Judith O’Keefe was born in Paris, France but was fortunate enough to grow up along the northern coast of California. This is where she fell in love with the sport of fishing, which sprung her to explore some of the world’s best spots including; Chile, Florida, the Bahamas, Nicaragua and her current home of Oregon. Yet, with some influence from her husband Brian, her good friend Rob and her buddy Cooper, Judith has recently taken her skills to the field and is ready for game bird season. Oh, and we forgot to mention, she has one awesome recipe to try next time you bag some doves. Check it out here in her guest post for Filson Life.
I don’t know who’s more excited about the upcoming game bird hunting season, me or my pudelpointer, Cooper. Its Labor Day weekend, and the season will open in a little over a month here in Oregon. Every summer I plan to get out with Cooper and get some training in, at least a few regular hikes. This summer we did it. Most every day, right after breakfast, the two of us would head out and spend a fair amount of time tramping around just up the road at a neighbor’s ranch. I managed to get in a twenty mile hike last month on our annual family vacation, and this is Cooper’s eighth year, but he doesn’t seem to be slowing down yet, so I think we’re up for the challenge.
Most of our upland bird hunting is done in southeastern Oregon. I usually prefer rooster pheasant and California quail over chukar. To hunt chukar, which is in partridge family, one doesn’t have to be in good condition, they need to be in peak condition. I don’t doubt Cooper would make the grade but I generally just stay away from this bird. Dove hunting is another bird I’ve not gone after. My friend, Rob, recently went out on opening day and did quite well. He was generous in sharing half a dozen breasts, along with a simple recipe for cooking them. Delicious, but I plan to stick with rooster pheasants and the occasional quail that happens to cross our path. Having spent the majority of my time outdoors, streamside with a fly rod in hand, bird hunting is relatively new for me. Why did I take up the sport? My husband bought me a youth model, twenty-gauge shotgun, some years back, but it’s just been in the last three or four years that I’ve found myself drawn to the field. I love dogs, was raised with them, but Cooper is the first dog “with a job” that I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with. The reason I took up bird hunting is the combination of time spend outdoors in the fall - my favorite season - and the opportunity to watch my dog do what he does best, what he loves more than anything else – and THAT is why I’m going to spend this next month going through the gear, cleaning the shotgun, and improving my aim with some target practice. Oh yes, we’ll continue those early morning hikes as well.
The game bird is a lean machine. The challenge when preparing them for the plate is to preserve as much of the bird’s natural moisture and flavor as possible. Rob’s simple method worked quite well on the dove breasts he shared with me.
6 dove breasts, cleaned and skinned
3 slices of thick cut, peppered bacon, cut in half cross-wise
2 -3 fresh peaches (ripe, but firm), skinned and sliced
Ground cayenne pepper
Wrap each breast with a ½ slice of bacon and secure with a wooden toothpick. Place the wrapped breasts in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Turn frequently to start the bacon browning, then turn the heat down to low and continue to cook for approximately 20 minutes, turning the breasts often to brown evenly. When the breast meat is just cooked through, remove finished breasts and allow to rest while sautéing fresh peaches in a little butter. Serve breasts over hot peaches, sprinkle with a dash of cayenne pepper. Accompany with a side of cooked couscous or rice.