Bob’s DU Duck Barbecue

My good friend and hunting partner, Bob Smallman taught me a new angle on barbecued duck. He call’s it DU teal as he claims he learned it from a recipe created by Duck Unlimited. However, it is so basic that probably many people have recreated it over time.

Here’s how it goes: Shoot a teal (or other duck) and have your dog retrieve it.


Admire the bird, take a photo and treat it with respect.

Brett with mixed blind from blind f, 1-19-19

Pluck the bird (s) with care, removing as many pin feathers as possible. Remove head, wings and feet. Then slice down the breastbone and filet each side of the bird, keeping only the breast and leg on each side.


The good news is you don’t have to get messy. The intestines stay inside the bird.


What you have now is almost 100% meat.  Season with your favorites.


These are my go-to seasonings. Heat the (gas) barbecue to 400 degrees. Marinate the filets in vinegar, oil and seasonings. Flop them onto the red-hot grill for 2 or 3 minutes. They will flame up nicely. Flip them over for 1 or 2 minutes depending upon how well done you want them. Be careful. They cook very quickly.

Remove them from the grill. They should look something like this.


Can’t beat this. You will not find any pinfeathers as any that were there are now burned off. I’m hungrey.









Simple Goose Jerky

Goose meat makes very good jerky. The meat is very consistent and easy to chew. Here’s the simplest way to make it.

Shoot some geese.

Pick out the preferred geese and save them for the oven.

Breast out the remaining geese.


Slice the breasts into strips and put them into a marinade of 50% soy sauce and 50%  Worcestershire sauce.

Marinate for 12 to 24 hours depending upon your preference. 24 hours will produce a strong salty flavor.

Dehydrate until dry but still chewy.

After a couple batches you can adjust the marination and drying to make the jerky come out the way you like it best.

Jerky meat is great for carrying with you on future hunts.Be aware of the high salt content. You may not want to eat more than a few pieces in a day.


Making the Most of Our Take

Success has expanded in some of my hunting during the past fifteen years. With regard to big game, the process of becoming a rifle hunter has been a big factor. With regard to waterfowl, the expansion of goose species has been a factor. A third factor has been some change in the places I hunt.

Although I still hunt with a bow, for several reasons that are not important to this post, I’m more inclined to wait for rifle season and the rifle is a much more effective method of take. On the other hand, the method of take has not changed related to duck hunting, but other factors have.

Regarding waterfowl, natural changes in California habitat and game populations has been a factor. Another factor is a change in where I hunt, meaning that different species are dominant in my take.

When our primary delta duck was converted to a permanent marsh, I transitioned my primary duck hunting to the Kerry Duck Club in the North Grasslands District. Although the number of ducks I take has risen, the species has shifted from mallard to teal and some sprig.

Age and personal life style are other factors influencing freezer burn. Thowing away game after three years in my freezer is worse than leaving it dead in the marsh.

In an effort to make the most of my take and not waste game, my eating habits are evolving. My goal is to eat healthier and also reduce freezer burn, which is a form of spoilage that I hate, but I must admit that it still happens.

Game meat is very healthy in its natural state. Eating meat is a great way to reduce sugar and fat intake, but while processing, one can add back some of the stuff you’re trying to avoid.

Traditionally, most of my game meat meals have taken place at dinner. When we have guests who enjoy game meat, my stockpile of ducks, geese and venison is appropriately recycled. But my wife doesn’t eat game and our propensity for having large parties has declined during that past few years. This is a factor adding to a need for alternatives in  processing and cooking game.

Smoking game is an alternative that works to an extent, but if I smoke more than I can eat, I may be only succeeded in modifying the nature of the game meat in my freezer from unprocessed and frozen to smoked and frozen. And, high salt food is tougher on our bodies as we age. There is still room for growth in this area, if I increase the amount of times I hot-smoke game with less brine and more smoke,and if the resulting meat is eaten on the spot, the problem is reduced.

Making sausage is an area that I am expanding. To date, most of my best success has been with summer sausage. Once again the amount of salt is a factor. I can only eat so much salty food.

Another idea on my list is to use a small sausage making grinder to make fresh sausage on a small-scale. The idea is to convert a two goose breasts and a hunk of pork shoulder into sausage that can be eaten in a couple of meals and never have to be frozen. The less meat I freeze, the smaller the chance of losing out to my primary enemy..

