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25 responses to “Ruddy Ducks, The Original Butterball”

  1. Jesse Ellis

    What’s a spoonie? A shoveler? (The naturalist/scientists in me hopes you’ll be a little more explicit for those of us who don’t know all the lingo of the hunt [which I thought I did…]) And if so, then … that’s not a diver. Shovelers are closely related to blue-winged teal.

    But this about ruddies? I had no idea. I just put in to my father to ask whether he or my uncle have ever eaten them – I don’t recall us shooting any, ever, but I don’t know if that was by chance or by design.

    If I get a shot, I’ll take it.

    And thanks for the research on market hunting, too. Fascinating.

  2. Wes

    Your blog is excellent. Expert author, great writing, great photography. Please keep up the good work.

  3. Shotgunner

    I love spoonies. It’s our most commonly shot duck here in SoCal. I just brine them until no more blood in the solution. Cook to medium rare and serve like filet mignon. I have to admit I breast then and miss out on the other bits.

    Can’t wait to see a ruddy. Stiff tailed ducks are the oddest things anywhere! Congrats on a good shoot. We need to hear about those fat Canvasbacks!

  4. Nick (Macheesmo)

    Fantastic post. For some reason I’ve always been intimidated by buying duck more than actually cooking it. I think I would like the Ruddy very much. It looks freakin’ delicious…

  5. Joshua

    Cool post. I’ll defend the spoonies and ruddy ducks and point out that neither are “divers” in the commonly held definition. Spoonies are dabblers, or puddle ducks (genus Anas), and ruddies are stiff-tailed ducks (as you pointed out, genus Oxyura), and don’t have the same habits of the divers we normally consider – scaups, mergansers, goldeneyes, etc.

    I had no idea about their culinary history, and that is simply amazing.

  6. Bumbling Bushman

    I have never seen a shoveller whilst hunting, but if I did, I’d shoot at it. This in spite of the fact that I once observed dozens of shovellers dabbling in a vernal pool of cow piss in the middle of a Nebraska stockyard. The ruddy duck, I have never shot at either, but it’s one of my favorite ducks, especially when you catch a late spring drake with his breeding plumage coming in.

  7. Sporting Days

    I love this post.

    I will enjoy eating any future Yolo ruddies with renewed vigor … My biggest disappointment with ruddy ducks is not on the table — but in the field. The males are so drab when you hunt them in the fall and winter without the pretty ruddy plumage and the bright blue bill pictured at the top of your post … That’s gotta be another unique aspect to the duck? … A game warden friend once told me that if you ever see a ruddy duck mount with the male in full plumage, the bird was probably taken (illegally) out of season …

  8. The Internet Kitchen: Food Safety! | Macheesmo

    […] Ruddy Ducks, The Original Butterball – I love duck so much but it’s kind of a hard bird to find.  It’s also hard to know what you’re getting.  This is just a fantastic write-up on some duck history.  It’s a really great read. (@ Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook) […]

  9. Richard Powell

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post both laughing out loud in places and having to wipe my chin from drooling in others. The photos are great. I appreciate seeing the result cooked. Now next time let us see the sliced meat! Or, no, maybe that would be too much to bear…

    You put a lot of research into this post too, and there is that sense of time and toil as well, which makes any meal taste that much sweeter.

    5 out of 5 stars for this one.


  10. Denise Michaels - Adventurous Foodie

    I just learned more about ducks than ever. I’ve cooked duck a couple times – quite a few years ago. But it came from the supermarket – not from the field or a pond. Thanks for educating those of us who are a little hesitant and a little inexperienced when it comes to cooking duck.

  11. Lael Hazan @educatedpalate

    A wonderfully informative post. Our neighbor growing, while I was growing up in Sacramento, would often go hunting and sometimes share. I remember it was one very exciting year when he brought home goose. Here in Florida I only see annoying Muscovy Duck, I wonder if they are good eating? Of course, my neighbors may have a problem with my harvesting them.

  12. Jesse Ellis


    I definitely lump Ruddies into the “diver” category. Sorry for breakin’ yer bits there. again, great article.

  13. fishguy

    I have been calling Ruddies little Butterballs for years and have been taking them off of my friends who are sure they don’t taste good. You may have ruined this for me! Another great post. Thanks!

  14. Tyler

    Quick query on your roasting method. I’m assuming that you’re going for medium/medium rare with the “quick oven.” Also, since the bird is plucked and largely intact, you do not see the meat until disassembling the cooked bird. What, then, do you do about parasites? For instance, if I shoot a duck with rice breast, I’ll know it because I almost always breast my birds. My course of action will be as follosw, either: a) freeze the breasts for a lengthy time to kill the little buggers, or b) cook to well done (which I never do, thus normally opting for option “a”). I’d wager you’re not overly concerned about parasites since your cooking description is your “go-to method” (unless you DID freeze the birds before cooking and just failed to mention it) but figured I’d throw it out there to see what you thought.

  15. Angie

    Howdy Hank,

    Just a quick thanks for your post on ruddies and for your articulate, attractive and interesting site! I am more of a bird watcher than a bird hunter, but I like your idea of publishing a book that would teach folks like me to hunt and forage for food. Your mention of Ducks, Geese and Swans of North America is interesting to me as well because I enjoy learning new tidbits about birds and was unaware of this book! Ruddies were one of the first ducks I learned to identify when I worked at Mono Lake many years back.
    Thanks again!

  16. Cork@Cork'sOutdoors

    This totally blows my away, Hank! I cut my duck hunting teeth shooting ruddy upon ruddy in the flats of San Francisco Bay as after school runs during high school in the late 70s and early 80s, in what was empty marshland and the original site of Marine World, but is now Oracle HQ in Redwood Shores…and those ducks were fishy, fishy, fishy! Will have to see if my buddy with a scullboat would like take run into the bay….

  17. Todd

    No need to “test” around the Bay. They are still fishy. I’ve shot and prepared Ruddies the last few weeks taken from marshes, every way you can, and low-tide is on the menu in every attempt. The only way I have gotten passable results was to marinate the breasts in a balsamic, oil, rosemary and garlic marinade overnight. Then I seared each side for 2-3 minutes, cut it into slices, and laid it atop a nice garden salad.

  18. Mike rivera

    Hello from Louisiana,
    I’ve roasted a few species of ducks here and never
    Found the skin to be enjoyable enough to eat except maybe on a leg that has been cooked ‘confit’. What’s your opinion?

  19. Wood

    I really enjoyed the article.
    I limited on Ruddys yesterday at a refuge. My first limit ever. feel better now after reading your story.

  20. Susan

    Wondering why anyone would shoot a duck if it is not considered good eating. Surely not for the mere sport…

  21. Pat Ronan

    Having just shot our limit of ruddy ducks while out walleye fishing on a local south dakota lake I was more than pleased to find your article. I was going to eat them anyway. Now my son and I are looking forward to it.

  22. Sue Short

    great advice on ruddy cooking….they drained our local lake and canvasbacks are passing us by in northern coastal area, do you have any suggestions of where to find them either Oregon or Calif?” Just love those ducks whether watching dive or hunting and of course eating!!!!

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