Hello Bill, I have a question concerning wild turkeys. How can I wrap
a wild turkey after the hunt to protect it from freezer burn? Thanks. --
This week’s column opens with a question about wild turkey.
In view of the fact that out wild turkey season opens in 90 of the state’s
92 counties--same as last year--April 21 (Wednesday), Chad’s question is
most appropriate. Hoosier turkey hunters bag about 10,000 birds per year.
That translates into a bunch of wholesome chow, even if wild turkey
wings and dumsticks are not so fleshy as their counterparts on domestic
But if such a magnificent bird is to be taken, it is paramount in my
book that nothing be wasted.
Thus, we asked Phil Hawkins, one of my most knowledgeable outdoors friends,
for his thoughts and procedures for dressing (cleaning . . . actually undressing)
a wild turkey and turning it into table fare that is fit for the proverbial
king. Phil’s expertise, coupled with my own thinking on cleaning and cooking
wild game, should prove adequate guidelines for getting the most out of
Phil’s wife, Charlene, turns the wild critters he bags into delightful
dishes. Together, they have some definite thoughts on preserving and cooking
First off, Phil says the time lag between cleaning and cooking a wild
turkey is important. He explains why.
If the bird is to be cooked fresh and consumed soon after it has been
bagged, Phil picks the bird to keep the skin on.
However, if the bird is to be frozen and cooked later, He skins his
bird because fatty tissues of many species of wild birds and animals will
be found under the skin. He says fat in turkeys--as in other species of
wild game and birds--can (and often does) become rancid with age in the
At times, Phil slices the meat from the breast of turkeys before it
is frozen. Phil freezes a lot of his wild game (including turkey parts)
in large containers of water. He explains that this procedure keep air
away from the meat. Air, Phil says, is the freezer burn culprit.
However, he also uses freezer bags for freezing some meat of wild birds
and animals, making sure to squeeze out as much air as possible before
closing the bag. If there are pockets of air in the bags after they are
closed, he simply punctures the bag and squeezes out the air.
To be brutally frank, I have never been blessed with the time and talent
required to bag a wild turkey. Thus, my procedures for freezing game birds
and animals are confined to other species.
But I believe wild game is wild game, and that the rules for cleaning,
preserving and cooking one species will do the job for another.
I was taught that cooking wild game with the skin on is the way to
go. However, keeping the skin on some species (notably small game birds
like quail and doves) slows the cleaning process so much that it is impractical.
Picking birds like pheasant and ducks is slow, but immersing these pheasants
in boiling water puts this job in the class of cleaning chickens, Adding
sealing wax to the water will speed up the procedure for removing the feathers
of ducks. However, this can get messy and can cause painful burns. If I
have only a few ducks to clean, I pick them.
The term picking ducks is actually a misnomer. Although the thumb and
index fingers of the dominant hand do pull off a lot of duck feathers and
down, many of the--feathers and even more of the down is simply rubbed
off the duck with the heel of the thumb.
I also think such game species as squirrel and rabbit would be much
tastier if cooked with the skin on. But skinning such animals is so much
faster than removing the hair (like butchering a hog) that the latter would
I have experimented with freezing fish and game in water, but I prefer
simply wrapping such items in a flimsy plastic to eliminate air, and later
tightly wrapping the frozen item in a few sheets of newspaper, and taping
the package to maintain the seal.
Regardless of the method employed in freezing wild game and fish, the
big secret lies in planning to use the frozen fish or game as soon as you
can to preserve the flavor.
RELATED PALAVER--Although the wild
turkey season is billed as a 90-county thing, the Division of Fish and
Wildlife (DFW) is asking turkey hunters not to take birds from several
counties--even though it is legal.
The DFW rationale is that in late winter biologist’s trapped 156 birds
at the U.S Navy’s Crane facility and stocked them in east central counties.
Turkey hunters see the move as good for the areas freshly stocked with
Crane birds, but a shoddy way to run a railroad.
Counties legally open to hunting, but which the DFW would like to be
shunned by hunters are:
Blackford, Delaware, Henry, Jay; Adams County south of State Road 124;
Grant County east of Interstate 69; Hancock County east of State Road 9;
Huntington County south of State Road 124 and east of Interstate 69; Jasper
County south of State Highway 114 and west of Interstate 65; Newton County
south of State Highway 114; Randolph County north of State Road 32; Wells
County south of State Road 124, and Whitley County south of U.S. 30.
Rush and Shelby counties, as in he past, were not scheduled to be open