Bowhunting turkey for the first time this year. I hunt about 45 minutes into the woods, and about a 30-minute drive from our home. So if I do shoot a turkey, its roughly 75 to 90 minutes before I get home if I want to start field dressing and butchering it at my house.

Will the bird go bad in that time? Is it critical that I dress + butcher it as soon as I shoot it?

I ask because I've never processed a bird before (plucked the feathers, butcher it, etc.) and it would make me feel better if I could watch a YouTube video as I do it (so I can follow along), but if its critical to process it in the field I can try to memorize everything ahead of time.

Again I am bowhunting, if that makes a difference.

  • 1
    What about downloading the video from youtube (there are a bunch of free apps for it) then watching in the field.
    – bob1
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 3:00
  • One option you have with wild turkey is not to really "field dress" the turkey at all, and instead just remove for the easy-to-reach meat, the breasts and legs, and discard the rest. There are videos on Youtube showing how. You still have to do it within a reasonable amount of time, per Ken's answer, but since this requires no tools except a knife and a few gallon-size ziploc bags, you could do it right there in the field or at your vehicle.
    – workerjoe
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 19:57

1 Answer 1


How long do you have to process a turkey after shooting it (hunting)?

Once you killed a turkey, it should be field dressed as soon as possible. The rest could be done when you get home (plucking the feathers in hot water or even dry plucking).

Let’s say your hunt was a success. Your turkey is down. Congratulations! Now, once the excitement dies down and your heart stops pounding, it’s time to take care of that bird.

Turkeys should be field dressed as soon as possible to allow the carcass to cool faster and help prevent the meat from spoiling. It doesn’t take long and all you need is a small sharp knife.

If the weather is cool, spoilage is not an immediate concern but don’t leave a turkey, gutted or not, in the sun—either outside or in a vehicle—because dark feathers will soak up heat. Hang it in the shade if you can’t process it right away. Filling the body cavity with ice will also help cool the meat.


  1. Lay the bird on its back with its feet toward you.

  2. Feel for the tip of the breastbone where it comes to a V pointing at the anus. Pull up on the tip and make a shallow cut in the skin. Then cut carefully through the skin—only the skin, don’t puncture the intestines—down to the anus.

  3. Carefully cut a circle around the anus, again making sure not to puncture the intestines. You can reach in and follow the intestines to the anus, then carefully cut completely around the exterior.

  4. Reach into the body cavity and pull out the entrails. You should be able to feel the gizzard, grab it and pull it out with the entrails. You will probably need to reach back in to remove the heart, lungs and other tissue. Make sure nothing remains in the body cavity. Some keep the gizzard, heart and liver, known as giblets, for gravy or stuffing.

  5. If you have clean water, rinse the body cavity and drain. Or pat the cavity dry with paper towels.

from Hunter's Handbook

Field dress the bird as soon as possible and for the rest you should be okay to get it ready for the freezer or the table when you get home. Fortunately, 90 minutes is generally not an issue. Once home, you can pluck the feathers and clean the turkey in cold water.

By the way, Bonne Appetite!


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.