Birds are the preferred meats of the Lowcountry. When John Lawson traveled up the Santee River in the early 1700s, he found the Indians eating crows, blackbirds, buntings, pheasant, woodcocks, snipe, partridge, and pigeons “very fat and as good as I ever ate.” He saw sixty-pound turkeys, which the “Indians domesticate and use as decoys.” The turkey now at large in the Lowcountry is said to be the closest to the original wild strain.
The snipe, woodcock, and clapper rail are the only shorebirds that continue to be hunted. The snipe hunt is a rite of passage for young men in the Lowcountry. The unsuspecting teenager has heard for years of the legendary “hunt,” which he will be allowed to join when “old enough.” The youngest member of the hunting party is left alone, unarmed, at night, to cross an expanse of boggy marsh, supposedly to drive the birds toward the “hunters,” who await the youngster at a breakfast camp, where they drink beer and revel in their practical joke. Getting through the wetland comes naturally to most; it is considered a test of manhood to endure the humiliation of the joke. It builds character and the all-important sense of humor; it also provides the father the opportunity to offer his son his first beer.

Domesticated birds have always been a part of the Lowcountry barnyard. Early to protect wild species, South Carolina has several successful “game” bird farms. Roasted, fried, grilled, potted, cured, smoked, and teamed with rice—poultry recipes in the Lowcountry are legion. (See also Carolina Pilau, Chapter 4.)

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