“Bird Cleaning 101” for Hunters

By the time you have paid to hunt, purchased everything you need, traveled to the site, etc., you may have spent a couple of hundred dollars. So when you look down at your “catch” and see a couple of birds/ducks/whatever, you are looking at some high-priced meat!

(These directions are the same for most fowl.) Often, hunters tell me that they discard the wild birds because of the “gamey” taste. That is a shame! Perhaps a review of some of the tried-and-true methods of preparing freshly caught game would help.  Wild birds are gourmet fare and some careful handling will ensure that your birds have eye appeal and superior eating quality.

First Steps in Bird & Duck Cleaning

Field dress your birds immediately.  Remove the head, bleed and remove entrails. Wipe the body with a clean, damp cloth.  While tending to your next bird, you should leave the cavity open on the cleaned duck for good air circulation. If the outdoor temperature is not cold, it is important to get the birds into a cooler as quickly as possible.

Aging Your Waterfowl

To reduce gamey flavor and develop tenderness, aging is the next task. How you do this is based on whether or not the bird has been plucked at this point. Many prefer to skin the fowl; it’s easier. However, by plucking, you retain moisture and flavor.

If your bird is unplucked, hang it at a temperature between 40 – 45 degrees for 3 or 4 days. Fully plucked birds can be safely aged under refrigeration (between 35 – 40 degrees) for 3 to 4 days.

Rough Pickings

Remove the wings (at the joint nearest the body) and feet (at the first joint above the feet). Now that you are sure that your duck won’t fly or walk away, let the plucking begin. 😉

Most hunters prefer to pick ducks dry, rather than when they are wet. Keeping your fingers moist will help speed the process.  Holding the carcass firmly in one hand, use the thumb and index fingers to pluck feathers.  Remove the down feathers by rubbing the thumb firmly across the bird.

Pluck that Duck

Pin feathers call for a different technique. Use a knife’s edge and your thumb to pull those pesky pin feathers.  Another way to get the downy feathers from a bird is to singe the carcass. The flame will burn off the down.

Another way to remove feathers is to remove as many feathers by hand; then submerge the outer skin of the fowl in melted paraffin. Remove the wing and tail feathers before repeatedly dunking the bird’s skin into the hot wax. You should have a bird or duck thickly coated in set wax. As you pull off the wax, the downy feathers come too.

Final Words – Packing, Freezing, Using

After this much effort, it is important to wrap your birds in quality, moisture and vapor-proof, freezing paper (or plastic).* They can be stored 9 to 10 months at 0 degrees. To thaw, place package in refrigerator for 12 to 18 hours.  According to our nutrition specialist for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, Frances Reasonover, “This slow thawing will tenderize the meat.”

* A friend, with a lot of freezer space, puts his birds/ducks in a empty milk cartons and fills with water. He never has to deal with freezer burn.

Now your ‘catch’ will be safe, clean and delicious!


Where do I get paraffin? Hardware stores; Wal-Mart; look on grocer’s shelves next to the canning supplies!


This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on September 30, 2008 at 10:43 am  Comments Off on “Bird Cleaning 101” for Hunters  
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