Rob Phillips: In the supermarket or in the wild, hunting for an affordable Thanksgiving turkey can be a challenge Outdoors and recreation

I was informed the other day that I was in charge of procuring the bird for this year’s Thanksgiving feast.

Now, back in the day, and I mean WAY back in the day, like in 1621 when the pilgrims gathered with the Wampanoag people at Plymouth for a multi-day autumn harvest feast, I would have joined a small hunting party and headed out into the wilderness to bring back some fowl.

There is no way to totally know what made up that first Thanksgiving dinner, but it was common for the pilgrim and the indigenous people to eat venison, duck, goose, swan, and yes, wild turkey. It is likely they dine on all those meats plus corn and other vegetables and fruit during that first Thanksgiving feast

Taking my directive seriously, I was happy to grab my shotgun, load Bailey into the truck and head out to try to find a fowl of some sort for our holiday feast. We would have had to drive a bit if we wanted wild turkey.

The fall hunting season for turkey is still open and because the population of turkeys is flourishing in northeastern Washington, I could have bagged up to four turkeys, which would have been more than enough to feed our crew.

Considering gas prices and the three-hour drive, I decided trying to put a wild turkey or two in the oven was going to be a last resort.

Bagging a couple mallards, and maybe a goose, was another option. But knowing how much the family dislikes the taste and texture of waterfowl, my goose would have been cooked had I walked through the door with them over my shoulder.

So, Bailey and I decided that a rooster pheasant or two would be our first choice for the protein at this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, finding one rooster pheasant around here, let alone two or three, enough to feed the family, is almost as rare as it would have been back on that first Thanksgiving.

Pheasants were not introduced into the United States until the late 1800s, so making it truly a traditional Thanksgiving dinner excused our lack of success. Bailey and I sure had fun trying, though

So, it was either drive to Colville and start hunting for a wild bird, or run to the supermarket, like almost every other Thanksgiving-loving American, and purchase a turkey.

I decided it would be closer, quicker, and probably cheaper to head to the grocery store. So that I did.

I was waddling (pardon the pun) through the frozen food section when I spotted a plump Butterball that looked to be perfect for our feast. I started to load it into the shopping cart when I caught a glimpse of the price tag on the frozen bird.

It reads $85.23. Holy giblets! Talk about sticker shock.

Now, I understand the price of everything has gone up significantly in the past several months. But I swear I’ve found turkeys not that long ago for around twenty bucks.

I know, wake up old man Phillips. Candy bars used to be a quarter, too. But, dang. I about swallowed my gum, which cost way too much too, by the way.

“Are you okay sir?” A helpful young store employee asked as I stood stupefied, looking at the turkey in my cart.

“I forgot my glasses,” I said. “Could you please tell me the price on the sticker on this turkey?”

She confirmed the price without even a hint of surprise that the cost of the fat, frozen tom was getting shockingly close to a hundred dollars.

“Is that correct?” I asked the young lady.

“I’m sure it is,” she said. “I could find you a larger one if you would like?”

I mumbled something about not having enough funds in my checking account and told her “Thank you, this one will do.”

When she disappeared down the aisle, I slid the turkey back into the frozen food display and started calculating how much gas it would take me to drive to a friend’s place up near Fruitland where I might be able to get a quick turkey hunt in.

Let alone the time factor, the gas, food, and tags would put me at close to $200. And that is with no guarantee of success.

So, I contemplated it some more. Historians say fish was also consumed at the first Thanksgiving dinner.

I still have some sockeye, chinook and coho fillets in the freezer. Just about everyone loves my grilled salmon. Fish might be a nice change for the holiday.

But then I started thinking about all the side dishes we would be enjoying on Thursday afternoon. Mashed potatoes and gravy (Is salmon gravy even possible?), cranberries, stuffing and hand-made cinnamon rolls to name a few.

I’m no top chef, but salmon just doesn’t seem to fit. Besides, Mrs. Phillips had specifically tasked me with getting a bird.

I’d like to tell you I bucked up and bagged the prized 85-dollar turkey, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I groused about having to run to three more stores, but finally found two frozen turkey breasts that will easily feed the fam, with lots of good leftovers to share.

Total cost, $38, if you don’t include the gas from all the running around.

Whether it comes from the wilds or the frozen food aisle, finding the right holiday bird can definitely be a challenge. Hopefully your hunt was successful… and affordable.