A Recipe for Corned Wild Turkey Breast

A Recipe for Corned Wild Turkey Breast

Served with a side of charred cabbage, this riff on a classic spring dish is a gobbler game-changer

This turkey isn’t technically “corned,” or preserved, but a three-​day steep in a pickling-spice-infused brine gives it the unmistakable tang of corned beef, that springtime staple. The ­ultra-​­gentle poaching technique—​cooking the meat at less than a simmer—​yields lush, juicy turkey breast, with just a blush of pink at the center. With a crispy, smoky finish, the charred vegetable amps up the springtime feel. Adapted from a recipe by the ­Sicilian-​born chef Christian Puglisi, this slightly crazy method of cookery treats cabbage like a steak, producing a seared, flavorful edge and a tender center. Carrots with parsley or roasted potatoes would nicely round out this dish.

Ingredients | Serves 4

For the Corned Turkey

  • 1 boneless, skinned wild turkey breast half (2 to 31⁄2 lb.)
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 bay leaves, torn into pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. celery seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. juniper berries, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1⁄2 cup salt
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 slice fresh ginger, about the size of a quarter

For the Vinaigrette

  • 1 Tbsp. whole-grain mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 1⁄2 small shallot, minced
  • 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄8 tsp. liquid smoke

For the Cabbage

  • 1⁄2 head of cabbage
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Steps to Make Corned Wild Turkey Breast

4CECWFRR3how7vDmez3FwZ
Seasoned Soak Brine the turkey in a bowl or sealable bag for three days. Christina Holmes
  • Make the pickling spice: ­Combine the cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaves, mustard seeds, coriander, celery, fennel, ­juniper, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and thyme in a small bowl, and use your fingers or a fork to mix the spices evenly.
  • Make the brine: Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the 1⁄2 cup salt, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and 2 tablespoons of the pickling spice. (You’ll have some left over.) Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve, then allow the mixture to cool fully. Once it’s cooled, place the turkey breast and the brine in a sealable plastic bag. (The bones can puncture a bag, so double-bagging—or keeping the bag inside a bowl—is recommended.) Brine the turkey in the refrigerator for three to four days, turning the bag daily.

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse thoroughly under cold running water, brushing off most of the spice mix. Slide the turkey into the pot, and turn the heat to its lowest setting. You want the meat to cook at less than a simmer, just a very gentle poach. Cover and check the meat with an instant-read thermometer after 45 minutes. When the thermometer reads 150 degrees at the thickest part, transfer the breast to a cutting board.

  • While the turkey is poaching, make the vinaigrette: Whisk together the mustard, 1 tablespoon of the vinegar, and the shallot in a small bowl. Whisking all the while, drizzle the olive oil into the bowl until the mixture is smooth and emulsified. Stir in the liquid smoke, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

  • Char the cabbage: Set a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add the oil, and then add the cabbage half, cut-side down. Sear the cabbage, without disturbing it, for about 13 minutes. (If you have a vent hood, turn it on; the cabbage will smoke.)

You’re looking for a profoundly blackened surface, so don’t worry about burning it. Turn the cabbage over and reduce the heat to ­medium-​low. After a few minutes, add the butter. Once it’s melted, use a spoon to baste the blackened side of the cabbage with it, tilting the pan to get as much butter as possible. Cook this way, basting every few minutes or so, for a total of 15 to 20 minutes, or until there’s little resistance when you pierce the cabbage with a knife or skewer. Turn off the heat. Baste the cabbage with any butter remaining in the pan, then sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of vinegar over the top. Salt and pepper generously.

To serve, slice the corned turkey breast and fan the slices on four plates. Divide the cabbage into four wedges, and lightly drizzle the vinaigrette over the cabbage and the turkey breast. Serves 4

Written by Jonathon Miles for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Field & Stream

How to Hunt Public Land Ducks from a Kayak

How to Hunt Public Land Ducks from a Kayak

Many public-land hunters are used to setting up well before legal light to claim their spot. I used to motor out and set my decoys in the dark, allowing plenty of time for the marsh to settle down after I cut off my two-stroke outboard. Usually, I’d see a flurry of ducks that were gone before legal shooting light. A lot of ducks roost in the marsh areas I hunt, so even with a small motor, it was impossible to get set up without spooking birds.

