Pheasant

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My husband, when he was young, hunting with his bird dog Penny, in Kansas

My husband, when he was young, hunting with his bird dog Penny

In 1981, when I met my husband-to-be, I liked him immediately. Like grew into love, and within 3 months we eloped and moved in together.

Now that’s not something I would recommend to people, like getting married at 16, but it has worked for us. However, there are things that you can’t learn about a person in 3 months.

It was well after we married that I learned my husband was a hunter. I nearly fainted. It was too late for an annulment, but trust me, I wasn’t happy.

During my last years of high school, I lived in Park City, Utah, which is a big deer and elk hunting area. I worked at a diner back then, so every year I had to put up with these drunk guys stopping in for meals, making feeble attempts at sobering up, as well as being crudely obnoxious to me.

These guys would fly into Utah for long weekends of gun- and man-bonding, shooting anything and everything that moved. I remember seeing dead horses and cows that were killed by these idiots during their drunken hunting fests. Sometimes if they kept the deer or elk, they would leave the entrails behind to rot. So believe me. I wasn’t keen on hunters.

My husband told me that first of all, he only killed birds, no four-legged animals. That made me feel better, although I’m not sure why. And he also explained to me that he was trained at an early age on the sport of hunting, and on gun handling.

But it was still really hard to believe that when he’d go out with his buddies for their annual pheasant and quail shoot over the years, that there wasn’t drinking involved. But this was serious business, he claimed, and at least during the time they were hunting, there was no drinking. And at nighttime, it sounded like after walking 10 or 15 miles, they were just happy to go to sleep.

It’s a touchy subject, this hunting thing, which is why I’m not offering up this post as a debate forum. I’ve loosened up about hunting over the past years, and of course I’m especially understanding of people who hunt because they must. That makes complete sense to me.

Out of respect, my husband keeps his shotgun out of my sight, because I don’t even like seeing it, and he’s never asked me to join him. He also doesn’t go on hunts where all the birds are sent flying towards you, which really is no sport at all.

I will never touch a gun and I will never shoot an animal. That I know. I (sort of) understand that it’s a sport, and if there’s no waste, that’s a good thing. But here’s the thing. I fish. In fact, I love to fish. And I do eat the fish. And I also step on spiders. Happily. So what’s the difference?

So most every bird season since we’ve been married, depending on where we were living, my husband went hunting, and on good days he would bring home pheasants and quail.

Quail are so small that I always poached them and fed the meat to our dogs. I really didn’t know what else to do with them.

Pheasants, of course, are bigger. I cooked them a few times in the early years, the best I could. But the first time you bite down on a metal buck shot, you become a bit timid about eating more pheasant.

Buck shot, being so tiny, is easy to miss when you’re cleaning the birds. But discovering it with your teeth is like finding a popcorn kernel you didn’t expect in your bag of fluffy popcorn. Except these tiny metal balls will make your ears ring and your teeth hurt, and crack, if you’re really unlucky.

So pheasant meat also became dog food, which the dogs loved. Sadly, I never really viewed pheasant as “gourmet” game that I was lucky to have in my freezer. But this year, I decided it was time to actually work on preparing pheasant.

My first attempt was the recipe Pheasant with Green Chiles. The only challenge is to not overcook the pheasant breasts; they are lean and dry out easily.

After this pheasant experience, I decided the sous vide process would be the best way to cook tender juicy pheasant. Coming soon!

29 thoughts on “Pheasant

  1. I understand your squeamishness about hunting. In my last house in the English countryside, the local gamekeeper used to leave a brace of pheasants on my back door after there had been a Shoot at the “big house”. I hated it – at first – but in the end learnt to cook them so that the act wasn’t wasted!

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  2. I grew up in a hunting family which meant we were taught safety and reverence for the animals that were shot and utilized for food. I’ve gotten away from wild meat, and no longer have a taste for it. We too had those people that would come from the city for a weekend and shoot up livestock. Our local hunters stayed out of the field on these days. I am anxious to see how you cooked up these birds. They can be so dry and stringy.

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  3. I have no problem with people shooting game if they’re going to eat it. I eat other sorts of meat and as I too get free gifts of game birds I cook them with heartfelt thanks. Where I get angry is with the waste on commercial shoots in the UK where, because the organisers get paid peanuts by game dealers, they dig a big hole in the ground and bury the carcasses. I find that repugnant and immoral. Rant over.

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  4. We – like most Australians – are gun-phobic, so hunting isn’t a big thing here. However my sister married a New Zealander and they are very big on the whole huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ scene which came as a big shock to her.

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  5. Hello, delighted you visited me today so I could do the same and discover your wonderful blog. You have my complete attention with this pheasant post, a bit of a tease, but I will surely be back for it’s conclusion.
    Having bitten into many a buckshot, I agree it’s not a nice experience. I have not had much satisfaction with preparing pheasant, always too dry. It often ends up as pheasant salad sandwiches, which are quite good considering it’s rescuing what otherwise has only so-so appeal. I never thought of dissecting it. I considered sous vide and tagine, but own none of the necessary equipment.
    I grew up in a hunting family. Maybe that normalizes it or desensitizes one? Any who, lovely story about you and your man. See you soon then. Melissa

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  6. OMG, Mimi. Firstly, how romantic and that you guys are still together and make it work…awesome. I grew up on land where pheasants and quail and turkeys ran wild, but we’re not hunters. I have nothing against it if you use the game, after all, I eat almost everything and appreciate the sacrifice by making the most of the animal. Pheasant is really good. I love your description of missing the bullet. So cool. You really are a cook. Great post, great photos.

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  7. I wanted to add that I do get upset sometimes because we did grow up in a hunting town where to go outside we had to wear orange because our parents were afraid we’d get shot. People used guns and bows and arrows to hunt for deer. If they use it and cook it, then go ahead, but to do it just for sport makes me sad. And I still worry about getting shot sometimes when Im wandering around the woods, especially that first day in November when it becomes legal.

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  8. Love the photo of your husband and his dog! I have no desire to do it, but I’ve got nothing against hunting. If I did, I couldn’t speak to my dear father, who lives for it. ;)

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