A Moment in Hunting History: Dove Hunting Advice from 1895

Let’s face it—there’s something about hunting and history that just goes together. I don’t know whether hunters are history-lovers by nature or if spending all that time alone with only a dog and your thoughts is enough to make anybody nostalgic, but there’s something about hunting that undeniably connects us to the past. 

Today, we’re going to set the wayback machine to 1895 and take a look at one of the first hunting guides ever published in these United States—a magazine article entitled “Tales of the Hunt,” written by “an old San Antonio Nimrod.” 

One of the most interesting things about this article is that it was first published in a Texas magazine called the “Deutsch Texanishe Monats-hefte,” which is German for the “German Texan Monthly Magazine.” Now for those of you wondering why exactly Texas had magazines being published in German back in the 1890s, allow me to let you in on a little secret. Among the many European settlers who made their way to Texas to start a new life in the 1800s, Germans were among the most numerous. These early German immigrants founded what’s now known as the “German Belt” of Texas, an area just Northwest of San Antonio and West of Austin. In addition to coming up with some great town names—like Fredericksburg and Luckenbach—these early German settlers also brought with them a rich history of hunting (and probably some great hunting dogs). 

Today, I’m pleased to share with you some of the wisdom from these early pioneers. So go ahead and kick your feet up, take out your grand-pappy’s pipe, and pull that rocking chair a little closer to the fire. It’s time to learn a thing or two about how to hunt birds uphill both ways.

The Wild Dove

“Of all migrating pigeon species, the wild Texas dove is the most abundant in this country. In spring and winter, but more especially in autumn, in the months of September and October, shortly after the hatching season is over, the wild dove is to be found in large flocks in corn, oats, or millet fields, or in the prairie or hilly regions where the wild Mexican tea grows luxuriantly, and where they find their food from seeds of different herbs or of different plants. But especially is it in the fields, pastures, and regions where the wild sunflowers and white thistle grow, and where at the same time a stream of running or stagnant water, so called waterholes or tanks stand, that the wild dove is at home and is met with most abundantly… 

“The best time to hunt the wild dove is either early in the morning, especially during a drizzly, rainy day, when they sit close together on the mesquite or other prairie trees, often in large flocks, or in the evening—which is really the best time—when they come in large flocks from all directions from the fields and light on the ground or trees surrounding the water places.

The hunter generally hides himself behind a bush in shooting range, and waits until a number of dove gather near the water or light on the branches of the trees and bushes…The best way to hunt doves is to shoot them while flying or from the trees, as they often fall or fly into the water when wounded, when too close to the water’s edge.” 

The article also goes on to give some advice about the best way to prepare dove, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s not stuffed inside jalapenos with cream cheese. I have no proof of this, but I suspect the jalapeno poppers hadn’t made it to Germany in the 1890s. 

“All dove species are very palatable and generally preferred to other small wild game of the feathery tribe, the meat of the wild dove being tenderer and delicious if properly prepared and cooked. One may get tired of nearly all other game such as venison, partridge, ducks, rabbits, etc., but a well prepared meal of wild doves will always be found a welcome dish at the dinner table. Then they are more easy to pick and clean than any other wild game. 

“The best way to prepare them for the table is to cut the bird up from the back (use no water for the cleaning as it is the most clean bird after preparing). Then spice the bird well with salt and pepper, etc., and fry it with bacon with the addition of a small quantity of butter, and have the frying pan well covered up during the broiling. In this manner a highly delicious and enjoyable dish will be served.”  

So there you have it, folks—hunting advice from the turn of the last century and just in time for the opening of dove season. Stay tuned for my opening weekend dove-hunt cookout where I’ll give the above dove recipe a try. And if you’ve never hunted before and want to try dove hunting this season, be sure to check out my introductory guide to upland hunting where we’ll cover what gun to buy and how to shoot it!

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