Then a few seasons ago, I had some motor trouble and went hunting with my kayak instead. What a difference it made. Now I consistently kill more ducks at daybreak by sneaking in undetected via paddle power at the last minute. ­Kayaks are fantastic craft for accessing the shallow waters where puddle ducks spend most of their time, and they are just about silent if you don’t lean into the paddles too hard. The low profile of the vessel disappears against the bank if you trace the edges of channels or creeks too.

Paddle in just before shooting time and quietly get set up. As the stroke of the clock signals the start of another hunting day, gently slap the water with the blade of your paddle. The sound will put ducks in the air without sending them to the next county, and they will frequently trickle right in to your decoys.

To take advantage of this technique, practice paddling silently on some scouting runs before the season starts. When you can get in position without spooking any ducks, you’ll know you have it mastered. Just be prepared to have less time to drink your coffee in the marsh.

Written by The Editors for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Field & Stream

When Is the Best Time to Hunt Pheasants?

When Is the Best Time to Hunt Pheasants?

Every pheasant hunter wants to be out chasing roosters on opening day. True, you may stumble upon some young-of-the-year birds that hold tight, flush close, and provide a quick opening day limit, but don’t count on it. Don’t put your shotgun away yet either, because the best hunting is still to come. Once summer flocks fully disperse and roosters spread out, pheasant encounters become more likely. Persistence will put more birds in the bag than opening day luck. Here are a few reasons to embrace the midseason, and a few ways to increase your midseason success.

The Corn Is Picked

The number-one reason to get back in the field a few weeks after the opener is that more crops will be harvested, forcing birds to relocate into more huntable cover. I face this dilemma nearly every year: I’m raring to go on opening day, but nearby cornfields aren’t picked yet. The dog and I end up spending the entire day walking back and forth across empty CRP fields searching for birds that aren’t there yet. It’s frustrating, but things will quickly improve once the corn is gone and pheasants have moved into their winter cover.

The Birds Settle Down

Another benefit of midseason hunting is that the birds will have settled down. After the initial opening-weekend onslaught has subsided, most birds return to their normal daily routines of feeding and loafing. Even the cagiest old rooster relaxes a bit by midseason. Now is the time to go after those early-season survivors. While a midseason hunt may mean less available roosters, it can also be more rewarding if those remaining roosters play nice.

Most crops are harvested by mid-season, and birds will be living in more huntable cover.
Field & Stream

It’s Less Crowded

The crowds will have significantly thinned a week or two after the opener, leaving the birds to the persistent few. While there may be a slight uptick in hunting pressure over the extended Thanksgiving weekend, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be especially productive. Those who hunt in mid-December between the holidays will often have the pheasant fields all to themselves. That’s the time to go.

The Weather Is Still Nice

While there may be some snow on the ground in late November and early December, by hunting the midseason you’ll avoid that really nasty late-season weather. January blizzards with lots of snow often move across prime pheasant states, frequently followed by bitter-cold temperatures. The issue isn’t just comfort, but also access. Too much snow can keep you out of the field. This happened to me a couple seasons ago just as the dog and I were hitting our late-season stride. Over a foot of snow fell and deep drifts prevented us from reaching several of our key spots, some of which we never returned to that season. Get your hunting in now during the midseason before deep snow shuts the party down.

Winchester Rooster XR 12-gauge shells.
Field & Stream

7 Midseason Pheasant Tactics

1. Call in Sick

If possible, hit public land mid-week. Even in the midseason, public areas will see more traffic on the weekends than during the week. This is also true of private land. Even though you have permission to hunt a property, there will be less competition on weekdays from other relatives or friends who may hunt there as well. Take a day, a morning, or an afternoon off work to squeeze in a mid-week hunt. Whether on public or private land, you’ll almost always have the field to yourself.

The author’s Munsterlander pointer and a mid-season rooster.
Field & Stream

2. Hit the Snooze Button

I hate getting up early, and when chasing midseason roosters there’s no reason to. Go mid-morning, after the birds have had time to feed and return to their loafing cover. I’ve had great success walking the surrounding uplands after an early morning duck hunt. Swap waders for boots and do some rooster chasing before you go home for lunch.

