Tag Archives: Wild 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.”

After the Hunt: Wild Turkey Recipes for Spring

Don’t wait until fall to devour that gobbler! These three wild turkey recipes are perfect for dining al fresco this spring. Looks like it’s time to fire up the grill.

Wild Turkey Mole

Courtesy of Jonathan Miles at Field & Stream

Wild turkey mole [Image Credit: Johnny Miller]

Image Credit: Johnny Miller

Mole originated in southern Mexico, and traditionally includes dozens of ingredients cooked over the course of many days. This recipe, adapted from Chicago chef Rick Bayless, is less demanding but still has so much of that traditional flavor. When grilling the turkey, remember not to overcook! This recipe serves 4. Leftover mole can be frozen.

Ingredients

  • 1 wild turkey breast, whole or split
  • 2 dried ancho chiles, seeded and stemmed
  • 2 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil, divided
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • ½ cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
  • ½ cup roasted unsalted almonds
  • 2 slices white bread, torn into chunks
  • 1 chipotle chile with sauce from a can of chile con adobo
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 quart chicken stock, plus slightly more if needed
  • ¾ cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Tear the dried ancho chiles into pieces that will lie flat in the pan. Toast the pieces on both sides until they begin to crackle, but flip or remove them once they start to smoke. Transfer the toasted chiles to a bowl filled with hot water and soak for 30 minutes.
  2. While the chiles are soaking, heat 1 tablespoon of lard or oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is deep golden brown (about 8 minutes). Remove pot from heat.
  3. Arrange the tomato halves cut side up on a sheet pan. Place the tomatoes under a broiler set to high. Roast the tomatoes until blackened and bubbling, about 5 minutes, then flip tomatoes and roast the other side for the same effect. Allow the tomatoes to cool, then peel off as much skin as you can. (Some charred bits left behind on the tomatoes are fine and will add character to your mole.)
  4. Scrape the tomatoes and any juices into a blender, then add the cooled onion and garlic to the blender. Drain the ancho chiles, discard the water, and then add chiles to the blender. Add nuts, bread, chipotle, cinnamon and about 2 cups of chicken stock to the blender, and blend until very smooth. (Note: Stop and scrape down the sides of the blender to make sure all ingredients are blended. Add more stock as needed to yield a smooth, pourable puree.) Press the puree through a sieve into a bowl.
  5. Over a medium-high burner, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon lard or oil in the same pot or Dutch oven (rinsed and wiped clean). When the oil begins to smoke, add the puree and stir constantly for 5 – 7 minutes, or until the mixture has considerably darkened and thickened. Add the remaining chicken stock, wine, vinegar, and bay leaves, and reduce heat to low. Simmer this mixture, partially covered, for about an hour, stirring occasionally and adding more stock or water as needed to maintain a saucy consistency. Add salt and pepper along with a tablespoon of sugar, to taste. Keep the sauce covered while you cook the turkey.
  6. Allow the turkey to sit out covered, at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking. Light a medium fire on one side of a charcoal grill, leaving the other side open. (If you are using a gas grill, set the burners to medium on one side.) Rub the turkey breasts with olive oil, and generously salt and pepper them. Place the turkey on the grill, directly over the heat, and cook each side for about 5 minutes to brown it. Move the breast to the side without coals and cover the grill. The turkey is done cooking when a meat thermometer placed in the its thickest park reads 150°F. (The size of the breast and temperature of the grill will determine cooking time.) Wrap the cooked turkey breast in foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Gently reheat the mole as needed.
  7. To serve, slice the meat across the grain. Ladle the mole onto plates and nestle the turkey into the sauce. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Grilled Wild Turkey Rolls

Courtesy of Something Sweet Something Salty

Grilled Wild Turkey Rolls [Image: somethingsweetsomethingsalty.wordpress.com]

Image: somethingsweetsomethingsalty.wordpress.com

These mouthwatering wild turkey rolls are so easy to make. They would make a great addition to any BBQ. Even the leftovers are delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb thick-cut peppered bacon
  • 1 can pickled, sliced jalapenos
  • 1 1½ lbs wild turkey breast

Marinade:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together ingredients for marinade.
  2. Cut meat into 1½-inch cubes. Add meat to marinade in bowl. Let meat marinade for a minimum of two hours.
  3. Cut each piece of bacon in half. Into the center of a bacon slice, place one slice of jalapeno over one cube of turkey. Tightly roll bacon over turkey and hold in place with a toothpick.
  4. After cleaning the grill, heat to medium heat (around 300°F – 350°F). Place rolls on sides and cook slowly, turning every few minutes. Since bacon grease will be dripping down, keep a spray bottle handy to chase away flare-ups. When the bacon is fully cooked, the meat should also be fully cooked.
  5. Remove cooked turkey rolls from grill and let stand for five minutes before serving.

