A Wildlife Biologist's Advice On How To Cook A Wild Turkey Dinner

Nov 20, 2018

A wild turkey on the Idaho/Wyoming border
Credit ArbyReed/Flickr Creative Commons

It's turkey season. Wild turkey hunting season, that is.

Wyoming Game and Fish wild turkey researcher Joe Sandrini said this is the best time of year to harvest turkeys. In fact, he'd just spotted 23 toms, or male turkeys, roaming the Black Hills National Forest that day.

Sandrini said you can hunt turkeys in the spring, but they're fatter and yummier in the fall.

"I wouldn't call it a wild bouquet. but a more depth of flavor," Sandrini said. "It's not gamey. It's really a nice spectrum of flavors that comes from what they eat. So, they're eating things like acorns, hawthorn berries, chokecherries, rosehips that have a suite of flavors, which do, of course, get into the meat."

But, Sandrini said, to do all that foraging, wild turkeys have to run around a lot. That makes their legs longer and more muscled than farmed turkeys.

"The leg meat's pretty good, and you can use those legs in the soup and thighs and that kind of thing. But when it comes to just chewing on a turkey leg like King Edward, the wild turkey legs tend to be tough and stringy and there's not that big bulk of soft meat like there is with domestic turkeys."

Sandrini said the breast meat is the best part, and that there's no need to pluck a wild turkey, just skin it. He recommends cooking it in an oven bag with white wine, butter, thyme, and sage.

Sandrini said the species isn't native to Wyoming. Nine turkeys were introduced to the Laramie Range back in 1935 after a swap with New Mexico for some sage grouse. Now the species is doing well there, as well as in the Black Hills. Thousands of wild turkeys now roam Wyoming, mostly in ponderosa pine forests.