Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Doves: The First Feast of Fall

What's not to love about dove season? It's your first bird hunt of fall. You get to hunt with lots of friends. And if you actually hit any doves, you get to eat one of the yummiest birds around...

Mmmmmmmmmm. Food.
If you're looking for dove recipes, I should direct you to this article I've got in the Sacramento Bee today - it has three tasty recipes with it. This story was actually part of the Sept. 3 Fall Hunting Preview package I worked on, but it didn't fit in last week's paper so they ran it in today's Food & Wine section. And it turns out that's appropriate, because I really focused on dove as feast.

I've got a couple more links to dove recipes below, but can I just say first that I am thrilled to report that I FINALLY got some doves this weekend? Yeah, it's only my THIRD SEASON of dove hunting. The first season, I couldn't hit anything. The second season there weren't many doves flying by the time I got out, so I didn't find out if I was capable of hitting them yet. My opener last week was the same.

But then I went to Michael's Native Hunt ranch near King City for his annual Labor Day dove hunt and feast. Even though dove season started Sept. 1, Michael didn't let anyone hunt the birds before Labor Day, so it was as good as having a second opener.

Everyone was saying the dove flight wasn't as good as it had been in previous years, which I've been hearing from people all over the state. But it was good enough for me to get lots of opportunity to shoot, which is important with such fast-flying, hard-to-hit birds.

I was a little nervous, being the only chick out in the field. I didn't know if I could hit doves, and I didn't want people to think, "Oh, she shoots like a girl." But it turns out I shot better than, oh, a lot of the boys in the field that day. I brought back six, and Fabio, the Italian gentleman hunter I'd partnered up with, complimented my shooting. A lot. God, I love Italian men.

Unfortunately, I also lost a discouraging three doves because we were set up next to a deer fence, and anything that sailed over it was inaccessible.

Well, almost anything. When we were done for the morning and everyone was sitting around on trucks and ATVs, I looked on the other side of the fence and spotted a dove in the bulldozed firebreak. Dead. Ten feet from us.

We bemoaned our bad luck, and then moved on in the conversation. But we kept coming back to it. It was driving us nuts seeing that bird out of reach.

One guy - Martin - said if he were younger and more agile, he'd hop the fence for it. I told him that such youthfulness had more to do with stupidity than with agility. And within 10 minutes, he was looking for a way to get over that fence. God, I love men.

But he realized that an 8-foot fall would be bad for a 50-year-old man, so he gave up.

We sat there joking about getting some duct tape and taping sticks together to try to drag the bird our way.

Then another guy, Eric, spotted a big, long pine branch that had fallen from a tree. About 10 feet long. He started ripping twigs off of it, then poked it through the fence wire.

Almost... almost. The branch tip stopped about two inches short of the dove.

"Push on the fence!" someone yelled.

So two of us leaned hard on the wire to extend his reach, and I'll be damned if Eric didn't hook that bird. We got it!

I know nothing in nature goes to waste, but I want to retrieve every animal I shoot, because the point of shooting them is eating them, not just watching them lie dead and waiting for the insects to find them. This dove probably wasn't mine - it wasn't close to where I was shooting - but it made me feel better knowing we'd made the effort to retrieve it.

Now, it's all about the eating.

Back at the lodge, Boyfriend was cooking up the doves that hunters brought in, with his incredible - and not difficult - Grilled Dove a la Mancha recipe.

I can't tell you how many times that morning I heard people gushing that this was the best dove they'd ever eaten.

Back at home, Boyfriend got a little more freaky and decided he wanted to work with a theme: doves with their future neighbors (quail eggs). Here's how that came out:

Doves on toast from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Yeah, that was insanely good.

Click on the link below the photo for the recipe, or click here to see what he wrote about making that dish. Click here to read about what he whipped up last week - Doves on Feed (dove served over a bed of farro, which is a grain that doves would probably love to eat). Or just click here for all his dove and pigeon recipes.

Dang. Now I'm getting hungry again. God, I love my man!

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


Chad Love said...

Congrats! After an excruciatingly slow opener I'm finally starting to shoot a few more birds.

I will definitely try that recipe...

Chad Love

Unknown said...

Hank did cook the best tasting bird I EVER HAD! Great job!!

Jamie said...

