Pheasant Hunters Corn Cakes

Hunters Style Corn Cakes

When making any recipe it is always important to gather everything that you need before getting started cooking. The concept, in French, is called Mis en Place. It simply means “things in place” and when you have everything in place while cooking, just like hunting, is that much more enjoyable.

Finding a use for the top half of a pheasant is easy. The legs however can be a problem. Large tendons on these running birds render them nearly inedible, but if you cook them long enough they become succulent and tender. For this recipe you are going to need to crock pot the lower half of a pheasant for several hours. I recommend overnight.


Crock Pot Pheasant –  hunter corn cakes

1 each pheasant, breasts removed

1 cup canola oil

2 bulbs garlic

1 ea apple, cut in 1/4

1 ea small red onion, cut into quarters

3 bay leafs

1 teaspoon cinnamon



Turn the crock pot on low and add the pheasant and remaining ingredients. Add enough water to just cover the bird. Place the lid on the crock pot and allow to cook for 8-10 hours on low heat. Turn off the crock pot and let rest for one hour, for maister meat let rest overnight in the refrigerator. Then remove bird and pick meat from the carcass. Reserve meat for the corn cakes.

You can save the broth created by the pheasant and use that in soups or stews if you wish.


Corn Cakes –

1 box instant corn bread mix

¾ cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

1 ea Crock Pot Pheasant Meat – picked clean of tendons and bones

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 eggs


2 Tablespoons Honey

Salt and pepper

Heat skillet or large sauté pan on stove on medium low heat for 4 minutes.  The pan must be warm or the corn cakes will stick.

Mix the beans, pheasant meat, chili flakes, eggs, and honey together in a medium sized bowl. Add the corn bread mix to the bowl and mix through. The mix will be very thick at this point. Add milk as needed to thin the batter to a pancake like consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.

Using pan spray lightly coat the bottom of the sauté pan and pour ¼ cup cakes. Make sure to leave enough room so they do not touch. Cook cakes until golden brown on one side (2-3 minutes) and then flip and brown on the other. Reserve the corn cakes in a warm oven.

Serve Hunters Style Corn Cakes with a squeeze of lime and slices of fresh tomatoes for a great appetizer!

Lazy in Advance

Back in the day my family vacation and my fathers’ summer time elk scouting was rolled into the same week. We would pack up the wagon and hit the road. Camp would be located after about three hours on back roads. We would set out our stuff and let dad and my older brother go for a hike in the morning. (I was too little at the time to go scouting) When they would get back my mom, sister and I would have a big breakfast ready. Well, we would try to have a breakfast ready.


What would normally happen is some catastrophe that involved the cooking equipment. Some pipe on the stove would break; we would run out of gas or maybe we just forgot the coffee. It was always some sort of camping travesty; it never worked out as planned.

To try and solve this problem my father started to do a little pre camping in the backyard. He would set up all the equipment and test it out before setting out on the vacation. His buddies would make fun of him and call him overly prepared – he just said he was being lazy in advance. Plus he knew my moms cooking ability or lack there of. Dad would fix what needed it, buy what he had to, and then he knew he would get a hot breakfast when he got back. (Honestly, I think mom just wanted to eat at the café in town.)

The pre camping taught me a great lesson that seems rudimentary – check your equipment before you go camping/hunting. Fast forward to the present and I find myself asking simple questions. Did the hole in the tent from last fall magically fix itself? Nope. Did I buy fuel for my burners? No, then why would I expect to have any now. When was the last time my sleeping bag got used? Christmas when my brother got drunk and slept on the couch. Get the gear out and give it a test, maybe even a wash.

Ryan Cooking Ribs

The little details that make camping and hunting enjoyable need to be thought of before leaving or they will turn into big problems. (Kinda like the time we made it four hours up a logging road to find out we didn’t have any plates for my family of five. Nothing bonds a family like sharing a meal out of one pan…) To be honest, my wife does a better job than me with making sure we are prepared.

