Hello, and welcome to South Carolina Natural Resources, a blog created and maintained by the staff of the S.C. Department of Natural Resource’s Office of Media and Outreach.

Over the coming months, we hope to bring to our readers a lively daily discussion on topics related to natural resources conservation, hunting and fishing, outdoor recreation and tourism, SCDNR projects and initiatives, and other news and information that will be of value to our state’s sporting and conservation communities. It’s just one more way the SCDNR is working to fulfill its mission as the primary steward of and advocate for our state’s amazing natural resources.

Whether you are lucky enough to be a Sandlapper by birth, or are one of the many thousands of folks who have “voted with their feet” to make South Carolina their adopted home, you know without a doubt that this is one special place. With the responsibility for managing more than 1 million acres of wild public lands (and counting), the SCDNR has a huge responsibility to the present and future citizens of this state. And we know that it is the sportsmen and women, the hunters and anglers, and the other individuals who love spending time in the outdoors, who make wildlife and natural resources in this state and in the United States work. Without the funding provided through hunting and fishing licenses and permits and the excise taxes paid on outdoor sporting goods equipment, firearms and ammunition, as well as the working partnerships with landowners and sportsman’s groups, our amazing conservation efforts would be a fraction of what they are today. So for that we say, “thanks,” and please come back and visit often to find out what your state Department of Natural Resources and the larger outdoor community in South Carolina are up to.  We value your input, so if you have ideas for topics you’d like to see covered here, please contact site administrator David Lucas at lucasd@dnr.sc.gov. We look forward to hearing from you.

Fowl Pleasures

Fowl Pleasures

By Amanda Dew Manning

Guest blogger Amanda Dew Manning is a native South Carolinian, and a Southern food historian and enthusiast. A version of this article was first published in the Charleston Mercury newspaper

Participants at a special Youth-only dove hunt at the SCDNR's Botany Bay WMA & Heritage Preserve scan the sky looking for mourning doves. photo by David Lucas

Participants at a special Youth-only dove hunt at the SCDNR's Botany Bay WMA & Heritage Preserve scan the sky looking for mourning doves. photo by David Lucas

Fall is a magical time.  Right on cue, it delivers the hunter’s moon, favorite holidays and the opening of South Carolina’s dove hunting season.  Hunters look forward to the sport while family and friends anticipate the joy of cooking — and eating — the hunters’ harvest.  Most hunters agree that contributing to the pleasures of the table adds significantly to the pleasures of the hunt.

As a game bird, the mourning dove, Zenaida macroura, is second in popularity in the South only to the wild turkey.  Dove hunting is one of the most enjoyable hunts because of the challenge of this erratic, fast-flying bird,  often referred to as “the feathered rocket,” “the gray ghost,” or the “Teflon bird.”  For generations, South Carolinians have enjoyed dove hunting for the sport as well as for its social traditions.  When opening day rolls around in the Palmetto State, most everyone knows someone who’s going dove hunting. According to South Carolina Department of Natural Resources estimates, between thirty-five and forty thousand hunters will participate inthe dove season this year (along with many more friends and family members there to enjoy the eating and socializing that often accompany’s a successful dove hunt.

Mourning dove. SCDNR photo

Mourning dove. SCDNR photo

Hunts take place on family farms, private pay-to-shoot fields, at one of hundreds of invitation only shoots, or at one of the forty or so public dove fields in the state [see the box at the end of this story for more info. on public dove fields and special youth hunts offered by the SCDNR].  Some private  hunts have been taking place for so long that one is reminded of a pew in a Southern Baptist church – people have simply claimed a spot of their own.  One hears, “Go over to the east side of the field, but stay away from that old tobacco barn; that’s Joe’s stand.”  After the shoot is over and the guns and ammo are stowed, dove hunters often enjoy a libation or two while the guys that always do it are “shuckin” the breasts from the harvest.  Others are firing up the charcoal.  Metal 55-gallon drums cut in half and covered with a mesh metal grate have probably cooked more dove breasts than anything under the Palmetto sky.  Southern-style potato salad, sorghum-laced baked beans, “light” bread and sweet tea complete the post-hunt field menu.

Dove breasts wrapped in bacon cook slowly on a grill. photo by Phillip Jones

Dove breasts wrapped in bacon cook slowly on a grill. photo by Phillip Jones

South Carolina has always had a bounty of wildfowl.  John Lawson, surveyor-general of North Carolina, traveled the Santee River in the early 1700s exploring the area and studying the Native American tribes living there.  He found them eating blackbirds, crows, buntings, pheasant woodcocks, snipe, partridge and pigeons.  Reports indicate that the early colonists in were “dumbfounded” by the abundance of game they found.  Many of them had little opportunity to hunt in their native lands, as hunting was a privilege reserved for the upper classes and turned to the Native Americans to learn how to find, kill and cook game.  For nearly two-hundred and fifty years, game was a significant and substantial part of the daily diet of Americans.  This was particularly true of Southerners who spent their lives in rural areas and small towns.  For several generations after the colonial period, game was eaten more than almost any other meat.  Then, it was a matter of necessity. Today, it is a matter of pleasure.

