In our area dove hunting is the first real season to open up. It has been a tradition in our family for decades to go out at least on opening day and get into the swing of the hunting season.
Some General Information on Mourning Doves
I have found that if I am going to effectively hunt something it is best if I know a little about the quarry. The mourning dove is considered a migratory bird even though they live and breed in the majority of the US. They are seed eaters and are quite agile in flight. Doves can reach a maximum speed of 55 miles per hour while in flight and can preform some fairly impressive evasive maneuvers.
Since doves are migratory they have a dark meat. Dark meat in a fowl occurs when that muscle is used a lot. In chickens, quail, and turkeys the dark meat is in the legs and thighs because they are primarily ground birds. Doves, ducks, and geese are primarily flight birds so their breasts are also dark meat. This can present a challenge for someone trying to cook them for the first time. If you try to cook dove the same way you would cook chicken, the end result will be something close to shoe leather. Dark meat also has a stronger or more intense taste that some people call gamey.
Before you go hunting doves there are some things you should know.
Every state in the US requires some type of hunter education course. Most have a grandfather clause, what this means is that if you were born before a certain date you are not required to take the course. For example I am exempt from the hunter education course here in Alabama. For a good overview of the hunter education requirements in all of the states you can visit the International Hunter Education Association. This site provides enough information to get started.
After you have completed the required hunter education course you can then purchase your hunting license. The cost of this license will vary by state. Most states have a way for you to purchase your license online and just enter a reference number from your hunter education course. A survey is likely to pop up that deal specifically with migratory birds. On this survey you will be asked about last years harvest of migratory birds. You will need to check the appropriate range number of the birds you harvested last year. If you didn’t hunt, just click the did not hunt button. After this some states ask if you intend to hunt this year, click the appropriate box.
First you are going to want to use a shotgun. I am not saying that there aren’t a few people out there that might be able to hunt dove with a rifle, but I haven’t met any yet. My suggestion is use a 20 gauge or larger.
Note: On shotguns the lower the number the larger the shell. i.e. a 12 gauge is larger than a 20 gauge.
For doves I suggest either 7 1/2 or 8 shot shells. Shot is the projectile inside the shell, the higher the number the smaller the shot, but smaller shot means more pellets inside the same shell. Remember doves can fly 55 miles per hour.
While hunting all migratory birds your shotgun has to be restricted to a maximum shell capacity of 3. That is one in the chamber and two in the magazine. This goes for semi automatic as well as pump shotguns. I hunt with a Remington 1100. I love that gun. It has a normal carry capacity of 5, one in the chamber and four in the magazine. I have to plug my shotgun so it is legal to hunt with for migratory birds. A shotgun plug can be purchased or made. The plug I use was whittled by my great grandfather, I have used it for 35 years. If you are going to hunt any migratory bird get a plug, it is not worth the risk or the fines.
Learning the Trade
If you are an experienced shooter but have never hunted doves, it will take a little getting used to. You have to learn to gauge the birds speed, flight path, distance, and how much to lead the bird for the shot.
Note: Leading a shot is actually shooting in front of the target so that the projectile and the targets location coincide in the fraction of a second between the time you pull the trigger and point of impact.
If you are not an experience shooter I strongly encourage you to find a gun range that has sporting clays. There are several clay throwers that will mimic the flight pattern and speed of a dove. This will help you a ton. I have seen people shoot in excess of 100 rounds to harvest less than 15 birds.
You are allowed to harvest 15 doves per day with a maximum of 45 in procession in a 90 day period. What does this mean? This means you are allowed to kill 15 birds each day. If you are at a hunting camp and have the cleaned birds on ice, you cannot have more than 45 birds per hunter. This ensures that there will be plenty of birds to hunt for years to come.
Cleaning Your Birds
Cleaning doves is really easy once you learn how. After just a bit of practice you should be able to clean a dove in around a minute each. The thing to remember is you are going to be skinning these birds, not pluck them. There isn’t enough fat to merit plucking. The only part of the dove that I cook is the breast because it is the largest piece of meat. I save the organs like the heart and liver for fish bait. They are the perfect size bait for bluegill and perch. I will be making a video on cleaning dove after my next hunt. The remainder is fed to either the dog or the cats.
Cooking Your Birds
Like I have already said above, you cannot cook dove the same way you do chicken. Cooking too long or a too high heat will result in the meat being tough. One of the easiest ways of making sure the meat doesn’t get tough is by boning the meat. This will reduce cooking time and will help keep the meat more tender. You can also use a bring or a marinade on the meat, this will seal the pores of the meat and keep moisture from escaping as easily. A lot of people wrap the breasts in bacon, this adds fat that will help the meat stay moist. Here are some recipes for cooking dove.
Crockpot Dove Dumplings
10 – 12 de-boned dove breasts
8 cups Chicken broth
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste I start with 1/2 tsp of each
2 rolls canned biscuits (I use canned biscuits because they are quick, you can use a comparable amount of homemade biscuits, I have done so myself)
1/4 cup butter
8 ounces sour cream (optional)
1 Tbs all purpose flour
Soak dove breasts in brine solution of 2 Tbs salt per quart of water for 4 hours. Take dove breasts out of solution and dry with paper towel and cut into bite size pieces. Place everything except biscuits in crockpot on high for 1 hour. At end of hour cut up biscuits and add to crockpot, cook for at least an additional 4 hours on low heat. Serve in bowl.
8 – 10 dove breasts bone in
2 slices bacon per dove
salt and pepper to taste
Soak dove in brine solution of 2 Tbs salt per quart of water for 4 hours. Take dove out of solution and dry with paper towel. Salt and pepper dove lightly and tie bacon around each dove. Bake in preheated 300 degree oven for 30 – 45 minutes.
There you have it. This is the first full blog in conjunction with a podcast. I would like to know what you think, should I do more like this? Get out there and enjoy God’s creation while learning skills that will make you more self sustainable and good hunting.
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