Prairie Grouse, partridge, and other assorted upland birds

Bob Peters

Active member
I've read some old posts on this site, talked to other hunters, etc. My question is about eating these birds. When we got a sharpie in North Dakota one year while duck hunting, the meat was really dark red. Are prairie chickens and sharptails comparable to diver ducks? I never got to try it, because the guy who shot it and had the license for it took it home. I do duck hunt, and will eat the ducks and geese I shoot, but I like pheasants more. I was also wondering about Hungarian partridge, and how they are as table fare? Any birds I didn't bring up feel free to mention. Snipe, woodcock, etc.
 

Nasty-G

Member
My personal feeling is the birds with white meat are better tasting. Ruffed grouse & pheasants, ruffed grouse being the BEST !!.
 

Dakotazeb

Well-known member
Both Sharpies and Prairie Chickens have dark red breast meat and personally I do not care for the taste. Huns on the other hand are a lighter meat similar to pheasants and very good eating.
 

birdshooter

Active member

i think it has to do with fast vs slow twitch muscle fibers. Birds with slow twitch fibers e.g. migrating birds such as doves and waterfowl are on the wing much more than birds with fast twitch muscle fibers like chickens, turkey, pheasant and ruffed grouse thus are all dark meat. Sharptails fall in between IMO due to the fact they can and do fly long distances to feed and drink. All that flying generates more oxygen/blood flow thru the body which produces a different protein to darken the meat. Anyway the link above goes into more detail.
 

birdshooter

Active member
Been awhile since I've had both but I think each have their own distinct taste. Sharptail grouse is quite gamey if not cooked properly. With dark meat birds especially you may have to get a little creative when cooking them ala marinating etc... As with any wild game, overcooking will ruin your experience with it.
 
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Golden Hour

Active member
One thing I do with most of my waterfowl and grouse is to "fork" them thoroughly. As the name implies, jab the breast with a fork 15-20 times, flip and repeat. Sometimes I do it before freezing, sometimes after freezing and, if I do it that way, let them soak in salt water (pretty light amount of salt) overnight or for a few hours. This seems to get some of the gamey flavor out and tenderizes it.

I really enjoy eating sharptail grouse, probably because I only eat it a couple times a year versus pheasant, which comprises a much larger percentage of the annual diet. With grouse breasts, I either do chislic or slice the breast like a bun, put some onion and pepper slices in the middle, wrap and grill/broil.

In my experience, dove and sharptail grouse are different in flavor/texture, which probably has as much to do with diet as anything. Dove is a better tasting meat, IMO, but again, that's just a personal preference and my palette isn't so refined that I can tell anyone much more than it isn't quite as gamey as sharptail.

And ducks are done in a wine reduction sauce or in poppers. Any geese I get my hands on turns into jerky.
 

benelli-banger

Well-known member
One thing I do with most of my waterfowl and grouse is to "fork" them thoroughly. As the name implies, jab the breast with a fork 15-20 times, flip and repeat. Sometimes I do it before freezing, sometimes after freezing and, if I do it that way, let them soak in salt water (pretty light amount of salt) overnight or for a few hours. This seems to get some of the gamey flavor out and tenderizes it.

I really enjoy eating sharptail grouse, probably because I only eat it a couple times a year versus pheasant, which comprises a much larger percentage of the annual diet. With grouse breasts, I either do chislic or slice the breast like a bun, put some onion and pepper slices in the middle, wrap and grill/broil.

In my experience, dove and sharptail grouse are different in flavor/texture, which probably has as much to do with diet as anything. Dove is a better tasting meat, IMO, but again, that's just a personal preference and my palette isn't so refined that I can tell anyone much more than it isn't quite as gamey as sharptail.

And ducks are done in a wine reduction sauce or in poppers. Any geese I get my hands on turns into jerky.
Yes, we tenderize sharpies with the fork...👍
 

Labs

Active member
Sharps are fun to hunt and I'll take them when they flush, but are not much of a table bird. IMO they make OK stir fry meat, but that's about it.

Same with doves. I shoot a few around the yard when the season opens. They are challenging targets but IMO not great too eat. Hardly seems worth the trouble and with the cost & availability issues with shells now days, I likely won't mess with them this Fall.

Huns on the other hand are very good, just not terribly common out here. During the early part of the season I seem to manage to get one or two. I had a pair nest in our shelter belt this Spring. Until the hen began to sit on her eggs, they would often hang out with the chickens & guineas in the yard.

In my youth I used to thoroughly enjoy hunting snipe in wet pastures as the season was one of the first to open (Sept) in Minnesota. Near our lake cabin north of Alexandria Mn, every now & then I would manage to bump off a ruffed grouse or woodcock. Ruffed grouse were good, not as dark as sharps. I don't recall snipe and woodcock as being anything to write home about.

When I'm training a pup I keep live chukar partridge. To my mind, the only way chukar could be a better game and training bird was if they were the size of a rooster pheasant and found wild everywhere. I consider chukar to be even better than pheasant for table fare. Every one we shoot during training gets eaten.

As noted above we have guinea fowl because they eat ticks & lots of them. They are semi-wild and our 3-4 distinct flocks range out to a couple hundred yards around the yard every day eating ticks and other bugs. They are also good watch dogs and raise the alarm if anyone or any animal comes in the yard.

My neighbor is from South Africa and he tells me they would shoot a lot of them. I can definitely see them as a game bird. They are wary, big, and strong flyers. A pheasant can't carry a guinea's jock when it comes to running. You could give a rooster a 20 yard head start and a guinea would pass it within 50 yards. For pure endurance, pheasants aren't even in the conversation. for reasons known only to them, I've seen one guinea chase another around the yard, both at full speed, for 20 minutes or more non-stop. They also a very good to eat. They have yellow/white breast meat that tastes very much like pheasant.
 
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Matt D

Active member
Grilling with bacon and onions (on a toothpick or skewar) usually works wonders for sharptail and waterfowl.
For my dove and some of my pheasant I simply wrap in bacon snd use some Montreal steak seasoning. Tough to beat. Plan on cooking prairie grouse the same way.
 

BRITTMAN

Well-known member
Yes - pheasant ... add wild turkey, venison, and any domestic animal.

Mushrooms, peppers (red, green, jalapeno), cherry tomatoes, lot's of options if so inclined ...
 

GW from Tenn

New member
My personal feeling is the birds with white meat are better tasting. Ruffed grouse & pheasants, ruffed grouse being the BEST !!.
I didn't know Ruffed Grouse were white meat, I just figured they were just like the other grouse. Sharpies in general, they are the only one I've had experience with.
 
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