Dove breasts and other wild game from the freezer can make a wonderful part of a holiday meal . . . if you can wait that long! photo by Phillip Jones

Dove breasts and other wild game from the freezer can make a wonderful part of a holiday meal . . . if you can wait that long! photo by Phillip Jones

In 1791, William Bartram wrote in Travels Through North and South Carolina:

            “There was a little hommock or islet containing a few acres of high ground, at some distance from the shore, in the drowned savanna, almost every tree of which was loaded with nests of various tribes of fowl…We visited this bird isle, and some of our people taking sticks or poles with them, soon beat down and loaded themselves with these squabs, and returned to camp; they …made us a rich supper; some we roasted, and made others into a pilloe (pilau) with rice.”

Doves are very tasty when cooked properly, and there are numerous ways of cooking them.  Many hunters field dress the bird and bring home only what they consider to be the best part — the breast.  Some prefer to dry-pluck and cook the whole bird, even saving the tiny heart, liver and gizzard for gravy.  Dove meat is dark in color and fine in texture.  It has a taste similar to duck.  The meat is less dry than most birds that have white meat.  However, as with most game, it is better when larded.  Larding is adding fat — usually by inserting long, thin strips of pork fator bacon into dry cuts of meat. Larding makes the meat more succulent, tender and flavorful.  Each of the following recipes uses its own form of larding – whether wrapping the dove breasts in bacon, adding butter or marinating in an oil-based dressing.  Home-cooked doves are delicious served with plain or garlic/cheese grits. If your freezer is filling up with doves, here are some recipes that are sure to please the most discriminating palettes.

RECIPES

GRILLED DOVES

A friend who grew up hunting the woods and fields of South Carolina, contributed this recipe.  He warned that the most important thing to remember when serving this dish is to “stay out of the way of your guests.”.

20 doves, breasted out and breastbone removed
Italian dressing (good quality bottled, or use the dry packaged type and mix with olive oil)
4-5 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced into strips about ¼ to ½ inch wide
20 slices hickory smoked bacon
Toothpicks

Remove the breastbone by using a sharp filleting or boning knife. Cut the breast halves away from the breast bone so that you have two small pieces of dove breast.  Place all the dove breast pieces in a shallow non-corrosive dish or large plastic bag and cover with Italian dressing.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 8-10 hours (overnight).  Remove from refrigerator.  Take a strip of the sliced jalapeno pepper and lay alongside each breast piece.  Wrap with ½ slice bacon and pin with a toothpick.

Cook over hot charcoal on a grill about 4 inches above the coals for 8-10 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook.  Baste occasionally with fresh Italian dressing.  Serve hot. Serves 6.

MARINATED DOVES

This delicious recipe was given to me by a Department of Natural Resources agent who taught “Care and Preparation of Game” at the “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” weekend held each year.  During the class, 20 women cleaned dozens of doves and cooked them using this recipe.  There were no leftovers.

12-24 whole dove breasts (bone in or out)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon dried onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Italian dressing (good quality bottled, or use the dry packaged type and mix with olive oil)

Mix all spices together.  Pierce dove breasts with a fork.  Sprinkle spice mixture over dove breasts and rub in thoroughly to coat. You may not need the entire mixture.  Lay the breasts in a shallow, non-corrosive dish and gently pour on the marinade.  Make sure marinade covers at least halfway up the breast.  Cover and place in refrigerator for 24 hours.  Turn over once after about 12 hours.

Grill over hot coals for about 8-10 minutes.  Do not overcook. Serves 6-8.

DOVES IN FOIL PACKAGES

This recipe is from Mrs. Whaley Entertains by Emily Whaley, Algonquin Books.  Cooking doves in foil is an easy way to use the whole bird.  Mrs. Whaley says of this recipe, “I would tell you how to draw and dress the doves, but since I won’t do it myself, I’m not the one to tell you anything but this: ‘ Make the hunter do it himself. ’ ”

6 doves, drawn and dressed
Salt and black pepper to taste
Paprika to taste
Dried thyme to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 teaspoons sherry
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle each dove with salt, pepper, paprika, and thyme.  Put ½ tablespoon butter in the cavity of each dove, followed by ½ teaspoon sherry and ½ teaspoon red wine vinegar. Using heavy-duty aluminum foil, create 3 packets for the doves.  Each packet should hold 2 doves.  The packets should be securely folded and without any tears, so that none of the juices will escape. Cook in the preheated oven for 2 hours.  Unwrap the doves, transfer to a serving plate, and serve immediately. Serves 2-3.


Hunters prepare to take the field at a public dove hunt at Donnelley WMA in Colleton County.  SCDNR property managers work to provide the public with well-managed fields for Dove hunting on WMA properties around the state.

Hunters prepare to take the field at a public dove hunt at Donnelley WMA in Colleton County.  SCDNR property managers work to provide the public with well-managed fields for Dove hunting on WMA properties around the state.

The 2017 17-18 season for dove hunting in South Carolina will begin with afternoon-only (12 PM until sundown) hunts from September 2 through September 4, 2017.  The first season continues through October 14. The second season extends from November 11 through November 25, 2017, and a third season begins December 15, 2017 and runs through January 15, 2018.

Locations, directions and special limits and restrictions for SCDNR Public Dove Fields can be found on the SCDNR website at the link below. 

http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/dove/fields.html

 

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