Bad Tasting Mallards

4merguide

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Years ago I had a place where I'd usually get some pretty good shooting. Always looked forward to late season when the big fat beautiful northern birds would come down. Problem was I had to stop shooting them because I could barely stomach eating them! These birds would hang in a shallow creek that salmon spawn and die in and would feed off the bottom ingesting eggs and who knows what in that water. I remember trying to empress a gal I was dating by baking up a nice big batch of beautiful birds for her parents and grandparents. It wasn't long into the baking process when I started smelling a strong fish smell in the house. Needless to say I had to way over cook those birds just so they weren't so strong tasting. The folks were being nice and ate them, but I knew they were bad and I was pretty embarrassed!

Recently though I started thinking about this spot again. See, I'm an old school duck plucker from way back. Unless they were full of pinfeathers, Dad always had us pluck all our ducks as he said that's where all the flavor was--in the skin. Of curse those were all mostly grain fed ducks back then in the lower 48. They were great eating. So now I'm thinking maybe that's what I was doing wrong, plucking those mallards instead of skinning them. Maybe without the skin they wouldn't be bad eating? I've always soaked ducks in salt water over night too as that usually helps. But that didn't help those birds. I know some guys swear by soaking strong birds in buttermilk, but I've never tried it. Have any of you guys ran into this? Do most of you guys skin all your birds? I'd love to start hunting this spot again, but it's a process getting there and I'm not going to put forth the effort to kill a bunch of birds unless I know I can sit down to the table and enjoy eating them. Your thoughts? Thanks.
 

iofthetaiga

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Skinning them might have helped, some, but I doubt there's anything that would completely eliminate that taste. On a related note, I have it on good authority that you just haven't lived until you've savored a pork chop fried up from a hog that had been fed a diet of salmon...!:grintears2:
 
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extrema

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Mallards are real trash cans, they eat about anything. I like wigeon best and teal 2nd best. Wigeon especially are pretty much 100% herbivorous I believe. They seem to be the most consistent. Of course I'll shoot mallards too but expect the occasional fishy one.
 

shotgunner2012

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We keep the skin on the legs and breasts and grill them over an alder fire...
GrilledDucks.JPG
mallards that have been on salmon eggs for a few weeks not nearly as tasty.
 

SmokeRoss

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The answer is Bacon. Wrap them in bacon. Stuff them with.....you guessed it, bacon.
 

4merguide

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The answer is Bacon. Wrap them in bacon. Stuff them with.....you guessed it, bacon.
I agree that skinned duck breasts wrapped with bacon on the grill are great, and I do that with some of the birds I cook. And like I said, unless they are young birds too full of pinfeathers I still pluck most all my ducks that I get everywhere else, and I like eating them just fine. I'll even wrap skin on ducks with bacon and throw them on the grill sometimes too. But ducks from this one particular place I doubt bacon would take care of it. I may try it one more time and just skin all the birds and try different things with them. Probably really should try the buttermilk soak.
 

4merguide

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We keep the skin on the legs and breasts and grill them over an alder fire...

mallards that have been on salmon eggs for a few weeks not nearly as tasty.

I've smoked quite a few ducks using alder. Good eating for sure. It's just these particular ducks that unless I do something specific with the meat ahead of time I have my doubts.
 

rbaldwin

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Not sure if this will work for your fishy Mallards but when I accidentally take a Merganser, I use a 4-3-2 process with pretty good results.

Unless the breast is very bloody or bird is gutty shot, I age it in the fridge for four days.

Then I breast it, cut the breast meat across the muscle grain into steak fingers about thumb knuckle thick and soak the fingers in a ziploc or sealable container with buttermilk for three days - sloshing in the morning and before bed.

Then I rinse the fingers and put them in a very simple light brine (3-4 tbl salt to 1 qt water) for two days - sloshing morning and night. I sometimes sub 2 tbl soy sauce for 1 tbl salt.

Once I remove and rinse the brine off of them, I let them sit for an hour or so to come to room temp.

I then sear to medium rare in hot pan coated with bacon grease, shake in a sealed container with melted butter and steak seasoning (Montreal Steak, Kinder Steak Blend, etc.).

