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Wild Turkey Soup

Read the Full Story for My Wild Turkey Soup Recipe


One taste of this soup has been known to make sinners of saints!

Author’s Note: (An edited version appeared in The Adirondack Almanack’s March 27, 2021 online edition.)


Wild Turkey Soup

All Happy & Simmering

Ready To Eat

In One Big Soup Pot

Stovetop Or Camp Fire Cooked

A True “From the Hunt” Chef’s Feast!



 Wild Turkey

The Story

     My Dad and I never hunted wild turkeys while I was growing up. Turkey populations were nearly nonexistent  in the 1970’s Adirondack region. My father and I had no turkey hunting season.  Thus my soup pot was empty. My high peaks world had not yet discovered the wonders of Wild Turkey Soup.

     I recall the first time I ever encountered a wild turkey in the woods.  I was on a Thanksgiving hunt with my father, not in the Adirondacks, but on the side hill behind his childhood home in Portville, New York down near the Pennsylvania border.

      I was dressed in heavy wool hunter’s plaid, carrying my father’s vintage 16 gauge  Ithaca  pump shotgun, hunting rabbits after a healthy overnight western New York blast of  heavy wet snow. This would have been sometime in the late 1970’s.  

I don’t have any turkey hunting pictures from that era. But this is the same “hunter’s plaid” jacket I was likely wearing.

      I was crisscrossing the hillside hoping for a shot at a scurrying cottontail.  Suddenly, from under a small snow laden evergreen, a huge form exploded skyward out of the snow, seemingly right from under my feet. My only bird experience in the woods to that point was with Adirondack partridges, aka: ruffed grouse. This bird was neither. I’m not sure who was more surprised in that moment, the turkey or me!

     I had just one other turkey hunting experience while growing up. I was in college at Cornell University. My college buddy Chuck grew up down near Horseheads/Elmira. He and I had begun hunting waterfowl together on some farm fields overlooking Cayuga Lake during Cornell’s fall semesters. They had a well-established turkey population in his area. He spent a great deal of time hunting them in the spring. He invited me down to his house one day to join him for a hunt.

(I don’t have any early turkey hunting pictures, but that’s me & Chuck, right about then.)

     We  loaded our gear and our guns into his truck, and drove around to various spots he knew in the area near his home. We pulled over at different points beside the road, he called, we sat and listened, finally somewhere along the way we heard “Gobble Gobble Gobble” in response. When we did, we got out, loaded our shotguns, donned camouflage facemasks and headed into the woods.

     I had absolutely no experience with turkey hunting  at that point. Chuck stopped to call occasionally as we walked, the Gobbler’s answers got louder each time. Chuck seemed excited. Finally, after  walking and calling a bit, Chuck positioned me in a spot behind a fallen log with a big tree behind me, while he went a  bit further  down along the creek bed we had been loosely following. His  final instructions:

     “Keep your eyes open. Good  luck.

     I sat with my back against that tree and my gun half shouldered, half cradled, half propped on my knee. I squinted down through the brush. I could still hear Chuck calling below me.

     Something I had never seen in the woods before quietly appeared, about thirty yards in front of me, partially obscured by  spring foliage and the fallen log. First blue, then red, then white, then blue again-silent. Then, like some ghost, as quickly as it had appeared,  it was gone.

      Too late I realized- “Oh, that was a Tom Turkey. I should have shot.” I was too embarrassed to even tell Chuck I saw it. That was to be my final wild turkey encounter for many a season.

     To his credit, my father was heavily involved in efforts to rectify the Adirondack High Peaks turkyless situation. Apparently the Adirondacks had held wild turkeys in abundance at some point in time.

     According to information available on The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website:

     “The last of the original wild turkeys disappeared from New York in the mid 1840s.”

     I remember my Dad telling me it was due to some virus that turkeys got from domestic chickens brought  over from Europe by early settlers and farmers. But my memory could be wrong. According  to the DEC website, those same settlers and  farmers hunted wild turkeys year round for food, and simply hunted them out.

     Regardless, beginning sometime in the 1950’s, The DEC  undertook numerous reintroduction campaigns. They continued into the ’70’s. I’m sure my Dad played some role in a few of them through the years. Some efforts were more successful  than others, but eventually, persistence paid off  and they took. After nearly 150 years absent, wild turkey populations were reestablished across upstate New York once again.

     Flash forward to October 10, 2014. My wife and I were  busy raising three active kids in our Brownville homestead, situated on nine acres of  overgrown old farm land near Lake Ontario’s eastern shore, just outside Watertown, New York.

