Field to Fork: A Hunter’s Essential Tools for the Yearly Dove Opener
As the sun began sinking into the western horizon, I stationed myself on the edge of a field of wild sunflowers, surrounded by lanky mesquites and stately old live oak trees. It was the long-awaited dove opener, and I was almost giddy with anticipation! The yearly dove opener is akin to something like religion for many, and I’m honestly no exception!
The heat was finally starting to melt from the atmosphere, and the occasional winged missile was already loping across parts of the sunflower fields, showing promise of what the evening flight was likely to display. I stood along a fence row, tucked in close to help break my silhouette while wearing my lightweight King’s Camo short-sleeved safari shirt. Doves are so acrobatic when they see you, so anything to help break up your outline is welcomed when chasing these feathery lightning bolts!
The evening hunt began developing nicely, and waves of birds began flowing over and past my position. I’d love to lie and say I hit more birds than I missed, but if you have ever spent time in the dove fields, you know what an accomplishment that can be! The laughs rolled down the line of hunters as we each witnessed each other’s achievements, but more often, the hilarious misses. Still, as the shadows lengthened into the evening, I cobbled together my opening day limit of 15 birds.
Whenever I head out for the annual dove opener each year, I bring along a few tools. It makes my time in the great outdoors all that more rewarding!
When cleaning and preparing doves for the table, one mandatory tool is Smith’s Edgesport Bait and Game Shears. These shears are a tool that makes breasting your doves an absolute breeze! They are heavy-duty and sharp, all rolled up in one. It’s one of those tools I can’t imagine being on a dove hunt without.
Having a short, super sharp, and flexible fillet knife is another tool I find immensely helpful when cleaning a stack of birds. Smith’s offers a 4” Flexible Folding Fillet Knife that fits the bill perfectly. Because of its compact size and that it’s a folding knife, it’s super easy to pack and features a stainless clipping carabiner, along with a TPE ergonomic non-slip grip. Finally, it features a bottle opener for those post-hunt frosty beverages while working on your pile of birds!
Another tool I find an absolute necessity is Smith’s 4” Natural Arkansas Sharpening Stone with Cover. Invariably when working with a knife, especially a super sharp fillet knife, a little touch-up work keeps the chore moving quickly. An Arkansas stone is one of those tools that helps keep those ultra-sharp edges in pristine shape. One of the biggest tricks to using one is not to let the knife get dull before touching up the edge. By sharpening it up BEFORE it gets dull, you keep your blade in a perfectly sharp condition!
Finally, it can still be hot during the dove opener, so staying hydrated is vital to each hunt. I always carry my Rugged Road Cooler filled with Gatorade and some frosty adult beverages for when the hunt ends. The Rugged Road 45 V2 has been my go-to for the last year, and it’s been an excellent addition to my hunting kit. It floats aside my Old Town Kayak all spring and summer and then in the back of my pick-up all fall! Not only does the cooler keep the drinks extremely cold, but it’s also fantastic at transporting fish and game back to the house. With it being ultralight and just 9lbs empty, the Rugged Road 45 V2 will transfer your game in perfect field-to-table condition! Grilling Doves!
GRILLED DOVE RECIPE
Several tasty recipes run through my head as I clean my birds, but one of my favorites is plain birds on the Grill. Now I certainly don’t mean I don’t do anything with the bird other than grill it! What I’m saying is it’s not the traditional mainstay dove popper. It’s a bit more work at the cleaning table because you pluck the birds versus breasting them, but I think it makes for a much better-finished product. Start with about three or four birds per person. Pluck them, clean the cavities, spread the prepped birds on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and garlic. They are also pretty dynamite with a dusting of Meat Church BBQ Holy Voodoo sprinkled on them!
I prefer grilling them on a smoker, but this recipe can also be cooked on a gas grill or in an oven. I use a pellet grill and set my smoker to 250 degrees using a combination of pecan and hickory pellets. I like these pellets because they don’t have as strong of a flavor profile as mesquite or post oak. Apple would also be a great smoking wood.
I add the birds to the grill, breast up, and smoke for about 30 minutes. I don’t want them to be overdone because they are much better if the breast meat is medium. After about 20 minutes on the smoker, I add the final ingredient that makes this recipe sing. I use an altered version of Meat Church BBQ’s Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce to paint the breasts liberally. This BBQ sauce is so scary good and makes these little winged speedsters shine on the grill.
A Twist on the Meat Church BBQ’s Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce Recipe
- 12 oz Dr. Pepper, preferably made with real sugar
- 2 C Ketchup
- 1 C Brown sugar
- 1 T Worcestershire sauce (I use The W sauce)
- 1 T Sea salt
- 1 T Meat Church Holy Voodoo
- 1 T 16-mesh coarse black pepper
- 1 t Crushed red pepper
- 3 T White vinegar
- 1 T Apple cider vinegar
The real change to this recipe is adding vinegar. Without it, this sauce is just too sweet for my taste, and there is not enough kick from the red pepper to negate it. With the added vinegar tang, this BBQ sauce has taken my family by storm. They want it on everything now, and I have to admit, it’s pretty addicting.
After adding the Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce to the doves, I let the sauce carmelize for about 10 minutes and then served piping hot!
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