How To Hunt, Clean, and Cook Your Own Thanksgiving Turkey

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and nothing screams “field to table” like harvesting your own Thanksgiving turkey.  Not only is it a healthier and more economical way to feed your family this Thanksgiving, but it is also a lot more memorable than heading to your local Walmart and picking up a butterball.  Many hunters believe spring is the only time turkey hunting should take place, however, establishing the tradition of harvesting a turkey, or 2, for your family this holiday season is well worth it.

First of all, the nutrition profile on a wild turkey is outstanding.  These animals are packed with protein, and remain relatively low in both fat and cholesterol (see profile below).  Considering this delicious animal is from the field, not the grocery store, there is no need to worry about chemicals or hormones, making this Thanksgiving turkey truly a natural, organic, and healthy meat.

Serving Size: 3.5 ounces

Calories: 163

Protein: 26 grams

Fat: 1 gram

Cholesterol: 55 milligrams

(Source: Outdoor Life)

Now that you understand our reasoning as to why a wild turkey should be on your table this Thanksgiving, here are a few tips on how to hunt, clean, and cook your own wild Thanksgiving turkey.

Step 1: Hunt

In order to harvest that fall turkey, you must have the right strategies.  Hunting a fall turkey is vastly different than hunting during the spring mating season.  Fall time is when turkey families flock and roam together, looking for food, rather than looking for a mate.

First, it is important that you evaluate where you are hunting.  If you are in a heavily wooded area, the “scatter” technique might be for you.  However if you are in an open area, “stalking” is going to be your best bet.

Scattering entails locating your flock, and then doing your best to scatter them in all directions to boost your odds of success.  When using the “scatter” technique, it is important to break up them perfectly enough that they go all directions and you can sneak into the middle of the breaking point. Let the woods settle for several minutes and then start your call.  In 10 or 15 minutes, turkeys are sure to be surrounding you. You can start to chime in with kee kees and/or lost yelps of your own. This will help to get the birds in range

However, if your area is not designed for scattering you can always fall back to the traditional method of stalking.  If your in an area with a lot of wide open spaces, figure out where the flock is heading.  Until the temperature begin to drop below the freezing point, a lot of turkeys feed on grasshoppers and leaves.  If you can locate the roosts, you will be able to almost predict their every move. Once you locate them, watch the group and almost try to “think like a turkey”.  If you can plan a route to intercept their path by moving quickly and quietly, you are sure to see success.

Step 2: Clean

Now that you have harvested a tasty, wild turkey, it is time to clean it.  This can be a long, tiresome process but it is well worth it. Outdoor Life has a wonderful, 6 minute tutorial video that explains and demonstrates every step.  Click the link below to clean your turkey.

https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/cast-iron-chef/video-how-butcher-wild-turkey-5-steps

Step 3: Cook

Now it is finally time to prepare your wild turkey.  At HuntWise, we love roasting it, however, there are many different ways to prepare.  However, the directions below are roasting instructions.

Ingredients

  • 1 wild turkey (10 to 15 pounds)

  • 2 large apples, quartered

  • 6 to 8 medium red potatoes, quartered

  • 2 pound baby carrots

  • 2 medium onions, sliced

  • 2 cups water

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon pepper

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

  • 1/4 cup French salad dressing

  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce

  • 2 tablespoons ketchup

  • 2 tablespoons steak sauce

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

First, you will place turkey on a rack in a roasting pan.  Next, we like to place apples within the turkey cavity. After you have placed the apples, place the potatoes, carrots and onions around the outside of the turkey. You will then pour water over vegetables. Finally, combine seasoned salt, salt and pepper and rub the “dry rub” all over turkey. Combine remaining ingredients (steak sauce, ketchup, BBQ, maple syrup, lemon juice, and french dressing into a mixture and spoon it over the turkey. Now, you will cover and bake the turkey at 325° for 3-1/2 hours or until a thermometer reads 180°.  

You do not have to add these extra ingredients, and it works just fine with a normal dry rub and stuffing, however it is a tasty alternative!

Step 4: Eat

This step is by far the best step in the whole process. It is now time to enjoy your well-deserved, juicy, tender meat and have a good time with friends and family.  We hope that this experience was one that you enjoyed, and something that you will continue to do year after year. There is no better feeling than enjoying your well-earned meat with the ones that you love.

We hope that you enjoyed our little “tutorial” on how to stick a fresh turkey for this Thanksgiving.  Happy holidays and good luck out there hunters!