      I was gaining strength, fighting my way uphill after a  life threatening battle with cancer. I had not hunted in years.

     I was clad in a blue polo shirt, sneakers and jeans. I was getting ready to head to the bank. I looked out across the back yard towards our pond. All in a line, a flock of wild turkeys appeared. I’m not sure why, but the thought suddenly struck me; “I think turkeys are in season. I’m a licensed hunter. I should try to get one of those birds.”

     I have a lifetime NYS sportsman license. It arrives in the mail every year, with all of its tags. I checked it. I had fall turkey tags. I checked the regulations. Fall turkeys were in season. I grabbed my shotgun, some shells, and, still blue polo clad,  headed with as much stealth as I could muster out towards where I had last seen the turkeys flocked by my pond.

     I spotted the turkeys headed into our far hedgerow at about the same time they saw me. Too far away for a shot, the whole flock spooked. Suddenly there were turkeys running pel mel everywhere! Then just as suddenly, they were gone.  Having absolutely zero experience hunting turkeys, and still polo clad, I fell back on my old rabbit hunting instincts, found the nearest bush, and knelt patiently to wait. I was pretty sure one of those birds would soon circle back around.

     My instincts proved  right. Pretty soon  a head I now recognized appeared in the hedgerow at about twenty  yards. I slowly took aim- BOOM! I had bagged my first bird, a hen. With the 12 gauge pump  shotgun, in the hedgerow, on my way to the bank, clad in sneakers, jeans and a blue polo shirt.

     I was excited! My first successful hunt of ANY kind in a long while, let alone my first ever wild turkey. I immediately changed into some more appropriate camouflaged hunting type attire and took the bird over to my parent’s house to show my dad and pose for some pictures.

My 1st Wild Turkey

(I changed pretty quickly for this posed photo. It just didn’t seem right to pose for a turkey hunting shot wearing a polo shirt & blue jeans. In retrospect though, I see my camouflage patterns clashed.)

     I then undertook the task of dressing out the bird. having no experience with turkeys, I fell back on the closest game bird I knew about: Canada Geese. Chuck and I had hunted them together for years. We always breasted them out. I did the same here. the DEC wanted one leg saved and mailed in for reporting purposes. Since this bird was a good bit bigger than a goose, I took the thighs and remaining leg too. At that point, once dressed out, cleaned up, rinsed  off and patted dry,  I had a pretty fair volume of fresh wild turkey meat.  The question then was…“What to do with it.”

     After some contemplation, and maybe a suggestion from my Mom, I reached  a decision- I would try my hand at making a big pot of wild turkey soup. It was an immediate hit, right from the start.

     I have continued turkey hunting since that time, & successfully bagged a pretty fair number of birds.

While I’ve refined my technique through the years since that first bird, my basic recipe has remained.  So has the outcome. Everyone loves it. Even the non-game eaters in my family flock to the table when I announce that I’m about to make a fresh pot.



The Recipe

A Monroe Family Favorite

Chef’s Notes: As with any game bird or meat, I firmly believe proper game meal preparation begins in the field. I breast out my birds, then take the legs and thighs, clean them all good, making sure to get every last bit of feather & shot.

  I  rinse & pat them all dry, then bag each breast individually, and one leg and thigh each together in packages and get them into the freezer as quickly as possible.

     Nothing goes to waste. The carcass goes out back on my lot for the foxes, coyotes, hawks and crows.  Once I even encountered an eagle helping itself to a free wild turkey carcass meal!

I ran smack dab into this eagle one day while out patrolling my back lot. He had claimed one of my turkey carcasses. I got within ten yards of him. He guarded his meal. Apparently eagles like wild turkeys too. That eagle was certainly giving no ground.

     One wild turkey breast, along with one leg and one thigh, makes one nice big pot of soup. So, one harvested bird, tom or hen, equals two pots of soup.


“The makings of a great Camp Chef meal”

1 wild  turkey breast, cleaned & diced

1 ea. wild turkey leg & thigh, cleaned, whole

6x 1 quart cartons of cooking stock. (I prefer turkey stock if available, but a mix of chicken & vegetable stock works as well.)

2-3 chicken bouillon cubes (These will amp up the stock’s flavor & also add salt.)

