Turkey season is a special time of year. For many of us, it marks a time to reconnect with nature after a long winter. The forests sprout to life and the thunderous gobbles fill the morning air. We speak, but in a different language… and they answer in the only one they know. We hope they commit, but there’s no telling what’s on their mind. We strategize, change tactics, employ a new game plan and hope they want to play this time. It didn’t take long, and one did. Every gobble got closer. Then he crested the hill in full strut. It was a majestic sight as the eastern sun had backlit his tail fan.
Thomas’s bird gave us a show and had the nerves a flowing.
Our hearts started to race as he beelined towards the decoys. I was on the left, Thomas on the right. 100 yards, 70 yards, 50, yards, 20 yards. The painted head was on full display. BANG! A clean miss, as the thick brush had gotten in the way of his first shot. I reached for my gun, but no sooner, Thomas had regrouped and flopped him with his second shot. He had harvested a beautiful Eastern tom not thirty minutes into the season. With one tag filled, it was time to go for a double.
A new group of birds meant a new game plan. They weren’t taking to our first setup, so we decided to get aggressive. In retrospect, a few more minutes of patience may have yielded similar results to Thomas’ hunt. Oh, well…that’s half the fun of turkey hunting. It was run and gun time. A style you can’t get away with hunting for deer. We booked it across an open hay field, peaked over the hill, and to our surprise, two strutters had taken a liking to the tiny clover food plot. Back across the field we went. Our plan was to loop around and flank them from another trail on the opposite side of the bottom. Twenty minutes of belly crawling, and we were face to face with the two strutting toms. “Ready?” I asked, as Thomas was now running the camera behind me. “Yup!” We rose out of the green juniper from to a standing position. They hadn’t made us out! I steadied the bead on the head on the right and waited for them to separate. BANG!……BANG! The tough bird had rolled after the first shot, but managed to get up and run. The second shot rang true. We were tagged out three hours after our season opened.
Thomas (left) and I with our birds on a morning to remember.
After some celebration and a few photos, we cleaned up the birds, readied the feathers for the wall, and wild meat for the dehydrator. Making turkey jerky is one of our favorite ways to Celebrate The Hunt after a successful turkey season. We chose to go with two flavors: A Cajun Styled Turkey Jerky and a Honey Peppered Turkey Jerky. And here’s how we made it…
How to Make Turkey Jerky Using a Dehydrator
The prep steps are all the same whether you are using a dehydrator, smoker, or oven to make your turkey jerky.
Freeze It…Kind Of
I find it much easier to slice the wild breast meat thin when the meat is semi-frozen and stiff so it doesn’t squish out under your knife. Using a sharp fillet knife, cut strips no wider than ¼ inch. You can choose how tough or chewy you prefer it by the direction you slice the breast meat. I prefer it to be somewhat chewy, but not to a point where I have to rip and tear and pull a neck muscle. Therefore, I cut it on a diagonal. Cutting it across the grain will give you a more tender jerky, whereas, cutting it with the grain will leave you with a tougher jerky. Think of the muscle fibers like wood grains – it’s easier to cut (chew) across the grain compared to going with the grain.
It’s much easier to get uniform thin slices when the meat is partially frozen.
Once you’ve got it sliced, it’s time to choose the marinade or jerky flavor you desire. The options are really endless. We chose to do two different flavors: a Cajun Style, and a Honey Pepper Style. Both were great, but very different. The Cajun style was a more traditional turkey jerky flavor with a little kick and taste of black pepper (We cracked black pepper over the Cajun slices on the dehydrator because we love black pepper). The black pepper also enhanced the flavor and texture as soon as it hit your mouth. For the honey one, you got exactly that . . . a sweet taste at first, followed by a faint taste of cayenne. Like I said, both had very different flavor, but were great in their own right. Enough about that, here are the ingredients we used to make both marinades.
Prepare the Jerky Marinades
Not much to it. Simply toss the ingredients in a bowl, mix, and then dump over the cut strips of wild turkey breasts. Cover and let marinate for 1-3 days in the refrigerator. We chose to use one turkey and save the other for a later date. We used one breast for each batch, which gave us plenty to snack on.
Cajun Turkey Jerky
- 2 lbs. of turkey breast
- 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/8 cup teriyaki sauce
- 1.5 cups water
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp powdered Cajun seasoning
- 1 tbsp liquid smoke
The sliced wild turkey strips take a nice 3-day bath in the Cajun turkey jerky marinade.
Honey Peppered Jerky Ingredients
- 2 pounds of turkey breasts
- 1/2 cup of honey
- 1/2 cup of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper
- 4 tablespoon of lemon juice
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1 pinch of pepper and salt
And a shot of the honey pepper turkey jerky marinade.
Dehydrating Turkey into Jerky
This was my first time using a dehydrator…I have no idea what took me so long! For the price (right around $45 for Presto one we used) nothing is easier to use. Three racks were filled with the Cajun turkey jerky, and the other three with the honey peppered jerky. Set on high (160°F) for 6 hours and Whamo! Great tasting turkey jerky! We had it set up in the Legendary Whitetails office kitchen and the smells were mouth-watering all afternoon. We were glad it ended up tasting as good as it smelled. No complaints here, other than the one BB we missed….whoops!
Lining the dehydrator racks with the turkey jerky strips after 3 days of marinating.
Cover and dehydrate for the next 6 hours. Check for the desired doneness along the way.
If you could only smell it!
A look at the honey peppered wild turkey jerky. A sweet start with a spicy finish.
A look at the Cajun turkey jerky with a coat of freshly ground black pepper. Damn good!