Early Birds Recipe

A Frontier Recipe for Early Birds

This is one of those dishes that fills the house with good old home-cooking aromas and drives you crazy waiting for it to be done. Plus, it’s not just for doves. It’s a great way to cook dark-meated birds of all stripes: doves go in whole (after cleaning), sharptails pieced out.

From Upland Game Bird Cookery:  https://www.riflesandrecipes.com/product/upland-game-bird-recipes/

According to George Leonard Herter, the Cliff Clavin of gun catalog magnates, Wyatt Earp was once asked: “What’s the best shot you ever made?”   Earp allegedly responded: “Nine doves with one shot.”  I would have liked to have seen that, and been in the kitchen when he cooked them up because, according to Herter–again–Earp was a gourmet cook.  This recipe, according to George, is reported to be one of Earp’s concoctions for just such a 9 dove morning.

Herter wrote it up, sort of, in one of his many books and I ran into it many years ago.  Herter gave the recipe in very vague terms, having not been a fly on the wall in Wyatt’s kitchen, and I spent a bit of time updating it for modern tastes as well as filling in the details.

Yes, the combination of lima beans, sage and cabbage sound like an unsavory combination, but all I can say is, it’s not. And the beef suet (also known as beef fat) if you can find it, adds sweetness and a rich flavor to the doves. If you can’t find beef fat, store-bought chicken fat is almost as good. (Whenever we have commercial chicken, I trim the fat and freeze it for cooking with wild birds. If you can spare a bit of skin as well, that’s even better.)

Early Birds Recipe: Quick-Draw Doves

Serves 4-6



  • 9 doves, plucked
  • 2 tablespoons beef suet, diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried leaf sage
  • 1 cup canned lima beans
  • 6 large carrots
  • 1 head cabbage, cut in eight pieces
  • 2 cups beef bouillon
  • 3 cups cooked egg noodles


  1. Rinse, trim, and dry the doves inside and out.  Set aside.   In a 3-5 quart Dutch oven, render the beef suet slowly over low heat.   When the suet is liquefied, add the butter, and raise the heat to medium.
  2. Add the onions and the doves to the suet/butter and sauté until the birds are lightly browned and the onions softened.   Add the sage, lima beans, carrots, cabbage and bouillon.  (You should have about 2 inches of liquid in the pot.  If not add more bouillon.)   Bring the pot back to a simmer, and cover.   Cook at a low simmer, about 90 minutes.
  3. To serve, place the noodles onto a platter, and arrange the vegetables and doves around them.  Pour the pan juices over the top of the birds..

*Recipe note: Herter fans will notice I cooked this a bit differently from George’s directions.   I prefer sautéed onions to boiled, and beef-flavored water to plain.   Since George didn’t hear this recipe from the horse’s mouth and the results were spectacular, I figured that was okay.


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