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Field Skills: The Best Way to Skin a Squirrel

Dehiding bushytails can be a pain. Try this technique the next time you're faced with a pile of them.

Field Skills: The Best Way to Skin a Squirrel

Follow these five steps to skin a squirrel. (Shutterstock image)

Most hunters learn to clean a squirrel at an early age, with a sharp knife and strong arm muscles doing the grunt work.

One common method involves cutting a notch under the squirrel's tail, standing on the tail, grabbing the back legs and pulling upward to remove the hide from tail to head. Sometimes it works as planned, but other times the only thing removed is the squirrel’s tail.

Another popular technique is to make a slice in the bushytail's back, insert the index and middle fingers of each hand in the split and pull in opposite directions to remove the hide. That takes some strong fingers.

Squirrel Skinner
This simple, easy-to-make sheet-metal plate takes much of the work out of skinning squirrels. (Photo by Colin Moore)

Having used those methods for decades, Ronnie Coffey decided he needed a more efficient cleaning method. Once the trees in his neck of the woods have dropped their leaves, Coffey sets out to hunt gray squirrels with his mountain feist, Little Stubby, an accomplished hunter that has treed a lot of bushytails for his master over the years.

A few seasons ago, after a particularly tedious squirrel-cleaning session, the 66-year-old Kentuckian developed a contraption that makes skinning a squirrel much easier. Coffey says that his "Ronnie's Simple Skinner" was the result of common sense combined with the desire to simplify the skinning process.

Taking a piece of 1/16-inch-thick sheet metal that was about the size of a license plate, he drilled a series of holes on one end to fasten the skinner to a tree or fence post at chest level with a couple of screws. Then, he cut two notches on one side of the sheet with an electric saw to hold a squirrel’s back legs and added a third notch between them to hold its tail. Here’s how it works:

Squirrel skinning steps 1 and 2
  • STEP 1: Hang a squirrel in the outer notches by the feet, with the animal's belly facing the tree.
  • STEP 2: Cut through the squirrel's tailbone and peel back some of the skin.
Squirrel skinning steps 3 and 4
  • STEP 3: Remove the feet from their notches and turn the squirrel around so its belly is facing out. Position the tail in the center notch.
  • STEP 4: Grip the back legs and feet and pull down so the skin is peeled off the squirrel.
Squirrel skinning steps 5 and 6
  • STEP 5: Cut off the feet and remove the intestines and other organs.
  • STEP 6: Remove the squirrel’s head and rinse the body with water.

Coffey doesn't sell the skinner contraption, though he has given away several to grateful family members and friends who share his interest in squirrel hunting.

"It's pretty simple to make," says the Columbia, Ky., farmer of his skinner. "But each of the notches need to be fairly long and deep and meet at a point. Don't make them too short or they’ll be too wide and won’t grab anything. You need to make the notch and angle just wide enough that it catches what you're trying to hold."

With Ronnie's Simple Skinner, the hardest part of skinning a squirrel is obtaining the squirrel in the first place.


Two new blades that are up to the task.

Buck Knives
Buck Knives' Model 110 Hunter Sport (top) and Model 112 Slim Pro TRX.

Buck Knives' catalog currently includes more than 150 knives, and a couple of newcomers to the line-up are uniquely qualified to tackle tough squirrel-skinning chores. Both the Model 110 Hunter Sport ($144.95; and Model 112 Slim Pro TRX ($114.95) folding knives feature a clip point blade crafted from S30V steel with a satin finish.

The 110 Hunter Sport has a 3 3/4-inch blade, O.D. green canvas micarta handle scales and an aluminum frame to reduce weight. This lockback-style knife features dual thumbstuds for ambidextrous opening and a pocket clip to keep it secure. The 112 Slim Pro TRX has a 3-inch blade, which can also be opened with either hand thanks to dual thumbstuds. Its handle scales are made of durable G10 material, and are available in O.D. green, black and blaze orange. A pocket clip is also included. Both knives are covered with the company's "Forever Warranty."


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