February 10, 2011
Questions expecting the answer ‘yes’:
‘Would you like a pheasant?’
It’s payback time for all the times we’ve been startled out of our skins by a pheasant launching itself cackling out of the undergrowth right from under our feet – not to mention the emergency stops as one determinedly tries to kill itself under our wheels (bike or car – they’re not fussy). The landlords get pheasants as a reward for allowing the shoot access to their land, and as they had been given three brace of them this time, we were offered one of the spares.
Now a fully-feathered pheasant is a splendid thing, and though I’d like to think that – were I actually starving and had managed to kill one – I could hang, pluck and draw it myself, but realistically that’s not going to happen now, when I am manifestly NOT starving, as evidenced by my incredible shrinking jeans. So we were grateful that the bird in question turned up truly oven-ready: headless and gutless and featherless and looking reassuringly like a small chicken. The only question now is in what form to put it in the oven. The downside of getting them in this state is not knowing how old the bird is (you age a pheasant by looking at its beak – but you knew that, didn’t you?) which means roasting it probably isn’t an option. The landlord recommends casseroling, so at the moment I’m going for this, but if any of you know better, I’m open to persuasion
November 3, 2008
Back on the bike today, with the journey enlivened by antics of one of the local pheasant population, surely the stupidest bird on the planet. Fortunately, this was a girl pheasant, which meant it flew away from the road (the blokes preferring the suicidal approach of tackling the traffic head on) but it’s still a shock to the unwary.
At this time of year – actually at all times of the year – the roads here are full of apparently suicidal gamebirds. But particularly now when the population is bulked out both by this year’s young birds and the ones which have been bred and released purely for the purposes of being shot at. When people wax lyrical about game being wild food, I don’t think they can have meant pheasants which, as far as I can tell are no less intensively reared than the average commercial free-range chicken and have the road sense to match. Unfortunately, as one is not supposed to shoot at the damn things unless they’re airborne, the ones that have survived this long are the ones that fly as little as possible. Eventually a breed of entirely flightless pheasants will evolve, hopefully with an inkling of the green cross code. Until then we get a bird whose best plan for survival is to crouch in a ditch until a car – or bike – is almost upon it and launch itself like a cackling feathery rocket in a random direction and hope for the best. ‘Startling’ doesn’t even beging to describe the effect. Who needs halloween, when you can get the crap scared out of you every day of the week?
It hardly seems sporting to me to line up with a big gun and blast away at birds which have been raised and then released and driven towards you just for that purpose (why not go the whole hog and hunt cows? There’s more meat on them and they’re easier to hit). If you want real sport round here, requiring real skill and the thrill of the chase, just get into your car and take to the back roads and see how many pheasants you can not hit. Bonus points for not hitting a red squirrel as well…