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62 responses to “On Breasting Out Birds”

  1. River Mud

    Erika, I think I’m understanding more where you’re coming from and it makes a great deal of sense. Thanks for the further detail.

    Josh, whether everyone “should” live in the countryside or not, that ship sailed about 4,000 years ago when rich people started consolidating poor people (and slaves) into camps and villages to increase the efficiency at which they produced work. With 7.1 billion people on earth (soon to be 10 billion before the inevitable skid, crash, or slide), everyone can’t – and shouldn’t – live in the country. To accomodate all of my area’s wannabe countryside inhabitants (who still have to drive to work in the city 50, 60, even 90 miles away), our interstates are now 8 and 10 lanes wide. That has not accomplished a dang thing – except eliminated a lot of wildlife habitat and hunting land.

  2. Tragash

    This is a paradigm I’ve tried to change in the three seasons I’ve been hunting. When I started, I met the old school hunters who just tossed the remainder away, and I was sure to ask them for any parts or birds they were not going keep for their own table. This methodology continued, and as I became a more successful hunter, I would find ways to share my dishes with them in an effort to show what they were tossing was actually delicious edible portions of the bird. My second season I went so far as to even keep the unique feathers from the ducks I harvested and had earrings made from them for the ladies in my family which I gave to them for Christmas.

    I never found shame in asking these hunters for these portions, and this season I was rewarded with Swan thighs and legs that I will be cooking up soon. I just hate seeing these parts tossed away.

    This season, as I began to hunt with new people, the question always came up regarding how they cleaned the birds they brought home. I was pleased to learn that many of my new friends were up to plucking their birds and utilizing a majority of their harvest. Maybe there is a paradigm shift occurring. We can all hope cant we? And until that time, we can all do our part to save and utilize these portions and do justice to those animals that gave their lives for us to enjoy them.

  3. Tybo

    I used to be guilty of this and decided to change for various reasons. I now keep the legs and other parts and cook the meat to use in croquettes, tacos, or quesadillas.

  4. River Mud

    I’d agree that there’s NEVER any shame in that asking. In fact, too many hunters are willing to give away entire birds sometimes, because they just don’t feel terribly motivated to dealing with the bird they’ve killed (though they will, to the minimal extent (breasting)). My wife always asks for my pheasant feathers, and I gave up an entire wood duck’s feathers for a fly tying friend.

    People are more generous than each of us may think. As in most (legal) things in life, there’s no harm in asking.

  5. Eric Nuse

    Hank – I’m in agreement with full utilization of what we shoot. This idea is one of the 7 sisters of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model.
    Nothing disgusted me more as a hunter and a game warden than the ‘shoot it and leave it’ criminal. In my mind the lazy ‘strip out the best cuts and leave the rest’ crowd wasn’t far behind.
    However, I just finished reading a book, “Life Everlasting, the animal way of death”, by biologist Bernd Heinrich, that made me re-examine my human centered view of waste. I still will use every bit of the critters I shoot (I have a bunch of moose bones boiling on the wood stove right now) but depending how the non-human utilized parts are disposed of, I don’t feel so strident about it being waste. Human waste, yes, but certainly not for ravens, coyotes and scarab beetles.
    My thinking now is not fully using what you kill is disrespectful to the animal killed. If this is true, then it follows that the disrespect probably extends to other wildlife and wild places. If the unused meat/other parts are returned to the land – then waste is not the issue.

  6. Suburban Bushwacker

    I was at an old school english driven game shoot a few weeks ago, the guns as the sports are called, all took home a token brace and the rest of the bag were to go to the game dealer. The head keeper was kind enough to give me a feed sack of birds, everyone from the keeping team i spoke to said the legs of both pheasant and partridge weren’t worth eating. I was amazed. I’ve always eaten all the flesh and now thanks to you and your writing i’ve got all the organ meat in my freezer too. I did feel I was letting you and myself down when I chucked the gizzards though.


  7. Josh

    River Mud, I appreciate your comment to an extent you probably wouldn’t believe. However, I didn’t say that they weren’t “living in the country” as much as they should, but rather that they aren’t “living country as much as they should”, which can happen wherever one lives.

  8. Ken

    The hearts and livers of game birds, even doves, are delicious lightly floured and sautéed in butter. I have convinced a number of people, hunters included, that these parts are worth saving.

    I think legs and thighs are the tastiest part of pheasant. I just returned from a pheasant hunt – my buddy wanted only breasts – I got twice as much of our shared birds by taking all of his birds legs and thighs.

  9. River Mud

    Josh, amen to that. Sorry if I misunderstood you.

  10. Kraig

    I make my own duck/goose stock and it makes all the difference in the final taste of my waterfowl dishes. I am looking forward to Mr. Shaw’s new waterfowl cookbook.

  11. Cody

    What about smaller game like dove? I know quail is often roasted whole, but is dove?


  12. Justin

    Funny you should mention duck scrapple… Last week I was eating some homemade scrapple (I’m from Philly) when I chomped a BB. What the?? Then of course I remembered the old frozen spoonies I threw into the mix. Homemade scrapple is a great way to clean out the freezer!

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