High Plains Shooting and Dining Society, a little bit about it.

Once upon a time in Texas

David McElyea Grilling Boneless Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Doves in Denver

David McElyea Grilling Boneless Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Doves in Denver

On September 1, 1994, opening day of dove season, my good friend, Larry Bedinghaus, and I went to Osage, Texas down by Crawford and we stayed in an old vacant farm house on an old family farm. Neither of us had any idea how to hunt and shoot doves but we were there and that is what mattered.

In the early afternoon we walked across a pasture behind the farmhouse towards a tank (pond in Texas) and spotted a few doves. As they flew up I shot one with my first shot and thought wow, this is great, not knowing that it would be the next day when I shot my second and last dove. I think Larry shot one more dove than I did during that trip, but it gets worse because that evening we took time to cook a meal for Larry’s wife’s aunt and her sisters and friend, a lot of nice ladies in their late 70’s.

I was in the backyard grilling at five o’clock when I noticed a lot of doves flying over and both Larry and I were dressed in blue jeans and light colored t-shirts since the weather was hot. A couple of the older ladies came out to watch me cook and visit and asked in an ever so nice way why were were cooking during the best shooting time of the day and why we were not wearing camouflage since doves have excellent eyesight. I had no good answers for those questions since I had no idea how to hunt doves in Texas.

We did enjoy a lovely dinner that evening as the doves flew over unscathed. I kind of think they were laughing at us newbies who thought we were dove hunters. I was using a really nice Italian Franchi 20 ga. shotgun with a modified fixed choke and it was a decent quail gun but it was way too light for shooting passing doves and the pattern was a bit too tight. I went on and used that gun for the next two years with slightly better results until I bought a 12 ga. with interchangeable chokes and started using more open chokes.

Over the years we got to be a little bit better, bit by bit, and we added good guy hunters to our group. Most were friends of Larry’s who became dear friends of mine like Leroy and Everett and by 2001 we had a sizeable group who joined us for our first trip out to Cross Plains, TX where we had a right good time and awarded one of our members the Purple Dove Medal when he got the back of his chair peppered with shot by our guide. This hunting stuff is a learning process that never ends and that was my first year with my young Brittany dog, Happy, who would take off anywhere he heard anyone of over twenty shooters shoot his shotgun in order to retrieve the fallen bird and bring it back to me. The next year Happy understood he was to wait for me to shoot and only bring my bird back.

Some years we had good dove hunts and some not so good and over ten years ago we settle on Brownwood, TX and the Hampton Inn for lodging and the Section Hand Resturant for the sacred Dove Day Eve dinner held in what we call the John Wayne room which is a private room we reserve each year. We have had the same staff helping us when 15 to 20 of us gather to eat, visit and catch up and meet new additions and give some the old guys a hard time because due to age and other things they have become our wise elders and ride alongs.

Dove hunting, especially in Texas, is perhaps the most social of all hunting activities because a lot of the time is spent sitting and standing around waiting for that exciting half hour in the early morning or evening when they are flocking and flying in, and the shooting of perhaps one of the hardest to hit gamebirds takes place. The rest of the time is story telling and sharing stories and we have some wonderful storytellers who can hold forth in the most entertaining manner.

Our eclectic group has guys who are or have been: master diesel mechanics, lawyers, retailers, doctors, welders, writers, educators, geologists, financial advisors, IT guys, airplane pilots, sales and all sorts of other great backgrounds. Our ages vary from early teens to late 80’s and the only real criteria is that we don’t want jerks and we will not compromise on gun safety.

I have also learned how to cook doves that are incredibly tasty and good and that has been a long process. My first attempts were so bad that I ended up with little overcooked dove breasts that tasted like spoiled liver with the consistency of a chunk of bicycle tire. Now, thanks to my son, David McElyea, the cooking process has been refined, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident and I will share below our recipe for grilled dove.

The David McElyea Boneless Bacon Wrapped Dove technique: Allow about four per serving. First, you have to have take care of your doves as you shoot them and put them on ice in the field. The next step is to clean and breast out the birds. Before preparing them at home, a short brining and rinsing for about 15 minutes will soak out any excess blood. Next, remove the breast from the bone and check for birdshot using a toothpick to clean out any shot and feathers which really don’t taste good. Keep each pair of breasts together because next you will stuff them with fresh chopped up jalapeno pepper. Chop them into 1/8 little squares and place about a half teaspoon of jalapeno between each pair of breasts and then lightly salt and pepper and wrap as completely as possible with a strip of fairly thick smoked bacon.

Now comes the good part which we discovered by accident, you need a fire that is way too hot for ordinary cooking. With either a gas or charcoal grill you want your fire so hot that you cannot use bare hands to handle your tongs. For your personal protection wear a long sleeved cotton shirt, not synthetic, and heavy gloves, welders gloves would be better. Place your birds quickly on the grill and allow them to catch fire for a bit until they are just a bit beyond crisp, dark and slightly burned. Don’t worry if they appear to be too burned, just don’t destroy them and the delicate dove breast inside will be delightful, cooked just enough without being overdone. The doves will have the appearance of a burnt offering during the cooking but the flavors will be magnificent.

About the Author

Joe McElyea
I am an original member and founder of the esteemed High Plains Shooting and Dining Society which is dedicated to fellowship of bird hunters and shooters who also enjoy finding great local places to eat large, unhealthy portions of breaded and fried meats and gravies washed down with the appropriate libations. I am also a retired old man who enjoys fishing, shooting and my wonderful family.