May 2015
Your Next Meal From the Wildside

April Turkey Season ... May Turkey Recipes

Rolley Len Kirk with Jason’s turkey after their hunt.  

If you want your children or grandchildren to become interested in hunting without feeling like you are pressuring them, just leave one of your turkey calls lying around the house. It will not be long before your children discover the joy of the gobble. The delicate features of some calls are not always appreciated by the young, and there is always a chance that a beloved call will be broken. But there are some more durable options they can play with and learn from such as a gobbler call.

Over the years, Rolley Len and Cason have discovered Jason’s calls he had left lying around the house long before either of them spotted their first turkeys in the wild. Jason has a variety of different calls including box, mouth, slate, locator, crow and owl. There is something irresistible about the rattling warble of a turkey that makes kids get excited. Pretty soon they were running around the house on the hunt for the wild turkeys in their imagination.

Rolley Len and Cason both learn well with hands-on experience, so practicing with the calls at home will give them the confidence they will need in the field. As they have gotten older, Jason has shown them different calls he has and explained how they work. Listening to the kids practice their turkey calls is a great way to spend time with them. It will make them better at calling and will build their self-assurance in their abilities. It can also be pretty funny.

Another reason turkey hunting is good for children who "learn by doing" is that turkey hunts do not have to be a quiet adventure. Not only do you not have to be completely quiet, you actually need to make loud noises periodically to lure the turkeys to you. Although hunting for other game can be a silent sport, parents can actually talk to their children during a turkey hunt about the experience while in the field waiting for birds. This makes the whole activity an in-the-moment, interactive learning experience.

Sometimes I don’t realize how much they have learned about wildlife and hunting until we sit and talk about it. One night, Rolley Len was sharing her thoughts about turkey hunting with me. She mentioned that it can be hard because they can fly away into trees to roost and get away from predators. Waiting for them to come back down can be hard on a young hunter, but both Rolley Len and Cason are learning patience and persistence.

They are both getting pretty good at spotting turkeys both on the roadside and in the woods, which is good because turkey fingers are very popular at our house. Unfortunately, the turkey population in our area has been dwindling over the years mostly because of wild hogs eating the turkey eggs. We hope that something stops the decrease and we start seeing more turkeys.

Besides teaching character skills that will last a lifetime, turkey hunts are an opportunity to introduce your young children to hunting without having to worry about some of the other factors involved during other seasons. The weather is usually warmer, and there is no requirement of quiet.

Jason and the kids go turkey hunting a lot in April, so May will be a great time for our family to try out new recipes. Turkey fingers and turkey salad are staples, but here are a few different options to try for yourself at your next meal.

Wild turkey legs and thighs look more like duck than a farm-raised turkey or one you would buy in a store. The meat is much darker, but can be used the same way. Many people only use the breast of a wild turkey because of the many tendons in the dark meat. Wild birds do a lot more walking so they have more tendons in their legs. After cooking in the crockpot, tendons should be removed as you pull the meat from the bone. To me, the meat from the legs and thighs is as tender as a slow-cooked roast. It works well whether served pulled, as a salad, or in a wrap or sandwich.

  Turkey wrap

Turkey Salad

2 cups turkey, diced

1 cup celery or cucumber, sliced

¼ cup olives or 1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

1-1½ cups mayonnaise

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Chill in the refrigerator before serving. This is great for making a "chopped salad." Just dice the celery or cucumber and olives or eggs in smaller pieces, and serve on a bed of lettuce.

Turkey Croquettes

2 cups cold roast turkey, chopped

2 Tablespoons celery, chopped

1 cup thick white sauce (recipe below)

Smidge nutmeg

1 egg, beaten

2 Tablespoons water

¾ cup fine bread crumbs

Grind turkey very fine. Add celery, heated white sauce and nutmeg. Mix well. Chill. Mold into croquettes. Roll in crumbs. Dip into egg mixed with water. Roll in crumbs again. Fry in hot oil 2-5 minutes. Drain well. You may also reserve some white sauce to drizzle on the croquettes after they cook.

White Sauce

2½ Tablespoons butter or margarine

1 Tablespoon flour

1 cup milk, divided

1 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter in a skillet. Remove from heat and add flour while stirring into a smooth paste. Add 1/3 of milk and stir until smooth. Add remaining milk and salt. Cook until smooth and thick. This takes about 15 minutes. 

Crockpot Turkey

1 bone-in turkey, disjointed and skin removed

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 teaspoon seasoning salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

½ cup water

Rub the olive oil on the turkey pieces. Combine garlic, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Rub on turkey pieces. Place turkey into crockpot and add water. Place lid on the pot and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until tender and cooked through.

Turkey Spinach Casserole

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed

1 (10-ounce) can condensed cream of celery, chicken, mushroom OR broccoli soup, divided

1 cup water

2 Tablespoons butter or margarine

1 (6-ounce) package chicken flavor stuffing mix (or use your own dressing recipe)

2 cups cooked turkey, chopped

1/3 cup milk

1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated

In a large saucepan, combine spinach, half of soup, water, butter and contents of seasoning packet from the stuffing mix. Bring to a boil. Separate spinach with a fork as it cooks. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add stuffing crumbs to mixture. Pour into an ungreased 2-quart baking dish. Scatter turkey over stuffing. Stir milk into the remaining soup and pour over the turkey. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until heated through.

Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.