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Field dressing quail is simple
By Rory Aikens, public information officer, Arizona Game and Fish Department So you want to get in on this season’s great quail hunting and would like to know how to field dress these excellent game birds? Here’s an easy five-step process. The key is to dress (gut) quail as soon as possible, especially during the hot part of the season.
Step 1: Hold or place the quail belly up and pluck the feathers from between the anus and the bottom of the breastbone. Pluck a few feathers at a time by pulling with sharp jerks toward the tail. Use caution: The skin tears easily.
Step 2: Make a small cut through the skin across the area you just plucked, without cutting the intestines.
Step 3: With a small gutting hook or your finger, reach up into the body cavity (toward the head) and gently pull out the intestines. Pull or cut off the intestine and anus.
Step 4: Remove the lungs (the red-pink spongy stuff in the body cavity) and wipe or rinse out any blood. If you wash the body cavity, be sure to wipe it dry.
Step 5: Remove the crop. With the bird on its back, feel for a lump at the front of the breast at the base of the neck. Slit the skin and you will find a thin, leathery pouch about the size of a large marble. Pull it out and discard it.
That’s it: You are done with the field dressing.
Get birds on ice quickly. Don’t leave them in a game bag, in the trunk or in direct sunlight. Keep them dry in the ice chest (use plastic bags). Water promotes contamination and growth of bacteria.
When you get home, remove all internal organs, such as the heart, kidneys and windpipe. Next, pluck the bird. There are two plucking methods, dry and wet. The dry method involves pulling a bunch of feathers at a time toward the bird’s tail (with the grain). Wipe the body cavity dry if the internal organs were not ruptured by the shot. If they were, rinse out the body cavity with water and wipe it dry.
The wet method makes it easier to avoid tearing the skin. Fill a good-sized pot about halfway with hot water (about 130-140 F), deep enough to allow complete immersion. Dunk one quail at a time for about one minute. Remove the quail from the water and pluck the feathers. Wipe the inside and outside dry. Cut off the feet at the first joint above the feet, and cut off the head.
You can freeze quail to eat later using one of the following methods:
- In water: Place five or six cleaned quail in a half-gallon milk carton. Fill it with water to within one-half inch of the top crease on the flat sides. Close the top and label it with the contents and date frozen.
- In plastic bags: Place cleaned birds in a bag, squeeze out air and seal shut. If water gets onto the seal, it may fail—be sure to check the seal.
- In heavy butcher paper: Tightly double wrap several quail and label the package with contents and date frozen.