When testing the gear nothing gets me more ticked off than cooking equipment that is not working properly. In my case I have had a few of those fancy “grill-burner-griddle” contraptions over the years and none have truly impressed me. The griddles have hot spots and the grill is just a waste of space that gets everything messy. I like the idea of an all in one cook top but I am not sure I have used a functional one yet. Plus, those pictures of the perfectly cooked pancakes just piss me off. I am a chef and I can’t even come close to making those.

For most of my camp cooking I use, and don’t judge me now, is those little burners you see the omelet cooks at convention center using. The single burner propane cook tops. Last time I checked they are like $20 bucks at the Restaurant Supply store and like $35 bucks at the sporting goods store. I have four of them that make it camping with me. They stack into a tote with my utensils and I know as long as I have butane they are ready to cook some food. They are cheep, light, quick to pack and store well. Plus, clean up is a breeze.

Another great idea is to have a cleaning kit for all your cooking supplies. I use a rectangle Tupperware that my wife thinks the dog ate. I keep soap, a few shop towels, a sponge, paper towels and an old butter knife. The old knife is for scraping the sides of the pan in the morning.

Keeping cooking equipment clean and sanitary while camping is hard, but not impossible. Hands get muddy, that black stuff from the four-wheeler grips gets on your hands – it is part of the fun of camping. You don’t need to be clean to be a member of the group.

Don't want your stuff to mess up!That said, look at the guy who is making dinner, and then look at his fingernails. Ask him if he washed his hands before cutting those onions. Then ask if he washed after he peed. You won’t want the answers. Somehow sanitation just seems to fly out the window while camping. Frankly, that is a dangerous proposition.

Food that is not handled right and is contaminated becomes a hazard to eat. If you are making sure to cool the deer meat hanging in camp then make sure you wash your hands after you gut him. Follow the basic rules of sanitation and no one should get the squirts during elk camp or the summer vacation.

I make double sure to do a little backyard camping with my backpacking equipment. When I am seven miles from the nearest road lord knows that I need my equipment to be working right. My boys also love to look at all my cool gear spread out on a tarp in the back yard. Take the time to clean it and store it properly and it will last a lot longer. The family will enjoy the time fidgeting with all the stuff and you can sleep better knowing that your belly will be full.

A cost saving favorite of mine is using the large box retailers for backpacking food. I buy the dehydrated chili mix and then take it home and vacuum pack it into smaller and manageable portions. Same with dehydrated hash browns. I do the math on the amount of water each one will take and write it on the side with a permanent marker. You can get a whole meal for a buck instead of six. It is a good deal.Late Night Cooking with Dave

To me backpacking food is for backpacking and that is it. Eating that stuff when I have access to a cooler and a truck seems like sacrilege. I hate it when I show up to deer camp and someone is eating dehydrated “chicken teriyaki”. Don’t get me wrong I have downed a couple hundred of those over the years but they are not what I consider food. They are fuel. Dehydrated food is simply calories that just so happen to have to pass over my tongue to get into my belly.

A few things can make dehy food a little bit more palatable. First I like to add actual protein to the dish. This past bear season I packed in a 12oz pack of country ribs off a wild hog I shot a few years back for dinner. I browned off the ribs very well and then added the dehydrated food (Chicken and Rice) to my pan along with the suggested amount of water. I turned off the heat and let it all sit for a while and then – like magic – we had real food. The meat had a little extra seasoning and gave the whole pot substance. I fed three people with just a little package of meat and a little Mountain House.

Getting the equipment out is also a surefire method for back yard adventure. Take the kids out and listen for frogs in the backyard. While it might not be the wilderness the family will enjoy the time and you will know that your equipment works.

Duck, More Than Just Breasts.

Pheasant Hunt with Steel...I am not sure why the hunters I know will pay big bucks for a duck breast in a fancy restaurant but turn all the fowl they shoot into jerky. It has never made much sense to me. That is until I found out how they cooked duck. While a little “shake and bake” can make things taste good it is certainly not way to handle wild duck.

Additionally, all too often I see other hunters simply rip the top of the duck off and toss the legs into the trash. This, to me, is just plain wasteful. The duck died for food and I figure its whole body should be honored. Plus the best part of the whole animal is now in the trash!

