The partridge (ruffed grouse) crossed the road in front of me and hid in the dead ferns lining the road. It was too far ahead of me for a good shot so I picked up the pace and got closer. I hadn’t taken my eyes off the ferns so I knew the exact location of the bird, or so I thought. Looking down the barrel, I couldn’t find it. I don’t know how partridge hide so quickly. It’s like they open a secret door and disappear into Narnia.
A few steps later, I heard it walk in the dry leaves on the other side of the ditch. I crouched down to try for a better look. It was out of sight behind hemlocks on my right but to my left, hardwood saplings. If it moved to the left a few feet it would be a clean, easy shot. Fortunately, that’s what happened. Listening as it moved, I side-stepped to the left, found the partridge and fired. Yes! First bird of the season. It was the only bird I shot that day.
“You killed it, you clean it,” Steve said as we walked back to the truck. Until this year, he’s done all the cleaning. We raise chickens and sometimes turkeys for meat each year, and I clean them. This can’t be worse, right?
You won’t see blood and guts if you’re separating the meat so this is a great way to start out for a beginner. If you’re taking the whole breast you will see the cavity but really, it’s not bad. It’s a great anatomy lesson for kids. This method is so simple I’d let my seven year old nephew clean the birds. He’s been taught how to properly use a knife.
Cleaning partridge takes no time. Anyone can do this in two minutes or less. Lay the bird breast-side up, pinch the skin between your forefingers and thumbs, and pull apart. The skin tears easily. Pull the skin back to expose the meat, and remove only the meat by drawing the knife against the breast bone. Complete the cut without cutting into the body cavity if you’re keeping just the meat. If you want the whole breast, follow the cavity.
If I’m going to add the meat to a pot of beans I’ll want just the meat because the pot is full. If I’m going to wrap the meat in bacon or roast it either in the oven or in a Dutch oven on a campfire, I’ll want the whole breast.