Get your own bird


True, Whole Foods groceries does have fresh fruits and bread, and your family cooks a feast from the wrapped and pre-stuffed turkeys from HEB, but the surest, direct-from-the-source-fresh main food for Thanksgiving is acquired by hunting your own turkey. This is not a call to all the gung-ho families to grab a shotgun and storm the woods; the turkey hunt is an event, something to make the holiday authentic and natural.

Texas’ Rio Grande turkey is hunted with bow or shotgun and camouflage (turkeys have good eyes). Birds like to hang around in wooded areas (especially hardwood trees) surrounded by fields during the day. Turkeys don’t plow toward the hunter at the slightest turkey call, scouting out the area and tracking a group of turkeys will make the hunt more interesting and productive. Of course, there is still the matter of taking the turkey from the woods to the table; field dressing wild turkeys is not too difficult or intensive, but the bird will need to stay cold on its way home – a nice ice chest with lots of ice accomplishes the job.

Turkeys may be hunted on certain public lands, or a privately owned ranch can lease hunting time out to those willing to pay. To hunt on public lands, the state requires the $48 public hunting permit (under 17 years old, it’s free). While hunting on public land is relatively cheap, there will be many other hunters there, and turkeys may be harder to come by.

To improve chances of netting more than one bird for the Thanksgiving table (and perhaps some friends’ tables), a three-day guide service on hunting ranches can net several turkeys. Prime hunting areas are over two hours away from Houston in central Texas and along the southern coast near Corpus Christi. Typically, three-day guides cost over $1000, definitely not a cost-efficient way of securing your main dinner item compared to the typical grocery store bird. However, the cost can include amenities and lodging at a cabin on property.

Truly fresh turkey is typically more flavorful and moist, contains no chemical enhancements or the soupy stuff markets inject into the chicken, and has no lengthy defrosting process like the frozen supermarket ones. As Thanksgiving nears, the best turkeys will already be whisked away by the prudent, but hunting your own turkey will guarantee a choice (of course, that’s assuming nature doesn’t hate the hunter and present the weakest ones for the hunt) and about as fresh and natural as a Thanksgiving turkey can get.