Several bacon strips

1 bag baby carrots

2 big, sweet onions

2 big red onions

1 bunch fresh celery

1 can whole kernel corn (or fresh cut equivalent)

1 can cut green beans (or fresh cut equivalent)

About 6-8 good sized mushroom caps (I prefer Baby Bellas)

Several green onions

Liquid smoke

Worcestershire Sauce

Ground Black Pepper


Montreal Steak Seasoning *Chef’s Choice

Badia Complete Seasoning *Chef’s Choice

1/4 stick butter

Wild Rice (I use Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild “Ready Rice “pouches)


2 Big Soup Kettles (with lids)

Cutting Board

Sharp Knife


Big Stirring Spoon


     STEP  1PREPARING THE STOCK: In one of the large kettles, combine 6 quarts of cooking stock, the whole turkey leg & thigh, the bacon slices, butter, bouillon cubes(start with 2) , a healthy dose each of  Badia Seasoning, Montreal Steak Seasoning, & several shakes of salt & ground black pepper (to taste). Add several generous shakes of liquid smoke, a modest dash of Worcestershire Sauce. Stir.

      Whether cooking stovetop or over a fire, heat to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 2-3  hours.

     While the stock is coming to a boil, loosely chop one yellow onion, one red onion, a handful of  baby carrots & several celery stalks and add them to the stock pot to simmer.

     *Adjust seasoning to taste as the stock simmers.  Be cautious in adding more salt. It’s easy to add more later,  much harder to get too much out. If liquid reduces too much, just add another partial quart of cooking stock, or water, as needed. Just be careful not to overfill the pot- lots of  good  stuff is still going in it!

     After  the stock has come to a  boil & simmered a good while, remove from heat. Take out the leg & thigh and set them aside. Pour the remaining liquid contents through the strainer into the other soup kettle & set  it back on the stove. Set the strainer contents aside. This is now your wild turkey soup stock.

STEP 2- CREATING THE SOUP:  To the stock add: one whole turkey breast – diced into small bite sized chunks, 1 ea. red & yellow onion, diced,  2cups  ea.  diced baby carrots & celery, 1 can (or fresh cut equivalent) ea. whole kernel corn & cut green beans. 

     *Chef’s Note:  When I use canned corn & green beans (as a time saver) I add most of the juice too. Adds another layer of flavor while replacing some lost liquid at the same time.

     Hit it all again with spices to taste. Bring to a quick boil to fully cook the meat & vegetables, but reduce  quickly to a low simmer so the vegetables don’t get  too soft.

     Stove  top or in a microwave, cook two pouches/boxes of  Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice. Add to the pot. Stir.

      While everything simmers, rinse & slice the mushroom caps, chop a handful of green onions, and a handful fresh of celery leaves from the bunch. Add all of this to the pot as a top layer garnish-  adds more levels of flavor, texture, and color to your  finished product.

     Continue stirring and seasoning to taste as you go. I find second opinions always help!

     Once it’s  all  simmered and seasoned to taste, reduce heat, cover, and let  sit over the fire or stove until ready to serve.

TIME REQUIRED: Not counting the hunt, wild turkey soup is a special commitment. Whether stove top or in camp, proper preparation takes most of the day.

My camp sous chef daughter in law to be Carrie making a big pot of turkey soup in camp

     CHEF’S SUGGESTION: Once finished preparing a big pot of soup, I take the leg & thigh that were set aside earlier and pick them clean, remove the carrots & bacon from the remaining strainer contents, & add  another pouch of  cooked wild rice. I stir it all together  and use it as food for my dogs. No part of the bird goes to waste  & my dogs love it!

(Why don’t I add the leg & thigh meat to the soup? Because turkey LEG meat can be a bit tough- especially those big spring Gobblers. Plus, not everyone, especially non-game eaters- likes the rich flavor of wild turkey dark meat. So by using just the breast (white) meat in my soup, it makes it a universally enjoyed pot. That’s why. Plus my canine companions insist on their fair share.)

(That last one’s not a turkey, but don’t tell them that. They all consider themselves mighty hunters.)

     RECOMMENDED SIDES: I serve my soup with a nice big  fresh salad  & rolls, either homemade, or a family favorite- King’s Hawaiian Rolls.

     It’s a recipe that can be made in camp, or stovetop, based on season & circumstance.  One big pot of soup serves a big hungry camp crew.

And if you find yourself a  little light on wild turkey- this recipe works great for  Thanksgiving  leftovers  too! Just pick the bird  clean of good meat & use the rest for the stock.

No matter when, where or how I make a pot:


A Monroe Family Favorite



Until Our Trails Cross Again:

Happy Thanksgiving!