3 Wild Bird Recipes Perfect for the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us and with it comes a bevy of wonderful home cooked meals. With Thanksgiving this week, we thought it would be the perfect time to share some wild game recipes that are perfect for anyone looking to do something a little different this year! Thankfully, here in Colorado we are blessed with ample opportunity to go out and bag our own birds, and as such, we have selected three of our favorite wild game recipes to share with you today. Now let’s get cooking!

Whole Roast Pheasant

Roasting an entire bird is a time honored tradition for the holidays. While most people are used to seeing a big, beautiful turkey on their thanksgiving table, it’s certainly not the only option, and there are several alternatives if you’re looking to spice things up a bit. Enter the whole roasted duck, goose, or in this case pheasants. These birds have a unique and savory flavor, and despite what you might think, they also have a good amount of meat. That being said, you will probably want at least two of them if you’re trying to make it a replacement for the more traditional turkey. The following recipe comes to us from an award winning wild game food blog by the name of Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook., and it is sure to be a hit at the dinner table this Thanksgiving.


  • 2 whole pheasants
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 bay leaves, optional
  • 1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries, optional
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or softened butter
  • Black pepper to taste


  1. First brine the birds. Make a brine by bringing the water, salt, bay leaves, juniper and sugar to a boil. Cover and let cool to room temperature. When it cools, submerge your pheasants in the brine and keep it in the fridge for 4 to 8 hours. The longer you brine, the saltier the pheasants will become. Brine pen-raised birds for 4 hours, and older roosters for 8 hours.
  2. Optional step: If you really want a crispy skin, take the birds out of the brine and set them uncovered in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours. This dries out the skin (but not the meat) and helps you get crispier skin.
  3. When you are ready to cook, take the pheasants out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour. Heat your oven to 500F if possible, but you will want it to be at least 400°F. 
  4. Next apply oil to the birds. You can do this with olive oil or you can smear butter all over them, and then crack some fresh black pepper over the birds.
  5. Stuff with a piece of onion or apple and a few fresh herbs. A cut lemon is also a good choice. Do not pack the cavity. Truss the bird because it will help the pheasant cook more evenly.
  6. Roast the pheasants uncovered for 15 minutes at your high temperature. Take the pheasant out and lower the temperature to 350F. Leave your oven door open to speed this process.
  7. Optional step: Baste the birds with either butter or a glaze. A good option is a boiled-down combination of butter and maple syrup.
  8. Return the pheasants to the oven and roast uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes. You want the internal temperature of the thigh meat to be about 155F to 160F and for the bird’s juices to run pretty clear. A little bit of pink in the juice is fine. The higher end of this cooking time will give you a well-done bird.
  9. Remove the pheasants and let them rest for 10 to 15 minutes. This resting time is vital, as it lets the juices redistribute within the pheasant. It will also finish off the cooking process through carry-over heating.

Source: Hunter. Angler. Gardener. Cook.

Fried Whole Morning Doves

If you are a fan of cooking wild game then this next recipe is perfect for you! Most of the time people remove the breasts from their doves in order to get most of the usable meat in an easy-to-cook morsel. However, the legs and wings can be just as delicious, so why not just fry up the whole thing! This recipe from Meat Eater is guaranteed to give you a delectable option for any family function, but if you plan on giving it a try for Thanksgiving dinner, then it is best done as an appetizer or side dish.


  • 8 whole mourning doves
  • 1 cup fine or medium ground cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3  tbsp. Creole seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 bunch fresh curly parsley
  • Peanut or vegetable oil
  • Creole Seasoning Blend
  • 3 tbsp. paprika
  • 2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. cayenne
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. dried thyme


