Barbs and Backlashes

Turkey Musings by whitetips
May 7, 2010, 10:29 am
Filed under: Hunting | Tags:

We are still in the middle of Nebraska’s spring turkey season.  If you have not yet, there is still plenty of time to buy a permit and find a big ole Tom!  I have killed a lot of birds well into May, and have always figured that as the hens start to wander off to lay and incubate eggs the toms will be alone more and more and easier to kill!

In an earlier blog post I referred to making the most of the entire hunting “process”.  I enjoy it all from the preparations and scouting to the actual hunt and kill and then after the kill.  What I would like to focus on in this post is some of the things my hunting partners and I do after the kill.

First of all, get some good pictures, IN THE FIELD.  I know, sometimes you forget the camera and do not get any pictures until you get home, but with the digital cameras we have now, it is more convenient than ever to carry the camera with you and get some pictures that will help you remember the hunt and the bird.

My son Daniel and I with a big Tom, right where he was taken, right after a thrilling evening hunt.

I love everything about big, tom turkeys; they are beautiful, a blast to hunt, make great trophies and are darned good eating too!  We prefer to pluck our birds.  I know that takes a little more time and can be a chore, but I like to pluck because we often roast, smoke or deep-fat fry the bird and that is best done with the skin on, whole bird.  You can also utilize ALL of the bird that way, legs, thighs, wings, breasts, “the whole nine yards”, nothing is wasted.  If you  have ever tried to pluck a turkey you know it can be hard work, but if you scald the bird in hot water, it becomes a lot easier.  I have a plastic tub at home that works great for scalding a big tom, but we have done several in a 5 gallon bucket.

I like to clean the birds as soon as possible, and if that can be done we do nothing but remove the tail fan/butt and the beard from the bird before scalding them (more about the tail fan and beard later, keep reading).  You want hot water to scald the bird, but if it is too hot, the skin will begin to tear as you remove feathers.  We have found that one pot of boiling water combined with one pot of hot tap water is just about right.  Press the bird down into the water as far as possible to cover all the feathers.  Make sure to get all the feathers even the ones down onto the legs.  Oh, one other tip, put a couple drops of dish soap in the bucket or tub; it will help cut through the oil on the feathers.  When you can pull the primary feathers out of the wings without too much effort you will know the bird is ready to pluck.

If you can hang the bird, the plucking will be easy.

Following plucking we will singe the bird with a propane torch to get all the little “hairs”, feathers, that are left.  And then you can open the body cavity and remove the entrails.  One other thing we have discovered is that a pair of game shears or even the garden “lopper” is real handy for whacking through the neck.  If you are a little bit squeamish, rubber gloves can be purchased at any drug store, you know the kind that doctors wear, put them on to do the “dirty work” and then just peel them off and discard when you are done.

OK, that is the preparation for eating part.  I also mentioned that another thing I love about turkey hunting is you get some darned nice trophies to display too!  I will bet I have a dozen tail fans in the basement that I have preserved.  Every one of them is just so darned pretty that I cannot stand to discard them and every additional turkey I harvest is just as pretty–gotta have the fan from that one too.  We cut the fan off at the base of the “butt” and then trim as much meat and fat off of the tail fan as possible.  Once that is done, a few push pins, an old piece of sheet rock and Voila, you can preserve your fan for display.

Pin the fan upside down and it will naturally fan out full.

You can see the white substance where the cut was made, that is plain ole Borax.  Salt will also work as a preservative.

Use the borax on the end of the beard too.

I made a point of saying to cut the beard off.  I have known folks that just pulled the beard out, just like pulling the feathers out, and that will work, but once that beard dries it will then begin to come apart.  If you cut the beard off at the base and rub a little borax into the end, it will stay together forever.

Look close at some of our “hero shots” and you will see some other turkey trophies hanging around my son’s and my necks.  One thing you can see would be homemade wingbone turkey calls.  I have a cousin who lives up above Fishberry Creek in north-central Nebraska that has made our wingbone calls for us.

Simply save the bones from your turkey wings, there are 3 “sections” to the wings, save the big bone from the section that attached to the body and save the two bones from the next section of the wing.  Gnaw all the meat off of those bones and then let them dry; boil them in water if you need to remove additional flesh.  Once those wingbones are dry you can use a fine-tooth saw of some kind, a Dremel tool works great, to saw off the joints.  Once that is done you are left with 3 hollow bones and you simply glue them end to end, slipping the end of one bone inside the end of the bigger bone.  Use epoxy glue.  You can make a wingbone call out of all three bones, and that call would have 3 segments or you can use just two of the bones and have a call with just 2 segments like ours.  Daniel’s wingbone call is more white-colored while mine has more of a tan or brown color.  The white is the pure bone color while the tan color was achieved by boiling the bones in some water with a cinnamon stick.  You can see my cousin added some character/decoration to our wingbone calls by using leather and beads (look close at mine, the bead work is a turkey feather!).

Yes, the wingbone calls will call turkeys; they are excellent for yelping and produce a hollow-sounding yelp that at times can be very effective.  You use the wingbone calls by sucking, actually making a kissing sound on the small end of the call.

Another turkey trophy hanging around our necks during spring turkey season would be a necklace of turkey spurs.  This is the only necklace of any kind that I ever wear around my neck at any time (just want to be clear about that, Ha).

One spur from each mature Tom I have ever killed. All taken in Nebraska of course!

The last thing we do with our turkeys is cut the legs off.  We do not do that until we are done cleaning them, washing them and putting them into the freezer or fridge.  The legs are really handy for carrying the bird, so we leave them on until we are done processing them.  Then we cut the legs off at the joint and again use the Borax as a perservative.

After a few weeks the legs will be entirely dry.  Once again I break out the fine-tooth saw or Dremel tool and cut through the legs on each side of the spurs.  Turkey bones like all bird bones are hollow, so once you saw through those bones you are left with a leg segment containing the spur on a hollow bone.  All you have to do is run a leather lanyard through that hollow bone and you have a necklace!  You can see the leg bones on my turkey spur necklace are orange-colored; after the legs have dried and I have cut the spur segment I like to peel the top “scales” off of the leg bone.  The color underneath that top layer of scales is the orange-ish color you see.  Or, you can leave those scales on and the dried bone will retain its original color.  By the way, I have seen turkey legs ranging from white-colored to the typical pink you see above to black.

Anyway those are some ideas for you to get the most out of your turkey hunting experience.  I like to write details of my hunt on my canceled turkey tag and then I keep that in a scrap book with my photos, beards and the other spurs that did not go on my necklace.

Let me crawl up on a soap-box here for just a little bit as I finish this post.  I believe it is extremely important that we show respect for our natural resources, for the fish and game we pursue.  That is one reason I believe “doing it right”, the process, is so much more important than the actual success or harvest.  Taking the time to properly prepare, to scout and enjoy the hunt shows respect for the quarry.  Utilizing the game that we harvest to the fullest extent shows respect for the quarry.  Saving “trophies” and pictures to commemorate the hunt shows respect for the quarry.  Maybe when it comes to spring toms this is a big deal to me because I am old enough to remember when we were lucky just to be able to hunt turkeys in limited portions of the state.  I can remember when it was a big deal to have a permit and an even bigger deal to harvest a tom!  I love them big ole black birds with the red, white and blue heads and those funny hairs sticking out of their breasts!  I absolutely love every second of every spring when I get to watch them and hunt them.  The “good ole days” are NOW for Nebraska turkeys.  Every morning at O-dark thirty when I snuggle my tired butt back up against a tree and hear that first gobble I thank the Lord for all the turkeys we now have.  Amen.

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