Afternoons are good, too. By afternoon, the air temperature will have warmed up, and the birds will have had time to feed and move around more, leaving more scent for your dog to follow. Sleep in, get some work or chores done, have lunch, and then go after those relaxed afternoon roosters as they loaf around in the grassy edges near feeding areas, such as picked corn or sorghum. Don’t be surprised if your dog goes on a long track, but pay close attention when her tail starts wagging faster than usual or it suddenly stops and she slams on point. Get ready, because the flush is imminent.

3. Tighten Chokes and Increase Payloads

To make midseason shots, tighten up your chokes, but only slightly. Where you might have used a skeet or IC choke on opening day, tighten up to a light modified or modified to gain a little distance. Birds will likely flush a little bit farther than they did on opening day, so a tighter pattern is helpful. There’s no need to get radical yet, though. Save the IM and full chokes for the late-season.

Likewise, increase your shotshell’s payload as the season progresses. If you were using a 1-⅛-ounce 12-gauge load initially, switch to a high-brass 1-¼-ounce load. If you were using a 1-¼- ounce load, move up to a 1-⅜ or a 1-½-ounce “baby magnum” load. Use a full ounce in a 20-gauge, or step up to a 3-inch shell. By increasing payload, you can continue using that more open choke if you want, since the increased pellet count of the heavier load will fill in patterns at medium, midseason yardages. That way you’re covered for shots at both close and moderate distances.

If you do hunt with a 28-gauge, use the heaviest load available.
Field & Stream

4. Lighten Your Load

Pack light to maximize mobility. Pheasant hunting isn’t usually a high-volume shooting affair, so you shouldn’t need more than, say, a dozen shells (unless you run into quail, but that’s another story). Wear a lightweight strap vest rather than a bulky full vest. It’ll be both cooler and provide more freedom of movement. Boots should also be light yet tough, like my current pair of Danner Sharptails, and uninsulated so your feet don’t overheat on those warm, midseason hikes.

A lightweight shotgun is especially important because you’ll be carrying that gun a lot more than you’ll be shooting it. The ideal weight for a gun is around 6-½ pounds for a 12-gauge, 5-½ pounds for a 20-gauge. You may want to downsize even further to a 28-gauge, since both gun and ammo will be lighter. That means you can pack more shells, but be sure to use the heaviest 28-gauge load you can find.

Whatever you do, don’t scrimp on the water, because your dog will still need frequent water breaks at this time of year, unless there’s a skiff of snow on the ground or a convenient pond or stream nearby. Pack enough water for both you and the dog, but remember, the dog drinks first. A dog trained to drink out of a squeeze bottle negates the need for a collapsible bowl, further lightening your load.

5. Get Away from the Road

Packing light will allow you to walk further, hunt longer, and explore the back-end of properties where mature roosters often like to hide out. Everyone, myself included, prefers to hunt near the truck or close to the parking lot, but more often than not, you’ll need to do some serious walking to find pheasants, especially on public land. If a patch of cover is difficult for you to reach, it was probably too difficult for other hunters to reach as well. That’s where you need to go. You’ll kill more roosters on the far side of almost any given property than you will within sight of the truck. As an added bonus, you’ll get in some cardio work to help wear off all that holiday feasting.

Hunt solo and practice quiet commands with your dog so you can sneak up on birds.
Field & Stream

6. Quiet Down

Most importantly, be quiet. Of course, don’t slam truck doors or shotgun actions shut, but especially, don’t talk. The number one thing that alerts pheasants to your presence is your mouth. Don’t converse with your hunting partner, or better yet, go alone. Don’t yell at your dog, unless it’s in imminent danger. Instead, use hand signals or the tone button on his e-collar to give him directions or corrections. Instead of blowing a loud coach’s whistle, softly whistle with your mouth. Even your brush pants or chaps can make noise as you bust through tall grass or cattails, so be mindful of what you wear. A slight breeze can help mask some noises, but as a rule, don’t talk, yell, or make any other unnecessary sounds. If you do, you’ll likely be following running roosters that flush wild most of the day.

7. Don’t Waste Time

Like any type of hunting, midseason pheasant hunting success can’t be achieved unless you just get out there and do it. You’ll never get anything sitting at home. Less dedicated hunters will be tempted to quit after their initial opening weekend attempt, especially if they’re unsuccessful. However, the birds are still out there for those willing to put in the time and effort it takes to find them. But don’t dawdle. The midseason quickly turns into the late-season with its short days, wary birds, and nasty weather. midseason success hinges not only on persistence, but also promptness.

