• Scaring, Rowing, Dipping & How to Cook a Marsh Hen

    It’s marsh hen hunting season. I can’t say at the moment what the rules and regulations are in regards to this day and time. However, what I can tell you is a little about how my father and I used to hunt marsh hens. My father was a very avid bird hunter. In the case of the marsh hen, he always wanted to make the bird fly before taking a shot! According to him there is “no sport” shooting at a sitting bird. So therefore during my childhood time “scaring the heck out of sitting birds was my job!” Since I talked a lot anyway this was right up my alley! Normally when daddy and I hunted “QUITE” was the rule!

    The best time is normally during the morning hours. Now to get your best shot you need to have lots of water covering the marsh grass. So therefore you need to have the highest tide possible staging in the morning hours. This limits your options right off the bat in regards to being able to go successful marsh hen hunting.

    As time passed my job changed quite a bite in regards to the marsh hen hunting affair. As I said earlier, “it was my job to scare the heck out of them” which I was very good at! My father would shoot the marsh hen, the bird would fall, and I then became the “watcher!” As I watched I also “rowed!” Once we arrived to the location of the bird in question my next job was to dip the bird up with the dip net. After this occurrence my job process started all over again!

    The short version: Scare the heck out of the bird, which in turn made them take flight. Watch and row to the site of the fallen bird. Dip the bird up and repeat! As I write this I now know why I was so tired when dear old dad took me marsh hen hunting! The bottom line to this story is a simple one: Treat every hunt with your father like it’s your last one!

    How to properly cook a Marsh Hen!
    The first thing you have to do when you get back from marsh hen hunting is you have to clean them! I guess I had better say, “Skin them!” I would always try to help daddy. He had this bird cleaning thing all figured out! All he did was to make a couple of small cuts on the bird, which would enable him to pull the skin right off. And of course this procedure almost always made me sick! Why, because between the skin and meat there was this slimy like stuff! Ok, now I am nauseated.
    For those Chef hunters that would like to give this recipe a try. Please read the entire recipe and then start your cooking affair. And of course, since I have had this meal dozens of times I can guarantee that if you follow you will enjoy!

    Found this picture on web site. Yep, we used the key!


    One large cast iron seasoned skillet
    Six cleaned marsh hens
    1 large brown paper bag (kept from grocery shopping)
    2 small brown bags (kept from going to the candy store)
    2 cups of flour (I don’t know if it was self rising or not, you decide)
    Seasoning (salt, pepper, season salt, garlic, and anything else you care to add)
    3 to 4 large scoops of Crisco lard (can be regular liquid oil)
    1 large onion diced (1 cigar, optional)
    Bottle of 8 ounce ketchup (which we brought by the cases at the wholesale house I think it was call Alexander’s)
    Loaf of real white bread (can substitute)

    2 cups well water (optional, you can substitute with regular tap or bottled water)
    After the cleaning, cutting them up, and washing daddy would let the birds parts drain. While they were drying a bit daddy dumped two cups of flour and seasoning in a doubled paper bag. I got out the big cast iron season skillet and daddy put it on the stove. Daddy would then dip up 3 or 4 big scoops of lard, which he put in the semi-hot pan. I got to watch the white stuff that looked like ice cream melt into liquid oil. While this was taking place he dropped about 6 pieces of marsh hen in the bag and started shaking it. I meant to tell you after daddy cleaned the marsh hens he would cut the bird in half making a section with legs only and a breast piece.

    When the oil started popping he dropped in the floured bird parts in and let them cook until they were golden brown. We normally cooked six birds meaning twelve parts. After reaching the browning point daddy would put the semi cooked pieces on a big paper bag. When all parts were browned he would pour all of the oil out of the pan leaving any left behind crusted pieces/parts as well as a bit of oil. At this time he would throw in some diced onions, which I always had tried to cut up. However, after the tears started daddy would take over. After all, if you smoke a cigar while cutting an onion you are tear free. Go on, heck, you won’t know unless you try it!

    He would let the onion cook until it was soft and a little brown. Then he would take a small hand full of the flour out of the bag and throw it in the pan. He let the flour, onions, and crusted pieces brown and bit so as to marry up. The he poured in a glass of water and stirred it a lot. Believe me it was starting to look like some fine looking gravy. After a few minutes of stirring, maybe adding some more water, he would pour a bottle of ketchup in the gravy and let that simmer for a bit. Once it got to my father’s desired consistency, he then would slowly put in every piece of fried marsh hen into the gravy. Once all birds were laid in the gravy it took about one hour or about 3 of Daddy’s big liquor drinks before it would be ready to eat. You do not cover the pan!
    When the meat was done it would mostly fall off the bird’s bones. We would put two pieces of real white bread on a plate and pour on the gravy. And then the meat! Now for those that can’t eat real white bread, you can always substitute, but it won’t be the same!

    Bon Appétit

    Thanks for reading! Captain Judy