In southwest France, especially in Landes and the Basque Country, pigeon shooting has been extremely popular for several centuries. The fortnight during which these birds migrate over this area is colloquially called la palombe (the wood pigeon), and there was a time when businesses closed during this period. Pigeon hunters are said to be afflicted by the "blue" disease (because of the color of the bird's plumage).
The pigeons are trapped using structures called palombières. These structures used to be simple cabins, but are now comfortable and sometimes laid out like a home. Hunting is also done using nets and guns.
This is the most widely used method in the UK.
The younger the wood pigeon, the more tender it is.
An old wood pigeon has pale, lemon-yellow eyes; the base of its bill is pink red or bright red and the tip bright orange yellow, and its red feet become darker and darker with time. As for young wood pigeons, the iris of the eye and the base of the bill is a bluish gray and they have blue-gray or pink feet.
Choose a bird that has been shot in the back or the head so that the breast meat has not been bruised by the bullet.
In France, fresh wood pigeon is sold during the hunting season (late October through early November).
It is also sold chilled or frozen, imported from Great Britain.
Canned salmis de palombe, a wood pigeon stew, can be bought all year round.
Once plucked and gutted, wood pigeon can be roasted in a casserole, grilled, spatchcocked, or used to make salmis or other types of stew.
It goes well with cabbage, mushrooms, or any other seasonal vegetable.
Fresh wood pigeon will keep for 2–6 days in a dry place.
It can also be frozen.
Wood pigeon is particularly rich in protein and low in fat, which is quite logical. When flying, it develops its muscles, and then, during migration, it depletes its fat reserves.
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