Jake was shot to death on Mother’s Day. It came as a surprise even though I had been mentally prepared for it for some time. I didn’t know when or where it would happen, but I did know “how”. It would be at the hands of my husband who had been hunting for a tom all season.
When David grabbed his shotgun to go after Jake, I had mixed feelings. I was glad about the self-sufficiency aspect, yet also felt like an accomplice to murder because I was the one who told my husband that a tom was out in the yard. As my husband was about to shoot Jake, my eyes saw a wild turkey going about his business and that his young life was about to be snuffed out.
(But who knows, perhaps Jake wanted to leave the earth plane early and was a party to his own demise.)
Only a week earlier I had experienced the pleasure of watching three male turkeys take flight at the blast of a shotgun. It was a magnificent sight as they soared from peril. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I think I’d rather shoot wildlife with my camera than with a gun. But then again I like to eat meat, and somebody, somewhere, has been doing the dirty work so that I can go to the supermarket and buy meat to put on the table. Killing an animal and butchering it yourself really drives home the point of where your food comes from. I suppose if I had to take an animal for sustenance, I would.
After Jake died, I did like the American Indians do, (at least that’s what I’ve heard they do) and silently gave thanks over his dead body for the nourishment that he would provide.
David picked up Jake and took him to the back of our place and lay him in the grass near the land of dog houses. While his carcass was warm, we prepared his limp body by plucking his feathers and removing his skin. (You have to remember this was our first experience cleaning wild game, so we were a little weird about it.) After removing all of the feathers on the breast and thighs, I took a sharp fillet knife and carefully sliced into his breast as close as I could to the bone. I accidentally pierced the crop, but no worries. Nothing spilled over onto the good meat.
I cut away Jake’s breast, thighs, and wings. I know this sounds silly, but I couldn’t get over how his meat looked just like the store bought kind. It was different, however, in the smell department. It smelled very fresh, with barely an odor at all. After cleaning Jake outside, I got a container and brought him inside to the kitchen sink. There I thoroughly washed him in cold water and removed any residual feathers. I wrapped most of the meat in freezer paper while saving a nice piece of breast meat for our next meal.
I knew that serving Jake for dinner was going to be no easy task. I wasn’t sure if my daughters would eat him at all or how my husband would feel about eating something wild that he had killed on the front lawn. We just didn’t know what to expect. Would he taste gamey? One thing we did know. We would eat Jake because it would be a sin and a shame not to. Not to mention, not eating what you kill would be unethical and go against all hunting protocol.
For some strange reason, I thought I would have to use a “wild” turkey recipe to prepare Jake and took to the internet to find one. A recipe called Cajun Mardi Gras Wild Turkey Breast, courtesy of the NWTF, caught my fancy and appealed to my New Orleans roots. It had lots of spice and the turkey was cooked along with bacon, so I figured it would be a winner.
I cut Jake into cubes and added him to the other ingredients in the pan. As I stirred, the aroma of bacon and sauteed onion filled the kitchen. It smelled good and I tasted a piece of Jake. I was pleasantly surprised at how “normal” he tasted – no wild or gamey taste.
Jake was served over a bed of rice. My girls refused to eat him and my husband politely took a serving. I think knowing that he had been warm and full of bugs, somehow turned everyone’s stomach.
On the other hand, I personally thought the meal was delicious! My first dinner of wild turkey proved to be a success. Of course, we had plenty of leftovers. I couldn’t eat him all by myself. The next day, my daughters took a taste or two. They said Jake was “bouncy”, another way of saying that he was chewy. At that time, I thought perhaps I had overcooked Jake, but after subsequent dishes of baked turkey breast and another of turkey-andouille gumbo, I came to the same conclusion. His meat was tough, but not inedible.
So far, Jake has provided us with three meals and I still have a thigh in the freezer for future use. I’m thankful for that and also for what I’ve learned. It’s a good thing getting back to basics and knowing that you have achieved a few of the most rudimentary skills of survival: killing, cleaning, and preparing wild game.
Cajun Mardi Gras Wild Turkey Breast
What you will need:
- 1 pound bacon, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
- Cajun Seasoning, as desired
- 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 (2-pound) boneless turkey breast, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
In a large, heavy skillet, add bacon and sprinkle it with Cajun seasoning. Fry until crisp. Drain, discard grease and set aside. In the same skillet, add 1 tablespoon of butter, and sauté the chopped onion until tender. Remove onion, and set aside. In a large bowl, combine turkey, 2 tablespoons of oil, Worcestershire sauce and more Cajun seasoning. In the same skillet, heat remaining butter and oil until sizzling. Add turkey, bacon and onion. Sauté until turkey is brown and tender. Serve entree over rice. Serves 4 to 6