|Wild Turkey Can Be a Challenge|
Jason loves turkey hunting because of the numerous challenges it presents compared to other game. Hunters have to be able to camouflage themselves, call the birds, stay quiet and hit a much smaller target. The thick feathers of the bird make it hard to kill a turkey if you shoot it in the body, so you have to aim at its neck or head.
Turkey hunting can be done solo, but Jason likes to go in a pair. Both hunters can call and work together to lure the toms (male turkeys) to them. You want to choose your hunting partner carefully though because there is definitely an art to calling wild turkeys. Being able to use a turkey call successfully takes a lot of practice. Jason actually gets his turkey calls out when deer season starts in the fall. He leaves them out and occasionally picks one up to practice a few times.
Cason and Rolley Len are still too young for turkey hunts because there can be a lot of walking. When your little ones get worn out from stepping over briars and limbs for miles, you might end up having to carry them for miles along with your gear. Kids also have to be old enough to understand they need to be quiet while they wait for a turkey. Once you walk to your spot and get settled, you have to be still and quiet except for calling. Rolley Len is aware of the need for quiet, but Cason is not quite there yet. Older kids from ages eight to teenagers will definitely enjoy calling and spotting turkeys.
When the weather starts warming up, Jason always finds himself having to step over snakes. If you go turkey hunting this spring in Alabama, you will want to make sure you have snake boots or chaps for whoever you take with you. Younger kids may have a harder time tromping through the woods with the extra weight on their legs. Years ago, I borrowed Jason’s snake chaps one night to go check out a raccoon that had been treed in a marshy area. Since they were not in my size, it was very difficult for me to get around in the brush, but I wore them anyway. I would rather be slow-moving than snake-bit. Also, before you settle into your hunting spot, be sure to check trees or bushes around you thoroughly because rattlesnakes and other snakes will be coming out of hibernation.
Turkey hunting is similar to deer hunting in that you may see the same bird year after year. In the area where Jason hunts, there is a bird they have named Houdini. Tumpsie Trione said the turkey has a distinctive call that stands out from the other birds. He watched the same bird for years and was never able to kill it. Houdini got bigger and more mature, but Mr. Tumpsie decided it wasn’t meant to be. After five years of trying to shoot the elusive bird, he gave Houdini a pass.
Just like domestically-raised turkey, wild turkey is extremely versatile. You can use the meat in the same ways as you would a Bates turkey, but you may want to use a different part of the turkey depending on the end use. For example, a lot of people don’t eat the legs and thighs of wild turkeys because of the tendons. But if you cook them in a crockpot, you can pick the meat from the legs to make turkey salad or a pot pie. Depending on the size of the bird, one wild turkey can feed a family of four at least three meals if you use all of the meat instead of just the breast.
At our house, we all love fried turkey fingers using breast meat, but one of Jason’s favorite recipes is for turkey salad. He cooks the meat in a crockpot with spices, picks it and stirs it together with mayonnaise, pickles and other ingredients, just as you would with chicken. Turkey salad will last a week in the fridge and is a great way to use every bit of the bird to feed your family longer.
I love pot pies, so I make turkey pot pie with wild turkey using an old, traditional recipe. The great thing about pot pies is they are similar to a soup or stew in versatility. You can add your favorite vegetables and leave out what you don’t like. Pretty much any vegetable is good in the white, cream sauce. I even tried adding a little okra once when I had some fresh cut and it was pretty good. Also, when you make your own pie, you can make it healthier by controlling how much salt goes into the recipe. Store-bought pot pies have a ton of sodium, but I used reduced sodium broth in mine and it was just right for my taste.
Don’t save turkey for only Thanksgiving and sandwiches. This spring try adding wild turkey to your traditional poultry recipes and let your kids gobble something wild for their next meal.
Turkey Pot Pie
2 9-inch pie crusts, either the refrigerated, store- bought ones or homemade
Preheat oven to 425°. Place one crust in a pie pan. In a 2-quart pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add onions, stirring frequently. Sauté until onions are softened. Add flour, salt, pepper and some of the broth to the pot. Stir until blended. Add remaining broth and milk, stirring frequently. When the sauce is bubbly and thick, add turkey and vegetables. Once mixed, remove from heat. Spoon the mixture onto the pie crust in the pie pan. Place second crust on top. Seal the edges and crimp with a fork. Cut slits into the top crust to vent. Bake 15 minutes, then rub a little butter or margarine over the top crust and add a pie guard to keep the edges from burning. Cook 15 more minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.
Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.