A Birthday Turkey Hunt

Ryleigh's Youth Turkey Hunt in the Magic Valley

I found out on my 12th birthday this year I had drawn a youth turkey hunt. On Thursday, April 10th, after I got out of school, my dad and I drove to the South Hills to look for Toms. For the next couple of hours we searched. We did not hear anything, but we saw one Hen. I encouraged my dad to keep driving and looking. He called from his diaphragm and still no sound. We kept on driving and there was this tree in the way so we turned around the other way and we found another tree down. My dad said we should get out and walk. As we started walking we heard him gobble about 100 yards from us. We hurried and ran back to our truck. I grabbed my gun and we put our camo face masks on. We walked down slowly and he was gobbling the whole way. I finally got a place to sit down and get ready to shoot. I eventually got to see him and he was followed by seven Jakes. I was so excited I could barely think straight.  He walked to the decoys and did not even see us. I pulled my lever back and shot him. He was a trophy bird and was very good looking. I had such a great experience and would love to hunt turkeys again. - Kyleigh from the Magic Valley

Wild Turkey Cutlets by Chef Randy King

Wild Turkey Cutlets

Once you harvest your turkey, the next step is preparing the meat and cooking up a great wild meal. Idaho chef, Randy King, not only has turkey recipes to try, but also tips on how to prepare turkey meat to get the best taste and texture from your bird.

For the spring turkey hunt, King offers up a recipe for Wild Turkey Cutlets. For other wild meat preparations, see Chef King’s website: http://chefrandyking.com/

Let's Talk Turkey

The total mass of a turkey is always surprising to me. I shoot other big birds like geese and sage hen often but a turkey is just a totally different ball game, and as such needs to be treated that way.

Turkeys consist of 5 cuts of meat in total: the breast, the tenderloin, the wings, the thighs and the drumsticks. Each of these bird parts beg for a separate cooking method. It is not wise to just roast a wild turkey like a butterball. The breast will probably be dry, the drumsticks will be good for dog chew toys and the thigh meat will require a steak knife.

This month I will concentrate on the breast meat of a turkey, by far the biggest bang for the buck.

Turkey breast meat is not as soft and juicy as store bought, but it has a ton more flavor. Think elk meat vs. beef – similar but still different. But like store bought meat it still needs cooked to 165 degrees to be safe to eat. Be careful when cooking meat to this temperature, it can be very dry. To avoid dry meat make sure to remove it from heat a whole 10 degrees before it reaches 165 degrees on the inside. Carry over cooking will finish the job of getting the meat to 165.

Breaded Turkey Cutlets with Oil Poached Garlic and Tomatoes served with Pan Roasted Orange

This recipe calls for turkey “cutlets” AKA  slices of turkey breast. Lay your breast out on the counter. It will make half of a heart shape. Cut across the grain of the meat in about ¼ inch sections. You will get quite a few. It is even a little easier to cut when the meat is frozen a little.

Take those slices and place them between two sheets of clear plastic film about an inch from each other. Use a mallet or the bottom of a pan to hammer the slices into almost see through thin sections. You now have turkey “cutlets” and they are a transformed piece of wild game meat. Bread them and fry them, add a squeeze of lemon, and you have the German classic schnitzel. And that classic dish is what we are having fun with today. Replace the sour lemon with a sweeter caramelized orange and add the roasted garlic and tomatoes – bang – a whole new take on a classic.

Oil Poached Garlic and Tomatoes

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes

In a small sauce pan add the garlic, tomatoes and oil. Turn heat to medium low and let simmer for 20 minutes. Reserve in warm location. This will create more than you need for this recipe. Store them in a mason jar in the fridge, covered in oil and they will last up to a year. Just microwave the jar when you want some roasted garlic and tomatoes.

Pan Roasted Orange

  • 2  oranges, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

In a medium sized cast iron skillet add the oil and then the orange halves, flesh side down. Heat on medium until the exposed orange flesh is dark brown. Remove pan from heat. Reserve.

