September 2011
Your Next Meal From the Wildside

Doves Are Tasty Fare

And the Hunt Can BeFun For the Entire Family

A young boy sits very still under a tree waiting for the right moment. In each hand, he clutches a heavy rock the size of a quarter. He waits and listens. "Woo-woo-hoo-hoo!" He spots the little gray bird and launches his ammunition. Down comes the dove that will become part of supper that night. For his family of four, he needs seven more to feed everyone, so he settles back into his spot under the tree waiting for more.

While sitting in a favorite location, Jason Kirk and daughter, Rolley Len, spot doves circling the field.

 

When you are trying to feed your family on a limited budget or with limited resources, there are alternatives if you are trying to save your ammunition or have limited weaponry. Killing your dinner with a rock may seem extremely primitive, but it is not highly uncommon. I was talking to my husband, Jason, about his first dove hunts as a boy and, not thinking about him having been a baseball pitcher for most of his life, I asked if he ever used a slingshot for dove hunting. Of course, he had not. He just lobbed a rock at his target and took it down. For most people, shooting doves with a shotgun is definitely easier than taking aim with a stone, but it can be done.

Because doves are as prevalent as pigeons in some neighborhoods and city settings, it is easy to forget doves have long been hunted as food. They can be found throughout the United States and their populations are estimated to be in the hundreds of millions. Doves are extremely active reproductively and, therefore, are a sustainable and plentiful resource. Each dove will provide about one-half serving of breast meat, so a family of four might need anywhere from four to eight birds depending on appetites.

Dove hunting is a great way to introduce your children to the sport and lifestyle of hunting. Jason’s father was more into deer hunting than dove so, although he went along on hunts as a toddler, his first dove hunt was not until he was about four or five years old. Dove shoots are held throughout Alabama every fall as formal events and informal gatherings of friends. Either way, they are usually a good atmosphere for children even though everyone is there for the shoot.

Some kids might get bored sitting quietly in a tree stand waiting for deer or in a duck blind nestled in a swamp, but being at a dove shoot where kids can participate in conversation, eat snacks and be able to move about some will help keep them interested. Also, because we are in Alabama, warmer temperatures during the dove hunting season are more likely to motivate family members to come out for the day. Activities like challenging young hunters to try to catch their kill in their hat once the dove starts its descent, will also keep kids interested in the action. There are many opportunities at dove shoots for kids to learn about sportsmanship, nature and where their food comes from.

Many hunters pull the breast meat from the birds after the hunt at their meet-up location, which makes cleanup easier than it might be at home. You can also pick the bird clean, removing every bit of the meat once you pluck it. This task can be extremely tedious since the birds are smaller than even the smallest chicken, but it can be worthwhile in the long-term.

Using the whole bird rather than just the breast meat is a smart decision if you need to stretch the amount of protein you put on the table or you can use it to add flavor to other dishes. Whether you only take the breast meat or strip the bird clean, just make sure to take a cooler or plastic gallon bags to store your meat in until you get home.

There are as many ways to cook dove as there are to cook chicken. A quick search of the Internet for dove recipes will produce a variety of them from fried to fancy. Dove is a dark meat and can be a little dry. Many people will cook dove wrapped in bacon as they would duck or deer meat, or serve it with gravy to add moisture. Because you can freeze dove just like any other meat, you can experiment with recipes through the winter until you find the flavor or style you like best.

Supplementing your suppers with local game can be easy if you plan ahead. Jason and I encourage you to take advantage of the 2011 dove seasons this fall and take your kids with you if you can. Whether you go to an organized shoot or try your luck in your own backyard, you can make bringing home your next meal a family event you and your children will always remember.

For dove season dates and other information, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/season-limits/.

 

Grilled dove with asparagus

RECIPE
Grilled Dove with Asparagus

This is a very simple recipe that includes other ingredients you probably already have on hand. It can also easily be adapted to make kebobs using other fresh vegetables.

Dove breasts (2-3 per person)
Italian dressing
Uncooked bacon
Fresh asparagus
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place the dove breasts in a dish or bowl. Pour enough dressing over them to cover. Marinate in refrigerator for about 6 hours.
Wrap a piece of uncooked bacon around each breast, tack with a toothpick and place the meat on the grill.
Coat the asparagus with the olive oil, lightly salt and pepper, and place on the grill.
When the bacon is done, the dove is done.
When the asparagus is tender, it is done.
Serve the dove breasts alongside the asparagus.

Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.