Your hunt is over and this time you, instead of that ole gobbler, came out on top. You admired the turkey, taken some pictures... now the fun is over and the work begins. What you do next will determine if you have as good an experience on the plate as you just had in the woods.
Cleaning your turkey is fairly simple and there is more than one way to skin a ca.. I mean pluck a turkey! Follow these steps and the cleaning should be relatively quick and easy.
In hot weather hunting conditions, field dressing your bird is a good idea before you clean it for the table. If you decide to field dress your bird, start by placing the turkey on its back. Find the bottom of the breast plate and insert your knife, making a cut to the anus. Remove the entrails from this opening and then reach into the cavity to sever the windpipe, heart and lungs. Cool the cavity by placing ice inside the chest.
Breasting It Out
First if you aren't going to cook your bird whole like a traditional thanksgiving turkey then start by laying the turkey on it's back. Remove just enough breast feathers so as to expose the skin. There is no need to go crazy with the plucking and bare half the bird.
Now remove the breast by pulling or cutting the skin back from the breast. Just the skin!!! Make cuts along each side of the breastbone as well as on the inside of both wings.
Next make an cut down each side of the breastbone. Work from the rear of the breast forward, filleting off the breast by pulling the filet and using the knife as needed. Repeat this for the other side of the breast. Take your time or you can really butcher, in the bad sense of the word, the bird.
Now that the breast have been removed make a cut through the thigh muscle where it attaches to the back. Then grab the thigh or leg and pull up until you can feel the joint pop. Don't be bashful give it a good forceful pull. Keep cutting through the thigh until it comes free from the turkey's body.
Plucking, Not Skinning
This way is considered the more traditional way of cleaning a wild turkey, plucking is a perfect way to prepare your bird to be roasted, smoked or whole deep-fried. Before you remove the entrails or field dress the turkey pluck the turkey's feathers to help keep the moisture in the turkey while cooking it whole. Remove the feathers after dipping the bird in hot water. The hot water (not boiling) helps make the plucking easier. Plucking does take a bit of effort but the turkey will come out much better than if you simply skinned the bird.
Skinning For the Grill
Many of today's turkey hunters prefer skinning to plucking. Skinning a turkey allows you to cook the bird by frying or grilling the pieces of meat. You can skin and fillet the turkey breasts, and slice as much meat from the legs and wings as necessary. Make a cut just along one side of the breastbone. Then, it's just a matter of working the skin off the breast halves, down the back and over each of the legs. In some states it's illegal to only fillet the breast out, leaving the rest of the carcass behind. Always check your state's hunt regulations, and make sure your turkey is properly tagged for transportation.