“Cooking Game Birds” author Tiffany Haugen shares tips
Oregon -(Ammoland.com)- It’s a beautiful time of year to wander through the woods—and maybe get your Thanksgiving dinner while you’re at it.
Turkey hunting is open from Oct. 15-Dec. 31 in most of western Oregon.
All you really need to hunt is a shotgun, camouflage clothing and a willingness to explore the woods. Turkeys favor oak habitat and will eat just about any seed, fruit, nut or insect. So look for the hawthorne, dogwood, crab apple, oak and other trees that drop seed and mast. See more hunting tips below. Hunters also need a hunting license ($29.50 for resident adults/$14.50 for youth) and turkey tag ($22.50 for adults/$10.50 for youth).
Last year, about 650 turkeys were taken during the general fall season in western Oregon, with the highest harvest in the Rogue Unit (Jackson County). A total of 4,000 tags are available each fall, but they usually don’t sell out. While turkeys are plentiful in the Willamette Valley, southwest Oregon offers the most opportunities on public lands.
See the tips below or join ODFW at a free fall turkey hunting workshop Nov. 14 from 9 a.m.–noon at Cabela’s in Tualatin. Families are welcome and pre-registration required.
Where to go:
Some of the best turkey hunting in Oregon is on private land, but there are options for hunters who don’t have access, especially in southwest Oregon. In Douglas County, try the Umpqua National Forest (Tallow Butte in the South Umpqua near Tiller plus Toketee Air Strip and Fish Creek area on the North Umpqua). There are a few Roseburg BLM lands adjacent to private lands, like N. Bank Habitat Area, that offer excellent opportunities for hunting in low elevation oak savannah habitat which turkeys favor.
In Jackson County, try grassy-oak savannas on BLM lands and lower elevation timber-meadow lands of the Rogue National Forest. The best areas in the Rogue Unit to hunt would be all the roads along the Butte Fall-Prospect Hwy between Butte Falls and Prospect. Another spot would be Worthington Road in the Green Top unit of the Jackson Cooperative Travel Management Area map off of Hwy 140. Turkeys can also be found on most BLM lands in Josephine County.
Finding a place to hunt is challenging in Northwest Oregon. At this time of year, turkeys are found at lower elevations in areas with mixed hardwoods (such as oak savannah) and pasture—the type of habitat found mostly on private lands. Some BLM and Forest Service lands feature this habitat; look for public land adjacent to agricultural land and mixed hardwood forests.
Hunters must have permission to hunt on private property. Some hunters knock on landowners’ doors where they see turkeys and ask. If you are lucky enough to have access to private land, remember to build a good relationship with the landowner if you expect to come back next year.
- Find the food and you will find the bird. Turkeys will eat any seed, fruit, nut or insect. Look for hawthorne, dogwood, crab apple, oak and other trees that drop seeds and mast.
- Explore the woods. Turkeys will range over a large area looking for food so prepare to cover some ground to find them.
- Once you’ve located a flock of turkeys, scatter them–by running toward them and yelling, for example.
- Set up against a tree or stump (one with a high back to offer protection and cover) or in a blind. Then use a turkey call to bring birds back and wait to take a safe and legal shot.
- Never wear red, white, blue or black when turkey hunting. You could be mistaken for a turkey.
- If you see or hear another hunter, talk loudly in a clear voice to alert them to your presence. Never use a turkey call if other hunters don’t know your whereabouts.
Tips for Preparing Wild Turkey
Wild turkey can be healthier than a turkey you will get in the supermarket. “Wild game meat is generally leaner because the animals are constantly on the move, using more energy. They are eating natural forage not prepared animal feed,” said Colin Gillin, ODFW wildlife veterinarian. “Wild turkeys are also not treated with antibiotics, hormones or vaccines.”
Tiffany Haugen, an avid hunter, angler and cook, shared the following cooking tips with ODFW. For more recipes and to order a personally signed copy of Scott & Tiffany Haugen's cookbook, “Cooking Game Birds,” go to www.tiffanyhaugen.com or www.scotthaugen.com (free shipping).
Flavor starts in the field. Once a bird is down, get it cleaned and cooling as soon as possible. Skinning birds is quicker and easier than plucking and cools birds faster.
If cooking whole bird: Leave the skin on and pluck. This will help retain moisture during cooking. Also choose a moist heat method for cooking (braised, bagged, deep-fried) and brine overnight in salted water (1 cup salt to 1 gallon water).
If cooking parts of bird: Separate breast meat from leg and thigh meat; they require different cooking preparations.
To enhance flavor, marinate breast meat 6-8 hours. Italian-style, full-fat, dressing is an easy marinade. Or if you make your own, look for a balance of salty (salt, soy or fish sauce), sweet (honey, brown sugar or maple syrup), acid (lemon juice, vinegar, wine, beer or fruit juice) and oil (peanut, olive or canola).
For whole breasts, use a moist cooking method, such as a plank cooking (covered with strips of bacon or coated in ground sausage) or in an oven bag with vegetables and broth or marinade. Take care not to overcook breast meat; meat is done when it reaches 155º on an internal cooking thermometer. (Note: While food safety guidelines recommend cooking to an internal temperature of 165º for poultry, this can overcook breasts. Be sure to properly handle turkey before cooking and this lower temperature should not be a problem.)
Slow cooking: For legs and thighs, use a slow cook method like a crock pot or Dutch oven. Add onions and/or apples along with seasoning and 1-2 cups of liquid (coconut milk, marinade or seasoned stock). After slow cooking legs and thighs, let them cool slightly and then remove all meat from bones and cartilage structures. Strain cooking liquid and add meat back to liquid before serving.
Grilling/frying: For steaks or cutlets, slice breast meat in 1-inch slices and pound to 1/2-inch thickness. Quickly grill, brushing with plenty of basting liquid; or coat with seasoned flour, dip in beaten egg and coat with breadcrumbs, frying in a small amount of oil.
Smoking: It’s also a great option for wild turkey breast. The whole breast can be brined and smoked or breast meat can be sliced, brined and made into jerky.
Don’t forget about the bones: Whether you’re taking the meat from the bones raw or cooking the bird whole or in parts, make use of the carcass. Place cooked or uncooked bones in a large stock pot. If desired, add onion, celery, carrot and/or a few bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cooking stock 6-12 hours. Keep stock refrigerated up to 3 days, freeze for longer storage.
Bag-Roasted Turkey (recipe from book Cooking Game Birds)
1 whole or cut-up turkey, cleaned and dressed (skin on or off)
4 tablespoons bacon grease, butter or olive oil
1 cup onions, chopped
2 cups celery, chopped
1 1/2 cups turkey/chicken stock
1 1/2 cups white wine
2 teaspoons black pepper
Additional bacon grease or butter for coating turkey, optional
1 large oven-safe roasting bag
Brine whole bird overnight, refrigerated, in salt water, 1 cup salt to one gallon water.
In a medium bowl, combine onion, celery and bacon grease or olive oil. Stuff turkey with mixture.
Place turkey inside roasting bag. Rub additional bacon grease or butter on the outside of the turkey if desired. Sprinkle with pepper. Pour stock and wine into bag and secure bag. Place 3-4, 2” slits in the top of the bag.
Roast in a preheated, 325º oven, 1 1/2 hours or until the breast reaches an internal temperature of 150º-155º. Remove from oven and keep oven bag closed. Let turkey sit 10-15 minutes before carving. Discard onion and celery. (Note: While food safety guidelines recommend cooking to an internal temperature of 165º for poultry, this can overcook meat. Be sure to properly handle turkey before cooking and this lower temperature should not be a problem.)