A Former Army Ranger Explains How To Kill Your Own Thanksgiving Turkey


Ah, Thanksgiving. It’s when we find ourselves fighting with our siblings over who is going to bring what to Turkey Day dinner, and then actually physically fighting our neighbors as we bum rush the aisles of our local shopping center in the wee hours of Black Friday. Fisticuffs aside, there are actually plenty of ways to reintroduce some charm back into the holiday. What’s my go-to strategy? Doing Thanksgiving like they used to: with a boom stick in one hand and a basket in the other.

The first step in executing the perfect hunter-gatherer Thanksgiving dinner is to decide on your menu. When you can’t go to the local supermarket and prance through the aisles pulling boxes of ready-made this and instant that off the shelves, you actually have to put some thought into what you prepare. I personally would suggest a turkey (of course), mashed sweet potatoes, asparagus, sweet corn, and squash.

Related: So Why Do We Eat Turkey On Thanksgiving? »

It’s hard to explain and maybe all of this work doesn’t sound appealing on its face. But I guarantee that it will provide a needed contrast to your usual or mundane Thanksgiving rituals. You will make the transition from doing a holiday because your “supposed to,” to doing it because you want to spend time with family and enjoy food that you worked hard to obtain and prepare. Dinner won’t be spent listening to family members dance uncomfortably around the already tired talking points from the election. Instead, you’ll be excitedly talking about how you saw the most amazing sunrise on the morning of your turkey hunt. Or you’ll regale your company with tails of the horse that farmer let you ride when you went out to bargain for some fresh sweet corn. One thing is certain though: If you hunt and gather this Thanksgiving, it will be a different holiday than all the others in years past in the best and most rewarding way.

The Hunting

Obtaining the turkey will actually be the most difficult task, as well as require the most talent and patience. Turkeys are actually very intelligent, and, if you have never hunted them before, will prove to be elusive game to bag.

Obviously, the first step is to pick up a turkey license. Licenses are available in 49 states, with Alaska being the sole state in which there is no season available. After that, you’ll need to find legal land to hunt on, whether that be a friend’s private property or a national forest. Finally, make sure you have a shotgun ready to go. (I prefer a 12-gauge). Some states allow for hunting of turkeys using a rifle, but a shotgun is going to be the most practical tool for this hunt.

A turkey wanders on a wildlife management area operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah district.US Army Corps of Engineers photo

Depending on the area you will be hunting, you’ll have to decide whether you will sit in a blind and try to call a turkey to you, or actively stalk them. Every turkey hunt I have ever done has been in my home state of South Dakota, where I’ll end up walking miles over the high planes of the western side of the state in active pursuit of a gobbler. I’ve never sat in a blind or called one in, but I can say from experience that there is extra satisfaction in actively stalking your game as it is more difficult to be successful due to a turkey’s amazing vision.

Make sure you follow all applicable local and state laws, and abide by common safe hunter practices as well as common sense. Finally, if you are successful in your pursuit, make sure you aim for the head. A head shot will kill the bird instantly and prevent unnecessary suffering, and it will also be easier to prepare to eat since you won’t have to dig out all those little lead beebees from the body. I’ve made this mistake before, and, trust me, you will always miss at least one.

You’ve felled and cleaned your turkey and it’s sitting safely in your freezer awaiting whatever family recipe you have ready for it. You feel good. You didn’t claim your mass-produced, hormone-injected turkey from the supermarket; you put in the work and felled one as an active member of the ecosystem, and you’ll be proud to present it to your family on the fourth Thursday of November.

The Gathering

You don’t need to be a farmer to gather. If you’re not, this is an opportunity to go visit a local farm (or if you live in a city, travel to one) and bargain for their harvest. This is an amazing opportunity to meet some great people outside of your usual social circle, and if you are a lifelong city-dweller, to see a different way of life. If this is absolutely not possible for you, then I would still encourage you to skip the supermarket and go to a local farmer’s market. Although this isn’t quite as far outside of your comfort zone, it will still give you the opportunity to do your gathering while still supporting farmers and other local small businesses.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Take your time and really pick the best of the bushel. Enjoy the art of bartering. Don’t cut corners. And only purchase what you will actually have the time, energy, and talent to prepare. Remember, you are going to do all of this by hand when you get home. One thing that you will notice is that you will have less side dishes to prepare, but the ones you do have will take more time and effort. The holiday will all of a sudden become more about enjoying the fruits of your labor than it is about stuffing as much instant potatoes into your mouth as possible.

DoD photo by Jeff Hancock
(Photo: CNN/screenshot)

NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — A Navy SEAL sniper on Wednesday contradicted earlier testimony of fellow SEALs who claimed he had fired warning shots to scare away civilian non-combatants before Chief Eddie Gallagher shot them during their 2017 deployment to Mosul, and said he would not want to deploy again with one of the prosecution's star witnesses.

