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Here’s an Easy Guide to Planning Your Wild Game Thanksgiving Now

wild game thanksgiving
Troy Rodakowski

Impress your Thanksgiving guests with the finest wild dining.


I like to start off with some good appetizers. What meal isn’t complete without them? This year I will be making duck poppers. Marinated duck breast with jalapeno cream cheese wrapped in bacon. However, you can create all kinds of goodies with what you have available. Smoked salmon and crackers topped with sweet and spicy jellies are also a big hit at our home. Of course, salami, pepperoni, smoked jerky and sausages make for great samplers preceding your holiday meal. Oh, and don’t forget those wild mushrooms that make for some excellent additions when sauteed or slow roasted in butter, garlic and other herbs.

Fungus is a great accompanying side to any holiday meal.
Fungus is a great accompanying side to any holiday meal.
Preparing your wild turkey isn't that tough.
Preparing your wild turkey really isn’t that difficult.

Your Wild Main Course

In my opinion, wild turkey has got a very bad rap over the years and I’m here to clear that all up right now. No folks, its not all dark meat and not dry as shoe leather. The meat is very similar to the butterball at the supermarket but leaner and not chalk full of all those fun chemicals that make us sleepy Yes, you can make it tough if you choose to prepare it wrong or taste funny if you don’t season or marinade it properly. The key ingredient to success with your turkey is to preserve moisture and enhance flavor. Injected marinades, liquid smoke and rubs are very popular. I like to use an orange marmalade marinade with a zesty Italian seasoning prior to crock potting my meat. Of course, depending upon the method of preparation you should treat your meat accordingly.

Popularity Contest

The most popular method, baking can be done with at lower heat and long cook times to preserve the moisture. When deep frying make sure not to over cook. The typical deep fryer will deceive you with most cook times based on turkey with extra additives not found in the wild protein. In my opinion the deep fryer is the toughest way to prepare your bird unless you have plenty of experience with wild turkey this might not be the time to experiment. Treat a wild bird as if it were a store bought bird but remember there will be less moisture and the meat will dry out very quickly. Whatever combination of spices and herbs you prefer feel free to use them on your wild bird. Stuffing is always a must and will help maintain the moisture during preparation.

Breast meat of wild turkey is white and not at all like shoe leather.
The breast meat of wild turkey is white and not at all like shoe leather.

Of course, venison is a menu item that can be used as a main dish with elk and deer roasts topping the popularity column. Garlic, onions, rosemary and other herbs add to these delicious meats. Roasts can be very exciting and popular during the holiday season. Prime rib style cuts offered to guests off the BBQ or slow smoker.

Prime Rib Cut Venison
Prime Rib Cut Venison

Side Dishes

Wild cranberry sauce, elderberry jams and wild plum jellies make for great sides. Of course, you can’t forget the greens as there are many things still found in gardens through November. Kale, collards, asparagus, beets and others will make your meal complete. Preparing these in a fresh salad or even cooked depending on your preference.

BBQ Bear sausage meat balls on a bed of sprouts.
BBQ Italian Bear sausage meat balls on a bed of sprouts with fresh tomato and feta.

Italian bear sausage meat balls are a great side dish to have available on a hot plate or in a crock before during and after dinner. I like to cook up small pieces of deer tenderloin for snacks or to be used on slider rolls with BBQ sauce. These of course can always double as main courses in larger portions. You can make gravy from any of the drippings and add it to your potatoes or candied yams. No matter what you decide to cook and pull from your freezer this fall your guests will surely enjoy seeing a little bit of your wild side.


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Here’s an Easy Guide to Planning Your Wild Game Thanksgiving Now