Wild Turkey Salad Time

IMG_2411Drew and I plodded on in search of his first turkey, headlamps showed the trail ahead. The land we hiked toward was public, but entirely surrounded by private property. To circumvent any trespassing violations we had to stay below the “high water mark” alongside the river. A boot width wide the trail was our rout. Over scrub, under trees and through soft dirt (that threatened to drop us into the river below) we hiked opening morning of turkey season.

As the skyline started to turn blue we could see shadows in the trees across the river. The black forms of roosted turkeys, not yet stirring, became clear in the early morning. “Watch this” I whispered, taking cover in behind some sage. I got out my trusted box call and gave a few halfhearted clucks. A gobbler sounded off across the river, then another, then another. Through our binoculars we watched four toms get puffed up and sound off, using there thick deciduous tree limbs as de-facto dancing poles.

It is this call-and-respond that hooks so many turkey hunters, me included. One cluck was all I had to let out to get the gobblers talking and strutting at some unknown hen in the distance. But between us was a river, one they have never crossed for me. We watched, hopeful that a gobbler would cross over when they left the roost. To no avail. The trees cleared and the birds were on solidly un-huntable private property.

So on we walked down the river. Eventually landing on the BLM happy hunting ground. The area is low country river bottom – sage in the surrounding hills with a few scattered areas of timber along the edge of the river. The birds roost in the timber patches night after night and feed on the fresh green hills during the day. Keeping hidden in the area was the biggest issue, a lack of thick cover meant stillness and camouflage was an imperative.

In the distance, and most importantly on our side of the river, Drew heard a faint gobble. We advanced a few hundred yards, almost to the first patch of timber. I stuck a hen decoy in the trail and started calling. Soon we heard the sound off of an eager tom. Then another. Two birds if we were lucky – one for each of us. We tucked ourselves next to a cliff, behind a wall of sagebrush and waited.

Unfortunately, it was a blind corner and the birds would not commit. They were more than willing to talk but they pulled the classic turkey “hang up” move. Luckily the terrain was in our favor. Drew and I backed out climbed up the dirt embankment onto a plateau of sage behind us. Using the terrain to our advantage and crawling a lot we circled around the backside of the birds, finding a open area in the sage to place the decoy. Again we tucked in behind some sage and called.

The response was instant. Birds – and not far off. Annoyingly, the gobblers were basically in the position we had just left. I have a hard time waiting on hung up birds, so I tend to move more than I should. My lack of patience in the turkey woods has gotten the best of me several times. Ill often find myself calling to birds that are probably standing on my last hiding place. Or the birds will bust me moving from one location to another. Basically, patience is not my virtue.

From our set up I could see the head of a tom rise over the ridgeline at about 50 yards. Bright red and walking quick he let off a gobble. Then he caught sight of my decoy and almost instantly became a puff ball of feathers. Up went his fan and out went his feathers as he did the cha-cha closer and closer to our decoy. I would calmly purr as he closed in, then he would send off a thunderous gobble.

At thirty yards I whispered to Drew “Shoot him.”

After a long pause Drew whispered back “I can’t see him.”

A quick dart of my eyes (I dare not move my head) and I caught sight of Drew in his cover. It was so thick that it formed a wall around us. I had set myself up to have a view of the decoy. In his haste to get in position Drew was behind way to much cover to get a shot off.

The bird was now closing in fast. 20 yards, stop and strut. “Shoot” I would whisper. Waiting for the bird to turn a circle I raised my gun. 10 yards I could see the bird blink now. “Shoot him!” I would mouth. My heart at this point was making so much noise I was fairly certain it was going to give away our location. Much closer and I was going to shoot. Nine yards, I started to control my breathing. Eight yards, I took the safety off my gun.

Finally the bird walked into a window in Drew’s cover, only to be standing directly behind my decoy. “I don’t want to shoot your decoy…” he said. “I don’t care!” I fired back. I watched the resolve come across Drew’s face. That steely gaze hunters get right before they pull the trigger is unmistakable. At seven yards the bird turned, giving us a rear-end view of his fan, and Drew raised his gun. Then he leaned in toward me and placed the butt of the gun in the crook of his elbow. The bird turned to face us, its feathers fell and it cocked its head looking at the both of us in the cover. Drew fired.

Back at the truck it was cold pizza and warm beer for a celebration. Our feet hurt, the inside of Drew’s elbow was turning purple from a bruise…but the turkey in the back of his truck made it all worthwhile.

turkey salads

Spring Turkey Salad Recipes

Spring is often the start of “salad” season for folks. I know my garden is light and green at that time. I’ll often find myself foraging greens or eating fresh spring flavors at the time. Below is a trio of easy spring salads that you can make with your turkey.

The first part of all three recipes is the same – cook a turkey breast and shred it. When that is done the variations are endless – Asian to Scandinavian dishes can be created. Like with most wild meats however, wild turkey is incredibly lean. That is why in all the recipes below I am adding a “fat” of some type. It can be mayonnaise or sesame oil, it does not matter, what matters is a moist and delicious salad.

Cooked Turkey Breast

1 wild turkey breast, skinless

Salt and Pepper

2 tablespoon canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350°. Season wild turkey breast with salt and pepper. Heat medium sized skillet on high for four minutes, add oil. Carefully add the turkey breast and sear until golden brown on one side. Flip and place in oven for 15-20 minutes or until cooked completely through. Remove turkey breast from oven. Let turkey cool completely. When turkey is cool, use a knife and fork to “shred” the breast meat. With wild turkey the thinner the slices/ shreds the better.

Asian Style Shredded Wild Turkey Salad

1 Shredded Wild Turkey Breast (See Above)

4ea breakfast radishes, sliced into rounds

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced into half moons

1 red pepper, sliced into matchsticks

1/2 red onion, sliced into matchsticks

1 stalk green onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ cup soy sauce

1 Tbsp honey

¼ sesame oil

¼ cup peanut butter

2 Tbsp Sriracha

In a large bowl combine the turkey, radishes, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, green onion and garlic. In a medium bowl whisk together the soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, peanut butter and sriracha. Next add the “dressing” to the turkey and vegetables. Toss lightly to combine. This recipe is best if it sits for a few hours.

Turkey Curry Salad

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice and zest

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons curry powder (Even better would be a red curry paste, but not necessary)

Salt and pepper

1 Shredded Wild Turkey Breast (See Above)

1 cup red seedless grapes, halved

2 stalks celery, diced

½ small red onion, diced

¼ cup cashew pieces

In large mixing bowl add the mayonnaise, lime juice, lime zest, curry powder, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Next add the turkey breast meat, grapes, celery, red onion and cashew pieces. Stir to combine. Serve with Pitas

Wild Turkey Waldorf Salad (Recipe inspiration from food.com)

1 Shredded Wild Turkey Breast (See Above)

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 green apple cored and chopped

1 cup red seedless grapes, halved

½ cup pecans, toasted, and coarsely chopped

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup crumbled blue cheese

1 teaspoon honey

Salt and pepper

In a large bowl add the turkey, celery, apple, grapes, and pecans. In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, blue cheese and honey. Pour the mayonnaise mix on top of the turkey and vegetables. Gently mix to incorporate. Taste and then season with salt and pepper as desired.

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