I rest them for 10 minutes in the container and then my kids pounce.

For non-fishy fowl, I usually skip the buttermilk and I do not cut the breast into steak fingers unless it is goose or crane.

For really bloody birds, I skip the aging and go straight to the buttermilk after cutting the breast into steak fingers.

I don't skip the brine.

By the way, brines can be simple or complex according to the kind of meat you are working with, how you want to affect the meat structure and/or imparting flavor(s) so you might ask Uncle Google for some other brine options. For waterfowl, I keep it simple but my turkeys get a more complex brine recipe.
 

4merguide

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Not sure if this will work for your fishy Mallards but when I accidentally take a Merganser, I use a 4-3-2 process with pretty good results.

Unless the breast is very bloody or bird is gutty shot, I age it in the fridge for four days.

Then I breast it, cut the breast meat across the muscle grain into steak fingers about thumb knuckle thick and soak the fingers in a ziploc or sealable container with buttermilk for three days - sloshing in the morning and before bed.

Then I rinse the fingers and put them in a very simple light brine (3-4 tbl salt to 1 qt water) for two days - sloshing morning and night. I sometimes sub 2 tbl soy sauce for 1 tbl salt.

Once I remove and rinse the brine off of them, I let them sit for an hour or so to come to room temp.

I then sear to medium rare in hot pan coated with bacon grease, shake in a sealed container with melted butter and steak seasoning (Montreal Steak, Kinder Steak Blend, etc.).

I rest them for 10 minutes in the container and then my kids pounce.

For non-fishy fowl, I usually skip the buttermilk and I do not cut the breast into steak fingers unless it is goose or crane.

For really bloody birds, I skip the aging and go straight to the buttermilk after cutting the breast into steak fingers.

I don't skip the brine.

By the way, brines can be simple or complex according to the kind of meat you are working with, how you want to affect the meat structure and/or imparting flavor(s) so you might ask Uncle Google for some other brine options. For waterfowl, I keep it simple but my turkeys get a more complex brine recipe.

Excellent info, that's what I've been looking for and definitely worth a try. If it can work on mergs then I'm hoping it will do nicely on these mallards. Thanks a bunch!
 

as.ks.ak

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Something I used to do with all my waterfowl back when I lived down south and I primarily only waterfowl hunted:

Soak all breasts in a big bowl of salt water. Don’t be shy with the salt either. Empty the water every 12 hrs or when saturated with blood, refill and repeat until all blood is drained from all meat. I liked to rinse each breast and remove all the silver skin and rinse all the blood shot before beginning the process to help it go quicker. This seems to rid any of the games taste in most puddle ducks...then if you don’t have a marinade in mind, before frying we used to also soak in buttermilk.

Pro tip for all divers, don’t shoot them and you don’t have to figure out how to eat them. in all seriousness, we’d jerky all the divers we ever shot and it always turned out pretty good.


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4merguide

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Something I used to do with all my waterfowl back when I lived down south and I primarily only waterfowl hunted:

Soak all breasts in a big bowl of salt water.

This is what dad taught me as a kid and has always remained a part of the pre cooking ritual. Pretty much with all birds as well.
 

thymallus

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Ginger has a great ability at masking a fishy taste. Also, if I shoot spruce grouse late in the season and I smell spruce needles, I'll soak them for a day in Zesty Italian dressing.
 

4merguide

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Ginger has a great ability at masking a fishy taste. Also, if I shoot spruce grouse late in the season and I smell spruce needles, I'll soak them for a day in Zesty Italian dressing.

Ginger is strong stuff and good for ya too. I wonder what kind of concoction a guy would have to make with it to apply it to the bird?
 

