Snapping Turtle

It's really not that important. If time permits I'll put them in a tank for a few days and it will clean them out a bit. If it wasn't possible to do, I would not hessitate to skin it the day I caught it. I'd just spray it with a garden hose to wash off most of the mud. You really do not want to get it on the meat while you are skinning it. I would without a doupt not loose any sleep over skinning one the day I catch it.

To kill it, take a board and run a nail through it at an angle. The nail has to be long enough to pass through the board a few inchs on the pointy end. Slide the nail under it's bottom jaw and pull him back dragging his head out and chop it with a hatchet. That's the fastest easiest way I've found to kill them. You can also hold it up by the tail, and it will pop his head out to try and look up then you can cut it with a hatchet. It's a little harder that way though. Also be careful with the severed head, it could still bite down.

If you do decide to keep it, be aware that they are master escape artist. They will get out of places you would never expect.

Snapping turtle is one of my favorite wild game meals down here in the bayou's.
 
We always stored them in an old washtub for a few days, replacing the water daily. I don't ever remember going more than a few days, never more than a week. Alot of times we hosed them off first. As mentioned, you need a lid on whatever you store them in. We always gave them a wack in the head with a hammer and then drove a large screw driver threw the bottom of its head and then nailed into an ash tree to clean it. First thing we did was cut off the claws.
 
My daughter and I hooked a 12-lb male turtle while going for channel cats on Friday. No soak, butchered and cooked the next day, tasted fine, no off-flavor. Browned quarters, backstraps, tail, and neck, then instapot to tenderize.

I let it bite the end of a channel lock pliers so I could grip the beak, pulled the head up with my foot on the shell to expose the neck, then a good couple hacks with a cleaver to decapitate.

I'll try the fresh water soak next time - the outside of the turtle is stinky - I'm guessing part of the taste problem might come from contaminating the meat w/ whatever is on the exterior of the skin and shell.
 
Preferred method of the old timers where I grew up was to dispatch the turtle, boil a pot of water, tie a string to the tail, and then repeatedly scald the turtle. Loosens the skin to make it easier to clean, and also knocks the gunk off of them to reduce contamination. Then you can clean them as you wish. I’ve also seen the air compressor method be effective.

.410, .22 birdshot, etc were preferred- lots of pellets to find the brain and pulverize the jaws. One commercial fisherman would line them up, and smack them on the nose with a large piece of firewood- broke the jaw and killed them pretty effectively. But he had a bunch to clean.
 
We used to take our turtles to an older gentleman that had a filet table set up with a nail sticking out about 3”. He’d slam the turtle on its top shell,grab its jaw with channel lock plier and whack its head off with a hatchet. My buddies grandma would deep fry them for us like fried chicken. If we hadn’t caught a turtle for a while she’d send us out after one.

My first job when I was 12 was at a fish hatchery. My brother and I would pull seine nets to get fish for stocking ponds, we’d also get a lot of turtles too.
 
An elderly man i know who worked at a fish hatchery told me what they would do. Every year when they drained the ponds they would catch a few big ones at the bottom to cook up. Like others said fresh water everyday. They would put them in a tote with water and change it every day until the water was clean. Week or so it normally took.
 
Old guy I knew would toss them in his spring fed horse / cattle trough for a week or so.
Rationale was that they spent their lives down in the mud on pond bottoms, etc. so several days in fresh clean water would clean them out.
 
Ok… after cleanout how do you most effectively butcher these things? My dad did one when I was a kid. Always thought I might again. In my job, I participate in a lot of turtle survey and conservation activities. So its a bit of a mental hurdle to follow through, not least which I would be deemed the enemy by some colleagues with misplaced sensitivities… 🤣🤣
 
Funny a co worker and I were just talking about this very thing. I keep them in fresh water and feed them hot dogs. Change the water daily until it is clean. Then butcher.
 
Ok… after cleanout how do you most effectively butcher these things? My dad did one when I was a kid. Always thought I might again. In my job, I participate in a lot of turtle survey and conservation activities. So its a bit of a mental hurdle to follow through, not least which I would be deemed the enemy by some colleagues with misplaced sensitivities… 🤣🤣
Shear the feet off at the joints to avoid being clawed.
Separate the skin from the shell.
Split the plastron top to bottom and separate everything from the carapace.
Shear the back ribs off to fillet out the back straps
Make sure to remove the whole vent from the tail section, incl. the retractable penis if it’s a male
 

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