By Cole Daniels
Cleaning ducks is an easy, yet necessary part of duck hunting. Doing the job correctly is the best way to be sure your next duck dinner is what it should be. If you follow these suggestions, all the hard work you put into shooting ducks will be worth it.
If the temperature is over 50 degrees, field dressing ducks in the blind is a good idea. Removing the entrails right away will help cool the body temperature immediately. Make a small cut at the base of the chest plate and remove all the internal organs. If you like the heart and liver, bring a small plastic bag along to store them seperately. Once the birds are field dressed, stuff them with dry paper toweling and hang them in a shady place.
A head or a wing is required to comply with federal regulations during transport. If you’re traveling long distances, icing the birds is imperative. But you can’t just throw the birds in a cooler. When the ice melts, water will spoil the meat. Place each bird in a zipper lock bag before packing them in ice. You will also need to label each bag with your name, species and sex of the duck, and day of harvest.
Once you’re home, you can either breast out or pluck the ducks. Breasting out is quite simple. Use a filet knife to trim the skin off the breast meat, then carefully carve the meat off the breast plate. If you would like a whole bird for roasting, plucking is required.
Plucking the feathers off dry is possible, but difficult. The best way to prep a duck for plucking is to dip them in boiling water and paraffin wax. Dish soap works well too. A propane turkey fryer serves as a great dipping pot. Back in the old days, we used the bottom third of a 55 gallon drum. Simply prop the drum up on cinder blocks and start a fire under it. Hold the bird by the feet or neck and dip it in the water for about ten seconds. The feathers will rub right off. After the feathers are removed, singe the hair off the skin and cut off the feet, head, and wings.
The last step is rinsing the body cavity to clean out any remaining entrails. I usually do this outside with a spray nozzle on the garden hose. Do not soak ducks in salt water. This will pull all of the flavor out of the meat. If you plan to eat the bird within the next three or four days, store it in the refrigerator. If not, package it for freezing. A vacuum sealer works best. Otherwise, wrap the birds in freezer paper sealed with packing tape. I usually put my freezer wrapped birds in a zipper lock freezer bag for added protection. Ducks can be stored for up to a year if the temperature remains constant. But I recommend eating them within six months.
As water fowlers, we work to hard to let our game go to waste. Using these steps will ensure tasty meals well after the season.