Getting a bird
All birds are edible, catching them is another matter. You can deadfalls, snares, nets etc. The key of catching them is to establish their habits. Waterfowl is always close to water, ptarmigan feeds on birch in the winter, the capercaillie love juniper berries etc... Although all birds have habits, some has less easily identifiable and predictable habits. And not all habits are particulary useful, especially with primitive traps and weapons. For instance: The wood cock migrate on certain age old patterns, but they fly so fast and are so small that they are practically impossible to hit with anything but a shotgun.
Attracting the birds is also an option. Waterfowl, often being vegetarian, can be attracted with something as simple as common bread, while scavengers can be attracted by carrion. But invite them on places they feel safe, which for birds in general is in open spaces, opposite of most mammals. Ducks need to be presented with things in the water, as they are reluctant to move out of the water. Scavenger birds, like ravens, can more easily spot the carcass if it is in the open and they will feel more safe there, from hungry mammals lurking in the forest.
Hunting birds with primitive weapon is a challenge. More than mammals, birds are not so conserned with being spotted as they have an easy escape route: The air. Locating the birds is often the easy part, getting close enough to put an arrow through their heart is far more difficult. Everything from sneaking to attracting them or simply sit down and wait along a known migratory rout can be tried.
When birds fly up they often exspose them self totally and the speed as at the minimum at this time. By moving around in a relatively open landscape, preferably with flocking birds like the ptarmigan, if you throw a throwing stick just above the birds right after they have taken off the chances are pretty good that you may bag one or two. Compared to losing an arrow, losing a stick isn't of much consern anyway as they are readily replacable.
Ducks and geese molt in a period of the summer. Then they are unable to fly and can be caught easily on the ground. They are however much harder to find at this time, as they are very well aware of their vulnerability.
Dressing the bird
Fish eating birds and geese should be dressed right away, they will go rancid and sour quite quickly after being killed. Other birds can hang for a few days, but it is no requirement. Black grouse, capercaillie and particulary ptarmigan can, in cold weather, hang literally for months without taking damage.
The bird used as an example here was an omnivorous duck (shot by my brother) and thereby had to be dressed right away.
The initial cuts are done encircling the anus to get out the guts without spilling stommach contents on the flesh. If you spill any, wash the inside well afterwards. To get your hands properly into the bird, you may have to cut a little further up the soft part of the belly.
Photo (below): Pulling out the guts.
I usually pull out the guts, heart, stommach and liver and whatever else I grab hold of. The rest I leave in the bird. Everything but the guts and the contents of the stommach is eaten. Though, if you are brave enough, I suppose that isn't out of the question either.
Plucking the bird is eased by the aid of warm water. Pull with the feather direction. Don't take too many feathers at once or you will more than likely rip the skin. Small birds are easier to skin, but you will lose much of the fat sticking to the skin, a resource that may be imperative to your survival.
After the bird is properly plucked, dry it properly off on the outside and singe off the remaining feathers and down over hot coals.
I don't eat birds raw, I do not however know of any reasons not to. Cooking will be addressed in a later article.
Remember that the bones and feathers of birds have many uses too.
Next Wednesday: Fungi