Great story Holly, and congratulations on your first doves.
I have been reading your blog for as long as I've been reading Hank's and I find them both enlightening and fantastic story-telling.
I do, however, have a criticism. I, for one, have had enough of you lammenting your inexperience, lack of confidence, insecurity about being a woman in the field.
You are more experienced than most hunters and you do yourself a disservice by beating yourself up over missed shots and overthinking things.
If, as I suspect, you are indeed as thoughtful, thorough and safe in the field as you write in this blog, you have absolutely nothing to justify to your faithful readers.
Everyone misses, everyone gets nervous, everyone second-guesses how they did one thing or another.
You're the damn Cazadora!
The proof of that is all over this blog, and I'm ready for you to speak with the authority you have earned with your wealth of experience.

Holly Heyser said...

Thanks, Jamie. Though honestly, when you've never actually hit a dove, there's reason to feel insecure!

Frank: Too bad you weren't here for last night's dove. Also amazing.

Chad, I'm glad to hear things are picking up for you. But will anything ever match your dog Tess's retrieve on the opener?

Eric F said...

Hi Holly,

Congratulations on your first dove! Maybe just maybe my coaching tips over the phone worked?

We had a great dove shoot and BBQ on Sept 1. Hunting Gray Lodge was a bit challenging- I got on the dirt and crouched behind my bucket and some of our guys got peppered pretty hard from low shooters across the small field we were hunting.

Our evening shoot was much more civil since it is our private should have come up after work. It was fast shooting in the evening- a couple neighbor kids came out after football practice and shot 2 boxes of shells each for a handful of birds.

We had plenty for the BBQ that evening...

native said...

All I have to say Holly is WOW!
You harvested more Dove where the other "fellows" did not do as well, and that is a feat within itself because the dove just simply left early this year and not a lot were flying.

Well I do have one more thing or two to say, ;-)

The whole state is complaining about the Dove "not" being here in the previous numbers as past years?

We did really well considering the general consensus, so do you think that the "High Fence" had something to do with that?
Keeping those Dove in and all you know !

And lets not even mention the amount of quail which are on the property, as the State says that Wild Boar are eating all of the ground nesting birds eggs, and must be eradicated for that (and numerous other reasons).

I guess the large population of wild boar on our place have not developed a taste for Quail Eggs for the past 5 years, No?

Anyway,enough of my acid and tongue in cheek humor, I thoroughly enjoyed having you and Hank out and hope that next year (due to our current and cool, short summer) proves to be a better Dove year for the main event.

Thank you so much for attending,

Holly Heyser said...

Eric: Could be! Mostly what I tried to do is lead way more than I thought I needed to.

Native: I was more than happy with the number of doves, and if you ever open quail hunting on your land, I'M THERE! Those quail aren't bothered by the pigs one bit.

Phillip said...

Holly, I didn't get to shoot during the morning hunt, but I made up for it in the afternoon after everyone else went home. Unfortunately, I lost about half my birds to that fence too, even when I moved to what I thought was a safe distance.

The shooting was a lot slower this year, but it was still a lot of fun! Hate that I missed out on the grilled doves, though!

Holly Heyser said...

What, you didn't have Martin to help you fetch them? LOL. He's a hoot.

As for the eating, you should definitely try Hank's recipe. Not as fun as having someone else do the cooking (trust me, I know!), but still super yummy.

GSPRuss said...

Dove hunting in Illinois was miserable. No birds!

Anonymous said...

It was great to see your article on cooking dove in the Sac Bee yesterday. You are doing a great job of keeping hunting in the forefront and raising people's understanding of the traditions associated with hunting that I've experienced all my life in California! We used to have big group hunts in the Hanford area in the late '60s and we keep trying to renew it, but people are getting older and access to land is less. We keep trying and it's great to see all that you are doing for hunting and hunters!


Josh said...

I'm glad you got on birds, Holly. I just can't seem to find them, although when snipe rolls around, I've got you covered. You don't have any more appendices, right?

As for the numbers, I'm seeing a LOT of doves, just not where I'm allowed to hunt. We have a ton in the city, and we have a ton on the wheat fields (just harvested). I think one reason people aren't seeing as many on the shootable land is the weather we've had this year. Much of the safflower still isn't being harvested around here, although this week'll change that.

Anonymous said...

Your "missing" doves are here in SanJose, sitting on the phone wires, and taunting the cats. :-)

If I ever actually hit a dove, I will try the recipes.