Grilled Turkey with Greek Lemon Sauce

Courtesy of Martha Daniels at Missouri Department of Conservation

This delicious wild turkey recipe reminds us of the Greek street food, souvlaki. Just make sure to make enough – everyone at the BBQ is going to want thirds.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs wild turkey, skin removed, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

Directions

  1. In a medium-size bowl, stir together olive oil, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oregano, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Add the turkey slices to this marinade. Cover and place in refrigerator to marinade for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. To make the lemon sauce, mix together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. When finished marinading, place the turkey on wooden skewers to help hold in moisture. Grill over medium heat until done, about 10 minutes or more.
  4. Serve skewered turkey with lemon sauce.

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!

Thou Art That: A Turkey Hunt

By Jack Kredell

On October 28th, 2011, an unusual convergence of meteorological events produced record snowfall across much of the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Dubbed the Halloween nor’easter, the untimely storm was responsible for 39 deaths, widespread power outages and several billion dollars in damage. It also coincided with the opening day, October 29th, of the 2011 Pennsylvania fall turkey season.

It was also the occasion of a realization, born of tramping boots and frozen tangled laces, that when you enter the woods to hunt, you are hunting yourself. Experience, for the most part, is self-limiting; the measure of your experience will define, broadly, the range of possibilities and potentialities available to it. A novice hunter will likewise take a novice animal, and a master, not without a little luck, will take a master animal.

Mt. Nittany Under a Heavy Snow [image: Jack Kredell]

Mt. Nittany Under a Heavy Snow [image: Jack Kredell]

By noon the snow had turned into the gentle parachuting kind so I decided pack my things and head for Mt. Nittany, a 2,077-foot lobe of a mountain in the Ridge and Valley province of the Pennsylvania Appalachians. The woods on top are woods I know, it’s where I taught myself to hunt, but on that day they were unrecognizable. The trails were choked with snow, in many places a knee deep, with only a meandering treelessness giving indication of a trail’s passage. I headed for a stand of older oaks on the southeastern slope where the acorn crop was good and I had seen turkeys before. I sat under a large oak and began calling.

Hours passed in silence. I was shivering and it was getting dark. Snowflakes the size of packing peanuts were beginning to land on and dampen the chalk-lined edges of my box call rendering it all but useless. Turkeys would hear my wheezing turkey and think not to bother. I gave up. It was worth it if only to see the woods in so deep a snow. After walking a mile in the direction of the trailhead I noticed something was off. The landscape didn’t look like it was supposed to. I had gone the wrong way.

It wasn’t the dangerous kind of lost. Just the frustrating kind-the kind that bruises your feet and ego. I didn’t feel like I could walk two more snowy miles at that moment so I decided to sit and call. I dried the edge of my call and ran through a series of sharp cuts and clucks. Then came an answer. It was the faintest yelp but I heard it. It was for me.

I began to imitate every sound I heard. The sound got closer and closer until I saw the dark body bobbing its way towards me through the snow. When it got to 20 yards I squeezed the trigger. I barely registered the shot. The bird lay on its back kicking and flapping. I ran down to it, and kneeling, broke its neck.

A Jake Shoots a Jake: [Image: Jack Kredell]

A Jake Shoots a Jake: [Image: Jack Kredell]

I decided to slide down the mountain on my ass while clutching the turkey in my lap. I was so elated I barely noticed when it dumped me in somebody’s backyard with a dead bird in one hand and a shotgun in the other. I walked home along the highway with the bird dangling over my shoulder like it was something I did all the time.

I told an older hunter that I got a turkey during the storm. He said sometimes turkeys get lost in snowstorms.

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