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On the Hunt for Christmas Dinner

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is nearly upon us, and the holiday season is well underway. For many Georgians, this means among other things, preparing the family feast. For many families, the main entree of the meal will come not from a grocery store or butcher, but from the forests, lakes, and fields of Georgia itself.

The State of Georgia sells more than 300,000 hunting licenses each year, proceeds from which go to help restore and maintain natural habitats in the state. If you are one of the thousands of Georgia hunters and you have not yet gotten your holiday dinner “in the bag,” now may be your perfect chance! Three traditional Christmas game fowls– ducks, geese, and quail– are all in season. To help you prepare, Horse Hound and Hunt has tips, regulations, and Yuletide recipes for making your game-centered holiday a success.

Canadian Goose in the Snow

Photo by Christopher Rodgers

Many experienced hunters already know that it’s just as important to study a quarry’s habits and habitat as to pursue the game itself. This is true of any type of hunting, but is especially useful in the challenge of hunting game birds and water fowl. Observe the wild places around you through the eyes of a naturalist. What food sources are nearby? When and where is your quarry most likely to be found? What sorts of game birds do you see most often? The last is especially vital when hunting ducks and geese. Choosing the right artificial decoy to match the local population may make the difference between failure and success! For example, many hunters only use the more economical and easily available mallard decoys, but if mallards are not actually the most common ducks in your chosen location, using a mallard decoy may not be particularly helpful. Keep in mind that both live decoys and bird calls are prohibited.

As many already know, concealment is also key. Game fowl of all kinds are notoriously skittish. A large percentage of experienced hunters wear both camouflage and face masks to ensure quarry is not frightened away, especially when hunting water fowl. Some use blinds while others prefer natural cover. Just keep in mind that sink boxes, or low-floating devices meant to conceal hunters in the water,

Hunting stand in the snow

Photo by Bryony Ekan

are illegal in the state. While company on a hunting trip is pleasant, to ensure greater success it’s also best to spread out. After you’ve chosen the best location and thoroughly concealed yourself comes the true test of any hunter: patience.

This is an excellent time to hunt game fowl as many with experience insist that success is better later in the season. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, ducks and geese both have multiple short hunting seasons, the last of which starts early in December and runs until late January. The last duck season started on December 8, while the last goose season started on December 9. The 2018-2019 quail season is longer, lasting from November 17 from February 28. Unfortunately, that places the holidays in the middle of the season, but as quail are plentiful, especially in South Georgia, it’s still relatively easy to have a successful hunt.

Of course, bagging Christmas dinner is only half of the job. Afterward, it’s time to prepare your goose, duck, or quail for the table. The first step in preparing any game fowl is, of course, the often arduous chore of plucking. There are some handy gadgets, with prices ranging from under $50 to over $300, to help with this task. However, it’s also quite possible to do this the old-fashioned way: by hand. No matter what method you choose, the best tip for plucking is simply to quickly scald the bird in hot water first. The damp heat will help to loosen the feathers so that they can be removed more easily without damaging the skin.

Now comes the fun part: choosing a fantastic recipe to wow your family and friends at the Christmas feast! Keep in mind that game of all types often has a stronger flavor than store-bought meat or poultry, so choose your recipe accordingly. Unsure what to try? Not to worry! Horse Hound and Hunt has some delicious holiday recipes certain to please!

Roast Duck

Photo by Rita E.

Ducks Burgundy

This traditional recipe, published in the Louisiana Junior League’s 1978 cookbook Southern Sideboards is sure to please the palates of your dinner guests.

2 wild ducks

4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp flour

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup Burgundy wine

4 tbsp finely chopped onion

2 bay leaves, chopped

salt

pepper

1 cup sliced mushrooms

In covered pot, simmer ducks in a small amount of salted water for about 30 minutes. Drain. In a separate pan, brown ducks over medium-low heat in butter. Remove. Using a whisk, blend flour into butter. (It may be advisable to use a sifter to more easily avoid lumps.) Add broth, wine, onion, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick and bubbly. Stir in mushrooms, then add ducks. Cover and allow to cook over low heat for two hours, or until tender. (Check regularly, and spook mixture on top of ducks if needed to avoid drying out.) Serve cooked with wild rice.

Fig and Balsamic Glazed Quail

From puddings to pies, nothing says “Christmas tradition” like figs. Try this mouth-watering recipe from Southern Living for a savory, slightly-sweet main dish.

8 quail, partially deboned

1 jar fig preserves (about 11 oz)

1/2 cup dry red wine

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

Kitchen twine

1 tsp kosher salt

2 tbsp dry red wine

Pre-heat oven to 450 f. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine fig preserves, wine, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and black pepper. Simmer, stirring often, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Reserve half of the fig mixture and chill in refrigerator. Allow the other half to stand at room temperature. Truss each quail’s legs with kitchen twine, and place in a shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle quail with salt, and cook for 10 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 400 and remove roasting pan with quail to a heat-safe surface. Brush with room temperature fig mixture and replace quail in oven for 30 minutes, basting with fig mixture every 10 minutes. Remove chilled fig mixture from refrigerator and stir in 2 tbsp of wine. In a saucepan, heat mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened into sauce. Serve quail with sauce and enjoy!

Christmas Goose Dinner

Photo by Rita E.

Stuffed Goose

This is another classic Christmas dish, and is our twist on a Southern Living recipe.

1 goose, plucked, cleaned and dressed

3 cups cooked brown rice

1 ½ cups apples

½ cup raisins

½ cup chopped onion

1 tsp dried rosemary

½ tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper (more to taste)

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp Worcester sauce

¼ orange juice without pulp

Fresh parsley, chopped

Fresh parsley, whole (optional)

Orange slices (optional)

Rinse goose and pat dry. Prick with fork at 1-inch intervals. Combine cooked brown rice, apples, raisins, onion, rosemary, salt, and egg, mixing well. Spoon mixture into goose cavity, pressing gently as needed, and close with skewers. Place goose in roasting pan, breast up. Mix together orange juice and Worcester sauce, then pour over goose. Sprinkle on fresh chopped parsley and bake, uncovered, at 350 f for 2 to 2 ½ hours. Use meat thermometer to check internal temperature until it reaches 185 f. Garnish with orange slices and whole fresh parsley if desired.

No matter what game fowl you hunt, these recipes will help you to create a holiday dinner to remember! Do you have your own game recipes for the Christmas season? We want to hear about them, so leave us a comment below.

From our family to yours – Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! HHH

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