Ring-necked pheasants: The peacock of the upland game birds

Think food safety when harvesting these birds!

Originally from Asia, the ring-necked pheasant was first introduced to the United States in the 1880s. From then on the pheasant quickly became one of the most popular game birds in North America.

Ring-necked pheasants are the peacock of the upland game birds. The male bird sports the iridescent blue-green head with a red face, copper and gold shimmering body feathers, and a crisp white collar, making him a sight to behold. The female pheasant is brown in color and blends in very well with the fields of autumn.

Only male ring-necked pheasants can be harvested. The hunting seasons in Michigan are: Zone 1: Oct. 10-31 and Zones 2 and 3: Oct. 20-Nov.14. Check with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for licensing details. Also check the laws before field dressing these birds.

When harvesting the pheasant, it is important to remove the entrails and crop as soon as possible after shooting to allow for air circulation. The air circulation is extremely important in cooling the body cavity as quickly and thoroughly as possible. In hot weather the birds should be placed individually in plastic bags and put on ice.

Some hunters prefer to pluck the feathers from the bird, while others prefer to skin the birds to avoid the time-consuming process of plucking and removing the pinfeathers.

Dressed birds or boneless meat should be kept no longer than two to three days in the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze the dressed bird right away.

Plucked pheasants can be roasted without fear of being dry because the fat located under the skin will keep the meat moist. For a skinned bird, it will be necessary to wrap it in bacon, dredge it with flour or use a cooking bag to keep the bird from drying out during the cooking process.

Just like chicken, pheasants need to be handled carefully in the kitchen to avoid food borne illness.

Michigan State University Extension recommends washing hands with soap and hot water for least 20 seconds before and after handling the raw pheasant. Other food safety tips include starting with cutting boards and knives that have been washed, rinsed, and sanitized. Another food safety tip is to use a separate cutting board and knife for raw bird. A food thermometer should be used to measure the doneness of the pheasant. All pheasant meat should be cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. A final food safety tip is to refrigerate leftover cooked pheasant promptly. Use the cooked pheasant meat within two to three days.

If there is an upland game bird hunter in the family, ring-necked pheasant can be a tasty alternative to chicken.

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