Why is turkey a staple of Thanksgiving dinner?

Nebraska’s fall turkey season is still on and runs until Jan. 31, 2020. Fall flocks are bunching up, which make tracking and finding them easier. There is still plenty of time to get in a winter turkey hunt. Get out and enjoy what Nature has to offer.

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. Did you have turkey?

Do you know why turkey is the traditional main course, and why in the history of America turkey hunting has been a fall activity?

It all relates back to the pilgrims and the first settlers of this great nation. Wild turkeys were a common game animal to these pioneers.

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. The Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event. While no written evidence exists that turkey was part of the initial Thanksgiving meal, logic dictates that a plentiful, regular and valued food source was probably one of the things the hunters went after.

In short, that is why turkey at Thanksgiving is a tradition, a tradition started by the Pilgrims. Americans have been hunting turkeys in the fall ever since. Spring turkey hunting wasn’t even legal until the 1950s. Spring hunting became “the thing” with turkey hunt and the fall hunting season almost faded into history.

Fall turkey hunting has been gaining popularity as turkey populations grow. Most states have fall seasons to expand hunting opportunities for hunters. Nebraska’s fall season is open now and runs until Jan. 31, 2020.

Fall turkey hunting offers some advantages and opportunities that make it a great time to get into the sport of turkey hunting. First, most states that offer a season allow both sexes to be taken in the fall, and that greatly improves your chances of success.

Second, there are more turkeys in the fall than any other time of the year. This means your chances of getting a bird are the best it’s going to get. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission surveys indicate that turkey populations may be up more than 400 percent over the last couple of decades. There are more turkeys now in Nebraska than there ever have been.

Third, it is a great time to introduce new hunters to the sport. Fall is the best chance a new hunter has for success, and you want them to be successful!

Turkey recipes

Since a lot of folks have their fall turkey by now, or have turkey leftover from their Thanksgiving dinner, I thought it would be a good time to pass a couple of my recipes I’ve developed along to you. These recipes are created with my cooking philosophy: “Quick, Simple, Easy and Good.” Here goes:

Grilled Turkey Breasts

This is a very easy recipe to prepare at home or in the field. The finished meat has a sweet and spicy taste to it. Give it a try

2-4 turkey breasts (boneless, filleted from the bird)

½ cup of Heinz 57 Sauce

½ cup of honey

Mix the 57 Sauce and honey together. Clean and prepare the breast fillets for cooking (be sure to remove all shot).

Place on the grill over medium heat (be careful not to overcook). Grill on each side for one minute to seal the fillets. Brush on the sauce mixture. Cook for an additional minute, flip breast and brush on more sauce mixture.

Repeat this process a couple of times until you have a thick layer of the sauce on the meat.

Wild turkey salad

It doesn’t matter what size of turkey you take this fall, hen, jake or tom, this recipe will make it taste great.

1 wild turkey

1 bottle of Miracle Whip dressing

1 small bottle (about 12 ounces) of sweet pickle relish

1 small bottle of yellow mustard

Remove all the meat from the turkey carcass. Slice, dice, chop the turkey into ¼-inch pieces or less

For every pound of turkey meat, mix in one cup of Miracle Whip and one cup of relish. For every two pounds of turkey meat, mix in one cup of mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.

Serve it on bread for a quick on-the-go sandwich or crackers for a great tasting snack.

Happy holidays.

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