Over the course of 50 years of waterfowl hunting, I’ve plucked and cleaned waterfowl in many ways.
Here are a few. Pluck by hand in my garage. Clean in garage sink. Double wrap in cellophane or wax paper and tin foil. Freeze. Pluck by hand in the field. Clean in sink at home. Wrap in cellophane and tin foil. Freeze. Dip in wax and strip the feathers by pulling the wax off. Clean in sink. Insert into zip lock bag and freeze. Bring the bird home and cut the breast meat out without skin. Shrink wrap and freeze.
OK. I could go on and on.
The best way – pluck the bird in camp and have a sink in camp for cleaning. (This option has not always been available.) Bring home in cooler, shrink wrap and freeze. However, water in camp is unusual.
My wife hates me when I bring my uncleaned waterfowl home and work in the kitchen or laundry room sinks.
Here’s a couple tips I learned this year.
1.) Keep a 5-gallon bucket in your blind. Pluck the birds carefully in the blind while hunting. Dump the feathers out far enough from the blind so they drift away harmlessly.
2.) Place your plucked birds in a five-gallon bucket or cooler and transport home without bothering to remove head, wings or legs.
3.) Place the five-gallon bucket into your garage refrigerator (or whatever you have available).
4.) Here’s the key: After one or two days of cooling, pull the birds from the bucket and clip the wings etc. cut the posterior off and use a pair of kitchen sheers to cut the birds along it’s back side from tail to head.
5.) Because the bird is cold inside, it takes only two moves to completely remove the intestines, heart and everything else. There is almost no juice left in the bird.
6.) Because the bird is cold, you need no water to wash as you clean. An entire limit of ducks can be cleaned and prepped for the shrink wrapper without any washing.
7.) After all the birds are clean, wash and dry your hands and take the carcases to your shrink-wrap machine. I use a FOODSAVER and it takes a bag for each big duck and a bag for three teal.
8.) I can clean, shrink-wrap and place the finished birds in the freezer while washing my hands only twice – once after all the birds are gutted and again when I’m all done. Not using water saves a tremendous amount of time and reduces the mess.
Using this technique today, I cleaned a pintail and six teal and had them in the freezer in less than an hour. I’ll detail the birds in the sink later, before cooking.
May not be for everybody, but this process works for me.