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
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.
- 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.
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
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.
Last year my dad took me to Scooters Youth Hunting Camp for the first time. The camp is held in Emmett at Gem State Rod and Gun Club. The camp has six different stations. They allow you to shoot shotguns, 22's muzzleloaders, archery, show you the proper techniques for knife sharpening and gun cleaning and have a station for survival. The camp also has mini-seminars. One was with Larry Lansdowne who is known for his turkey calling. He demonstrated three different types of calls: the yelp, cluck and purr. After hearing Larry's demonstration I know I wanted to go turkey hunting.
The past winter I took hunters safety with my mom. Being 10, I can't hunt big game for another two years. So now was my time to hunt turkeys. Unfortunately my dad has never hunted turkey before. We talked to Paul Waldon. He said "I will take Abbi out. Put her in for a controlled hunt and if she gets drawn, I'll take her." My mom and dad bought my hunting licene and put me in for the draw. A few weeks had past and finally I got a postcard in the mail saying I was drawn for the contolled turkey hunt. I was jumping off the walls with excitement.
My dad called Paul to let him know I had drawn. A couple of weeks into the season Paul called and said, "I found a great spot." On Sunday, April 28th, we met Paul at 5:00am. Paul had us put all our gear in his truck in order to get to the property we were hunting in Notus. After we parked we walked on a dirt road along the river to the blind. We got all set up and Paul told us the plan.
We waited and waited listening to Paul call to the turkeys. Soon we heard gobblers all around us. After about an hour of calling, Paul saw a tom and hen come around the corner. As soon as the tom saw the decoys he ran over and started jumping on them. I got a good eye on him and Paul said, "SHOOT!" so I did. "You got it," Paul and my dad said.
After we celebrated Paul said "let's sit quietly and see if we can get some more to come in." Paul started calling again and in a little bit, two more big toms and two hens came in. We heard tons of weird noises from the turkeys. Paul explained all the noises and why they make the noises while strutting. We took tons of pictures and videos of the turkeys. When the turkeys walked off we went to gather up the turkey I shot. We tagged my turkey and took lots of pictures of me, my dad and my turkey.
On our way home, we stopped at a great cafe for breakfast and talked and enjoyed the time together. After breakfast we went back to get our car. Paul showed us how to preserve the spurs and pluck the beard and feathers. My dad and I took the turkey back to our house to show my mom and sisters and to clean it. We took somse feathers to keep, skinned it and washed all the meat to clear it really well.
I told everybody that it was the best day ever and I would always remember the day I got my first tukey in one shot. I learned so much. I really enjoyed every part of it and can't wait to go turkey hunting again! - Abbigail Taylor
I grew up hunting and fishing in Idaho with my Dad and Grandfather. It has always been a dream of mine to share the experience with my sons. This year both boys (12 and 15 years old) drew youth turkey tags and soon the bird hunt was on. Both harvested the biggest birds of their young lives, 9" beard for the youngest and a 10" for the oldest. As excited as we all were, I think their Grandfather was the most pleased with their success because he knows, better than most, how precious these days are. - Jeff Streeter
As all good hunting stories start, "It was a crisp cool morning"...well not really, it was damn cold!! Twenty three degrees to be exact ! However, the cold didn't chill 11-year old Abby Asker's enthusiasm to get out on her first hunt. Abby was bundled up and ready to go as her Dad, Mike and I scrambled to our turkey blind. It was a rush to beat the fast approaching day. The turkeys were fired up and gobbling up a storm from the moment we got out of the truck. Soon after settling in, a big tom flew in from his roost and strutted just out of range. He soon lost interest in my calls and strutted off into the sunrise. Next a Jake became enamored with our sweet hen calls and gobbled in for a closer look. That is all Abby needed. I could feel Abby's heart beating through her shoulder as I helped her mount her gun. I went back over with her to aim at the head and be smooth on the trigger. The safety clicked off...Kaboom!!! Abby collected a fine feast for the Asker family. I thought her face was going to crack from her well earned grin. After tagging up and a quick photo session it was off to school. Awesome way to start a day! - George Fischer, IDFG District Conservation Officer