Tools and Techniques No Bird Hunter Should Be Without (infographic)

Pheasant hunter walking down a prairie road with pheasant in hand

If you take care of gamebirds bagged in the hunted field or forest, they will take care of you at the dinner table. Having the right tools and techniques for field dressing gamebirds can make the job much easier.

Quick link to "Pressing Gamebirds": in five easy steps.

Tools for Prepping Gamebirds

Smith's 4'' Diamond Sharpening Stone with Cover
Smith's Diamond Sharpening Stone with Cover

You only need a few tools to properly take care of birds. A knife is the basic piece of gear required. It can be either a fixed blade knife or folding knife with a 2 ½ to 4 inch blade.

If you choose a folder, make sure it’s a model that locks in place for safety’s sake. A built-in gutting tool is optional. Also keep a knife sharpener, whetstone like Smith's Diamond Sharpening Stone or steel handy. The sharpest knife is the safest knife when used with care.

Camillus Game Shear Multi-Tool
Camillus Game Shear Multi-Tool

Snipping shears like the Camillus Game Shear Multi-Tool can be useful for cutting off wings and legs of larger birds such as geese, ducks and turkeys, but aren’t essential. You can use garden tree clippers in a pinch or snap the joints and use your knife.

Some people like to use rubber field dressing gloves or dishwashing gloves to reduce cleanup afterwards. Paper towels come in handy and a few wet wipes are nice if you’re not near a stream or faucet where you can wash up afterwards.

Field to Table Techniques for Plucking Gamebirds

Plucking—This is best done in the field or soon after the bird has been shot, when the body is still warm. Pull just a few feathers at a time. You can also dip a bird several times in hot water (around 180 degrees) for a few seconds, to loosen the feathers before plucking.

Ducks and geese can be easier to pluck if they are dipped several times in melted canning wax or paraffin. Allow the wax to cool and harden, then peel it off. Use about 8 to 12 ounces of wax in two or three gallons of hot water.

Remaining down and hair-like feathers can be removed by holding the bird quickly over a gas stove burner or using kitchen matches.

After plucking, cut off the feet, head, tail and wings. Cut below the breast and take out the entrails (see instructions below), then wipe with paper towels or wash in a sink with cold water.

11 Steps Show You How to Field Dress a Bird

Field Dressing a Bird:

  1. Using a sharp knife, make a shallow horizontal cut just below the breast bone.
  2. Pull the breast forward and the legs back to open the bird.
  3. Reach in and pull out the intestines, heart, lungs and gizzard.
  4. Wipe the bird inside with a paper towel or clean cloth. Place in a cooler or shady place to dissipate the heat.

Skinning and Cleaning a Bird:

  1. Snap or cut off wings with a knife or shears at the first joint away from the body.
  2. Cut through the legs at the first joint above the foot, leaving drumsticks attached to the body.
  3. Make a small vertical cut in skin and pull it away from the breast and sides.
  4. Pull as much of the meat out in the open as possible, using fingers to separate the skin from the drumsticks.
  5. Cut at the vent and neck to remove skin from bird.
  6. Make a horizontal cut below the breast and pull out entrails if you didn’t do so in the field.
  7. Wipe the inside with a clean with paper towels.

Now it’s time to wash, wrap and freeze your prize possessions or prepare them for one of the greatest meals you’ve ever enjoyed.

Click here to see a larger view of the Field Dressing Gamebirds guide.

Field Dressing Gamebirds: five easy steps.

Artwork showing five steps to field dressing a gamebird

For more information about field dressing gamebirds, visit Finally No More Gamey Gamebirds: Field-to-Table Tricks for Delicious Wild Game Meals at Bass Pro Shops 1Source.