Friday, November 21, 2008

Field Dressing and To The Freezer

I know that there are several ways of field dressing your birds. I thought I'd tell you how I take care of mine.

Most days I am in the blind or walking before shooting hours, and don't get back to where it is I am staying until late morning or early afternoon. This means that the birds I have shot, may spend up to 6 hours in my game vest before I start processing them. In all my years of bird hunting I have yet to have any ill effects from this. I am sure some of you are raising your brows at that lenght of time before the birds are dressed. True, I enjoy the cleaning process more when the birds are warm instead of sub freezing, yet its just not possible all the time.

Usually when I get done hunting I am really hungry and looking forward to a hot meal and some good strong coffee. It's also nice to get out of wet clothes or clammy waders and just relax a spell. Then once my belly is full I am able to concentrate again, and ready to start processing my birds.

So, I grab a comfortable seat outside (a log round) and commence to plucking the wings first. I pluck out to the the first joint, both top and bottom. Then I continue plucking the breast, back and legs. I continue to repeat this for each bird til all plucking is done. The only time I consider "breasting out" a bird is if it is immature and full of pin feathers. Even then I will also cut the legs off at the body (hip joint). After I finish plucking, I cut the wings off at the first joint and cut the feet off at the knee. I leave the head on for transport and identification. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife requires that either, a wing or head must remain attached while in transit.

Then I cut the ducks butt off and make a small slit on its belly side up to the cavity opening. This makes it easier to get my hand inside the cavity and remove all entrails. The intestines, gizzard and heart come out easily compared to the other parts. I like to remove as much of the lungs as possible, also trachea and poop shoot too. These take a little bit of work and are the last parts to be removed. After that I give them all a good rinsing inside and out with a hose. Then I hang them(by their necks) in the shed. If it is warm I will use a sheet to cover them so no flies can lay eggs on them. Usually it is cold enough that I seldom need to cover them. Yet this year has been very warm and I have covered them.

I have kept ducks and geese like this for up to 5 to 7 days if conditions are cold enough. Typically they will freeze within a day or two and are just fine. Then once I get home I will remove their heads and give them a final going over in the kitchen sink. Making sure I got all the insides out and pluck any remaining stubborn feathers or "pins" if needed.

Then I wrap them in clear polyvinyl plastic (Costco lifetime roll) making sure to get out as much air as I can. Next, I wrap them in butcher paper that is waxed on the inside. I bought a roll that is 18" wide and have found that size works great for all my wild game wrapping. I use a good quality freezer tape and make sure no air can get to the meat, and then into the freezer they go. I tried using the Food Saver for birds but found that the plastic was not durable enough. Especially when I start rummaging around in the freezer. If there was a bird with a broken wing it punctured the plastic. With the freezer paper I can throw a tape patch over the sharp broken bones and found that to be a good solution. I typically will have birds frozen for up to a year and without any signs of freezer burn doing it this way.

Before going in the freezer I use a sharpie and write on the package; date harvested, location, species, gender and condition of bird. That last note consist of either a star for a perfect unblemished breast (meaning no shot holes) and will make a beautiful display for a roasted presentation, all the way down the scale to a note that reads "best for Parmesan Nuggets, a bit shot up" or "really shot up".

So there you have it, that is what I do with my birds. I am a bit old school and a traditionalist. For me I feel best plucking the entire bird and not breasting it out. For me I sleep better doing it the way that I was taught by my dad, even though it takes a bit longer.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt


Tom Sorenson said...

Wow - very detailed! I like the way you roll, though I must admit that I don't go through all that myself. Course, I haven't been bird hunting in 10 years or so, either, but I remember always just breasting them and taking the legs - and we never bothered with freezer paper because we'd never have the meat long with three growing boys int he family! :) I like that though - it's certainly more in line with how we care for big game meat.

Terry Scoville said...

Well Tom, some might call it "persnikity" I suppose. Yet considering the lenghts to which we go to anymore to harvest wild game, I am not going to take any chances with freezer burn etc. Ya know.

Anonymous said...

Sounds real professional to me, nice job. You can never be to fussy when it come to packaging freezer food.

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