By Jill J Easton
The fast-flying, quick breeding delight of fall wing shooters, Zenaida macroura is a native American bird that is well-known for its predation of grain fields across the mid-United States.
There are two good things about mourning doves, they are a challenging target and one of the best tasting dark-meat game birds. These doves are known for their mournful calls and the numbers of birds sitting on power lines in late August tempting hunters and waiting for grain to ripen.
Fall dove hunts are held in many states and are often the social event that opens hunting season. Dozens of hunters armed with shotguns sit in assigned spots around the field and attempt to hit the aerial dare-devils. It is not unusual for a greenhorn dove hunter to shoot one or two doves per box of shotgun shells.
There are specific state regulations that limit the amount of grain that can be legally left in a field, so check with your state game agency before agreeing to go on a dove hunt.
Let’s complicate the whole dove situation a bit. There is also an illegal alien, the Eurasian collared dove, that is considered a non-native species. They can be taken in any numbers and there is no season on them in many states. (Check your state regulations.)
The doves showed up in Florida in the 1980s and have spread like illegal aliens throughout the central United States. Many thousands are hanging out in the sanctuary cities in California. They are as delicious to eat as mourning doves and are much larger. Mmmmmm good.
How to tell the difference
Mourning doves are creatures of open spaces and plowed fields. They are brownish-gray, or grayish-brown with black spots, have a long, pointed tail with white feathers edged with black mixed with the gray, a small head and are about the same size as a robin.
Eurasian collared doves are larger than mourning doves, more of a true gray, have a black collar somewhere on their necks and a square tail with white patches. Unlike mourning doves, these doves are creatures of urban areas, think bird feeders and fruit trees. They often wander aimlessly on subdivision streets. I have accidentally run over several of them.
This recipe will work with either dove species. As shown, the recipe will serve six people. Figure 2-3 doves per diner. The applesauce, apples, bourbon and brown sugar give the doves a sweet taste that we like and the bacon and marinade keep them from drying out.
12 picked, gutted doves
6 slices medium-thick bacon
6 pieces of spaghetti
3 apples, any variety. Remove core and cut into small pieces
5 stalks of celery, cut into small pieces
1 large sweet onion
1/2 cup chicken bouillon
3/4 cup applesauce
½ cup bourbon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbs ginger
2 tbs seasoning, we prefer Cavender’s
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix all the ingredients but the doves, bacon, and spaghetti in a large bowl, pour in a pre-greased, or aluminum foil-lined baking pan. Wrap bacon around the doves and secure in place with a piece of spaghetti (Which will soften and can be eaten.) Place the doves on top of the mixture and slightly push each one down into the fruit/vegetable mixture. Cook for about 20 minutes, turn the doves over and cook until the bacon is crisped and the doves reach an internal temperature of 165.
Serve the vegetable mixture over rice and flavor with pan juices.