First time turkey hunters are often intimidated when it comes time to clean the the first turkey they shoot. Wild Turkey just like a chicken, pheasant or duck are most often cleaned using one of two basic approaches:
Plucking A Wild Turkey- If you want to help keep the moisture in the turkey while cooking it whole, then you should pluck the bird. Remove feathers from the turkey just as you would pluck a chicken. This method does take more time than skinning and it is messy. Grasp the feathers as close to the skin as possbile and pull out small amounts of feathers at a time.
Skinning A Wild Turkey- Skinning your turkey harvest can be a faster and cleaner way to go, but the down side to this approach is that you will need to wrap the bird in foil or place in a baking bag to cook it whole. Here are some tips to make skinning your wild turkey easier:
1. Hang The turkey Up- Hang the turkey by both feet at chest level. The turkey should hang so the feet are 12 to 18 inches apart.
2. Save The Turkey Beard- If you want to save the beard, remove it now. Grasp the beard as close to the body as possible, give it a half-twist, then sharply pull it away from the breast. The beard will pull away with a little tissue on it.
3. Remove The Turkey's Fan- Now remove the fan by cutting the skin away from the tail.
4. Cut The Wings- Cut off the wings at the elbow or second joint.
5. Skin Tail First- Grasp the skin at the tail and begin pulling it down. Work the skin off around the wings and pull it down to the neck.
6. Cut off the neck- Cut off the neck and the skin. The feathers and head will come off in one piece.
7. Remove the guts- Open the body cavity and remove the entrails, if you have not already done so in the field. Be sure to remove all lung material from the backbone, as it tends to spoil quickly.
8. Remove the legs- Cut off the legs at the knee or sec-ond joint. If you don't want to cook or freeze a whole turkey, consider cutting it up into smaller portions. Remove the breast and other meat from the carcass and cut off the legs and wings. Package in appropriate servings for cooking. The turkey is ready for cooking or freezing. Double-bag the turkey in plastic freezer bags and seal as airtight as possible to prevent freezer burn.