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OPINION | ARKANSAS SPORTSMAN: New recipe brings out the best in wild turkey

by Bryan Hendricks | May 9, 2021 at 2:52 a.m.

Thursday's supper was my best attempt at preparing wild turkey yet.

Wild turkey is challenging because it is entirely lean and very easy to overcook to toughness. However, I have devised a grilling method that cooks turkey breasts evenly and completely while infusing moisture.

First, I made a boat from aluminum foil, with all of the edges upturned to make a wall about 1-inch high. The boat covered about three-fourths of the grill's top rack.

I placed both breasts, tenders and de-boned thighs side by side from one end of the boat to the other.

I intended to douse the meat with olive oil, but Miss Laura -- Southern to the core -- insisted that I use bacon grease.

"This will be better," she assured.

"But wouldn't olive oil be better for our health?" I asked.

"For no more than you'll use, it'll be fine," she said.

I spooned several spoons full of bacon grease into the boat and liberally sprinkled Weber Mediterranean Herb seasoning on one side of the meat. I also squeezed the juice and pulp from a lemon over the array. I lit three burners on low setting and closed the lid.

Before long, the grease sizzled and created a reservoir that would prevent the meat from burning and sticking to the foil the way my last attempt did. On the first turn, I liberally sprinkled the other sides of the meat with garlic powder.

I turned the meat frequently, allowing it to baste thoroughly and consistently. I also added three ears of corn on the cob.

With Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet and Spicy barbecue sauce, it was delicious, and all of the Hendricks lasses devoured it with great conviction.

In retrospect, I would use a different seasoning. Mediterranean Herb was close, but not quite perfect. A lemon pepper covering would be perfect. Cavender's or Tony Chachere's would also be very good.

Top turkey gear

For my sit-and-wait style of turkey hunting, there are a few items that I consider essential.

First, I need to be able to sit comfortably for hours on end, and that requires a comfortable chair. Since 2011, I have used the Browning Woodland Hunting Chair. Its aluminum frame folds flat, and its mesh back support prevents your back from sweating. It's heavy and bulky and not pleasant to carry long distances, but believe me, it is worth the trouble. The Browning Strutter is a more modern version and with more mesh, it might even be better.

I firmly believe that nonreflective sunglasses are essential to turkey hunting success, and also to deer hunting success when deer are close. Eye contact is a primary alarm trigger among wildlife. If an animal can't see your eyes, even a wild turkey eight steps away will relax.

Oakley is my brand. Its frames fit my face, and their sleek, form-fitting design makes them comfortable to wear under facemasks. I like them so much that I even use clear prescription lenses for normal, everyday use. Oakley lenses are interchangeable, so you can snap different lenses into the same frame, as long as the lens design is compatible with that frame.

Thursday's hunt was the ultimate test. I usually hunt with bronze shades and camo frames. On Thursday, I used persimmon-colored lenses, which really brighten dim woods. However, those lenses are in white frames, which has the effect of wearing a Halloween mask. It didn't occur to me to switch the lenses to the camo frames until I was already at my hunting spot. It didn't matter. At eight paces, the shades did not alert a hen turkey in the least.

I hunted a lot this season, often in swampy, muddy conditions where briars were omnipresent. For footwear, I couldn't have done better than the Irish Setter VaprTrek Snake boot. The knee-high boots kept my feet dry, and the armorlike fabric protected briars from shredding skin and trousers. Their Mossy Oak Obsession camouflage is the same pattern as my clothing, so there was no pattern break between boots, trousers and shirt. I look forward to wearing them for many more seasons to come.

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