Making chili is another way to convert meat into an edible product. I enjoy chili, but I must also learn to make it in proportions that result in consumption, not just convert meat into another form of freezer waste. Right now I have several bags of frozen chili in my freezer that I need to eat. The good thing about chili is that I have no trouble when I want to give it away, which limits waste.

Eating meat for breakfast is another solution that is working well. Here are some photos of a breakfast I prepared this week. It was easy and tasty. I call it the Two-teal breakfast.

First comes procurement.

IMG_0022 Lola teal by Joe

Lola and a drake green-wing teal. Photo by Joe DiDonato

Second comes preparation. Here is a series of photos from this week.

My preferred seasoning, sea salt, Lowery seasoning salt and ground peppercorn.

An entire sliced yellow onion. Water and oil. A little flour to sprinkle on the teal when browning.

Cover the bottom of the pan in oil and about a quarter-inch of water. Heat and cover for ten minutes. After ten minutes remove the cover and cook off the water. Once the water is gone cook until brown. The entire process takes about 20-25 minutes.

The yellow onion definitely complements the teal. Mushrooms and toast would be good additions.

Make the most of your take and you’ll enjoy hunting to its fullest.

Holiday Hunting

It’s often difficult to make time for hunting during the holidays. And the weather doesn’t always cooperate, but here are a few photos from the last three weeks.

Although the weather was too warm and sunny for geese, our first Webb Tract overnight this year did produce this rooster as Lola made a perfect flush and retrieve.


This pheasant was good for a tray of thinly sliced and delicate meat dipped in cornmeal, salt and pepper, then fried hot and fast. The tray was presented on Christmas eve and it didn’t last long.

Geese eventually packed the island and here are a few photos from the next couple trips to Webb.

Just because the geese were there didn’t make it a slam dunk to bring them home, but last week I finally got a bunch of action and so did Lola. An overnight produced three the first afternoon and five more the next morning in a low fog.


The three speckled bellies are now fully plucked and are sitting in my fridge, ready for roasting.The Aleutians and snow are breasted out. I’m contemplating how to cook them, but the first was pounded thin and fried for breakfast. Pretty good, but the specs will be better yet. After they are properly anointed with salt, seasoning salt and pepper, I’ll roast them at 400 degrees for about thirty minutes until they are medium rare and nicely browned on the outside.

Hunting geese can produce a real problem. Not the specs, which are easy to prepare and are also so delicious that they easily disappear, but the Aleutians and snows which are inferior.

The catch is that the population of snows and Aleutians is so large that they appear to need thinning. That’s probably why the goose limit is 30 per day, 10 dark and 20 white. Bag limits are three times the daily limit. If you shoot a limit of 30 (or a bag limit of 90), be prepared to make a bunch of jerky, sausage, stew and chili.

What do you do with a Rutty Buck?

Hunting during the rut is wonderful because you have chances at bucks that you may never see otherwise. Last season I killed my Montana buck during the second week in November. It’s not a giant buck, but it is a mature buck with long tines. I was very happy with him.


That is, I was very happy until it came time to eat him. I tried him straight up –  fried strips of pure venison on a hot skillet with salt pepper and flour. Normally delicious, but not with this buck.

I made some summer sausage and concluded that it was a waste of good material.

Then the meat sat in my freezer while I wondered if I’d be able to eat it at all. Then my brother offered to return the remaining venison from what I’d given him, another bad sign.

With more rutty venison that I cared to think about, I needed to find a solution. Then I remembered that I had purchased a gift basket at one of our MDF fundraisers and the basket contained several seasoning mixes donated by John McGannon of WILDEATS Enterprises.  One of the seasonings was a chili blend that he calls, Controlled Burn.


I found that package in our cupboard and read the instructions. Looked perfect.

After some defrosting and a trip to the grocery store, I was ready for action. With a celery base, two yellow onions, one green bell pepper, five pounds of venison, several cans of tomato sauce and pulp, several shakes of tobasco sauce,  and a bottle of zinfandel, it had all the right stuff. Oh yeah, also a have cup of Controlled Burn.

Following the WILDEATS directions and after a half hour of chopping celery, onions and a bell pepper, I browned the venison and then added the  huge pile of chopped good stuff into the large sauce pan while the meat waited in a large pot along with the tomato sauces. It took a while to wilt the celery, onions and bell pepper mix, but before long I tossed everything into the pot and finished it off on low heat.