Written by Jarrod Spilger for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Field & Stream

How to Take Your Father Turkey Hunting

How to Take Your Father Turkey Hunting

There’s an old split-rail fence at Mom and Dad’s place that separates the lawn from the horse pasture. I like to lean against it just before dark and owl hoot. Across the pasture, and beyond the creek, is an oak hillside, and in the spring a gobbler roosts there as many nights as not. The acoustics must be perfect because if I hoot from that fence and he’s there, he’ll answer. Tonight, he’s there.

I expected as much because Dad had seen him strutting in the pasture just the day before. He’d even set up on him, but although the bird gobbled, he never did come in. I was glad to hear that Dad had given it a try, though, because the fire he once had for turkey hunting has faded. There’s nothing I’d like more than to help Dad shoot this bird in the morning.

When I walk back into the cabin with the good news, Dad is watching CNN at two clicks shy of full volume, the television set buzzing like a cheap sound system. He turns it down and asks, “Hear him?”

“Yep,” I say. “He’s roosted right over the creek. But we’re going to have to set up early.” As I emphasize that last word, Dad’s eyes narrow the way they always do when I hint at taking the lead on, well, anything.

“How early?”

Getting a Start

Twenty-four years ago, I watched my first gobbler walk into gun range. I was sitting between Dad’s knees, cradling a 20-gauge as the turkey gobbled over and again, first on the limb, then on the ground. Dad whispered to me, “I’ll tap your neck when he’s close enough.”

He often used friction calls, but Dad was talented enough with his natural voice to win a few local calling contests. He yelped softly, and the longbeard popped into view 30 yards away. The tap on my neck, and the roar of the shotgun, and the gobbler winging out of sight seemed to happen all in same moment. I fought back tears but couldn’t hold them all. Dad just smiled and said, “Do you want to quit?”

“No,” I said.

“Good.”

That one morning shaped my whole life, to this very moment. How do you repay something like that?

Too Late

I know we need to get up at 3:45, but I also know that if I suggest that, I’ll have to argue with Dad, and I’m not up for it. As he’s gotten older, he likes to sleep in. “Four-thirty,” I tell him. “But we’ve got to go as soon as we get up.”

At 4:50, I’m pacing the cabin while Dad fusses with contact lenses and nurses a cup of black coffee. I step onto the porch and strain my eyes at the sky, as if staring at the stars will keep them out a little longer. When I go back in, Dad’s wearing camo pants but fishing around in the hunting closet. “Have you got some extra shells?” he asks.

“I’ve got you covered there,” I say. “TSS No. 9s.”

“Nines?” he says. “I like 4s.”

“Dad, these are…” I stop myself. “I have some lead 4s too.”

He walks back over to his coffee, and I step back out onto the porch, where I hear the first notes of the dawn chorus. “Dad, we need to get going!” I say, slinging a bag of decoys over my shoulder.

“OK!” he says, and splashes his coffee into the sink.

We cross the fence, and I can already see the maples on the edge of the creek, where we’d talked about setting up. It’s shooting light by the time we sit down. Two distant birds sound off, but all around us, it’s silence.

“Think we scared him?” Dad whispers.

“Yes,” I answer. “He watched us walk across that pasture and set those ­decoys, plain as day.”

“I don’t think so,” he says.

I shrug. The gobbles from the distant birds are faint but steady. Suddenly I see Dad twist to his right and shoulder his 870. My heart jumps. I’m thinking that the roosted tom has walked in silently. Instead, I see the wake of a beaver swimming down the creek. We’ve lost a few acres of timber due to flooding out here, and I know what’s coming. Dad hits the beaver in the head with the entire payload of a $10 TSS shell, which I’d handed to him in the dark. Geese flush off the creek, and the horses stampede from the pasture as the blast reverberates through the timber. Dad racks the slide, and regards the smoking hull with a smile.

“Killed that son of a bitch dead,” he says. “You think we ought to move?”

