While many duck hunters love to eat their game, others are prone to give it away. This is due in large part to a perhaps undeserved reputation: wild duck meat is thought to taste irreparably gamey. Yet, many factors affect the taste of duck, as they do the taste of most wild game. The key to a flavorful duck is the manner in which it is dressed and prepared. Though most states sponsor hunter education courses that cover field dressing basics, their material is aimed at safety and health considerations. Getting lost in these curricula is the fact that the flavor of the bird also depends on proper field dressing.
Remove all extraneous dirt and fecal matter from the duck’s exterior. Opening the carcass without this preliminary cleaning can expose the meat and organs to bacteria.
Pluck the feathers by hand. Skinning the duck is not advisable, since this procedure would remove a primary repository of flavor and moisture. Store the feathers in a plastic bag for later disposal.
Secure the bird -- breast side down -- and cut along both sides of the backbone from the tail to the head. With your hand or a pair of tongs, jerk the duck’s head from the carcass, bringing with it the backbone and internal organs. Mop the inside of the cavity with paper towels.
Cut away the wings and legs with hunting shears if you wish to roast only the breast meat. Otherwise, leave the bird intact. Press the meat to extract any blood. This will enhance the flavor of the flesh.
Cool the meat and entrails on ice as quickly as possible. Spoilage will occur if they are left at a temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Store the head and entrails in a plastic bag for identification by authorities.
Immerse the duck’s body in hot water -- if you are able – before plucking the feathers. It makes the task much easier. Although you may need to apply force when removing the innards, take care not to damage the liver, lest the taste of the meat be spoiled by bile.
If you encounter a foul odor when removing the entrails – the liver, gallbladder and other organs – along with the head, dispose of the entire duck according to the game rules of your state. Do likewise if the entrails emit greenish discharge or the blood is unnaturally dark. Carefully remove all shot pellets from the duck, for your the sake of your teeth.