I’ve now done this twice and the results are wonderful. The rutty buck  is gone. Four of us feasted on chili this weekend on the eve of our annual our quail hunt and everybody was happy. The remainder is packaged in half a dozen vacuum bags which I froze and then sealed in my vacuum sealer. It won’t last long.

Now I’m almost ready for another rutty buck.

Rutty Buck

The downside of hunting for big bucks during the rut is that the meat may be less desirable than deer killed before or after the rut. The buck I killed in Montana last November was rutting. And, it’s meat has an after taste that is bearable, but not good.

The buck was processed by a butcher into roasts and hamburger. I like summer sausage and the method I use is to purchase a kit made by High Mountain Seasonings. The kit calls for 80% deer meat and 20% pork. The meat is ground and mixed together. Unfortunately I had 10% beef fat added to my deer meat during the hamburger making process.

I decided to take a risk and use the hamburger straight from the package, using the ingredients and recipe I’ve use previously with success.

The resulting sausage was more like a boloney than summer sausage and definitely not as tasty, but it will work for sandwiches, so the effort was not wasted. Next I’ll be trying roasts by making summer sausage the traditional way. I believe it will be fine, but we’ll find out soon.


The Holidays Were a Blur

Duck hunting during the holidays consisted of a variety of not so noteworthy hunts.

A trip to the China Island and Kesterson Units of the North Grasslands ended up being mostly a scouting trip. I’ve been to China Island twice now and I’m not impressed.

The afternoon hunt at Kesterson produced a little action. My friend Roger Matuska and I walked out to blind 3A, which consists of two barrels and a dog box on an island. Spoonies, wigeon, gadwall and teal passed by and I managed to knock down a greenwing teal and a gadwall. The spoonies came in like lasers and I missed three opportunities while muffing a couple other opportunities.

The barrel blinds at Kesterson were dry and very functional. The dog blind was adequate.

The barrel blinds at Kesterson were dry and very functional. The dog blind was adequate.

At least we didn’t get up at 2 AM for the hunt. Leaving home at 9 AM instead and hunting the afternoon was painless. We only carried three decoys and used a jerk string. The ducks passed within range, but didn’t slow down.

Trips to our Webb Tract club produced a few quality birds. On the Friday before Christmas, I bagged two sprig, an Aleutian goose and a spec. Boy did they give me and Lola a workout. I only killed one bird dead. The others all provided lengthy chases, but Lola came through. It rained so hard Saturday morning that I didn’t hunt. I was soaked before I left camp.

Another trip to Webb on the day after Christmas produced a couple spring and chances at geese. The island was holding plenty of birds, but they didn’t fly much.

The delta is holding plenty of geese.

The delta is holding plenty of geese.

I smoked a bunch of ducks and geese from last year. They were well received at our Christmas party and as gifts. Venison was also popular, both as summer sausage and smoked. I served smoked goose breast, smoked steel head and summer sausage with cream cheese and crackers. There wasn’t any left over.

I’ll be out again later this week. Still looking for a day with major action.


When the Freezer’s Full

You can tell when people like meat. Their eyes light up at the mention of mallard and they smile and ask, “What’s this?” as they reach out for a mytery offering.

I appreciate people who have an adventurous appetite.

My wife will not eat game meat, except pheasant. She likes fish, but even fish often take a back seat to anything Safeway.

When I hunt, I prefer to shoot stuff. Bringing home a prize is part of the fun. I enjoy preparing game to eat, but without eaters I’m at a disadvantage.

That’s why my freezer fills up.

When that happens, it’s time to get to work.

On my Idaho trip I came home with 50 pounds of pure meat and also found a great Jerky and Sausage Supply store in the small Idaho town of Kooskia. I went a little overboard purchasing seasonings and cures, but I’m having fun with them. The company has an online store:

Over the past week, I’ve made three batches of jerky. The first two were with venison and I tried Eldon’s Original and AC Legg’s Maple Style. I prefered the Eldon’s original. While brining meat in Eldon’s Premium Ham Brine in preparation for smoking, I threw in some duck breasts from non-mallards. I often make jerky from the likes of spoonies, cinnamon teal, wigeon and gadwall.

Another good brine for jerky is a 50/50 mix of soy sauce and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce. With these, overnight brining is enough.

