Brad Fenson gives a great demonstration on the correct way to field dress a turkey. He shot this Fall Rio bird in the Sandhills of Nebraska with his trusty Wicked Ridge without spooking the rest of the flock. People often complain about wild turkey being too dry – one way to ensure a moist bird is by plucking the feathers. Sure, it is a little more time consuming than just skinning the bird, but you took the time out of your day to hunt so shouldn’t it be rewarding to your palette as well?
Using a high quality Bear Edge knife, Brad first scores the bird on the joints of the wings and legs before snapping them out of socket. This is a good practice since you will be cutting through tendons and cartilage rather than bone. With a standard procedure he gets rid of the tail feathers. Take note to not make too big of an incision in the naval cavity when trying to get rid of the innards. This is another key step in keeping the bird moist. More exposed flesh = drier meat.
Keeping the skin intact creates a wonderful environment for the meat to cook, especially the breasts. The ‘white meat’ is more prone to overcooking and dries out more easily than the legs and thighs. Another advantage is that you are leaving the natural fat on the bird. When the bird is cooking the fat slowly renders, melting under the heat in the oven. This, along with the skin, lubricates the bird in a way that oil cannot and also gives some protection to the meat from cooking too fast.
Most hunters have a natural respect for the game they harvest, paying homage to the animal for providing them and their families sustenance. A great way to preserve the dignity of the animal is to cook it properly for everyone to enjoy. Hopefully you will find yourself plucking the next bird instead of skinning it!