How to breast a Pukeko

You hear many stories about why hunters don’t bother cooking pukeko. This reluctance is perpetuated by stories about how sinewy and tough they are. It was suggested you add a stone to the pot with the pukeko, cook for several hours, throw away the pukeko and eat the stone.

My father Roy Sowman, his cousin George and other shooting mates Gavin Peterson, Claude Silcock and Ray Everett hunted pukeko in the upper Takaka valley every season during the 1960s. These pukeko drives involved them and their dogs moving along swampy and creek margins flushing, shooting and breasting pooks as they went. It was a common practice for  these hunters but one I’ve come to realise is not well known.

It involves taking a dead pukeko, lying it face down on the ground with its legs stretched out towards you. Place a foot on each leg, so your boot covers the whole leg, bend down and take hold of the bird at the base of each wing as close to the body as possible, then stand up pulling until the breast pulls away with the wings. Tuck these into your bag or belt and leave the rest of the carcass to the harrier hawks. Once mastered, this technique can be achieved as you walk with little disruption to the time spent hunting.

Pukeko breasts are great sliced into strips and barbecued, baked, casseroled or made into game soup. There is no reason to hunt them these days without intending to eat them.

by Robert Sowman