecloth over your turkey while it roasts to retain moisture.

The Wild Chef’s Thanksgiving Wild Turkey Roast

Courtesy of Jonathan Miles at Serious Eats

Ingredients

  • 1 wild turkey (11 to 13 pounds)
  • ¾ pound fatback, salted pork, or bacon (½ pound minced; ¼ pound sliced)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 3 ribs celery, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups (8 oz) toasted diced bread
  • 1 cup (8 fl oz) chicken stock
  • 6 sprigs sage, minced
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, minced
  • 8 sprigs Italian parsley, minced

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Render half of the minced fatback slowly in a heavy-bottom sauté pan. Reserve and keep warm.
  2. Dry the turkey well with paper towels. Using a brush, coat the exterior with some of the warm minced fatback. Season well with salt and pepper inside and out.
  3. Heat up remaining minced fatback over medium heat. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add celery and cook another 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Remove from heat and add toasted bread. Moisten with stock and add minced herbs. Taste the bread cubes; add more broth and herbs if needed (they should be moist and tasty). Gently fill cavity of the turkey with mixture. Cover the breast with remaining slices of fatback.
  4. Place the turkey, breast side up, in a heavy roasting pan. Place in oven. Roast for 1 hour. Remove the fatback, raise the oven temperature to 375°F, and continue roasting for 1 hour to brown the breast. Remove the turkey as soon as it registers 160°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone.
  5. Let the turkey rest for at least 20 – 30 minutes before carving it across the grain with a very sharp knife.

Don’t chuck that carcass!

It may look haggard, but don’t throw away that turkey carcass just yet! Use it to make some delicious wild turkey broth to use in future recipes.

Wild Turkey Broth

Courtesy of Hank Shaw at Hunter*Angler*Gardener*Cook

Ingredients

  • 1 turkey carcass, hacked into large pieces
  • 7 – 8 quarts water
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 leeks, washed well and chopped (including green tops)
  • 2 – 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 – 3 bay leaves
  • 1 – 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 Tablespoon dried thyme)
  • 2 teaspoons salt (optional)

Directions:

  1. Break up turkey carcass into large pieces. Place these pieces in a large stockpot. Add water.
  2. Let turkey simmer very gently for 2 – 8 hours. The surface of the broth should be barely bubbling. After 2 hours, add veggies and herbs, and simmer gently for 90 minutes.
  3. Use tongs to remove large pieces from broth. Discard those pieces. Set a paper towel in a strainer, and place strainer over another large pot. Pour broth through paper towel to filter out debris. (You may need to change the paper towel midway through this process.)
  4. Add salt, if desired, or leave as is. If you plan on freezing the broth, leave about an inch of headspace in the jar, otherwise the expanding broth-ice will crack the glass.

We’d love to hear how your wild turkey roast came out this year. Leave us a comment!