October 27, 2009
Bourjaily Eats Crow: Light Shotguns Can Be Great for Waterfowl
By Phil Bourjaily
Today’s first course is crow in a figurative sense:
I have long insisted that the best waterfowl guns weigh a lot -- eight pounds or even close to nine – for adequate recoil absorption. I believed they should have long barrels – 28-inches or even 30 -- and weight-forward balance. I have said so in print many times.
I was wrong. Waterfowl guns can be long and heavy, but they can be short and light, too.
This summer, I bought a barely-used Benelli M2. A 12 gauge, it is 6 pounds, 14 ounces, with a 26-inch barrel and slightly butt-heavy balance; everything I supposedly dislike in a waterfowl gun. And I love it. I’ve been hunting with it since our duck season opened last week and leaving my 8 ½ pound, 30-inch barreled BPS in the gun cabinet. The M2 rides lightly slung over my shoulder when I’m burdened down with decoys; the shorter barrel and butt heavy balance haven’t yet prevented me from killing nearly every duck I’ve shot at. With reasonable loads – 1 ¼ ounces of shot at 1450 fps – it doesn’t kick too badly. A light, compact waterfowl gun can be a joy, and I was wrong ever to say otherwise.
Recently I literally ate some crow, too, as in, I cooked and ate one. See photo.
My friend Mike killed the bird while we were duck hunting. I had never actually seen a crow shot before and the idea of leaving it in the field bothered me, so I brought it home along with my ducks.
I had always been curious about eating crow. My copy of “Cooking Wild Game” by Frank Ashbrook and Edna Sater states: “ . . . some strong champions of crow meat are coming to the front with proved claims of its excellence. They state that unwarranted prejudice alone prevents many sportsmen from hunting them with an eye or thought to their table qualities.” I should note that “Cooking Wild Game” was published by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1945, to encourage consumption of wild animals of all kinds (up to and including opossums*, sparrows and skunks) to free up beef, pork and poultry for the war effort.
I breasted the bird, yielding two small medallions of red meat. I marinated them in Italian dressing overnight, then broiled them rare with some pepper jack cheese melted on top. It was really quite good. The meat was very much like duck, but tenderer . Unfortunately, no matter how good it was, I couldn’t quite get my mind past the fact that it was crow meat. I doubt I’ll do it again. But, I satisfied my curiosity, kept the bird from going to waste, and did my bit to smash the Axis, even if it was 64 years too late.
* ”Opossum with Tomato Sauce” and “Opossum Stuffing” are just two of the tempting recipes in the opossum section