Turkey Cutlets

  • 8 each 2 oz. turkey cutlets
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning herb blend
  • ¼ cup canola oil

Heat canola oil in a large sauté pan or cast iron on medium heat until a wooden spoon inserted into the oil just gives off bubbles and floats. Or head oil to 350 degrees. (This is an old German trick that I learned in Singapore, long story…all I know is that it works. The oil temp will be about 350 degrees)

Gather three small bowls. Place the flour, milk and bread crumbs in separate bowls. In the flour bowl add the black pepper, Italian seasoning and salt. Mix the flour and other ingredients  together.

Place cutlets in the flour and coat all sides evenly. Then place the cutlet in the milk, wetting all sides. Then place the cutlet in the bread crumbs, forcefully pushing bread crumbs into all parts of the turkey cutlet. Reserve the breaded cutlet on a plate. Bread the remaining slices.

Carefully place one cutlet at a time in the hot oil. Cook the cutlet until it is golden brown and delicious, or “GB&D,” on one side then flip. Cook the other side until GB&D as well. Reserve the fried cutlets on a paper towel lined plate.

Just in Time for Thanksgiving!

Julie's First Turkey

I first started hunting turkeys in the spring season of 2012. Prior to that, I had only shot at three pheasants, and missed. I had tagged along on many, many hunts for waterfowl, upland birds, and deer, but this would be my first season truly attempting to fill a tag. During the spring of 2012, I spent many early mornings and full days pursuing turkeys. I even had the opportunity to shoot at three big gobblers. Even though I had been great at target & skeet shooting, turkey fever seemed to get the best of me all season long! Each time I missed a gobbler, I felt utterly devastated. There were a few rides home in the truck that consisted of me crying and feeling terrible. How could these big, gnarly birds get me so worked up?

The next spring season rolled around and by that time, I had shot 25 birds including grouse, ducks, geese and one Hungarian partridge. The fall/winter had been good to me and I was determined and feeling very confident on finally getting a turkey! The spring of 2013 was a great one, but again, I came up empty handed. That season, I never even had the opportunity to shoot at one. What a bummer!!!!!

Fall turkey season came around again this year (2013), and honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about turkeys. I just shot my first deer this October, and have been very successful with grouse again. When my boyfriend, Chattan, who has been my hunting guide all along, suggested we try for some fall turkeys, I couldn’t help but want to try again. We got permission from a landowner and were able to do a spot and stalk on private land. We snuck up a small hill to peer into a draw where we thought they’d be, and sure enough, there were two nice gobblers. One for each of us! The lead gobbler started to run away, and Chattan told me to stand up and shoot him. Now was my chance. I took the shot and it was perfect. He was down! Chattan shot his immediately after. I was hollering for joy that we had both shot turkeys! It was my first one ever and his third. Words cannot explain my excitement after all the hard work and two unsuccessful spring seasons. My bird turned out to be a bit of a freak. He actually had SEVEN beards which totaled 32.5 inches in length. He weighed 18 lb 4 oz and had ¾” spurs. Through the NWTF website I entered the numbers and found out he scored 98.25. He was beautiful and came along just in time for Thanksgiving. I also shot a grouse on Thanksgiving day, which we threw in the pot, and so this was the first year where I have provided the meat for the holiday. What an unforgettable experience in Orofino, Idaho.  - Julie Tibbets

Patience Pays Off for Brynlee

Brynlees turkey 2013

Brynlee found out that perseverance pays off. Just the morning before, her younger 10 year old sister Olivia came very close to harvesting this Tom. It had been Olivia's 3rd morning hunting turkeys, but just when we thought we had it all figured out, the turkeys would outsmart us again. When it was Brynlee's turn again, (her third morning also) it all finally came together. By setting up very quietly, picking the right spot, and showing patience as the turkeys closed the distance, Brynlee was able to slowly raise her shotgun and harvest this big tom at 20 yards. She hopes that her younger sister Olivia and her older brother Staten will get their chance also, as they drew the same permits as well. - Eric, a proud father.