Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Day 67° Clear
Sports >  Outdoors

Alan Liere: Smoked pheasant stock never seems to end

When I cleaned the freezer, I knew exactly how long the package of six pheasants had been there. They were part of a gloriously successful hunt with family two Octobers ago in South Dakota. I had intended to serve them at my annual wild game dinner.

Covered now with a thick layer of frost, huckleberry juice, crusted blood, and other freezer residue, the camouflaged victims of a messy, partial thaw had been forgotten.

I pried them loose and reluctantly set the package out to thaw. I hate to waste game and have been known to eat leftover wild turkey until my wife and I turn green rather throw it out, but this stuff had to be seriously dehydrated. In the morning, I would bone it, boil it and feed it to my dogs.

With vegetables and fruits, freezer burn doesn’t bother me so much, but I was saddened to think so many beautiful wild birds had died only to be wasted. When game is consumed with celebration, it becomes a part of me. But to cause the death of something just to be doing it – that is a crime against nature.

The pheasants didn’t look as bad when thawed and liberated as they did through the plastic shrink wrap. They had a healthy glisten. I decided to smoke them.

There is an odd thing about smoked game and me: I love the idea of it, but I don’t actually care much for the finished product.

Others like my smoked fare, so I continue to experiment, but the truth is, I am not a fan of smoked anything except maybe an occasional cigar. When I smoke a batch of 10 kokanee, I generally eat a couple and give the rest away.

I brined the birds overnight and put them in the smoker the next morning. That evening they were done. I sliced them up, putting the big slices in zippered freezer bags and the smaller pieces in a large Tupperware bowl. After three days, I had eaten all the smoked pheasant sandwiches I could stomach, but there seemed to be as much pheasant as before – perhaps more. I was craving a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but with all that pheasant …

I began sneaking small bites to the dogs, but my supply didn’t seem to diminish. I made pheasant gumbo, pheasant fajitas and pheasant and noodles. I experimented with sandwich spreads and various hors d’oeuvres. Still, I wasn’t making much of a dent.

Friends were invited for dinner. I created an elaborate new dish – smoked pheasant soufflé. They ate prodigious quantities and I sent them home with leftovers. But the next morning, there seemed to be more pheasant meat than ever. Fifty pounds at least.

I couldn’t sleep at night. Sliced smoked pheasant was downstairs in the refrigerator, reproducing. I was going on an extended fishing trip to Devils Lake soon, and I wanted to get the pheasant eaten before I left. Then, an inspiration – I would take it with me to share with my fishing buddies.

The next day, one of them called.

“Hey, guess what?” he said proudly. “I just smoked a whole mess of pheasants for our fishing trip.”

I went sadly to the refrigerator and retrieved the Ziploc bags and Tupperware bowl. I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and with more relief than guilt, called the dogs inside.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the sports newsletter

Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.