Sunday, May 13, 2012

More Than One Way to Skin a Wild Turkey

So you've called in your bird, taken your best shot, filled your tag, your gobbler is on the ground and you're admiring its iridescent gold and brown plumage, its long beard and impressive spurs. As you carry your beautiful wild turkey over your shoulder to your vehicle, your mind probably wanders to the next step - cleaning and preparation of the bird for cooking.

There are two basic ways to clean a wild turkey, and they depend upon how the bird will be cooked, as a whole or in parts. Most modern wild turkey hunters opt for removing the breasts and legs, but you can go the entire route if you want a full-size bird to put on the table. Cleaning an entire wild bird takes a few more minutes and more work than simply removing the breast and legs. It first involves plucking the bird's feathers from its body.

The way to start is by placing the bird on its back and "fluffing" its breast feathers. Note: do this outside; you don't want to pluck a turkey in your wife's kitchen. Move your working hand (the other hand will have to hold the turkey) against the "grain" of the breast feathers and fluff them into the air, then grab a handful of feathers and jerk away from the grain. The feathers should detach from the turkey's skin fairly easily. Be sure to have a plastic bag handy so you can deposit your feathers into it to prevent them from scattering in the wind and perhaps sticking to the bird. Some people dip a bird in a vat of boiling water for a few seconds, and then pluck the feathers from the body.

After plucking feathers from just below its neck to its tail feathers, turn the bird on its stomach and repeat the process, removing feathers from its lower back to its neck and underneath its wings. Remove the flight feathers from the wings to the first wing joint (if you can't pull them free, use a knife to cut them out), then cut off the wing from the first joint. Pluck feathers from the turkey's neck then remove the head (you already should have removed its beard).

Now your bird is ready to have its entrails removed. Starting at the breastbone's center, cut just beneath the skin down each side. Keep your knife cut shallow so you don't penetrate the intestines. Fold or pull down the membrane holding the interior organs in place, then reach inside the body cavity and carefully pull those organs toward the opening your cut has created. After removing the interior organs (lungs, stomach, liver, gall bladder, kidneys, intestines), wash out the body cavity with water. Look for any organs you may have missed and remove them. Also wash the turkey's exterior, then remove its feet. Now you have a whole turkey ready to be roasted, smoked or deep-fried.

The other and probably most-preferred method of cleaning a wild turkey is by skinning. It's less labor intensive and also results in breast meat that can be grilled. As in plucking a whole bird, start by placing the bird on its back with is feet pointing away from your head (this is best done by sitting on the ground or on a porch step) and fluffing the breast feathers, plucking them until the breast is entirely exposed to underneath the wings and down to the drum sticks (legs). Now, take a sharp knife and cut the skin on either side of the centerpiece breast bone and peel the skin away from the breast meat. To remove the breast, cut down one side of the breastbone and keep cutting until you remove the breast section. Repeat the process for the other breast piece. You should have two lovely pieces of meat that can be sliced into small pieces and grilled or sprinkled with salt and pepper, battered and fried in a frying pan with vegetable oil. Turkey breast fried this way tastes exactly like pork tenderloin.

To remove the legs, simply keep peeling the skin back to the knee joint, then cut through at the joint. The second cut will be made along the side of the turkey's body where the legs are attached, then press down with some force to break the ligaments at that joint, then cut through the joint. This final cut will remove the leg from the turkey's body. Now wash the breast and legs and remove any feathers or detritus sticking to the bird. After salting thoroughly, place the breasts and legs in a large bowl, fill with water and place in a refrigerator to soak over night (this removes excess blood and will improve the taste of the meat).

If you're hunting during a hot day and kill a wild turkey, it's a good idea to field dress the bird, especially if you plan to hunt for a second bird or have a long drive home.
Place your bird on its back, and at the bottom of the breastplate use your knife to cut down to the anal opening. Remove the entrails from this opening, then reach into the upper portion of the body, cut the bird's windpipe and remove the heart and lungs. If you have extra water, splash it inside the body cavity. Even better, pack it with ice, if available.
If you want to save a gobbler's body parts for mounting by a taxidermist, you can remove the fan tail of a gobbler (and, of course, the feet and beard). If you want a full-body mount, let a taxidermist skin and gut the turkey for best results.

