Preparing Your Birds
Whether you are prepping pheasant or partridge, the skill set is the same, except partridge are much smaller. So practice on pheasant, as much as you can and the rest will come with time.
Wildfowl are prepped slightly differently (Geese & Duck) but the principles for hygiene and preparation are relatively the same.
As mentioned on the main page, I’m self taught from Youtube videos, so please bear this in mind with any of the prepping photos or videos that are on my socials. I find a lot of the facebook pages (Giving Up The Game) helpful as these are full of knowledgeable folk who can give you tips and tweaks to improve your skill and aesthetics of the birds. I used to only breast the birds and then cut the legs off. I don’t really eat legs, so find they just sit in the freezer, so I now remove the legs and then cut the meat from the bone, then mince this. Any really nice breasts will be vacuum packed as is, but mainly I mince the majority of it as we use more of it in this way. I do prep the occasional crown. Easiest way with pheasants is to lay the bird face up on the floor (usually best when still slightly warm) put a foot onto each wing and then pull the feet upwards. You’ll feel and hear (!!) the wings detach from the body, the breasts will be skinned at the same time and you should then be left with a gutted crown, which then only needs be trimmed and innards removed. Bare in mind, this most probably won’t work with birds that have broken wings and I tend to do this to head shot birds, so ensure a nice crown with minimal shot content, which looks much nicer when prepping and when it comes out of the oven.
Don’t forget when prepping birds that as the season goes on, you are more likely to come across birds that have been shot at, but not killed, so cysts or abscesses are common when processing birds from end of December onwards.
When breasting my birds, I don’t pluck any feathers, but make a small incision in the skin on its chest, I then use my fingers to make the hole bigger, then pull the skin right across to expose the chest. It may only be then that you notice any kind of “bad meat”
You can see from this photo, that there is damage to the breasts, pus and infection. This whole bird will need to be disposed of.
I make an incision down either side of the breast bone, then gently cut at an angle to follow the diaphragm, being careful not to pierce this, or the stomach. You will know if you’ve pierced the intestinal tract as you’ll smell it before anything else 😊 make sure the meat is washed and not contaminated and your knives are also washed before moving on.
Your next step would be to remove the legs. I "pop" the joint out of the socket.
I then pull the skin to remove this from the leg, the make a cut to detach the meat from the body, as close to the body as possible.
You can then either detach the bottom part of the leg/foot or cut off the scaly part of the leg (which I normally do for ease)
You should then have 2 nice breasts and 2 legs from your bird.
I also remove the heart and lungs, in which I do all the birds together at the end, as it can be a little messy. I purchased some metal mixing bowls a few years ago and these are great for separating out breasts, mincing meat, legs and dog scraps. Once you’re ready to remove the organs, make an incision at the bottom of the rib cage hold the bird steady with one hand and then open the rib cage up over the birds head. This will expose the organs. You should be able to see the heart and lungs easily and these should be easy enough to remove with your fingers, unless it’s had a hard landing or mainly body shot, in which case it might be a bit messy! These can be kept if you require, but for me, these are put aside with splintered legs, trimming and bones for raw feeders. There's a great group called Game Meat for Dogs GB on Facebook, where I post the scraps I have going spare, for free.