West River Eagle

Sharp-tailed Grouse Recipe

Recipe: Florence Running Wolf

Shiyaka, Sharp-tailed Grouse, are difficult to hunt. Sharp-tailed Grouse flocks are easily spooked. Even when one looks at them, they fly away. Their camouflage conceals them in the sagebrush. Plus, they are rarely in the open.  I like it when they are hard to hunt because no one else bothers with them. It does not matter what time of the day to hunt them.

Grouse do not care if you are loud or not while hunting them. They only care if you get close to them. Do not bring your yard dog, they’ll just chase them away before you can shoot at them.  Turn on your truck radio. Where we live, there are two radio stations we can listen to, rap and church music. Not being a critic, we need some music variety here with some news and weather information. Country and rock music would be good to listen to. I would even listen to North Dakota polka music.

12-gauge shotgun using No.6 shot is the way to go on hunting grouse. When approached, the whole grouse flock rises up only enough to clear the sagebrush, rapidly going away from you, while clucking away with the peculiar beat of their short wings. Be alert, there is always one bird that does not get the word quick enough. Like in life, there is always that someone who doesn’t get the word.

It is like golfing, bringing a .22 bolt action rifle and a shotgun to hunt grouse, using each to fit the situation. Considering there is not much meat, try to keep meat damage to a minimum. Twenty-two cal. short bullets work well for less meat damage. Personally, I use a 30+ year old 12 gauge modified choke Remington 1100 shotgun, a semi autoloader with reloaded shotshells. For the rifle, I use a Ruger stainless steel bolt action .22 cal. rifle with a skeleton stock, for grouse caught in open ground. Hollow point bullets are not used because of unnecessary meat damage.

My brother-in-law “Plucker Paul” would be useful in the following procedure. From the tip of the wing to the first wing joint, break it off. If you see someone working their cell phone, tell them to do the breaking for you, because of their strong nimble fingers. “Strong Nimble Fingers” sounds like a good Indian name.

Pluck/pull the feathers with the skin off the small bird. Using a small sharp knife with a point, cut from the anus to the chest, gutting the bird from the tail to chest bone, and saving the gizzard, heart and liver. The gizzard is located where the neck meets the body. Cut the pouch off, cut the outer pouch off and give it to your pooch that is standing close to you. Cut the inner pouch open, empty it, put it with the heart and liver.

The guts of a shiyaka have a peculiar smell. It is not unpleasant, it’s just that you will remember it. Save the guts for fishing bait. Catfish will know that it is you when you throw in that bait on a triple hook.

Preparation: As I mentioned in previous recipes, do not cook and eat unless the meat is aged at least a day. Kids enjoy the taste of baked Sharp-tailed Grouse. In this recipe, they are boiled in good water. Grouse are boiled whole. Salt pork is added ten minutes before completion of cooking. It works out to one shiyaka per two people. As always, boil until done. We always enjoy meals that are cooked properly.

Shiyaka meat is dark. Prairie-Chicken meat leans towards white. Sharp-tailed Grouse and Prairie-Chicken are two different tribes. Pheasants are a Chinese tribe and are tasty. Prairie-Chickens and jackrabbits are scarce and seldom seen. Jackalopes are not. When I was young in Cherry Creek my grandfather said, “Dance like the Prairie-Chicken at the pow wow and people will enjoy watching you.” Back in the 1950s, we wore breechcloths as part of our outfit when dancing. Ask your grandma what breechcloths are because they were the ones watching us.

This is a straightforward simple recipe, meant not to confuse anyone. There are other ways of preparing Sharp-tailed Grouse – baking, broiling, grilling, or smoking. If the weather is nice, and if I have the time, I will smoke it. Hunting, homemade spices and smoking go together. 

Suggested side dishes: rice, wild rice, macaroni mixed with garlic and olive oil, and any green vegetables. I like boiled asparagus, coated with olive oil and garlic on my plate. 

Warning: Make sure your brother-in-law, the one that knows everything, doesn’t confuse you after he reads this recipe.

Another warning: Use diarrhea medication if the cook will not wash hands after using the toilet.

A’ HO!

P. S. On the Wild Turkey recipe, I wrote “kee-yuk,” which is the sound a turkey makes. It is not “pee-yuk,” which is the sound a North Dakota turkey makes.

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