  1. Pluck and clean your birds.
  2. Preheat the oil to 375F in an electric deep-fryer or over a stovetop in a dutch oven. You need enough oil to submerge the doves; a depth of 3 inches will work.
  3. Make the Creole seasoning: Mix the paprika, salt, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, black pepper, and thyme in a small bowl.
  4. Combine the cornmeal, flour, and 2 tablespoons of the Creole seasoning in a large bowl and mix to combine.
  5. Sprinkle each dove with a small pinch of the remaining Creole seasoning and rub it into the breast and legs.
  6. Working with one or two at a time, toss the doves into the cornmeal mixture and coat thoroughly on all surfaces.
  7. Working in two batches, fry the doves in the oil for 4 minutes.
  8. Roll them around a few times as they cook so that all sides are brown and crispy.
  9. Remove from the oil and place them on a platter lined with paper towels to cool.
  10. After the last batch of doves is cooked, drop several bundles of parsley containing a few sprigs each into the hot oil and fry for 1 minute.
  11. Garnish the platter with the crispy parsley sprigs and serve as soon as the doves are cool enough to handle.

Source: The Meat Eater

Whole Roasted Duck

This wild game recipe is a classic crowd pleaser that you really can’t go wrong with; whole roasted duck! If you’re looking to create a mouthwatering dish that keeps people coming back for more, then this recipe is a great choice! Sometimes a simple, classic dish is all you need to make sure that your friends and family will be talking about it for years to come. Duck is a great alternative to turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, especially if you are planning on hosting a smaller gathering. That being said, if you want to give this one a try with more people, then we recommend using at least two birds to make sure that there is enough for everyone. This delicious recipe from Maple Leaf Farms is sure to make everyone happy this holiday season!


  • 1  Whole Duck (5-6 lbs.), defrosted 
  • 2 Boiling Water
  • 3 1 Tbsp. Kosher Salt
  • 41 1/2 tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 5 1 tsp. Paprika
  • 6 1 Orange, cut in quarters
  • 7 1 head Garlic, paper removed and top trimmed
  • 8 2 Celery Stalks, cut into 2″ pieces


  1. Pluck and clean your bird(s)
  2. Put a large pot of water (deep enough to submerge a whole duck) on the stove and bring it to a rolling boil. Preheat the oven to 425F. 
  3. Save giblets and neck for making stock. Remove excess fat from the body cavity and neck. Pat the duck dry. With a large sharp fork, prick the skin all over (approach at an angle) being careful not to pierce the meat (if meat is pierced, it will dry out). Carefully place the duck in the pot of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. This will help render out some of the fat. Remove duck and let cool and then pat it dry.
  4. Mix the salt, pepper and paprika in a small dish and then rub the duck inside and out with the spice mixture. Place the duck on a rack in a roasting pan breast-side up. Stuff the orange quarters, whole head of garlic (top trimmed) and cut celery pieces into the cavity of the duck. Fold the neck skin under, covering the cavity. Secure with a skewer.
  5. Place the roasting pan in the oven. After 15 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 350F. After 45 minutes, remove the duck from the oven. Remove any fat that may have collected in the bottom of the roasting pan. Carefully turn the duck over, place back on the rack in a roasting pan, and return to the oven for 35 minutes. 
  6. At the end of the 35 minutes, remove duck from oven, remove any fat that may have accumulated, and carefully turn duck back over so breast side faces up. Return to the oven. If you have a 5-pound duck, cook for another 15 minutes; for a 6-pound duck, cook for another 20 minutes (total cooking time should add up to about 22 minutes per pound). Be careful not to overcook. The internal temperature should be 180F at the thickest part of the leg and thigh joint. Remove duck from oven.
  7. Transfer the duck to a cutting board and let it stand for 15 minutes. Remove oranges and celery from the cavity and throw them away. Remove the head of garlic (and remember that it can be used as a great spread for bread)
  8. Carve the duck, serve, and enjoy!

Source: Maple Leaf Farms

We hope these recipes have helped inspire you to try something a little different this holiday season. Also, if you want to try these wild game recipes yourself and are looking to bag your own birds, then there’s no better place to do so than Longmeadow Game Resort. Sign up for your next hunt today, and get ready to surprise everybody at the dinner table this year!


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