On the other hand, the ham brine recipe calls for several days of soaking. After 5 days I decided to check out the meat. It was ready for smoking while the breasts were ready for the jerky maker. Yesterday I fired up my water smoker  and sliced the breasts in preparation for the dehydrator. (I use a NESCO, American Harvest Food Dehydrator and Jerky Maker. It works well.)

After a day of smoking, the meat (ducks, geese and venison) came out of the smoker looking quite good and tasting great. I have to watch myself while I’m doing all this because if I eat too much of the product I swell up like a balloon. You don’t want to take in too much salt! That’s why you need eaters!

The “ham-brine”  duck jerky also came out excellent, but the Eldon’s Original is still my favorite.

Last weekend I made a big dent in the venison by producing 15 pounds of summer sausage with  High Mountain Seasoning’s summer sausage kit. It came out perfect. I highly recommend their product – just follow the directions.

My grinder is a Cabela’s Heavy Duty Grinder that I purchased for about $70. It will produce two pounds per minute and that’s fast enough for me. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’ve already got my money’s worth.

Now my freezer has some room, but (hopefully) not for long.

Summer Sausage for Christmas

Made summer sausage the week before Christmas and gave almost all of it away. In fact I just opened the final hunk we have left for New Years.

The sausage kit recipe is excellent and it cuts down on the prep work. I mixed ten pounds of ground venison (from Jeff’s BC whitetail) with four pounds of ground pork shoulder. Then I added the seasoning and cure per the instructions which are very explicit and easy to read.

After stuffing the sausage into the casings, I let them sit in the refrigerator over night and smoked them the next day. I heated them for one hour in the oven, then smoked them for two hours and finished them off by putting them back in the oven for an hour until they reached 156 degrees F.

Here are a few photos of the process.

I purchased the kit at Bass Pro. It save a lot of time by eliminating the need to shop for seasonings and mixing them.

Smoking the sausage adds a lot of flavor. I prefer the apple wood. The water smoker is heated by bricketts.

It takes too long to heat the meat to 156 degrees in the smoker, so I finished the sauage off with the oven set at 200 degrees.

Wrapping the sausage using the foodsaver keeps it moist. If you leave it unwrapped it begins to dry out, something you won't like.

I served the sausage Christmas Eve and it was well received. I felt good about giving it away.

Weekend Sausage Extravaganza


For the second consecutive year, daughter Betsy and I made sausage with venison, goose and duck breasts. We mixed the fowl with the venison and figured it would all work out in the end – which it did. Snow geese, Aleutian geese, widgeon and spoonies joined with shoulder and rump meat from my buck.

I found a couple pork shoulders at the local grocery store – ten pounds apiece. Combined with 20 pounds of game meat we had the makings of a bunch of sausage.

I purchased sausage kits at Bass Pro. This made the process of gathering up materials and spices quite simple and I had enough to do to get ready anyway. We were very pleased with the product.

Here’s a photo essay of our weekend efforts.

Meat ingredients


We sliced and diced the pork and venison.

It's ok to have a beer while making sausage.

Casings come packed in salt.

Rinse the casings to remove salt.

Note the prepackaged sausage kit.

The casings must be soaked until soft.

We ground the pork and venison together.

I followed directions from the kit carefully.

The meat after one pass through.

After the first pass we added seasoning and cure and then reground.

After regrinding and a night in the fridge, the meat was ready to be stuffed.

Summer sausage is 80% lean meat and 20% pork.

Polish and bratwurst are 80% pork and 20% venison, but you can go to 50/50 if you prefer a lean product.

When the grinding was over, we switched the knife and grate (on the counter) for the stuffing blade - inserted into the grinder.

The casings slide over the stuffing tube. After it's in place tie a knot at the end.

Betsy attempted to make sausage by herself, but it really takes two people, one to hold the sausage and the other to run the machine.

Summer sausage casings are quite large and a larger stuffing tube is used.

Twist the casings as each link reaches the desired length.

The summer sausage made us laugh.

Dad stopped by to supervise for a while.

Polish links with a little left over for smoked sausage patties.

I was quite proud of the summer sausage.

We ended up with 15 pounds of summer sausage.

To prepare the smoker, I place apple wood chips inside aluminum foil. This created an appropriate amount of smoke and heat when placed over the coals.

Bratwurst first.

Almost there.

After three hours of smoking, the bratwurst reached the 160 degrees necessary to be safe.

The summer sausage is fabulous.
The bratwurst and polish have an excellent smokey flavor.

What a great way to share your game with friends.