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Do I want to say "Yes" to a wild turkey offer?

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My father is beset by the wild turkeys that have moved onto his land, and is offering to bag one for my Thanksgiving dinner. This intimidates me so, for some reason. I have eaten a lot of game, and prepared a fair amount, but have no experience with a wild turkey. Since the T-day clock is ticking, I need to make a decision on this particular tom's fate. Do any of you serve wild turkey for Thanksgiving? Is is good or something other than good? Texture, gaminess? What differences in roasting procedures? Should I make a stab at the "authentic" bird and toss the frozen turkey back in the deep freeze, or do I say *no thanks*to the fresh-shot tom?

Sheesh, the last minute Thanksgiving things we must deal with, huh?

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  1. The last time I tried "wild" turkey it was rather stringy, and not very meaty. Some people prefer it that way, but having grown up with Butterball-type birds, it was quite a shock to the system.

    Not saying it was necessarily a bad bird, just different.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Can you speak to the flavor of the meat? Gravy options being good or bad? I'm most concerned about the possibility of gaminess that might put some of my guests off their feed (I like gamey, personally...but I think I'm in a minority.)

      1. re: cayjohan

        I didn't find it gamey at all, but then I regularly eat deer, elk, buffalo and bison. I don't think it goes well with gravy, try some sort of wine reduction -- it just pairs better with the leaner bird I think.

        But read what MakingSense says below about having a "Plan B".

        Good luck.

        1. re: cayjohan

          I don't care for 'gamey' protiens like venison, but I have eaten a few wild turkeys and they don't have that same gamey taste. But as stated above, they are less meaty, kind of dry and rather stringy. My dad has a smokehouse and the smoke flavor is a great improvement on the taste.

      2. I would proceed with caution with this. I don't know what the laws are in your area, but these wild turkeys may actually be protected from becoming T-day dinner.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MrsT

          I wholeheartedly agree with MrsT. Please ensure that all hunting guidelines are followed when taking a turkey, including obtaining a license and land restrictions, etc.

          That being said, I have hunted the past 3 seasons for wild turkey and have never bagged one yet, but will continue to hunt because I am dying to try wild turkey. Other hunters have told me that wild turkey is excellent and not gamy. However, most wild turkey lovers prefer a spring bird to a fall bird.

        2. Say YES. But then have a Plan B. Some of your guests may not like even the most well prepared wild turkey - and I'm going to assume that you are a great cook - so get a good ham, a traditional second entrée for Thanksgiving feasts.
          For everybody, wild turkey is a treat and a rarity. They're hard to bag and many hunters never do. I've only cooked it once and that was years ago. Although they can be 12 or so pounds, they often seem pretty scrawny. They will seem very different to your average Butterball-consuming American so be prepared for only polite, ceremonial sampling by your guests. It wouldn't be crazy of you to have Plan B domestic turkey if Dad shows up with a small wild turkey.
          I brine most wild fowl that I cook (exceptions being some small upland game birds) mostly because you have no idea how old they are, it does mellow them out for people who are not used to gameyness, and it helps with moisture. Try to check as best you can for shot and remove as much as you can. Game birds are lean so there are rarely much drippings for gravy - that's why I guess you see so many wine sauces - and you'll probably need to baste or bard it. Cooked well, wild turkey is delicious.
          If Ben Franklin had had his way, it would have been our national bird instead of the eagle.
          I wish someone were giving me a wild turkey for Thanksgiving. I would grab it in a minute. Even if you have to cook it side by side with a Butterball, it's a rare treat and you shouldn't pass on it. Lucky you!

          1. Only if it is Wild Turkey in a bottle.

            The one and only wild turkey I had for thanksgiving was terrible. Ya it tasted like turkey but less so and much drier. Even with slow cooking it over smoke it didn't help. It was just plain bad.

            DT

            2 Replies
            1. re: Davwud

              If you have the option I'd say cook both. Or if you have family close by maybe ask them to cook the butterball and you can concentrate on the wild bird. I'd consider the butterball cheap insurance just in case the wild turkey doesn't turn out the way you're hoping. I'd guess that the T day bird is thing most people don't want to experiment with as it's not easy to make another one if you screw up.

              1. re: Davwud

                Let's see: extremely lean bird + dry heat source + long cooking time = bad bird.

                Gee, who'da thunk it?

              2. It's risky. I had one once, cooked/smoked by my brother-in-law who snagged it. The drumsticks and wings were inedible because a wild turkey is so active that this meat isn't very good. The turkey came out dry, but did taste like turkey (I mean c'mon it is turkey).

                After eating it I thought about what this turkey's diet may have been like in the wild...and what water it may have been drinking....and well...as the other poster above said...only Wild Turkey from the bottle from now on for me.

                1. Oh my gosh say yes...the flavor compared to domesticated, hormone junky locked in a cage with no time out for good behavior is incomparable. The meat is more flavorful and much more moist then domestic. The meat is dark compared to domestic but is very flavorful in a good way. If properly prepared you will have a winner. I have had tham on the table many times and given the choice ther would be no contest.

                  1. Old crazy Tom that was vexing the property has been spared and we made the regular old turkey for Thanksgiving. Thank you all for the comments on wild turkey (especially Making Sense, as I think I will be pursuing this next year). To those concerned, yes, all proper licenses and permits and stamps and whatnot were in order (eggs taste good poached, but anything else will cost you <g>)

                    Saving this post for next year, as the wild taste sounds even more wonderful than the juicy white-meat of the supermarket bird. Maybe will do two for the Plan B.

                    Thanks all,
                    Cay

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: cayjohan

                      Forgot to mention the reason for the turkey amnesty. Turkeys were frightening away the deer (turkeys were rampant this year), so when deer season ended, turkeys were not an issue (one deer bagged, no thanks to turkeys!). One must love the logistics of the hunt.