While hunting is a satisfying activity on its own, hunting your own food can oftentimes be even more satisfying, especially for your stomach. Waterfowl have a bogus stigma for being gamey game. I’ll grant you, a mallard tenderloin is no elk steak, but there are plenty of ways to prepare and cook ducks and geese. It just takes a little more care and a few more pinches of salt and pepper.
I love to shoot big honkers in fields or skinny water, and so do a lot of my hunting buddies. At the end of the morning, they’re typically signing birds over to me and I take as many as are legal to be in my possession. Because I like eating Canada geese. You read that right. But you have to get the proper brine on them. I typically pluck duck and goose breasts to keep the skin on and then cut them out.
From there, you have two options. First, you can fill a good size cooler up with ice and water, letting the meat sit in there for two or three days, draining and replacing the water once or twice a day to get the blood out. The slurry tenderizes the meat, and turns it white-ish. That’s what you want. Option two, and my favorite, is to put the breasts in a saltwater brine for three days. It’s as simple as placing the birds in a large bowl or Tupperware container, add salt and water, then put it in in the fridge. I typically drain and refill the bowl twice a day. On day four, put the breasts in a colander and set it above the bowl, placing a plastic grocery bag over top and put it back in the fridge for one more day. This drains the remaining blood out of the birds. Now they are ready for a vacuum-sealed freezer bag or to be seasoned.
So once you have finished the brine, it’s time to season the birds. You can go any which way you want with this. Whatever your favorite steak or poultry rub is will work fine. I like a little spice in most of my ‘fowl and use “Slap Ya Mamma” Cajun spices for a lot of dishes. But it all depends on what you are cooking. If it’s fajitas: taco seasoning is best; Italian goose (recipe below): try Italian dressing dry mix…the list goes on and on. The key is to pair your dry rub with the meal, just like those fancy French restaurants do with winec. You can use liquid marinades, but I suggest trying the dry rubs and let the meat “marinate” overnight in the fridge.
Grill It Right
One of my favorite and easiest duck meals is to turn the grill up as high as it will go, grill a mallard breast that has been seasoned with steak, Lowry’s, garlic and onion salt and pepper skin side down for five to six minutes, flip it over for another three minutes, slice it up and serve with teriyaki sauce. You can buy good ones off the shelf or make your own with ginger, soy sauce, honey, minced garlic onion and water (recipe below).
The best way to learn your favorite recipes for wild fowl is to keep at hunting your own food. What I’ve learned is that the key to a good chunk of grilled fowl is keeping the skin on the bird so it crisps up and cook it over a white hot flame. You want it rare, rare, rare. Some may cringe at the bright blood-red middle, but that’s how it’s to be cooked. Well done duck is no bueno.
If you want to get serious about cooking fowl, then you need to pluck birds. Puddle ducks are easy compared to geese. I’ve used a few pluckers, but you can start the process in the blind between flights. Just make sure you leave the wing on as it’s a game law violation to transport a bird any other way.
One of my favorite duck meals is crock pot teal (recipe below). But my wife makes the most simple feast a man could hope for. She puts a whole duck in a pan and ladles melted butter and paprika over the bird until it is completely covered and sears the skin so it’s crispy. Then it goes in the oven on 350 for 45 minutes. It’s divine.
Here are some more recipes for you to try the next time you hunt your own food.
One of the easiest meals you’ll ever prepare/cook.
- 4 or 5 skinless goose breasts (depending on size)
- Add the goose breasts to a crock pot
- Add two packets of Italian dressing dry packets to the pot
- Add a bottle of pepperoncini peppers (stems cut off) to the pot
- Cover the breasts with water if needed
- Cook the breasts on low for eight hours
- When the meat is done pull it apart with a fork
- Slice French bread or sweet rolls and place the meat and a slice of provolone cheese in the middle
- Toast the sandwiches in the oven until the cheese melts
- Use the remaining juices as an Au Jus dip
Teriyaki Dip Sauce
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ cup honey
- 1/3 cup Soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped onion
- 1 minced garlic clove
- ½ cup water
- Combine all ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil for a few minutes.
Crock Pot Teal
You might notice there are no measuring cups in this recipe. Sorry. Just follow these directions, and you’ll be eating one darn fine meal.
- Add 4 or 5 plucked/gutted teal cut in half (remove rib bones) to a Dutch oven or large pot
- Season birds with your favorite dry rub (Slap Ya Mamma Cajun spice is perfect)
- Brown teal in oil and coat with flour after
- Add vegetables (fresh-picked mushrooms, diced carrots and diced onion are best)
- Slice and brown deer sausage (or any kind of spicy sausage you want) in a skillet and add it to the pot
- Add water and a soft drink (Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper, etc.)
- Let contents simmer 3 to 4 hours or put the covered pot in the oven at low temperature (250 degrees) for the same amount of time
- Serve over rice
Joe Genzel has been a writer and editor for over 15 years. He grew up chasing mallards and Canada geese on the Illinois River with his father and continues to pursue his passion for the birds as the associate editor of Wildfowl and Gun Dog Magazines.