New Spot

We sneak to the other end of the farm, where the distant birds have since gone silent. Setting up on the side of a ridge, with our backs to a copse of hickory saplings, I stake the decoys 20 yards ahead on the right, to Dad’s side. I sit on his left and cutt hard on a mouth call, and any expectations of relaxing in the sun vanish when a gobbler with marbles in his throat fires off 100 yards away. Dad yanks his shotgun to his knee.

I call again, and the bird cuts me off with another deep gobble. He’s coming fast. For five minutes, it’s back and forth—call and gobble—and I know we’re about to see him. I’m watching the rise just beyond the decoys, expecting the tom to materialize at any second. But then, nothing. I yelp, but there’s no response. No drumming, no walking in the leaves. Fifteen minutes pass, and I think this turkey too has busted us.

Then Dad yelps with his voice. Damn, we sound desperate, I think to myself—but the turkey roars back, right on top of us, and I hear drumming. I look all around the decoys, but he’s not there. Cocking my eyes to the left—on my side—I can see the gobbler standing in full strut and plain view, about 30 yards away. Dad has no shot with me between him and the bird.

“Kill him,” he says. I don’t move. “He’s going to get away if you don’t!”

The bird spins his fan to me and drums, and I snap my gun to my shoulder. Dad yelps again, and the turkey deflates, craning his neck. At the shot, the bird flops down the hill, coming to rest just feet from our decoys. When I stand up, I’m shaking my head in disgust.

“What’s the matter with you?” Dad asks.

“I really wanted you to shoot that bird,” I say.

“Hell, I’ve been calling them in for you to shoot for 25 years,” he says. “I don’t know why that should change now. Let’s go eat breakfast.”

Mom takes our picture with the turkey, next to the split-rail fence. It might not be the exact hunt I was envisioning, but I think in Dad’s mind, it played out perfectly.

Written by Will Brantley for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Field & Stream

The Science Behind Hot Streaks and Slumps in the Pheasant Field

The Science Behind Hot Streaks and Slumps in the Pheasant Field

Because confidence gets shooters into the zone—and the zone is a real place.

My cousin sent me a note the other day saying he had gone nine for nine so far during pheasant season, and he asked for advice and sympathy in advance of the inevitable slump. I congratulated him on his hot streak and told him not to worry about it when he did finally miss. The important thing is not to get too high about hitting or too low about missing but to take it in all stride.

Shortly thereafter, I learned that the “hot hand fallacy” has finally been debunked. It has always been an article of faith in basketball that you feed the hot shooter. In the ’80s, three behavioral economists conducted a study of the “hot hand” theory of shooting and hitting streaks, based on the hits and misses of the 1980-81 Philadelphia 76ers over 48 games. According to their analysis, there were no streaks that couldn’t explained by the laws of probability. Whether you made or missed a shot had nothing to do with what happened on previous shots. There were no hot hands, according to their data. The hot hand was just one more example of people seeing patterns in randomness. In practical terms, it meant there was no reason to give the ball to the hot shooter, because he wasn’t truly hot. Coaches and athletes protested, but the hot hand fallacy gained wide acceptance and has been applied to many endeavors beyond hoops.

In a recent study, Professor of Decision Sciences Joshua Miller and economist Adam Sanjuro, recrunched the statistics and found that the hot hand does exist. Making a shot increases the probability of making the next. They found the players on the 1980-81 Sixers actually had an 11 percent greater chance of making the next shot (and they think it may be even higher) when they were on a hot streak. That makes a lot more sense. Your confidence grows when you see the ball drop through the basket—or watch birds fall from the sky. Confidence gets shooters into the zone, and the zone is a real place.

It’s about time. The hot hand fallacy never made sense to me, because mental state has so much to do with hitting and missing. In fact, I’d like to see Miller and Sanjuro apply their method to missing. Just as hot streaks are real, so are slumps. If you let it, missing feeds on itself and can become a negative feedback loop that begets more missing. It’s been a few years since it’s happened to me in the field, as I’ve gotten better at letting go of misses, but I remember an afternoon field hunt in Alberta years ago when I was in a bad mood and let myself sink into a funk. The more I missed, the more upset I got, the more upset I got, the more I continued to miss. The downward spiral into futility and despair lasted into the next day’s hunt. I didn’t come out of it until I got back home.

Enjoy the hits, learn from the misses and put them behind you. That’s the way to get hot, and the way to keep from going cold.

Written by Phil Bourjaily for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Field & Stream