From Pond to Freezer – Processing Your Waterfowl

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.

Here's a limit of birds killed a couple weeks ago. Six of the seven were plucked in the blind.

Here’s a limit of birds killed a couple weeks ago. Six of the seven were plucked in the blind. In this case I cleaned them at the sink which you can see in the lower left hand corner.

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.

Here's six teal and a pintail after cleaning them from the back side.

Here’s six teal and a pintail after cleaning them from the back side.

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.

These birds are ready for shrink wrap. If you are more particular than me, you can keep messing with them, but I prefer to finish them in the sink after they thaw.

These birds are ready for shrink wrap. If you are more particular than me, you can keep messing with them, but I prefer to finish them in the sink after they thaw.

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.

A shrink-wrap machine is invaluable.

A shrink-wrap machine is invaluable.

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.

Remember to label your birds before placing them in the freezer. You'll want to know date and species.

Remember to label your birds before placing them in the freezer. You’ll want to know date and species.

May not be for everybody, but this process works for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s