On our small DIY game shoot we share out the bag to Guns and beaters at the end of the day and it is really pot-luck as to who gets the better birds. Is there any way of telling which ones are going to be better for eating and cooking before they are plucked?
If your birds are retrieved by a soft-mouthed dog, cooled as soon as possible after being shot, and handled with care, there will be few which will not be suitable for the kitchen.
The only exceptions are those that hit trees or came into contact with something hard when falling after being shot.
These birds may be badly bruised or have torn skin. Any birds retrieved by a hard-mouthed dog will be immediately apparent if you feel the ribs.
Incidentally, if you are looking for inspiration and fresh ways to cook pheasants, other than roasting them, take a look at the recipes on the www.shootingtimes.co.uk and www.gametoeat.co.uk websites.