Special Operator 1st Class Joshua Graffam originally invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege before Navy Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh gave him immunity in order to compel his testimony.

Graffam testified that Gallagher was essentially justified in the shooting of a man he is accused of unlawfully targeting, stating that "based off everything i had seen so far ... in my opinion, they were two shitheads moving from one side of the road to the other."

Spotting for Gallagher in the tower that day, Graffam said, he called out the target to him and he fired. He said the man was hit in the upper torso and ran away.

Graffam, who joined the Navy in 2010 and has been assigned to SEAL Team 7's Alpha Platoon since September 2015, deployed alongside Gallagher to Mosul in 2017, occasionally acting as a spotter for Gallagher when the SEALs were tasked with providing sniper support for Iraqi forces from two towers east of the Tigris River.

Another SEAL, Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Dalton Tolbert, had previously testified under direct examination by prosecutors that, while stationed in the south tower of a bombed-out building in June 2017, he had observed Gallagher shoot and kill an elderly civilian.

"He ran north to south across the road," Tolbert testified on Friday. "That's when I saw the red mark on his back and I saw him fall for the first time. Blood started to pool and I knew it was a square hit in the back." Over the radio, he said he heard Gallagher tell the other snipers, "you guys missed him but I got him."

Former SO1 Dylan Dille, who was also in the south tower that day, testified last week that he watched an old man die from a sniper shot on Father's Day. He said the date stuck out in his mind because he thought the man was probably a father.

Later that day, after the mission, Graffam said he spoke with Dille about the shooting and they disagreed about the circumstances. Dille, he said, believed the man was a noncombatant.

"I, on the other hand, was confident that the right shot was taken," Graffam said, although he said later under cross-examination that the man was unarmed. Dille previously testified that the SEALs were authorized to shoot unarmed personnel if they first received signals intelligence or other targeting information.

Photo: Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

Graffam described the man as a male between 40 and 50 years old wearing black clothing, giving him the impression of an ISIS fighter who was moving in a "tactical" manner. He testified that he did not see anything like Dille had described.

Graffam further testified that he didn't see Gallagher take any shots that he shouldn't have on that day or any other.

Although Graffam said he did not hear of allegations that Gallagher had stabbed a wounded ISIS fighter on deployment, he testified that he started to hear rumblings in early 2018. Chief Craig Miller, he said, asked him at one point whether he would "cooperate" with others in reporting him.

When asked whether he would like to serve with Miller again in a SEAL platoon, Graffam said, "I don't feel as confident about it." A member of the jury later asked him why he'd feel uncomfortable deploying with Miller and he responded, "I just wouldn't."

Graffam said he would serve with Gallagher again if given the chance.

Under cross examination by prosecutors, Graffam said he couldn't say whether there were warning shots fired that day, though Dille and Tolbert both said happened. "There were multiple shots throughout the day," Graffam said.

Prosecutors also asked him about his previous statements to NCIS, in which Graffam said of Miller that "he has good character" and was "a good guy." Graffam confirmed he said just that.

Defense attorney Tim Parlatore, however, said those statements were back in January and "a lot had happened since then." Parlatore said Graffam had also said at the time that Gallagher was a good leader.

"That part remains unchanged, correct?" Parlatore asked.

"Yes," Graffam said.

The defense is expected to call more witnesses in the case, which continues on Thursday.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexi Myrick)

The U.S. military is seeing an increase in sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in part due to dating apps, according to the Military Health System.

"There appears to be an increase in high-risk behaviors among service members; that is, having sex without a condom or having more than one sexual partner," Air Force physician Maj. Dianne Frankel said in a news release.

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Three Marines killed in a December plane crash are finally coming home.

Five Marines aboard a KC-130J Hercules and one Marine on an F/A-18 Hornet were killed when both planes went down about 200 miles off the Japanese coast.

A recent salvage operation of the KC-130J crash site recovered the remains of three of the Marines, who were later identified, Corps officials said.

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(YouTube via Air Force Times)

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Air Force is investigating an airman after he posted a video on YouTube rife with homophobic slurs and insults.

A man in an Air Force uniform, identified only by the YouTube username "Baptist Dave 1611" ranted in a recent video, calling gay people "sodomites," "vermin scum," and "roaches" among other slurs, according to Air Force Times, which first reported the story Wednesday.

"The specifics of the situation are being reviewed by the airman's command team," said service spokesman Maj Nick Mercurio, confirming the incident. Mercurio did not provide any identifying details about the airman.

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Two U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, defense officials have announced.

Operation Resolute Support issued a terse news release announcing the latest casualties that did not include any information about the circumstances of their deaths.

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