January 02, 2019
By Lynn Burkhead
In the heart of the American southland where Andy Morgan lives, there are two things that a warm early fall day in September brings the promise of.
One is a good wingshooting adventure with family and friends as speedy mourning doves dip and dart around a harvested agricultural field, a pasture choked with goat weed or sunflowers, or a water hole that is dwindling in the early autumn heat.
The other certainty is some mighty fine eating afterward, either on the same day as a limit of doves gets harvested or later when family and friends have gathered around for a delayed wild game feast.
Either way, the member of Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour is certain of how he’s going to prepare one of his favorite wild dishes.
“For dove, that recipe is an easy one to choose,” said Morgan, a one-time BPT winner and a three-time FLW Angler of the Year on the circuit he formerly competed on. “I like to cook the dove whole on a hot grill.”
To do so, he’ll start by clipping the feet, wings, and neck of the bird. While some hunters will pluck the feathers off a downed dove and leave the skin on, Morgan quickly skins the bird instead.
Like most of his game meat cooking, a good marinade is a must for any wild meal and this one is no exception.
“For doves, I do prefer a little hotter stuff,” said Morgan, a pro-staff member for Realtree Fishing. “I’ll use some Allegro, some Italian dressing, and maybe some Frank’s Hot Sauce since I like for my marinades to have a little kick. I’ll mix it all together in a bowl, roll the doves in it good, and marinate them for a couple of hours in the refrigerator.”
When it’s time to cook, Morgan will fire up his Pitt Boss pellet smoker and set the heat to 400 degrees.
“This isn’t smoking, it’s grilling, so you want the higher heat and the ability to cook this meat hot and fast,” said Morgan. “When I get the grill going good at 400 degrees, I’ll put the doves on the grate breast side up, or meat side up, and let them cook for about three minutes. Then, I roll them to meat side down and cook for a couple of more minutes, trying to get them to a medium-rare finish.”
As with other game meats, Morgan cautions to avoid overcooking. While he acknowledges that wild hog and turkey must be cooked to certain temperatures for safety reasons, other wild meats like doves need to have at least some pink in the middle in his opinion.
“I’m cooking pretty hot when it comes to wild game,” said Morgan. “I want to get it to a medium-rare finish, so I’m cooking it quickly on each side. It doesn’t tend to stay on the grill very long, although the thicker cuts of meat do take a little longer.”
While the whole doves are cooking, Morgan says his wife is usually in the kitchen getting the rest of the backyard ready meal prepared for dinner guests.
“As I’m cooking the doves, I leave a lot of the other side prep to my wife Missy,” said Morgan. “With doves, she’ll make some baked beans, maybe some coleslaw, or some kind of potatoes, etc.
Morgan says that as with most of his wild game cooking, he strives to make it quick, easy, and fun process, the kind that relies on some high heat, a little dash of this and that seasoning, maybe a cold beverage or two, and the shared laughter of family and friends clamoring for seconds around the dinner table.
“Wild game cooking, at least in my book, is easy and you don’t want to make it too difficult,” he said. “It doesn’t take long to cook game like this once it has been thawed out and marinated.”
Once the dove has finished on the hot grill, Morgan says that it’s time to pull them off, let them rest briefly, and serve them up to dinner guests.
As with his other game recipes, Morgan says to be sure that you have enough to serve your hungry guests, a quantity that is often more than you think you’ll need.
“I need a limit for myself,” he chuckled. “Dove prepared this way, it is so, so good. It’s really hard to beat, especially with a good ice-cold beer in my hand after a long hot day. That’s a back porch recipe for sure, one that reminds me of September, and one that is ready-made for sitting out back in the shade.”
Morgan says that cleanup for this meal is easy if you serve guests with a paper plate, a paper towel, and maybe a plastic fork. Serve it, eat it up, lick your fingers, and throw it all away. One word of caution here—he says not to allow dogs to have any of the leftover bones since they can choke a canine easily.
Loved for the hunt that it takes to produce, the simple ingredients and quick preparation, and the good time out back with family and friends, a wild meal comprised of Andy Morgan’s whole grilled doves is one of the bass pro’s favorites.
“I would never turn a meal of doves down, that’s for sure,” said Morgan. “I love hunting and eating ducks and deer, but eating doves prepared like this might be my favorite. Maybe it’s because of the inventory, they’re not easy to come by and I seem to always have a low stock out in the freezer.
“I sure don’t call over a lot of neighbors for this meal,” he added with a hearty laugh.
But for those he does invite, a dinner of grilled doves is a meal fit for a king. And one that always puts Morgan into the mood to go hunting again when the autumn winds begin to blow.
“This recipe for doves is a great way to help get that freezer cleaned out in the summer months,” said Morgan. “Because after that, it’s time for the annual fall restocking program as I like to say.
“I like to eat, and I like to eat good. And I like to go hunting to obtain the primary ingredients for some of that good eating. I love them both and I’d sure hate to ever have to choose between good hunting and eating and going fishing.”
And when a man whose living comes from fishing says something like that, you know that the hunter’s meal he’s talking about must be about as good as they can possibly get!
Andy Morgan’s Whole Grilled Dove Recipe
Prep time: 15-20 minutes + marinating time
Cook time: 5-6 minutes
- Start by clipping the feet, wings, and neck of each bird. Some hunters pluck the feathers off a downed dove and leave the skin on, but Morgan suggests quickly skinning the bird instead.
- Mix all marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Roll the doves in the marinade and marinate them for a couple of hours in the refrigerator.
- Preheat grill to 400 degrees.
- Put the doves on the grate, breast side up (or meat side up), and let them cook for about three minutes. Then, roll them to meat side down and cook for a couple of more minutes, trying to get them to a medium-rare finish. Once the dove has finished on the hot grill, pull them off, let them rest briefly, and serve them up.