Normally when you’re shooting on a commercial shoot, at the end of the day, you’ll leave with a brace of birds. Usually these are a cock and a hen bird tied together and they may not be the birds that you have shot that day.
Once you are back home, It’s good to let the bird rest for a couple of days before you pluck or breast the bird out. Carefully check the birds out, especially where they've been shot. This area is always tricky to pluck.
The next thing you need to do is age your birds. An easy way to do this is to look at their beak and, on a cock, look at their spurs and their feet. A young bird will have short spurs and also more tender feet. Ageing the birds is a good practise, as it can determine the way that they are to be cooked. Older birds can be a bit tough, so long slow cooking is in order, whereas younger birds make perfect roasts.
As a general rule, it might be best to do this outside as long as you can find somewhere sheltered from the wind. Get some newspaper down to minimise the mess. If you have some wax paper to go on top of the newspaper, then this helps to make everything smooth.
The first place you want to start plucking a pheasant (or any gamebird) is the leg. Start with short, sharp tugs of the feathers, making sure not to tear the skin. Place the feathers in a pile just away from your bird as you work away at the leg.
Once the leg is bare of feathers, turn the bird over and pluck the back – again, make sure you don’t tear the skin. The longer feathers can be a bit tougher to pull out, so in this case go right down to the base of the feather. You can also hold the skin if you need to as tight skin makes it easier for the feathers to come out.
Next, turn the bird over and start on the front. Remember that short sharp tugs at the feathers are best to preserve the skin structure.
Check that you have left a good amount of neck exposed as this will make things easier. Next, it’s time to take the wings off. For this you will need a good pair of poultry shears. It could be time to buy these if you don’t have any or if they are old. Cut the wings off at the first joint that connects them to the body.
Hold your gamebird up and admire your handiwork
You’ll probably see a lot of tiny bits of quill left in the bird. To get rid of these, hold the bird up to a candle or a gas flame on your oven. Leave the legs on at this stage as this makes it easy to hold the bird over the flame. Simply turn the bird around just above the flame and the quill will just burn off nicely.
It’s much better if you can remove the tendons before you roast the bird as they are really a bit too tough to eat. So take your poultry shears and cut around the legs just above the middle joint – but not all the way through. Break the leg to expose the tendon then simply pull them out. Sometimes they come out evenly, but you may also have to tug away at them to get them out. Finally, remove the head using the poultry shears. Cut at the base of the neck.
Draw the bird
Drawing the bird simply means cutting a small slit in the vent then hooking two fingers inside the bird and drawing out the entrails. You’ll notice some small bones at the vent so the best thing to do is to snip through them.
In case you need to know, a bird’s intestine ends via the large intestine in the vent (or cloaca) which serves as the common exit for excrements (as well as for the laying of eggs).
Insert one finger first and move it around to loosen everything up. It might be a bit smelly. Then put both fingers in and aim to hook them around the entrails. Then pull your fingers out, drawing the entrails out in one go.
Your gamebird is now ready for cooking. Enjoy!