The following equipment is needed to clean game birds in the field:
- Sharp knife with a 2 to 3 inch blade
- Cloth bags to put birds in
- Clean rags or paper towels for wiping blood
If the weather is warm, bring along an ice chest with freezer packs in it. Whether you pluck or skin your birds depends partly on the kind of bird you have shot, and partly on personal preference.
Plucking or Skinning for Game birds
Before cleaning a bird, it is recommended to remove the feathers to avoid soiling the meat. The process is the opposite of a big game where we clean before skinning. There are two ways to remove the feathers, either by plucking or by skinning.
Leaving the skin on the bird seals in flavorful juices and prevents the meat from drying out when cooked, plucked birds are best for roasting.
To pluck a bird, grasp a small patch of feathers and pull against the grain with a quick tug. It is easier to pluck the bird when it is still warm just after it has died. Waterfowl can be rough plucked in the field to remove larger feathers. This makes final plucking much easier. To facilitate the plucking process, you can immerse the bird in hot water at 185F. This technique is called scalding. Hold the bird under the water for approximately three seconds and give it a vigorous shake up and down. Momentarily remove the bird and repeat one more time. The shaking action helps the hot water get to the base of the feathers.
The next stage involves removing the remaining down and pin feathers by wax picking. Paraffin wax is melted in a metal bowl containing water. Once the water is heated enough to melt the wax (which floats on top of the water), the bird is dipped through the wax.
Most hunters don't pluck upland game birds because their delicate skin is easily torn.
Removing the skin with the feathers attached is much faster and easier than plucking. However, we will no longer have the skin for cooking.
Start by removing some of the feathers along the chest to release the skin, then lightly start your incision along the sternum with the tip of a knife. Now you can peel the skin from around the body with your fingers. Once the bird is skinned, the legs and head are removed. We are now ready to clean the bird.
Cleaning Game Birds
Carefully cut the skin from the bottom of the breast to the vent. Cut from front to back and hold the blade parallel to the wall of the body cavity to avoid cutting any organs. Remove the head.
Use your fingers and/or knife to remove all internal organs and the vent. Be sure to remove the kidneys and lungs, which are tightly attached to the body wall along the back. Remove the crop, esophagus, and trachea from the underside of the neck.
Wipe the inside of the bird clean using a cloth or paper towels. Clean water may be used to wash out the body cavity, but only if the carcass is dried thoroughly afterwards.