Day two began the same as the first. We arrived in the darkness and rode out to the blind along the roads between rice fields on the back of an ATV, stacked three across. It was a moonless morning and pitch dark, the only light emanating from the ATV’s faint red tail lights. Our guide’s retriever ran alongside side us as we made our way, appearing out of the darkness at a full run and then disappearing again when he found something he wanted to stop to smell or pee on.
We settled into the blind and waited for the sun to rise. This day was much clearer and we could hear the ducks starting to move as the first hints of light appeared on the horizon. We waited, sitting rigidly with our shotguns between our knees, as a beautiful purple and orange sunrise happened over our shoulders.
The first birds came just after the sun, a ball of four coming in right down the chute. Bobby waited until they were close and gave his usual shout, “Kill ‘em!”
We sprang up, pushing down the flaps of the blind and shot. My first shot knocked one down, and I turned and smashed another. Jimmy and Aaron each got one as well. This morning was definitely feeling better. The first morning I was nervous and was not doing my best shooting. This morning it all came together. I had the hang of it and I was shooting true.
The day continued like that. There were a few brief slow patches when the clouds rolled in, but we ended our second day with 16 birds between us and limits of pintails all around.
This wrapped up our hunting in the rice fields. My first experiences with duck hunting were about as good as I can imagine anyone’s being. And we weren’t done yet. Day 3 of this California hunting adventure we were headed out into Suisun Bay to try to bag some sea ducks.
This week’s recipe was screaming its way out of me the second I made this round of rose hip jelly. Duck, being the incredibly rich and fatty meat that it is, begs to be complemented by a tart acidity, and a little sweetness tops it off nicely.
This recipe is very simple, can be done with any tart jelly, and will surely impress. I used the same glaze on two whole roast teal, and they were absolutely divine. Breasts or whole bird, this will not disappoint.
Rose Hip Glazed Duck Breast
½ jar rose hip jelly (or other tart jelly)
1 cup water
2 duck breasts per person
Salt + Pepper
Make the glaze starting with ¼ cup water per tablespoon of jelly. Boil until the jelly dissolves and then reduce to a thick glaze consistency. Lower to minimum heat.
Season duck breasts liberally with salt and pepper. Place them skin side down into a hot skillet over medium-high heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes on the skin side, then 1-2 minutes on other side. The cooking times are dependent on thickness of the breasts–a nice fat pintail is the high end here. Once cooked, remove the breasts from heat and allow them to rest, skin side up for a few minutes.
Once rested, brush the breasts liberally with glaze and slice.
Serve with simple sides like roast vegetables and a crusty bread.