For information on skinning a turkey visit North Carolina Sportsman
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Monday, May 7, 2012

The Art of Bagging a Trophy Tom From a Ground Hunting Blind

Turkey hunting does not have to be a battle with cramped legs, tired arms, sore back, and painful posterior. Ground hunting blinds offer a more comfortable and a more enjoyable option for the avid turkey hunter. The many different styles and designs of these blinds allow the hunter to bag that trophy tom in a way that best fits their hunting style. The first step to becoming a successful turkey hunter is learning some general facts about wild turkeys.

One of the keenest senses that a turkey has is his vision. Unlike deer hunting where the hunter can get away with minimal movement, a wild turkey will bust you for the most minute movement. The eyesight of a wild turkey is so keen that even the slightest movement will sent them running in the opposite direction. Ground hunting blinds can help hide these slight movements.

Since the wild turkey is a prey specie, its eyes are located on the side of the head. Because of this, the turkey's frontal vision is somewhat limited. When they walk, the turkey has to move its head from side to side to judge the distance of objects. Also, unlike deer, when a wild turkey is spooked by movement, he's not coming back. A spooked deer may come back around for a second chance, but not a wild turkey. Chances are when a wild turkey is spooked, he is long gone.

Just as keen as the eyesight of a wild turkey is the turkey's hearing. Just like the eyes, the ears are also located on the side of the head. This allows the turkey to hear sounds all around it. When the turkey initially hears a sound, the bird will have to turn its head from side to side to determine from which direction the sound is coming. While investigating the sound, the bird will give an alarm signal first. After the bird gets the direction of the questionable movement or sound, it can then determine the direction of flight. When hunting wild turkeys, the hunter had better be quiet and be in a ready position even before a bird is actually sighted. This makes hunting wild turkeys from ground hunting blinds even more profitable.

The next important thing to understand about wild turkeys is their roosting habits. Turkeys prefer to roost in large trees with plenty of high horizontal branches. They will look for these trees near food sources and running water. Good food sources include agricultural crops, acorns, and open green fields which all supply the high energy foods that wild turkeys crave. In the colder climates in the spring, turkeys love low swampy areas especially along creeks. The warmth of early spring temperatures causes the grubs and other insects to come up out of their dormant winter state. Wild turkeys love to scratch around in that black muck searching for grubs and other larva to feast on.

To find the roost area, look for droppings and feathers lost while flying up to the roost. As the sun sets on a beautiful April evening, listen for the gobble of a roosting tom. A quick hoot on an owl call will frequently get a response from a roosting tom. A fresh early morning spring sunrise will send the roosting toms gobbling out their love sick cries. Once the roosting area is found, find a good feeding area near the roost. Turkeys will always roost close to food sources.

Once a good roost area has been located, now is the time to pop up a ground blind. The best location is between a good roosting area and a good food source. Wild turkeys are not bothered by the sudden appearance of a ground hunting blind. Unlike deer, the wild turkey does not seem to take notice of a newly located blind. Nevertheless, try to locate the ground hunting blind near natural brush, along the edge of fields, or along fence lines as much as possible.

Most ground hunting blinds set up in a matter of minutes. Enter the hunting blind about ½ hour before the first peak of morning light. As the morning breaks, listen for the toms gobbling from their roost. By listening, the exact location of a roosting tom can be pinpointed. Another great benefit of a ground hunting blind is the degree of mobility. If the first morning hunt proves that the blind was not in the exact correct location, switching locations for the next morning or even for that evening is quick, quiet, and easy.

The many styles of ground hunting blinds include fold out camouflage barriers, hub-style ground blinds, spring steel hunting blinds, chair blinds, and even 3-D ponchos. Any of these blinds equipped with a trigger stick and a comfortable hunting chair makes sore limbs and sore posteriors just a humorous memory. Since spring brings many rainy days and some turkey hunting seasons last only a week, ground hunting blinds can overcome any weather condition.

It is easy to see that ground hunting blinds offer the turkey hunter flexibility, mobility, comfort, and great camouflage. Turkey hunting is a challenging sport. The feeling of being within a couple of feet of that strutting tom is second to none. Spring in to this year's turkey season in a ground hunting blind. You will be hooked for life.

Marianne Porter is the author who bagged many trophy toms from ground hunting blinds.

Please visit to view some of Marianne's trophy birds. For more information and to view a selection of quality name brand ground hunting blinds, trigger sticks, and hunting chairs, please visit You too can have all the comforts and conveniences of these great products.
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