Mourning Doves: The Re-birth of a New Hunting Tradition

Okay, I’m going to be honest with you. This is not a fluff piece about how wonderful mourning dove hunting is now that the activity has returned to Minnesota after a long hiatus. On the other hand, for the record, I am a strong supporter of anything to increase our opportunities for enjoying the great outdoors.

I happen to believe that hunting mourning doves is an activity that is very conservation minded. In my mind, conservation is defined as the wise use of a resource. In fact, with the average life-span of the doves typically less than 1 ½ years, harvesting a portion of the population seems to make perfect sense.

So, with Minnesota’s first dove season in many decades half over, what type of sportsman made it out into the field this fall hunting? Well, from my take on it there were several folks just curious about the sport having never done it before. With the season opening on September 1st it was also a good excuse to get the gun out of the closet and get the cob-webs dusted off. For many of these folks, they probably feel that the fall season is short enough, so here is a way to extend it out by starting early.

On the other hand, I know a certain segment of Minnesota sportsmen probably are very familiar with dove hunting. Sportsmen with the means to travel internationally find Argentina a very popular dove hunting destination. So, for these sportsmen who are familiar with mid-winter international dove hunts, a Minnesota outing might be a nice change of pace, albeit with likely much less success. In other words, in Minnesota a hunter would have to work hard for his birds compared to some of the pictures I’ve seen from places like Argentina.

The question remains will mourning dove hunting catch on in Minnesota? It’s hard to tell at this point…my guess is that like anything else it’s a novelty at first, but once the newness wears off the sport will lose popularity.

But popularity aside, this sportsman is hoping that Minnesota’s new dove season has a long and healthy existence. Opportunities create interest…and even though I might not personally be moved to set up dove decoys and wait for passing shots along a fenceline, that doesn’t mean plenty of other sportsmen will not find the sport extremely exciting. So for that reason I am a big fan of the sport even if I know I will likely never participate.

A similar example is that of trapping. In Minnesota there is roughly 7,000 trappers annually…which amounts to a very small percentage of the overall number of sportsmen in this state. Still, I believe trappers deserve the full support and understanding of other sportsmen even if the majority of sportsmen do not choose to participate. A wide variety of opportunities…whether it be dove shooting, trapping, or some other fairly obscure outdoor sport, deserves the full support of everyone in the sporting fraternity.

I’m encouraged to see a new hunting sport added to the hunting synopsis this year. It tells me that, at least politically, our precious heritage is gaining back a tradition it lost long ago. The trend has been to see our sporting opportunities eroding, but in Minnesota at least for 2004, it will go down in our history books as a year of growth…and I think for that we should all be encouraged.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

Three Recipes with a Unique Twist

Now that duck season is underway I want to share a very simple, yet unique way to prepare the wild fare you’ll bring home from the field. A second recipe will turn your deer camp into a bunch of coffee-loving connoisseurs. Finally, a third recipe will help turn gamey-tasting meat into a gourmet delight. All three recipes are proven winners and will leave your friends wondering how in the world you did it.

7-Up Duck
First off, 7-Up duck is not so much a recipe as it is a method of preparation. To begin, you will need several cans of 7-Up on hand (and we’re not talking the diet variety here). Once your game birds are perfectly cleaned and ready to marinate, you simply take enough 7-Up and pour this soda into a pan that contains your meat. Ideally you want the meat to be completely submerged into the marinade, but it’s perfectly acceptable to turn the meat periodically, as well.

The main goal of marinating fowl with 7-Up is to add a slight citrus flavoring as well as slightly sweetening the meat. Personally, I also add a little salt to the marinate as this helps to draw out some of the blood and other undesirable substances in areas where pellets may still be in the meat. Although I haven’t done it…there would be no reason not to further experiment by adding some seasoning to the marinate mixture. However, the first time you try 7-Up duck just use the soda as your marinade…chances are you won’t want to mess further with something that is so perfect and simple.

Leave the meat in the marinade overnight in the refrigerator. Then when you are ready to cook, discard all liquids and prepare the meat in your favorite manner. The key here is the meat needs to be in the marinade at least overnight. This recipe is provided courtesy of my good hunting buddy, Jeff Flood, of Mankato.

Scandinavian Egg Coffee
Okay, I know this sounds awful, but believe me…if you follow this recipe carefully you’ll be glad you took the risk. I first came across this recipe one fall when I was working as a park ranger. I approached a campsite where an older gentleman camper had a large (32 cup) coffee boiler hanging on a tripod over an open fire. It was one of those crisp fall days with the smell of leaves burning in the campfires. But the smells from this campsite were particularly enticing. The camper invited me in for a cup of coffee and how could I refuse.

WOW! One sip and I quickly declared it the best coffee I had ever tasted. I’m not a big coffee fan, but this brew was some special and out of the ordinary…and the anonymous camper was mighty proud of it, too. He gave me the recipe for his concoction with the caution that you must follow each instruction carefully or it will not turn out.