Birdstrike

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Why don’t you just take the breasts and thighs? There’s not much left besides that?
 

kwackkillncrew

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I have eaten all types of ducks from corn field mallards to clam fish eating lawn darts and they all taste great to me. Only thing I hate is cleaning goldeneyes because their skin is basically super glued to the meat. Still kill a pile of them and they all get turned into amazing fajitas

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mark knapp

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Years ago I had a place where I'd usually get some pretty good shooting. Always looked forward to late season when the big fat beautiful northern birds would come down. Problem was I had to stop shooting them because I could barely stomach eating them! These birds would hang in a shallow creek that salmon spawn and die in and would feed off the bottom ingesting eggs and who knows what in that water. I remember trying to empress a gal I was dating by baking up a nice big batch of beautiful birds for her parents and grandparents. It wasn't long into the baking process when I started smelling a strong fish smell in the house. Needless to say I had to way over cook those birds just so they weren't so strong tasting. The folks were being nice and ate them, but I knew they were bad and I was pretty embarrassed!

Recently though I started thinking about this spot again. See, I'm an old school duck plucker from way back. Unless they were full of pinfeathers, Dad always had us pluck all our ducks as he said that's where all the flavor was--in the skin. Of curse those were all mostly grain fed ducks back then in the lower 48. They were great eating. So now I'm thinking maybe that's what I was doing wrong, plucking those mallards instead of skinning them. Maybe without the skin they wouldn't be bad eating? I've always soaked ducks in salt water over night too as that usually helps. But that didn't help those birds. I know some guys swear by soaking strong birds in buttermilk, but I've never tried it. Have any of you guys ran into this? Do most of you guys skin all your birds? I'd love to start hunting this spot again, but it's a process getting there and I'm not going to put forth the effort to kill a bunch of birds unless I know I can sit down to the table and enjoy eating them. Your thoughts? Thanks.

Two things. First and most important, how'd things go with the gal? Was she impressed?

Second, you tell me where that secret mallard spot is and I'll taste some of those birds for you.

But seriously, I just got back today from a two week trip at a spot I really love. We were hunting deer, ducks and fishing for bottom fish. The mallards and geese are feeding at a river mouth that also has salmon spawning in it. The pinks were thicker this year than I've ever seen them. We don't have any duck wax at our cabin there so we didn't pluck. We took the breasts, legs, hearts and gizzards. They tasted great. I'm sure there are variations on any situation.
 

4merguide

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Two things. First and most important, how'd things go with the gal? Was she impressed?

Second, you tell me where that secret mallard spot is and I'll taste some of those birds for you.

But seriously, I just got back today from a two week trip at a spot I really love. We were hunting deer, ducks and fishing for bottom fish. The mallards and geese are feeding at a river mouth that also has salmon spawning in it. The pinks were thicker this year than I've ever seen them. We don't have any duck wax at our cabin there so we didn't pluck. We took the breasts, legs, hearts and gizzards. They tasted great. I'm sure there are variations on any situation.

The gal was sympathetic to the situation. kinda fun, for awhile, but she turned out to be quite the flake. And yes, there are variations for sure. Most the mallards I kill are eating baby clams and they are still good eating ducks. The ducks I describe above are the only ducks I've killed that have been this bad.
 

SmokeRoss

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The gal was sympathetic to the situation. kinda fun, for awhile, but she turned out to be quite the flake. And yes, there are variations for sure. Most the mallards I kill are eating baby clams and they are still good eating ducks. The ducks I describe above are the only ducks I've killed that have been this bad.

They probably stopped over at the sewer pond.
 

mark knapp

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The gal was sympathetic to the situation. kinda fun, for awhile, but she turned out to be quite the flake. And yes, there are variations for sure. Most the mallards I kill are eating baby clams and they are still good eating ducks. The ducks I describe above are the only ducks I've killed that have been this bad.

Wait, you mean you met a flaky one?:D

I really love the clam eaters, it's like we get to eat clams but don't have to dig them up. I haven't eaten any of the bad ones you talk about. I've even eaten some mud hens that really weren't bad.

Were they consistently bad where you gave it up or just once or twice?

Here's a question, If there's a red tide, and the ducks eat the clams, will they get PSP and if we eat the duck will we get PSP. I googled it but nothing definitive came up. Apparently, high levels of PSP high enough to kill a man can remain in shellfish up to two years after the red tide. Don't eat a sick duck.

Be safe and have fun with the ducks.
 

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