Your hunt has ended, and after a fine morning spent stalking in your favorite woodlands, the tails of several squirrels protrude from your game bag.
All you must do to prepare a delicious wild game dinner is get the little nut-shuckers skinned and cut up for cooking. But with no one to assist you, that seems like a daunting task. You're not quite sure how to begin.
Follow this technique to make squirrel skinning a quick and easy process so you can spend more time enjoying the meal and the flattery of your guests. Go skin a squirrel.
About the Author
With a resume listing more than 3,800 magazine, newspaper and website articles about fishing, hunting, wildlife and conservation, Keith "Catfish" Sutton of Alexander, Ark., has established a reputation as one of the country's best-known outdoor writers. In 2012, he was enshrined in the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Communicator. The 12 books he's written are available through his website.
1. Two-Hunter Technique
Skinning a squirrel frustrates many beginners because the squirrel's tough hide can be very difficult to remove.
If you've been hunting with a friend, the two of you can do the job fairly quickly. You simply split the skin crosswise down the middle of the squirrel's back, then you and your partner pull the squirrel's 'pants ' and 'shirt ' in opposite directions. If you both hold firmly and pull slowly but steadily, the skin should come right off.
2. Single-Hunter Technique
When one hunter must skin each squirrel without the benefit of an assistant, or if you want to accomplish the skinning twice as fast with both hunters working separately, you go about it a bit differently.
First, using a very sharp knife, cut from bottom to top partially through the base of the tail right where it joins the body. This is easier if you cut between the joints in the tail bone. Don't cut all the way through, though. Instead, leave the skin intact on the top side.
3. Incision Follow-through
Grasp the tail and back skin between the thumb and index finger of one hand, then use the knife to continue skinning a few inches upward along the back.
4. Two Step
Now comes the tricky part, which you may have to practice a few times to get right.
Lay the squirrel on its back on a firm surface like a rock or sidewalk. Then, as you grasp the squirrel's hind legs, place a foot on top of the tail and inner back skin. Press down firmly so the skin is held tightly under your boot, then slowly and steadily pull up on the squirrel's hind legs.
5. Shirts Off
If you've done everything properly, the squirrel's 'shirt ' will peel off down to the front feet and head.
6. Pants Off
Before pulling the shirt completely off, work your fingertips under the skin of the 'pants, ' then pull steadily upward to separate hide from flesh. Continue pulling until you reach the hind feet and tail. Use your fingers to remove the skin up to the appendages if necessary.
Then use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to carefully cut off all four feet. Remove the head, too, and finish removing the skin. (Consider saving the tails to sell to Mepps
, where they use the hair to make fishing lures.)
Finish by slicing the belly skin from stem to stern and removing the entrails.
7. Final Touches
If all goes well, you'll soon accumulate a pile of beautiful, pink, mildly flavored meat similar in quality to cottontail rabbit or chicken.
Use your knife to remove any visible shot pellets and bloodshot meat. Then cut each squirrel into serving pieces (legs, back and rib section), wash well and pat dry with paper towels.
8. Tender Method
Squirrel cooking methods are dictated in part by the age of the squirrel. Young squirrels, which are much smaller in size, are more tender, lending themselves well to cooking methods like frying or barbecuing.
9. Bon Appétit
Older squirrels tend to be much tougher and should be cooked by moist, slow-cooking methods such as stewing. The pieces can be simmered in a pot full of chicken broth until the meat falls off the bones.
After straining and removing the bones, you can incorporate the scrumptious meat in any of your favorite dishes. Squirrel and dumplings make a tasty combo. Bon appétit!