Any person who’s ever shot at an animal and then undergone the task and responsibility of cleaning and eating that animal takes pride in how they prepare game. If not, that person is purely selfish in their hunting pursuit. I sure take pride in game preparation, and just last night I prepared five dove that we shot this weekend (dove season opened September 1). Here at GRIT, we’re a little under the gun with the November/December magazine deadline looming (it’s a good one too – grassfed beef, DIY cold frame, raising chickens for meat, to name a few), but I had to take a moment today and share one of my game recipes, given to me by a friend and enjoyed by family.
First of all, it’s important to admit the inefficiency with which we (Uncle Fred, brother Josh, Gwen and I) shot the dove. It was flat-out embarrassing and a little expensive. We did do better than a box per bird, but not by a whole lot. Uncle Fred didn’t shoot nearly as many times as we did, and admittedly got a kick out of watching Josh and I blast away, cuss, then throw our hats to the ground from a distance.
With dove hunting, they fly so fast that you have to lead them a little more than you would a duck, goose or pheasant. Dove are quick and come upon you fast. So I have no doubt early-season mistakes played a role in our inability to drop more birds.
Also, it occurred to us that 8 shot might have been a little light. I know I winged several birds where feathers would fly and they’d start to dive only to flutter their wings enough to make it to a distant hedgerow. I couldn’t help but wonder if 7 or, more likely in my mind, 7 ½ shot would have done any better. But, you should never put yourself in a position to blame your equipment, so I’ll just admit we stunk and get on with how I prepared the breasts of this tasty bird.
A friend of my family from Texas, Luke, let us in on this beauty of a dove recipe.
Really, all you need is some jalapenos (for five breasts I used one whole, fresh pepper), Cajun seasoning, bacon and two toothpicks for every dove breast. Remember, when you are cleaning the breasts to begin preparation, try and pick out all the birdshot.
On each breast, cut a slit down the side of it. Cut right in the middle of each side too, so that you have meat-jalapeno-meat rather than meat-jalapeno-bone.
Stuff the jalapenos in the gap, and sprinkle the dove breasts with as much Cajun seasoning as you think appropriate. This may take some trial and error, but this is how I did mine and liked it.
Now, wrap each breast with a piece of bacon, and secure the bacon in place with a tooth pick stuck horizontally through each side. You can stick it any way you want it, actually, so long as the bacon and jalapenos stay in place. The bacon cooks some extra fat into an otherwise very lean meat, and it holds it all in place, obviously.
Throw it on the charcoal grill, and slow cook it until it looks something like this.
I threw some corn on the cob in foil on the grill as well, and those two, along with Gwen’s pesto pasta salad and a green salad made a meal to be proud of.
Hunting is about a lot of things, camaraderie and enjoying the outdoors and securing your own tasty food, and I got all three with this experience.
And Jean and Jenn (GRIT associate editors and a K-State Wildcat and Nebraska Cornhusker, respectively), this is just to show you what a winner looks like (look in near background).
Anyone know any heirloom or personal secrets to better prepare dove or other game?
Live dove photo (second from top): iStockphoto.com/Steve Byland
Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on Google+.