How to Clean a Wild Turkey and Still Have Time to Eat It
As a hunter, one of the best moments of your hunt is knocking down the bird and collecting your reward:
A big, fine, succulent turkey that you can prepare and eat. If you’re a hunter, you may be most excited about the camouflage, the turkey pump-action shotgun, and your feathered turkey decoy.
However, the least exciting part for me is having to spend hours boiling my turkey, plucking its feathers and the tail fan, cutting off the beard and removing the entrails.
Years ago, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find a way to prepare my prize game for frying, baking or roasting in the shortest amount of time so that I can spend the rest of my day reaping the great taste of my reward’? Then I figured it out: Here’s how to clean a wild turkey and still have time to eat it.
For this tutorial, you’ll need only a few items:
- A very sharp knife. Make sure that your knife is sharp enough to cut easily through the vein, piercing the jugular vein in one even slice. ·
- A pot of boiling water. The hotter the water, the easier it will be to pluck all of the feathers off quickly. ·
- An outside area over grass or dirt (My favorite because then you have much less – if any- cleaning up to do!) ·
- A garbage bag for the stuff nobody wants to keep, like entrails, the head and the claws.
Locate the jugular vein
Now while I discovered that this is the easiest and fastest way of cleaning a wild turkey, I also found that this is the kosher way of killing it. What makes it interesting is that the kosher way is also the most humane way of preparing your game for the dinner table.
First, locate the jugular vein on both sides of the windpipe in the beard of your turkey. The easiest way to do this is by hanging the turkey upside down. The turkeys’ beard flops downward at an 180˚ angle and I find it easier to locate the windpipe. Now grab ahold of the turkey’s head.
You should do this step as quickly as possible because if your turkey is still moving, the blood flow after cutting through the jugular vein is going to be heavy and may spray a little bit on your face and clothes (Yeah, not pretty).
Dunk the bird in boiling water
Next, I like to get my water to about 180˚ F. I don’t boil the water to the point where it’s bubbling because it sears the turkey’s skin. Dunk the turkey into the water for about 15 seconds.
I sometimes leave the turkey in the water for 18 seconds. Make sure to hold the turkey tightly by the claws so that you get the whole body in the water. Now the feathers can be removed much faster.
Pluck the Feathers
Now that you’ve boiled the turkey, the feathers just slip right out. Begin with the feathers right below the neck and move downward. You don’t need to focus too much on the tail fan because that will be removed in the next step.
I like to dunk the bird in the water again every few seconds so that the skin stays hot. I never dunk it for more than 10 seconds during this step because the skin may be scalded.
Remove the stomach and windpipe
(and the head comes with it)
Using my sharp knife, I cut off the head starting from just under the beak right at that jugular vein. First cut the skin around the rest of the neck and then fold the skin back over the turkey’s head. Now cut through the chest wall.
I’m always very careful during this step because if I don’t want to cut through the stomach. It’s much easier to remove the entire stomach than clean up the mess in case it ruptures. You’ll find a thick wall of fat.
Cut through this and you’ll find the stomach behind it. Pull it out and continue to follow the windpipe. I pull that out as deeply as I can so that the head falls off without having to slice through any bone material.
Remove the anus
You may or may not want to remove the oil sac first. To remove the oil sac, simply locate it near the anus of the bird and cut it off. For the anus, be careful not to rupture the colon. Cut on either side and around the anus and pull it out slowly. You’ll see the bluish colored rope of the colon. Be sure not to sever this, as it can take a lot longer to clean up.
Remove The Innards
Now you’re almost at the last step before your turkey goes into the oven! Reach your hand inside the turkey from the anal cavity that you just removed and pull out all the intestines and guts. You’ll want to slowly detach the innards, lungs and heart from the chest wall.
Some people do like to cook the heart, liver and gizzard and if you’re one of those, you can definitely set that aside for yourself. I like to throw all the innards away after detaching them from the chest wall and pulling them out.
Cool The Bird In Water
Now you’re ready to clean the bird. This is simple. Just rinse it in cool water, making sure to scrub with your hands all over the outside. Reach inside and gently rinse there as well. Now keep the bird in cool water for about ten minutes until you’re ready to cook or freeze the bird for preparing later on.
Did you enjoy this tutorial? The steps above will help you clean your wild game faster so that you have more time to enjoy it, because you wants to spend hours on preparation? Any hunter’s favorite part is shooting it and then enjoying the taste of your wild turkey as it comes roasted and tender out of the oven.
These steps will help you get to the fun part faster. Share this article and comment below to share your experiences and any tips you’ve discovered that help us, hunters, clean a wild turkey and still have time to eat it.