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15 responses to “Bluebills and a Blown Mind”

  1. Kaprise

    Thanks for sharing! Sounds like a wonderful surprise!

  2. Florian

    I find it interesting that you talk about cooking wild ducks with their skin on. The New York State Department of Health says that the fat and skin should be discarded due to chemical contamination. Are there no similar recommendations in California?

  3. Guy B.

    Florian,

    All wild animals will contain contaminants to some degree. Depending on diet and where the animal lies in the food chain hierarchy, will result in higher or lower concentrations of these contaminants. The state departments place consumer warnings and recommendations on consumption of wild game based on studies and field samples. The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of
    Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)does put out a consumption warning in the California DFG website and in the Waterfowl Regulations Handbook. This warning and consumption recommendation is based on risk estimates that assume long-term consumption. So if you are trying waterfowl for the first time or eat duck skin/fat/or livers only on a few occasions a year, you have little to worry about. The DFG & OEHHA also highlight certain areas & types of waterfowl in California where higher levels of contaminant (mostly selenium) and risk of health hazard exist in consuming waterfowl from these areas. Ironically the area Hank hunted in this article/blog is highlighted as one of the potential risk areas in the DFG handbook (San Francisco Bay (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin,
    San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara Counties)and with Hank’s description of the industrial area they were hunting in it is no surprise. The OEHHA recommends that no-one eats more than 4oz of meat per 2 weeks from this area and highlights the Greater Scaup that Hank and his friend from Fresno were hunting. The best policy is to consume all wild game in small quantities and to avoid feeding to expecting or nursing mothers and children as they are more adversely affected by the contaminants. I personally still consume wild-game, but treat it as a special occasion meal, not to be eaten on a daily basis, but as a prized meal to enjoy once a week or once a month with good company. In California the odds of dying in a car accident are astronomically higher than dying from lead or selenium overdose from consuming waterfowl, this doesn’t stop me from commuting every morning and it sure as hell won’t stop me from enjoying a fine Duck dinner a few times a month.

  4. Marty J

    I live in the Fresno area and I have a lot of ducks in the freezer. Mainly Northern Shovelers. Can somebody guide me to resources to see if these are safe to eat? It doesn’t sound like Hank has any concerns.

  5. Celeste

    How do bluebills taste as compared to coot? Coot are pretty fishy, but making gumbo out of them tames the funky flavor into something pleasant.

  6. Laura

    Well dang! We eat wild elk, salmon, pheasant, quail and duck for almost all our meals, thinking it’s safer, not more contaminated than domestic beasts/birds. Am I wrong? Always thought that meat that is “free range”, “antibiotic free”, no feed lot, no fish farm, no overcrowded chicken coops etc was far better than the commercial alternative. Am I wrong? Then again, we don;t hunt in SF bay area, but up in Idaho and E. Washington.
    Guidelines?

  7. Dave W

    We’re heading out with RJ this weekend so hopefully we get to bring back some of those good eatin’ greaters!

  8. Karen

    Hank-
    Just for “scientific and research purposes” which you obviously enjoy partaking in- next time you harvest blueys- or another species eating coastal marine invertebrates- take the gut contents (sample your entire bag) and have it tested for contaminants-

    Maybe have some pals do the same as they hunt them somewhere else (from another sw marsh area) and see what the difference is….

    We never know where our birds have been- but you can bet Mallards are eating pesticide sprayed wheat and corn, dabbling in ag area rivers and eating things we would consider toxic- let alone Geese and their habits of grazing at golf courses ….

    Karen

  9. dave w

    I will have to say that I was a little skeptical about trying this but I just finished pan searing one of the fatter breasts from todays bag and it was delicious. Thanks for the tip Hank, if not for the timliness of this article all seven would have gone into a gumbo!

  10. Andrew Bogan

    Great to hear that you tried some divers skin-on and enjoyed them! I’ve had both lesser and greater scaup that were quite tasty whole and also the odd delicious goldeneye and bufflehead. Ruddy ducks, as you know, are often excellent for divers, too.

    On the dabbler side, Norther Shovelers are often maligned, but they are genetically almost identical to blue-winged and cinnamon teal, both of which have much better reputations at the table. The Australasian Shoveler, another related blue-winged species looks like a composite of its three North American cousins. I wonder if the folks Down Under consider them good table fare?

    As for toxicity, California’s OEHHA does not only warn about selenium levels in scaup that dive for clams in the Bay Area, but also for all ducks in the Grasslands of Western Merced County (Los Banos region of the Central Valley), including all the dabblers. Unfortunately, wildlife is exposed to a wide range of environmental toxins in our polluted world. I still eat (and feed my children) wild duck, but avoiding livers and keeping portions small is (sadly) a wise precaution in much of North America today.

  11. E. Nassar

    I just shot my first Northern Shoveler drake. It looked beautiful and after plucking and gutting it looks also great and has a clean smell. I plan on testing how good it tastes roasted whole after reading this post. Thanks again Hank.

  12. Damen

    I skin and breast all spoonies and ruddy ducks. They are fantastic as fajitas or soaked with OJ and teriyaki and then BBQ’d.

  13. Laurence

    I just discovered and bought your superb duck cookbook – what a delight.

    I have also started hunting the South Bay from a kayak and this article motivates me try scaup. I am no kinda gourmet (I think Valley spoonies are just fine), but I will report back on the results this weekend.

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