Tips for Gutting Feathered Small Game

Tips for Gutting Feathered Small Game

You might not expect it, but gutting small game is a controversial subject. Many guys like to hang, or age, their small game with the guts inside.

I’ve never heard a good argument for this, beyond the fact that it saves time in the field. This is the usual perspective of hunters who simply “breast-out” their game birds, a term for just filleting away the breast meat and discarding the smaller, more difficult to use wings, legs, and thighs. That’s because these hunters have no intention of salvaging the organs or cooking with the whole carcass, so a little internal spoilage is of no concern to them.

Not only do I generally dislike the practice of breasting birds from a culinary standpoint, I hate the practice of discarding usable meat and organs from an ethical standpoint. And while you can get away with leaving the guts in a bird for a day or two without having them rot, I don’t like to risk it. That’s why I try to gut all of my game birds within an hour or two of killing them – even sooner in hot weather.

When it comes to butchering, many of the procedures that you use on one class of birds can be used on another. Beyond issues of size, there is honestly very little difference between how I handle a quail and a turkey. Keep this in mind as you study the following pages; what you see in one place can adapted for use somewhere else.

  1. Begin the gutting incision below the point of the breastbone and continue through to the cloaca (anus). 
  2. You need only enough of an incision to allow a couple of finders in there. On smaller birds such as quail, the incision will run all the way to the point of the breast bone. On geese and turkeys, it’ll extend just a little bit forward of the cloaca.
  3. Insert two fingers all the ay into the chest cavity; reach forward until you reach the heart.
  4. Grab hold and pull the guts back out of the bird. 
  5. After the initial pull, put your fingers back in and make sure you got everything out.  Then scrape the lungs away from the back of the bird.
  6. Thoroughly wash the cavity with water or handfuls of snow. 
  7. Remove the giblets- heart, liver, and gizzard-and wash them if possible. The gizzards (this one is from a turkey) needs to be opened with a knife and emptied of gravel. Bag the giblets, or place them back into the cavity for safekeeping.
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