In a 32 cup coffee boiler (that would be a coffee pot with no innards) bring the water to a rolling boil in the pot. While the water is heating, take a separate container and mix one egg (the entire egg—shell and all), one cup of coffee grounds, and one-half cup of water. Essentially you will have a paste like mixture that looks much like potting soil.

Once the water is boiling in the pot…add this entire mixture of coffee and egg into the boiling water. Let it boil for an additional two minutes then remove the pot from the fire. Finally, take one cup of COLD water and throw into the coffee pot. The cold water will settle the coffee grounds to the bottom of the pot, if everything was done correctly. If there are still some grounds floating…then skim them off carefully before serving. The result is a coffee lacking some of the bitterness (removed by the egg) but with every bit the full flavor.

I guarantee hunters in your camp will be impressed by your newly discovered expertise in coffee brewing. HINT: Remember; when boiling the water you will be adding more volume to the pot so do not completely fill the pot initially with water. Also, if you choose to make a smaller batch simply cut the proportions in half, but ALWAYS use an entire egg.

Venison Roast with Coffee Seasoning
Okay, sticking with the coffee theme…I also suggest you try seasoning your next venison roast with coffee grounds. Simply do this: Prepare your venison roast for the oven or crock pot as you normally would do. Now when it comes time to season it, take and wrap the roast with bacon strips using toothpicks to hold each strip in place. Then, take a tablespoon of INSTANT coffee grounds and lightly sprinkle over the entire top of the venison roast. The result will be a roast that imparts a delicious flavor with no hints of gaminess. And no, just to answer your question…guests will NOT think the meat tastes like coffee…but they will want to know your new culinary secret. This recipe is provided courtesy of my cousin, Gary Urness.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

The Harvest Moon

Did you happen to notice the fall sky last evening? Did you even know there was a full moon? Maybe you knew that the first full moon of the fall sky was called the Harvest Moon.

You know, I don’t think a lot of sportsmen seem to care about it…but I am fascinated by the moon and stars and the role it plays in all of our outdoor lives. Often times when I am sitting quietly in the deer stand waiting for daybreak it is too damn dark to even see the palm of your hand. But glance up into the heavens and you’ll see a sky filled with curiosity and wonder.

Oddly enough, I think many of today’s modern citizens have lost their connection with the lunar cycles. If they happen to notice there’s a full moon…about the only meaning this has to their life is they can probably see the keyhole at night when unlocking the door to their house. But what a shame…because the moon plays such an important role in the life of most everything around us.

According to Indian legend the moon closest to the autumnal equinox was referred to as the Harvest Moon. It was aptly named because with the shortening daylight as we move towards winter, a full moon would give those extra hours of plant harvesting opportunity. Thus, the first moon of fall (or technically the first full moon closest to the AE) was known as the Harvest Moon. Many folks believe the Harvest Moon is the fullest and brightest moon of the entire year.

So, do you know what the other moons are called? Well, the next moon in succession after the Harvest Moon is called the Hunter’s Moon. Stands to reason…when cold weather has abruptly ended the growing season it hearkens a time in the lifecycle to focus efforts on building up the meat resources for those upcoming winter months.

How about the next full moon? Well, this one is commonly referred to as the Trapper’s Moon. This year, the Trapper’s Moon will occur on November 26th. Are you beginning to see a pattern here on how the names seem to correlate with what is happening in the Native American lifecycle? Other moons in the Native American lifecycle have names such as Snow Moon, Starvation Moon, Planting Moon, Worm Moon, etc. With just a little bit of imagination I’m sure you can figure out when most of these months occur.

But as a sportsman, my interest in the moon goes far beyond the cutesy little names that our forefathers and native folks gave the lunar cycle. For me it’s the mystery of the moon that holds the most intrigue. It seems as though the more mankind learns about the effects the moon has on the earth…the more questions that seem to arise.

Case in point. When waterfowl researchers started studying the migration patterns and habits of waterfowl, they soon discovered the moon and stars played an integral role in the movements of ducks and geese. In some mysterious sense, the stars acted much like a GPS guidance system allowing these birds to traverse thousands of miles to locate the very spot they migrated from only months earlier. Likewise, the moon acted almost like an atomic clock that would trigger an alarm for these birds to make the big trek.

So what are we to do about using the moon as a guide for us hunting? Well, Jeff Murray, an outdoors writer from Duluth, has some ideas. In fact, he’s taken the moon and its effects on nature to a new level. Murray believes if you are not paying attention to the moon you are not serious about your hunting. Check out more here.

Personally, I’m less interested in the moon’s apogee and perigee than I am in just seeing a beautiful full moon illuminating the night’s sky. Then last night, with the Harvest Moon burning bright…and the first killing frost of the season here in Minnesota…in my mind nature has now “officially” turned the page welcoming in the new fall season.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.