To combat this issue I have made it a personal challenge to make hunters into wild duck fans. I normally give two simple rules for duck meat. One, cook the breast like it is a steak. Past medium and it starts to turn to shoe leather. Two, cook the legs until they are fall off the bone tender.

That said I do understand that most hunters find duck legs hard to eat. If a duck is roasted whole the legs are chewy and full of tendons. If the duck legs are fried up like chicken they are nearly uneatable. The problem with those styles of cooking is that they do not allow for enough time to break down the duck meat. What duck leg cooking requires most of all is time. It takes a while to break down the connective tissue in a ducks legs. I normally count on at least four hours but prefer more.

To cook a duck for that many hours takes a gentile cooking method and low heat. As long as the meat is being held above 140 degrees the connective tissue will degrade. A home crock pot is a great way to keep an eye on the temperature and slowly cook the meat. The “keep warm” setting normally operates in the 160-175 range and does a nice job slowly cooking duck legs.

Another issue that I typically hear about when dealing with duck is it’s “wild game” flavor profile. Hunters often say that duck breast tastes to “ducky” so they mask the flavors with smoke, sugar and spices in jerky. I agree that wild duck can be very flavorful, but most of that flavor comes out when the duck is overcooked. Much like a liver the bad tasting parts of duck meat become more pronounce the farther it is cooked.

I typically remove the “wildness” out of duck leg meat by preparing it confit style. Basically confit is an old school Egyptian preservation method for duck. It helps out a lot for those lacking refrigeration. To confit something you need to follow three basic steps. Cure the meat in salt, brown the meat then poach it in oil.Salted Duck for Confit

The reason that this cooking and preservation method works is because salt creates a hostile environment for microorganisms. Cooking the meat in the hot oil also kills most microbes. Top that off with a layer of microbe-inhibiting fat covering the meat and you can keep confit for up to six months in your cellar or fridge. Below is the basic method of cooking any type of meat confit style.

When curing the duck meat I clean the duck very well after the harvest. Then I will pat the meat dry with a paper towel while looking for any extra feathers, shot, or undesirable blood clots that need removed.

Then I will mix salt, pepper and garlic powder in a small bowl. I use about 1/8 cup Kosher, 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper and 1 tablespoon garlic powder per pound of duck meat. I then place the meat in a cake pan and cover with a towel in the fridge for 24 hours. I make sure to pour off any juice that accumulates on the tray.

After 24 hours I will rinse the duck off and pat it dry. Then I brown the duck meat in a couple of tablespoons of hot oil.

The next step is the hardest. Not technically hard but emotionally. The smells from the cooking duck will tempt you. Ignore the temptations and let the duck cook. If you snack on it through the whole cooking process it will not be the same!

After the meat is brown it needs to be poached in oil. Below is a list of ingredients for the oil poaching.

1 cup rendered bacon fat

Canola Oil – enough to barley cover the meat

8 cloves of garlic

16 ea black pepper corns

2 ea bay leaf

2 ea sprig of rosemary

4 ea sprigs of thyme

10 ea sage leafs

I pack the browned Duck into the bottom of a home style cake pan. Then I place on top of the duck the garlic, pepper corns, bay leafs, rosemary, thyme and sage leafs. Add the bacon fat and then pour enough canola oil to cover the duck meat. I tightly wrap the whole mess in tin foil and place it on a cookie sheet. I will then put the duck in a 350 oven for one hour then turn it down to the “keep warm” setting. I will let it cook for three more hours. Then I’ll turn off the oven and let the duck cool for one hour.

Then I’ll transfer the meat into mason jars and make sure to cover all the bones with fat. No part of the animal should be exposed. If meat is exposed it can turn faster than it should. I cool the jars in the refrigerator and when totally cooled I cap and store them in the back of the fridge. The confit can keep for up to six months.

I make sure to keep the oil from batch to batch of confit. It gains more and more flavor over time.

Duck Confit TacoWhen I want to eat the confit I will remove the metal lid and microwave the jar for a minute or so. Just enough time to melt the fat but not heat up the meat. I then remove what I am going to eat and make sure to recover the meat in oil.

