Months of planning, miles of hiking and hours of sitting statue-still usually precede that magical moment when you finally get a shot off at a wild turkey. Once you get your bird, you'll want to make sure the meat doesn't begin to spoil on the long hike back to camp. While thorough cleaning and preparation is best done in your camp or home, field-dressing your bird will minimize "gamey" taste that results from toxins in the bird's blood and entrails from accelerating decay.
Things You'll Need
- 2-foot square piece of canvas or other waterproof material
- Zippered plastic storage bag
- Nylon cord
- Disposable gloves
- Paper towels
- Drinking water
- Ice or snow
Drain the blood. After snapping a few quick photos of you holding your prize, you'll want to bleed out the bird while setting up your cleaning station. Bleeding the bird keeps the blood from pooling and creating unappetizing bluish or bruised spots in the meat as well as helping to prevent spoiling. Tie the turkey's feet together using a nylon cord and suspend it upside down from a tree branch or other stationary object. Grip the turkey's head with one hand and pull down gently to make the neck taught. Remove the head by slicing it off with your knife just below the lowest carbuncle on the neck. Any blood left in the bird will drain out the neck and onto the ground.
Spread the 2-foot square canvas on the ground and arrange your tools along one side. When the blood no longer drips from the turkey's neck, lay the bird on its back on top of the canvas. This will prevent dirt from getting into the bird as you work and prevent your tools from collecting debris when you set them down. After you are done, rinse the canvas with water to clean it and wash it thoroughly when you get back to camp.
Run your finger down the center of the breast to the area where the two sides come together in a point. You'll feel a slightly hollow spot just below this. Lift the skin over the hollow spot between your finger and thumb and slide your knife point just below the skin. Extend the slit downward, stopping before you get to the anus. Cut a circle about 1/8-inch around the entire anal vent area, taking care not to knick the intestines.
Put on your disposable gloves. Reach inside the bird and pull out all the entrails. Use your knife to carefully cut away any connective tissue (fascia) that does not easily release from the body cavity, but do not cut any of the organs and entrails. Cut a slit at the base of the bird's neck and remove the crop and gizzard. Place the gizzard and liver in a plastic bag. Rinse the inside of the body cavity with drinking water and pack with ice or snow for rapid cooling. Place the bird on ice in your cooler or game bag and head to your home or camp where you will fully clean and prepare the bird for the table.
- National Wild Turkey Federation: Cleaning Your Wild Turkey
- Penn State College of Agicultural Sciences, Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension: Proper Field Dressing and Handling of Wild Game and Fish
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Effects of Stress and Injury on Meat and By-Product Quality
- Photo Credit Brent Paull/iStock/Getty Images
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