By Mark Fike
Your spring gobbler hunt was successful, now what do you do? Some would have you believe that wild turkey is tough, gamey and not worth your time. Others would tell you to just breast the bird out and throw away the legs and back. Others, and I count myself among them, will tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.
Once you get your bird, the important thing is to try to get it field dressed and cleaned up as soon as possible, particularly if you are tagging your bird on a warm day. Don’t let the bird ride around the back of a truck with the sun beaming down on it for hours. Get it home and get it clean!
Remove the beard, spurs and fan if you desire. Our writer, Josh Boyd, detailed in his excellent article the steps to removing these parts of the turkey for presentation purposes. Here is the link to that article. http://https://greatamericanwildlife.com/preserving-beards-spurs-and-more/
Be sure you follow Josh’s direction about cleaning up the turkey parts so they do not smell or rot. This is important if you want to display them later.
Pluck the feathers off the breast of the bird and clear off the area where the breast meat is. Pull the skin back and downward exposing the breast and even part of the legs. Pull as much as you can down and out of the way.
Use a filet knife and cut right next to the breast bone and work along it until you have separated the meat from the breast bone. Even if you have never done this before, it is no different than the Thanksgiving bird you have done or watched being done. AND, even if you miss a few pieces or your cut is a little off, you can trim those pieces off and fry them up for lunch later.
Next, follow the meat down around the legs and wing until it is totally separated except for the skin which you can peel off. Cut upwards between the crop (the portion where all the food the turkey has been grazing on) and the breast meat and then downward to the spot where you left off near the back and wing. Be careful not to puncture the crop. If you do, wash the meat off thoroughly and as soon as possible. Repeat on the other side of the breast bone. Set these two hunks of boneless meat aside.
Place one hand on the exposed breastbone that is now devoid of meat. Pull the skin off the legs as much as you can and work your fingers between the skin and the meat and pull away and downward to the joint on the leg. Using a sharp knife you can cut the skin off right where this joint is.
Placing your hand on the breastbone, take your other hand and push downward and away from the breastbone on the outer portion of the leg. This will pop the leg socket and allow you to take your knife and cut the leg meat free and work between the leg bone and socket freeing the leg entirely. Repeat on the other side.
If you want you can flip the bird carcass over and pull the skin away from the back, feathers and all, and try to trim out the back meat or wings, but there is not a whole lot there. Take a few minutes to trim off shot meat, dirty meat, and fat. Wash the meat and then trim into meal-sized portions before vacuum sealing and freezing what you won’t eat immediately.
My family lights up each time I tell them I am cooking wild turkey for supper. There are never any leftovers. We simply don’t buy turkey anymore unless we have a really bad year and don’t get a bird while hunting.