When I was in the northeast, I never hunted doves. When I moved to Arizona, I took it up. Dove hunting, to me, is one of those hunts that is more about the tradition, than the actual hunt. Opening day of dove season brings new hunters and infrequent hunters out in droves, along with the hardcore practitioners.
After my first opening day in Arizona, I avoid it. Too crowded, and pellets falling like rain. I do have some spots that are not as popular, but it is just a bit of an odd vibe to me, still. Full disclosure – I haven’t been out yet this year. I haven’t even bought my Migratory Bird stamp. I will, though. I try to get out 2-3 times per year, just to wet my whistle. I prefer the evening hunt to the morning one, but we will see.
Most people (not all) think doves are great table fare so of course the season brings on lots of discussion about the best way to cook them. Almost always I point people towards Hank Shaw over at Hunter.Angler.Gardener.Cook Hank is a master at cooking game meat and his dove recipes are legit.
HOW TO MAKE DOVES LA MANCHA
Doves la Mancha is crazy easy. Once you have your plucked doves, you smear melted butter or olive oil all over the birds, then salt them, inside and out.
Stuff the little cavities with fresh herbs: I use rosemary, thyme, sage — often the native sages that live where I hunt — and sometimes fresh or dried bay leaves. Side note: Don’t use sagebrush for this dove recipe because it’s too bitter, and it’s not actually sage. You can burn some sagebrush while you are grilling, and that lovely aroma will bathe your birds.
You’ll grill your doves over a very hot fire, ideally charcoal or wood. Gas is OK, if a bit boring. The general idea is to grill them breast side up for most of the time, with the grill cover down. This smoke roasts your birds.
As they grill — and remember this will only be for a few minutes because you want to serve dove meat medium, not well done — you paint the doves with olive oil or bacon fat, and sprinkle with smoky Spanish paprika; regular paprika is OK, too.
Give this dove recipe a go this dove season. But fair warning: If you do, you might never go back to breasting out your doves again…
So – check out Hank’s site, and try something new. You’ll be glad you did. His dove section includes tips on cleaning and preparation.