Dove Hunting: The Birds of Peace Are Delicious
|BBQ Dove Breast|
Later I joined the family's long-standing, and now my longest, tradition of being armed and ready for the opening of dove season. In California, that's Sept. 1 every year, and we have hunted at the same spot in Paso Robles for opening day since I was able to pull a trigger.
My ethics of hunting are simple.
1) I hunt birds (I deviated once for a wild boar to cook for my 40th birthday).
2) I do my best to find what I shoot.
3) I eat what I kill.
I don't use the shield that doves are "rats with wings," or "a nuisance the farmers are happy to get rid of'" or any other pretense. They are perfectly pleasant little birds. I still feel bad if the bird is in need of a final dispatch: I want every shot to be a clean kill. But in the end, doves are delicious, and as far as I know there's only one way to procure them.
They fly in front of my shotgun one or two days a year. My whole family, and every friend who's shared them, enjoy the meal.
They're as organic, sustainable, and locally sourced as you can get. They're not just from my watershed, they're drinking my watershed.
I know where they came from, and I know what they ate. This year's catch were as full of grain as little sandbags. And I know they're fresh. I typically breast the birds in the field, the breast being 98 percent of the available meat, and drop them in a Ziplock with the perfect dove marinade, Wishbone Italian Dressing. I buy it once a year solely for this purpose.
I often drive straight home from the hunt and have a BBQ with family. Friends are welcome if I shot for two days and got my limits. In California you're entitled to 10 birds a day, if you can hit them, and since my daughter can eat five, a single limit barely feeds the family.
This year we roasted some in the field after sunset. Good experience, but the flavor is actually better after a drive-time marinade.
So how do the birds of peace taste?
Dove is dense, dark, rich and meaty. The flavor lies between turkey leg and duck breast, sometimes with a note of gaminess, as with duck or any wild bird, reminiscent of liver. The best cure to this is the aforementioned marinade which adds a tart tang, similar to the flavor of teriyaki beef jerky.
I know I may draw some shots from this story. It hadn't occurred to me to write about this, but I happened to talk to my editor on the way to the shoot. ("You can eat dove? I want a post!") Even then I wasn't convinced, but he really, really wanted it, so please direct your anger toward W. Blake Gray.
Don't knock it 'til you eat it. My daughter cried the first time she found out I was going to hunt dove. Now, having tasted it, she cries when I don't take her with me.