How to Process an Upland Bird

pile of pheasant feathers after removing them from the bird

In an age when knowing what you are eating is important, Field-to-Fare has become a very popular concept. While upland bird hunters love the pursuit of their quarry, most are equally enthusiastic about enjoying their harvest as a meal afterwards. There are many ways to process upland birds for consumption. The method below is the cleanest and most efficient I have found. This process is relevant for all game birds.


I can break it down to 6 simple steps:

1.  Using your fingers, pinch the bird skin (not just feathers, but actual skin) in the center of the breast.

man holding Pheasant by the legs and preparing to defeather it

2. Pull in opposite directions until it splits and exposes the breast, then continue peeling on both sides until you work it down the thighs to the leg joints.

man pulling back the feathers as he holds the pheasant by its legs with the meat exposing itself

3. Using a sharp knife (with a short, smooth blade – non-serrated works best), fillet each side of the breast individually and place them in a Ziplock bag. I take care to remove all feathers from the meat at this point.

4. On each leg, grab the knee joint and apply downward pressure on the thigh bone until the thigh joint pops up.

man pulling breast meat out of pheasant after defeathering

5. Using the same knife, cut along where the thigh meets the body (right along the edge of thigh bone), fully removing each leg from the body.

man removing thigh meat from pheasant after removing legs

6. Using a good set of shears, clip each leg off at the knee joint, leaving skinless thighs. Add them to the Ziplock bag, seal it up, and place it on ice.