Wild gamebirds are great sport but often tough and dry to eat. When you spend a lifetime in the outdoors, freezing, chased by predators, fighting over mates, and getting hunted, you build muscle and a tough body. Remember that any pheasants, or game birds, served in a restaurant came from a farm and not a hunt. It is illegal to sell wild game commercially.
Over the years I have used pheasants in many ways. When hunting gamebirds in the Dakotas, you tend to eat birds so you can stay within the possession limits. We found a crock pot recipe that fit the bill nicely. It worked well with every bird we tagged.
When we process birds, the quickest way is to breast them. The legs and thighs are then separated. The tougher meat is in the legs, which spend a lifetime running marathons. The breasts work well for many recipes. The separated, and skinless ringnecks can be deboned and browned in oil. The slow cooker does the rest. Expand the recipe as you cook bigger batches.
3-4 Cleaned and separated game birds. Remove the skin and bones/sinews.
¾ cup of ketchup
Oil for frying. Peanut oil adds flavor, but olive oil works well.
¼ tsp. of dry mustard
3 tbsp. minced garlic
½ tsp of onion powder
1/3 cup of Soy Sauce
1/3 cup of honey.
Soak the pheasant pieces in salt water to remove feathers, blood, and debris. Look for any shot. A metal detector does not lie.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown the bird pieces. Once browned, place into the crock pot. Always salt and pepper the meat as it cooks.
Mix the sauce that will cover the meat pieces. Add all the other ingredients into a bowl and whisk together. Pour over top the browned meat. Place the lid on top and slow cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. The meat will be soft and flaky, and the sauce will thicken.
I have made this recipe over a campfire, using grouse and pheasants mixed, if you have chicken thighs, throw them into the mix as well. Once cooked, no one will know the difference. The key is to cook the meat low and slow. Campfire coals need to be tended and maintained. Use a cooking thermometer to tell you if you are cooking too fast. An electric cooker is a set and forget method.
This meat serves great over rice or noodles. Add a side of fresh bread and a salad, and life is just right. Garnish with chives and sesame seeds.