I use confit meat in a variety of ways. I have made pizzas, pastas, pot stickers, tacos and many other dishes from confit meat. I have even used this method for all sorts of animals, not just duck. I have made rockchuck and venison confit, to name a few. In all confit is a great way to keep your freezer free of odds and ends and it tastes great too. Besides, a duck is more than just a good set of breasts for jerky.

Interview with Corey Fair, Butcher and Baker

I was fortunate enough to be able to get an interview from Corey Fair, owner of a website dedicated to all things foodie. Aside from being a nice guy he is a born and bred hunter as well. Check out the whole interview below. Sections from this will be published in the Boise Weekly in an upcoming feature about wild game meat processing.

Butcher and Baker

Randy King (Q): Tell me about Butcher and Baker?

Corey Fair (A): I started working on Butcher & Baker back in 2006. I was frustrated that there wasn’t really anything on the market that reflected my lifestyle as a chef and food enthusiast, and I knew there was a large market out there of hunters, home cooks, bbq enthusiasts, bartenders, etc., that all shared the same likes, but didn’t really have anywhere to go that was for them. We want great ingredients in everything we do, not just in the kitchen, so we took that philosophy and applied it to streetwear, home goods, and pro goods. Thus B&B was born.

Q: What trends are you finding in wild game butchery?

A: I’m starting to see a movement towards learning how to use all of the various cuts in better ways. When I was growing up, it was pretty much back strap, roast, and stew. Now you have guys like Jesse Morris at Killerchefs creating dishes like Teal Tom Yum Soup, Duck Gumbo, or Sous Vide Goose. Experimenting with all of these types of cooking methods mean you really have to know how to break down the animal and what cuts go best where and with what technique. This is good because it means in the long run people will become more familiar with Wild Game and more willing to utilize the natural bounty that their areas have to offer.

Q: What is your favorite wild game (open ended, sorry) to butcher?

A: I grew up on White Tail, Antelope, and Axis, so I’ll always be partial to that, but I’d like to get my hands on a bison.

Q: What is your history with wild game? Eating, cooking, butchering ect.

A: I was raised on it. We had a few Quarter Horse ranches and a wild game ranch that my dad worked. Every hunting season we were there, wether it was Quail, Duck, Turkey, Deer, or Wild Boar, we hunted it, broke it down ourselves, cooked it, and lived off of it.

Q: What do you think of this new wave of foodies turned hunters? Is it a trend or a new way of life?

A: I hate when great things are labeled as trends, especially when it comes to the “foodie” movement.  I prefer to think of it as a time when people are hungry for more knowledge and a better way of living. There’s nothing wrong with that. At their core, every hunter and chef is a foodie. We all appreciate and want better products, we want to know how to best use them, and we want to get back to a better way of life. Sure, there are some food snobs out there that I wouldn’t want to be at the table with, but they have their place in the world. If it’s moving the ball down the field and helping people to understand the lifestyle we chefs and hunters have enjoyed, then it’s all good to me. To answer your question though, I think for many it will be a new way of life, and for some, they’ll do it for a while and move on. I’ll welcome the new ones and wish the best to those that found it wasn’t really for them.

Q: Jackson Landers or Hank Shaw? Debate…

A: I think they both have their place and are both unique. Hank is definitely golden in the kitchen and in the garden, and Jackson brings a wealth of knowledge about hunting and the topic of preservation. If the two of them do a hunt and a dinner together, I’ll buy a ticket.

(I completely agree. A double ticket would be great!) 

Q: What is your favorite new cookbook?

A: The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat. Joshua Applestone is doing a lot for the industry and educating a whole new generation of butchers and home cooks that want to learn the art of whole animal utilization and sourcing better quality, responsibly raised meats.

Q: What about your favorite gun?

A: The Marlin 336XLR. I like the lever action and have always been a fan of .30-.30 since my father started me on them in my second hunting season as a kid.


It is a odd duck to be an outdoorsy sort of person at the “happiest place on earth”. The sheer amount of concrete makes my gut churn. The number of people in line freaks me out.
That said I have a Disney centric wife who I have been married to for the last 10 years. So, while it might not have been my first choice I have been trying to be a good sport about the deal.
Anniversaries don’t come that often so, gents, suck it up and go to the park. Hell, you might find yourself having a good time.