Field dressing game can be a real challenge if you don’t know what you’re doing. This quick primer will get you started, but be sure to do some more independent research when you get the chance.
- Field dress the bird immediately. Remove the entrails and avoid breaking the gall bladder sac on the liver–bile destroys meat flavor. The shape of the bird’s bill tells you about his diet–broad and flat billed ducks are plant eaters; pointed and serrated bills indicate fish eaters.
- Wipe the body cavity with a dry cloth, paper towel or dry grass. Moisture spreads bacteria which causes spoilage.
- Cool the bird by allowing air to circulate in the body cavity. Hold the cavity open with a small stick to speed cooling. When the weather isn’t cold, bring a cooler in the car to transport birds.
- When you get home, finish dressing the birds. A fully dressed bird can be more safely aged by refrigerating at 35ºF for four hours to tenderize and develop flavor. Many experts recommend that birds be plucked rather than skinned, since the skin helps retain flavor and moisture during cooking. However, many hunters do skin birds because it is easier than plucking. Use bacon strips to add moisture during cooking. Dry pluck. If you don’t remove all pin feathers and down, use a paraffin treatment. For four ducks or pheasants, place two cakes of paraffin in 4 quarts of water, bring to a boil and dip birds in, one at a time. Cool the bird to harden the paraffin and scrape off wax, down and pin fathers with a small, dull knife.