Pro Tips: How to Clean a Dove

Written by: Jennifer Miller, Greystone Castle


Correctly cleaning and storing your doves means they’ll be delicious on the table.
Photos courtesy Greystone Castle

Dove season is in full swing around most of the country. Now that you have been on your hunt, taken the shots, and made the retrieve; the next step is properly cleaning the birds and packaging them until you can cook and enjoy.

Some hunters choose to clean the birds out in the field. This avoids the mess of feathers in the truck and makes clean up much easier. Whether you clean in the field, have an outdoor facility, or have to be extra careful in your kitchen, these are easy steps to breasting out a dove.

1. Start with the whole bird lying breast up on a solid surface. Always check the legs for bands. These are critical for data collection, and most hunters take pride in reporting the information.

2. Gently peel the skin from the breast. It should pull off easily and take all the feathers with it.

3. Take your finger and pull at the bottom of the breast. This will pop it off of the body and allow it to lift free.

4. Using a pair of sharp scissors, cut the breast from one of the wings. This will leave you with a separated breast with a wing attached and a carcass to discard.

5. Once you have all of your birds breasted out, lightly rinse them to remove loose feathers.

6. Place several breasts with the wings still attached in a Ziploc or vacuum pouch. You have to leave a wing attached for species identification. This is especially critical for federally controlled birds like doves.

7. Do not overfill bags. It is very important to get a good seal in order to prevent freezer burn. Many people like to write the species, number of breasts and date of harvest on the bag with a sharpie or other marker.

8. When you are ready to cook, simply cut the bag open and prepare your favorite way!

Jennifer Miller is the marketing manager at Greystone Castle, 2015 Orvis-Endorsed Wingshooting Lodge of the Year, in Mingus, Texas.

3 thoughts on “Pro Tips: How to Clean a Dove”

  1. A few additional thoughts:

    – When I get back from the field I put my doves in the garage refrigerator for 3-5 days to age them before cleaning. Seems to improve the flavor a bit.
    – I don’t transport my doves after cleaning so I take both wings off and immediately brine them overnight. If you’re new to brining, just take a bowl big enough to hold the cleaned breasts, cover the bottom with a layer of table salt, fill it with water and mix until the salt dissolves, then drop the dove in. Brining takes some of the blood out of the meat and helps it retain moisture when you cook them.
    – If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, put the dove in ziplock freezer bags with water and squeeze all the air out before zipping it closed. This keeps the birds from getting freezer burn. They’re good for a year or more this way.

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