Thursday, August 11, 2011

An Appeal For The Doodles

            Questing for grouse we often find ourselves at the end of the world, where mountain streams flatten and slow through thick stands of young hardwoods before us like bars of a prison cell. We strain, sliding through where ever we can, boots being sucked under the terra, which for all accounts looks dead, though only dormant. Following the tinkling of a setter’s bell, or the animated bounce of a spaniel, the scene comes alive with the robotic, wind -up toy like flush of a Woodcock. This is why we're there; to see the awkward, overly erect flight of one of the uplands most mis-treated game birds.

            I've only ever met one woodcock hunter in my life, though I know many thrilled at the possibility of bring some to hand. Maybe that's why the timber doodle is mistreated as it is. Always playing second fiddle, the step brother of the uplands, a mere target of opportunity to those dedicated to the more picturesque, and storied ruffed grouse. Or maybe it's the commonalty of the bird; it's early return each spring allowing a couple weeks of training for dogs allowed to lay about during the winter months. In the fall, flights of fat birds fill coverts usually designed for other uses. Allowing sportsmen to proclaim a limit in record breaking time, is a trait of the woodcock, leaving one to believe the little bird undervalues itself as well.  It’s taste, too, could be a factor in this little bog suckers lack of faithful followers. Those who proclaim woodcock to be their favorite tasting game bird are few and far between, though there have been times when eating it, that I wonder why I hesitate to list it number one myself. The Bluefish of the uplands, many are eager to tie into, or swing through one, but few know what to do after that.

            The biggest abuse to fall upon the woodcock is when it's held in man's hands, and not decisions being made in the corporate board rooms, government offices, nor country lane farm houses. It's worst abuses are taking place in the kitchen. This delicate treat, which rivals the finest aged beef when prepared correctly, suffers the abomination of being serially over-cooked. The result is a nation of hunters ready to swear off the woodcock as un-palatable, likening the taste to liver. Yet, man controls all that is needed to see the reputation of the woodcock return to favor. All we must do is stop cooking.

            While I'm not advocating the eating of raw woodcock, though I'm sure I'd not be the first if I tried it,  I do believe we all need to take heed of our true culinary prowess, take off the apron, and turn off the heat . Cooked medium at best, medium-rare being optimal, this meat will rival any five star French bistro on the planet. Escargot may need bathing in hot butter and garlic, and haggis may need whisky by the dram, but woodcock needs nothing but the respect it deserves, and a little, just a little,  open flame. So this season, as the leaves turn colors, fall, and carpet the coverts we call home, make a commitment to get over your fear of eating meat cooked to anything less than Irish grey, and help the woodcock regain the respect it deserves.

1 comment:

  1. I'm still secretly hoping someone will breed double size woodcock, so I can share one with a friend, and most importantly hit one in the first place