The spring hunting season for wild turkey begins on April 25. It is a short, four-week season. The state limits hunters to a bird a day, with a limit of two for the entire season. Judging by the flocks I see on a daily basis off of Music street, or at the junction of the Menemsha Crossroad and North Road, or actually any old road on the Island, these regulations were set elsewhere. That’s okay by me as turkeys are attractive and primitive looking animals that are hardly a nuisance. They are also fantastic predators of ticks.

On the subject of tick control, or more specifically our Lyme disease problem, thankfully the state has recognized our very serious over population of deer here on the Island and increased the number of deer hunters can harvest. The state average for deer density per square mile according to the Division of Fish and Wildlife in Massachusetts is 8 to 10. On the Island it is 50 to 60. The deer that live here today look as healthy as they ever have, which makes me fear there will be no decline without some human intervention.

Venison is a known delicacy in our community. Many freezers are stocked up with the burgundy cuts of this lean meat. Most agree the backstrap is the choicest cut of them all and so this usually never makes it to the freezer. If it does, there is probably something wrong with you. Seriously, how can you pass up a perfectly cooked backstrap seasoned only with salt, sliced with a nicely sharpened knife, dipped in blood-red juices after the carving then gobbled up while still wearing your hunting gear?

Wild turkey is a less desired protein source — particularly this time of year. Most everyone I know would rather haul up oysters or throw on their waders and rake for clams even in still frigid waters than take the time to dress a turkey and bring it home for a meal. I have spent countless hours gathering food on this Island. In fact, a large percentage of my life here has been spent growing, hunting and finding food from this land. But I have never eaten wild turkey. I have had Canada goose. The best I ever tasted was hung in a shed at the Allen Farm for 34 days then pan seared in a cast iron skillet. I have eaten duck that tastes like a cross between seaweed, algae and grass. I have braised squirrels and wild rabbits. I have even cooked a mourning dove. But never have I come across the opportunity to eat wild turkey meat. That’s something I’m going to change.

Ben Cabot, a stone mason, sculptor and avid hunter says the turkeys around here are better than store bought and serves one on Thanksgiving. A friend just last weekend smoked wild turkey legs for three hours, glazing them with a can of cranberry sauce for the last bit of cooking time and proclaimed them delicious.

Lately I have been researching wild turkey recipes in old New England cookbooks and on the web. Wild turkey carnitas turned up repeatedly in contemporary recipes and seemed like a good way to go. Because I was eager not to waste my first bird, I tried the recipe out on a heritage breed turkey leg — the results were very good and the braising liquid turned into an amazing broth; an added bonus. My guess is the timing will be a little different, and the taste a little wilder, with an undomesticated animal, but I am sure you can balance that with your condiments.

Speaking of hunting, snapping turtle season comes to an end for a few months on April 30. This is another animal I have never eaten. You are only allowed to bag a turtle with a shell no smaller than 12 inches. Craig Kingsbury, who unlike most people, did not fear snapping turtles, once shared his recipe for the creatures:

Kill the snapping turtle.
Hang it by its head then remove the shell.
Cut out the guts then cut the animal into pieces, toss with meat tenderizer and refrigerate over night.
Then cook the damned thing
.

Sounds okay to me!

Chris Fischer is an Island chef and Chilmark farmer. His 2015 book, The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook, has been nominated for a James Beard award.

Recipe for Simple Turkey Soup.