How to Field Dress a Wild Turkey

Learn how to field dress a wild turkey with tips from the National Wild Turkey Federation.
How to Field Dress a Wild Turkey

What do deer hunters do in the spring? Many of them hit the turkey woods! That's what we did recently along the Mississippi River in Northern Illinois. A three-day hunt at Shuhart Creek Whitetails with Hunter’s Specialties proved to be a challenging and rewarding adventure.

Four hunters scoured the surrounding 2,500 acres looking to fill the eight tags in their pockets. In the end, three tags were filled and fresh wild turkey breast was on the menu. Josh Honeycutt, from the National Wild Turkey Federation, was the first to harvest a bird.

If you’re wondering how, or have never seen a Tom go field-to-table, watch Josh field dress a wild turkey.

  • Start by finding the breast bone. Some people think you need to pluck the feathers, but you don't have to. It's an unnecessary step.
  • Make an incision with your knife right along the breast bone to open up the skin. Once you have that started, cut down to the base of the tail feathers. Open the turkey up like a zipper.
  • Then, cut all the way up. Be very careful between breast bone and the beard, as you don't want to hit any organs. Stay away from the stomach and innards.
  • Once you get the turkey opened up, follow the outer crease, and keep laying open up the skin with your knife. It helps if you pull away the skin with your other hand, so you can see where to put the knife blade. Get everything exposed.
  • Once you've got the bird opened up, start on one side at the breast bone and insert the knife blade angled in towards the bone. It keeps you from cutting into the meat. You'll keep the same cutting away moving forward. Follow the bone as your guide.
  • Keep following the bone, going slow. Once you have the turkey opened up, you'll see the bottom filet (similar to a deer tenderloin), and the top turkey breast. Some people like to take them out in one piece. Here, we'll take them out in two pieces--the bottom filet and then the top main breast. The bottom filet comes out naturally first, as it's underneath the main turkey breast that you've peeled back. Take it out, and put in a freezer bag.
  • Make sure you've got a few freezer bags to put your meat inside.
  • Continue to cut out the main breast. If the feathers get in the way, you can cut them out to make it easier. Follow the line between the breast and the organs. Be very careful and slow near the innards. The main turkey breast will come out in one big piece.
  • You'll want to trim the fat, pick off all the  feathers, and any excess once you get near a sink with running water. Trim it up good, put it in your freezer bags, and then put it on ice. You're ready to have a great turkey dinner!


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