Thad is back with another delicious wild game recipe! …It is the time of year where you can combine a fresh harvest from the field with fresh harvest from the garden for a wonderful dinner. Mourning doves, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion and basil are all at their peak in my part of the country — Minnesota. This Roasted Whole Dove Recipe with Paprika and Butter is a simple dish that looks elegant on the plate, and celebrates and makes the most of every part of the dove.
Roasted Whole Dove Recipe with Paprika and Butter:
Hunting mourning doves is a great way to get your shooting eye tuned up for the remainder of the fall hunting season. To start, scout the countryside for a place where concentrations of doves are located. Think little legs, little beak, little seeds and you can find their favored feeding locations. Doves prefer places where they can easily land on the ground and search for little seeds to fill their crops as they prepare for fall migration in this northern climate.
In my area, harvested canola fields are like dove magnets. Canola is in the same family of plants as mustard, so if you have mustard seed in your spice pantry, you’ll know what a full crop in a mourning dove looks like when you clean them for the plate. If you can’t find concentrations in a feeding area, then look for a watering and roosting location. A small pond with enough open ground for them to land and take water with trees that have bare branch snags to roost in can be very productive later in the afternoon. A few decoys in those roost snags will also help attract the birds to your location.
Bring Plenty of Shells + Mark Your Birds
Once you locate your hunting area and obtain permission if needed, park yourself on a stool and wait for the action. Bring plenty of shells because these little birds are rockets. If you are hunting without a dog, make sure you mark and retrieve each bird because they can seemingly disappear even in the barest of cover.
Pluck While You Wait
You can get a start on cleaning your birds as you sit by plucking them, yes, pluck these little birds, it is very easy and fast to do and makes for a dinner treat you’ll want to do again. When you get back home, use a pair of shears and cut off the legs, wings, head and tail then remove the innards. Always pay attention to what is in the crop of your birds because it will clue you in to what their favored food source is and you can target your next hunts to those food sources, that is if you don’t already know. This applies to any hunted upland game birds. Wash your cleaned birds well and pick off any stray feathers and you are ready to make your meal.
Field and Garden Harvest
A couple of hours before meal time, slice up a couple of cucumbers, a half of white onion, and your tomatoes in bite sized chunks. Make a marinade of water, vinegar, oil, honey or sugar, salt and pepper and pour over your salad. Cover and refrigerate until your doves are ready. I start off the doves by coating with softened butter then season them with salt and pepper all over and sprinkle on smoked paprika or regular paprika. I have a pellet grill, so I start that and set the temperature to 500○F. The pellet grill is indirect heat so there is no need to turn the birds, but if you are using direct heat, you’ll need to turn them every 2 to 3 minutes. It only takes 9 or 10 minutes to fully cook them. If you like a little red left in the meat then shoot for 9 minutes. I like wild game this way because it isn’t dry and gamey tasting like when it is cooked well done.
Finally, remove your salad from the refrigerator and slice some fresh basil for the salad, because anything tomato without basil is just catsup. Plate your doves and salad, then enjoy your field and garden harvest. If you are wondering how to eat those little doves, use a steak knife to slice along the breast bone and down the wishbone, then slice the skin between the leg and breast. From there, use your fingers and pull off those little powerfully tasty legs and separate the breast from the bone. No need to cut the breast off at this point, just take a couple bites and you’ve cleaned off one side of the breast meat. Keep a stack of napkins ready, because this is messy but so worth it.
By the way… if you want to learn how to make this garden caddy, check out this post!
Have you seen all the other dove recipes on this site? Check them out here! You can also get all kinds of garden tips on Georgia’s YouTube channel. You can also tag Georgia with your latest hunting and #ModernPioneering adventures on Instagram at @georgiapellegrini, and be sure to follow along on Facebook.
- Doves: 8 or more
- 2 Tablespoons Softened butter
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Paprika Smoked or Sweet
- 2 Cucumbers sliced
- ½ White onion sliced
- 2 or 3 Tomatoes in bite size chunks
- 10-15 Cherry tomatoes quartered
- Fresh Basil leaves sliced
- ¾ cup Water
- 1/3 cup Vinegar
- ¼ cup Canola oil
- 1 tablespoon Honey or Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh ground Black pepper
- Slice the cucumbers and onions then cut up the tomatoes.
- Combine the marinade ingredients and whisk to dissolve the salt.
- Pour the marinade over the salad, mix, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Start the grill (500 degrees F for an indirect heat grill).
- Coat the doves with butter and season all over with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with paprika.
- Grill for 9 to 10 minutes.
- Slice fresh basil and sprinkle over the salad.