The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 20, 2013

Dablemont: How to clean a turkey without all the mess

By Larry Dablemont
Special to The Globe

— Last week I told my brother-in-law that I was almost out of gas.

I said if he would follow me for a ways he could give me a ride to town when I did run out, but he said he had read in last week’s column how much I enjoyed walking and therefore I could just walk to town!

I should point out I love walking in the woods, but I hate walking on pavement!

It dawned on me then that there are so many disabled hunters and outdoorsmen, and those who physically are limited in how far they can walk, who use the ATVs I so often ridicule in this column. I certainly find no fault in those who are handicapped in some way enjoying the outdoors with those off-road vehicles. I think it is wonderful that they can do that, unless it is a public area where those are prohibited.

What I protest is seeing someone who is young and healthy riding one of those ATVs just because they are too lazy, or often just too fat, to walk a mile or so. And like I said, those folks are usually more shooters than hunters. We have just entered a time when those who just want to kill something want to do it as easily and quickly as possible, and ATVs are their most important tool. But those folks don’t realize how healthy it can be to just walk, and how much you can become aware of in the woods by moving quietly and slowly on your feet.

Thankfully that day last week I didn’t run out of gas. My brother-in-law wouldn’t have really made me walk, but he would have probably charged me $2 or $3 for the ride. And while I am not lazy, I am indeed frugal!

It is difficult to tell someone how to clean game in print, but there are so many turkey hunters who have a hard time cleaning a gobbler that I am going to try. No one likes to have to get that gelatinous, watery substance off the neck and breast area of an old tom. But if you will try this, you will find it much easier to clean your gobbler.

First, hang him from a limb by one leg or both legs so that his body is right about eye-level, and skin him with a sharp knife so that the breast, back and both legs are bare. Then at the very lower tip of the breast, use a small, but sharp blade to cut through the thin diaphragm next to the breast all the way over to the backbone. Then do the same thing on the other side. Be careful not to cut into the entrails, just cut that thin connection of tissue at the lower base of the breast, which will be the highest point if you have the turkey hanging by its legs.

Then take a very sharp heavier blade and cut down both sides of the backbone, cutting through the ribs. It takes some effort. Cut all the way down to the point where the breast ends, to where the neck begins. Then the breast and wings will be completely free, and you can pull them away from the rest of the carcass. Drop the breast in a big tub of cold water, and it is likely that you’ll have to pull out some of the lungs and kidneys from the inside, but all the rest of the entrails and back, neck and head will remain hanging. Then use a sharp knife to cut all the legs and loins free. If you can’t just twist the leg joint loose and cut it off, use a small hacksaw or something like it.

When you have cut the legs free, the rest of the carcass, with all the blood and entrails and gelatinous breast material, will fall to the ground or into a waiting barrel. When I clean turkeys this way, I honestly hardly get my hands bloody.

I urge you to not throw away those legs and loins. They are absolutely delicious when you know how to prepare them, and if you throw them away, you are discarding about one third of the meat. Personally, I feel that anyone who would waste any part of one of God’s creatures which men hunt to eat, is a very uncaring person who may not deserve to have the privilege.

Hunters do it because a turkey’s leg, like a pheasant’s leg, is full of tendons and ligaments. If you just put the legs in a big pot or pan and boil them for about an hour or until the meat comes away from the ligaments and tendons. Then you will have a lot of dark meat ready to use in soups or stews or with noodles, with casseroles, etc.

If you are too lazy to do such a thing, you should get married immediately and have your wife do it. Or if you have a girlfriend, tell her that you would never consider marrying a girl who could not or would not boil the meat off your turkey legs. Any girl who wants an outdoorsman for a husband, (and actually there are few ladies who do prefer an outdoorsman if they can get one) will be tickled to show you how good she can do at such things.

Anyhow, don’t throw away that meat. I would take all the turkey legs I could get, and then give the meat to those who are needy. I feel strongly about this. Spread the word, and use that dark meat on the legs of turkeys, just as you use the breast.

If you do, you have to have a good cook who knows how to do that kind of thing. The meat needs to be seasoned and salted and used with various recipes to be good. You can’t just throw chunks of it in with scrambled eggs and fry it! I don’t think! Or maybe you can.  Anyway, get your own girlfriend to fix you up a turkey leg dish and try it and then if you are disappointed call me and look for a new girlfriend.

Not too long ago I gave one of my famous homemade, handmade turkey calls to a guy who stepped on it in the excitement of killing his first gobbler. He came back wanting another one, and I gave him one, and he hasn’t killed another turkey since.

It is unusual for any hunter to use one of my turkey calls and not kill another turkey in a hurry so I got to asking him some questions, and sure enough, he had thrown away his turkey legs. I think it is often the case that the Creator will not endow someone with good hunting who is wasteful, and I certainly would not give away one of my super-duper can’t-miss handmade calls to anyone who would throw away a turkey leg. Since he has promised never to do it again, I expect him to have good luck this year.

I know many of you readers listen to my outdoorsman’s radio program on Sunday mornings, and I want you to pay special attention on April 28 when my daughter, Dr. Lori Dablemont Cohen, will join me to talk about tick-bite diseases such as spotted fever and lime disease. Listeners can call in to ask her questions, and she will also discuss the “mad deer” malady known as chronic wasting disease.

That will be from 8:06 to 9 a.m. April 28, on KWTO (560 AM) in Springfield.