The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been receiving hate mail from around the country thanks to the gastronomic adventures of an Austin-area food blogger. It all started when the man’s unlikely dinner literally went bump in the night.
Ryan Adams was watching Project Runway with his wife when it happened.
“All of a sudden there was this loud BAM!” Adams remembers, “And we realized it came from outside.”
He walked into his backyard and saw something lying in the grass by his house.
“It was very dark,” he says. At first he thought it might be a bat.
“It was actually laying right here next to the fig tree,” Adams says, pointing to the location of the animal’s demise. “I came over [and] picked it up. It was just a dove. It didn’t have any sores, any lesions, it was perfectly fine.”
That’s when the thought dawned on him. Eat the bird.
“I had a lot of friends who are hunters and they are going out and shooting doves at the exact same time,” Adams says. “I thought, ‘Those suckers are doing the hard work, and this one just came to me.’”
So Ryan looked up a recipe for grilled quail a la mancha. He cleaned it. Then grilled it. And ate it.
“It was fantastic,” he remembers.
The headline for his post? ‘When Life Gives You Wild Game…’
That was followed up with a post by Adams on the popular social sharing site Reddit. “I thought this was kind of an off-the-wall thing, so it was something I wanted to share,” Adams says.
The Reddit post got about 2,000 hits. Then he started getting calls from a couple of reporters.
One of those reporters mentioned that, by eating a found dove, Adams had actually broken Texas law. This came as a surprise to him. But, the thing is, it’s true.
“It is illegal to possess wildlife resources, and the white-winged dove are a migratory game bird on the wildlife resource list,” says Steve Lightfoot, a spokesperson for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
He says Adams technically did break the law. If a bird flies into your house and dies, you shouldn’t eat it. The law is in place for a couple reasons.
“A lot of those regulations were born out the need to restrict commercial harvest,” Adams says.
There’s also the matter of people getting sick from eating diseased animals. Lightfoot recommends that Texans restrain themselves from picking up dead creatures found on the ground, not matter how appetizing they appear.
“We have had incidents where we are seeing sick dove die off, so that is a concern,” he says “We don’t want people or pets retaining or eating sick birds.”
But even though Adams technically broke the law, Texas Parks and Wildlife let him off with a warning. Lightfoot says there was no formal investigation, and he contacted Parks and Wildlife first.
“We wanted to reassure him that this was one of the rare instances of ignorance of the law and we gave him a warning,” Lightfoot says, “And we believe everything is good.”
Well, not quite. One of the reports by a Dallas TV station about the incident said that there was an ongoing investigation about his culinary adventure. It included the headline “Dove Dinner lands Texas Man in Hot Water with Law.”
Adams says that once that reporter posted his story, things got crazy. It went viral. “It just got bigger, and bigger, and bigger,” he remembers.
Adams got thousands of hits on his blog. And he started receiving letters of support from around the country. Some a little too enthusiastic. “At one point somebody told me if a bald eagle flew into the house I should eat that,” he says.
Adams also posted on his blog that he was no longer under ‘investigation,’ and that the situation was under control. But that didn’t stop the incorrect story that he was under investigation from popping up seemingly everywhere. The Huffington Post, the Drudge Report, Yahoo! News. They all carried the story based on the Dallas TV report.
“This whole mess is being chalked up as a learning moment,” Adams wrote in an update on his blog, “And I’ll ensure that going forward any wild game that comes into my possession will be done in accordance with the law. As a matter of fact I still need to cook a woodcock, and there is lots of time for me to attend a hunters safety course before the season starts. I’m pretty sure they are not native to my area, so don’t expect any “woodcock flew into my house” stories in the upcoming months.”
“And that – hopefully – is that,” he finished.
But Adams kept getting emails supporting him in his non-existent fight against Parks and Wildlife. He wondered what kind of emails the Department could be getting. So he reached out to a friend who worked there.
“She said to me, ‘I know the person that has to deal with all of this and he has forwarded a couple emails to me, and they were fairly … interesting.’”
That made him feel even worse. So he decided to apologize to Parks and Wildlife in person for all the ruckus.
On a recent morning, Adams surprised staff members at Texas Parks and Wildlife headquarters with a gesture of peace. But it wasn’t a dove.
“I brought some donuts for you guys,” Adams told the staff. They were happy to see him and the treats.
“Is this what we call locally sourced food?” one staffer asked Adams.
“Hope you didn’t leave them downstairs,” another joked. “The game warden just went down there.”
Another chimed in. “We only have one question for you now … got any good dove recipes for us?”
As they say, ‘No harm, No fowl.’