A great many dog trainers work their animals with live pigeons, an unloved bird exempt from game laws in most states. A precious few actually eat their pigeons after the training session, however, a sad state of affairs that ought to change.
After all, you should remember that Columbia livia, the common rock dove, a/k/a pigeon, was brought to America as food. Pigeons are widely eaten in many countries, including Britain and Ireland. Squab, which is just a young pigeon, is a staple on fancy French restaurant menus. So why don’t we eat our pigeons?
I blame New York City, where legions of pigeons mob old people on park benches, bobbing their little heads for crumbs. City pigeons, wherever they live, eat whatever they can, and can sometimes carry diseases. They give the species a bad rap.
On the other hand, country pigeons, which are what your training birds are, eat grain, are fat and healthy – and, if you could sell them plucked and pretty to your local fancy restaurant, would fetch a high price.
Remember that a pigeon is nothing more than a large dove. So if you love to eat doves – and no hunter I know doesn’t – you’ll love your pigeons just as much. It’s true, wild barn pigeons can live a long time and get tough, but your training pigeons will be young and tender.
So how to go about it? Pluck your pigeons first. Yes, pluck. Pigeons and doves are ridiculously easy to pluck dry; I can do one in about 60 seconds. Gut and leave your birds whole and roast them, or hell, go ahead and skin a mess of them, fillet off the meat, grind it with pork fat and make the best country pâté you’ve ever had. Add pigeon meat to sausage. Braise it like duck. Sear the breast meat hot and fast, keeping the center medium-rare like a duck breast and you will have a bite of meat fit for a king.
Free your mind. Eat your pigeons.
A member of both Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Hank Shaw is a hunter, cookbook author and award-winning writer. His website is Hunter Angler Gardener Cook (www.honest-food.net). He lives near Sacramento, CA.
Photo credit: Keryl Ashbach