My dad showed me a really cool way to field-dress a grouse immediately after it has been killed – without the need for a knife. We used to step on the wings, and pull the feet to get a similar result, but this is cleaner and more consistent. By photo, left to right:
1. Ruffed grouse, head shot to protect the breast meat. They don’t die from heart attacks, as my dad says.
2. Tear back the skin from the center of the breast outward, and pull back to expose the breast meat. They’re delicate birds, and this part is not hard.
An important unillustrated step: put one thumb under the v of the wishbone, and the other directly opposite pointing towards the neck. Carefully pull in opposing directions. Be careful, as the bones are small, and if they break they can cut you. My dad has used a wooden spoon before to avoid cuts.
3. The result, after the pulling. In our province, one wing is required to legally transport the bird [for species identification]. We just twist the other off. Bag and off you go – all the mess is left outdoors.
4. Back in the kitchen, time for a knife. Following the breastbone, cutting the breast meat off each side. Exact same as for a chicken [which is what we usually call grouse around other hunters].
5. Finished product.