If you’re a hunter, then you know the importance of properly gutting your game.
If you don’t gut the turkey after it’s been shot, its meat will eventually spoil and become inedible.
But how long do you need to wait for you to gut a turkey? And when is it too late?
In this article, I’ll answer those questions and give you some tips on how to extend the time before having to gut your turkey.
How Long Can You Wait To Gut A Turkey?
You can wait up to 90 minutes before gutting your turkey after it has been shot. Warm weather will accelerate this timeline. The longer the organs sit inside the turkey the faster bacteria will grow in the meat. To avoid any bacteria growth you should gut a turkey immediately after it has been shot.
Why Turkey Gutting is Needed
If you don’t gut a turkey, the meat in the turkey will spoil and the kill will be for nothing.
This is because the blood and organs that are left inside the turkey began to grow bacteria that would infect the entire turkey.
The organs are much warmer than the other parts of the turkey and bacteria love hot environments so they will grow much quicker if the organs are left inside the turkey.
But gutting a turkey and removing the more vulnerable pieces of the animal, you are cooling the bird down and preserving the meat that is left.
If you aren’t planning on actually eating the turkey meat but are managing population control on a piece of land, it is not necessary to remove the organs at all.
Since you won’t be eating the meat you don’t need to worry about bacteria forming inside the meat causing your bird to spoil.
Most of the time, wild animals will take care of the dead bird for you but you also want to make sure you aren’t creating a bigger issue by spreading disease through the wild population.
I’ll cover more on this later.
How To Extend Your Time
It isn’t always possible to dress your turkey right away. If you find yourself in this situation there are a few things you can do to extend your time before having to gut the turkey.
First, if it’s warm outside, try to keep the bird cool by placing it in a shady spot or wrapping it in a wet towel.
You want to slow down the decomposing process and in order to do this, the turkey needs to be kept cool.
If you have an ice cooler it would be the best way to store the bird and keep it cool long enough to get to a place where you can process it.
Second, pluck feathers as soon as possible after the bird is killed. This will help remove body heat from the bird, further accelerating the decomposition process.
This process isn’t just important for saving the meat but it will actually help the meat taste better when you’re cooking.
Finally, you could take a bottle of cold water and pour it on the turkey to cool down the meat.
It won’t extend your time too much but it will be better than letting the meat sit out in the heat.
The Benefits of Properly Gutting a Turkey
There are plenty of benefits to gutting a turkey soon after it’s been shot. The most obvious one is that you’ll be able to save the meat and it won’t go to waste.
Taking the time to go on a hunt and wait for that perfect moment to take down a bird will be wiped away in a second if your meat ends up spoiling.
Another benefit is that the meat will taste better. When bacteria start growing in the meat it can cause off-flavors that will ruin the taste of your turkey.
That doesn’t mean the meat is necessarily bad for you but it does mean the taste will be affected.
Finally, properly gutting a turkey will also help to keep the population healthy. If you don’t gut the bird and it ends up rotting, it could attract other animals who will then be exposed to the bacteria.
It doesn’t happen often but if animals go through a particular drought or starvation they will be desperate enough to eat rotten meat.
What To Do After Gutting A Turkey
When you have dressed your turkey after it’s been shot, you need to take some extra steps to make sure the meat is properly preserved.
The first thing you need to do is remove the entrails and rinse them out with cold water. Doing this step will help in removing any bacteria that can be present.
Then, you need to wash the inside of the turkey with cold water as well. This step helps in removing any blood that might be present.
After you’ve done this, you need to make sure the turkey is completely dry before you put it in a storage bag or container.
If the turkey is even slightly damp, it could cause the growth of bacteria which would ruin the meat.
You should also remove any feathers that might be left on the bird. These can harbor bacteria and make the meat taste bad.
Finally, you need to store the turkey in a cool, dry place. This will help to keep the meat fresh and prevent bacterial growth.
Frequently Asked Questions about How Long You Can Wait to Gut a Turkey
How do you store turkey meat?
The proper way to store turkey meat is to keep it in cool, dry places like a refrigerator. You can freeze turkey meat to keep it for longer periods of time but you’ll need to dethaw it before cooking.
How long does a properly gutted turkey stay good for?
If you store your turkey properly in a fridge it will last for up to two to five days. Freezing a properly gutted turkey lasts for up to six months.
Waiting to Gut A Turkey
If you have to, you can wait as long as 90 minutes before gutting a turkey but it’s not recommended.
The sooner you gut the bird, the better off you’ll be.
Waiting too long can cause the meat to spoil and bacteria to grow in it. This can cause the meat to taste bad and even make you feel sick after eating it.
Gut your turkey as soon as possible to avoid any complications.