The Elusive Tyro: Squirrel Hunting Tips

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PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Whatever method you use, keep in mind that a hunted squirrel can remain motionless, and all but invisible, for hours at a time.

Learn about these squirrel hunting tips, including locations of squirrels, ammo, hunting spots, how to skin a squirrel and a squirrel recipe.

My old man always said, “Huntin’ squirrel is easy; just sit out in the woods and act like a nut.”

There are a good many reasons why squirrels are among the
most hunted animals in North America. For one thing, the
bushy-tail season usually opens before those for larger
animals do, and provides an excuse to enjoy the
early-autumn woods. Then too, squirrels are more numerous
than any other huntable animal except possibly rabbits. Because of this, productive woods are often accessible to
youngsters who have to be able to reach their hunting areas
by foot. The weapons used for squirrel hunting–and
the skills required–also demand less of an investment
on the part of beginners, be they young or old. And,
finally, squirrel meat has been recognized as a delicious
food since long before the first Europeans settled on our
shores.

Here are some helpful squirrel hunting tips. The best way to locate a good squirrel woods is simply to
be in the country–hiking, camping, or
fishing–before the season begins. Listen for the
barks and chatters of those often vocal animals, and keep
your eyes peeled for nests and for the gnawed nutshells,
pinecones, corncobs, or fungi that indicate squirrels have
been feeding.

Once you’ve located a spot and the season opens (in some
parts of the country, squirrels are fair game year-round),
your hunt can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like.
The back-to-basics approach is simply to dress in
comfortable clothes (with a blaze orange vest, in orange
camouflage pattern if you prefer, for safety) and set
yourself down in a likely-looking grove of trees. The
early- to mid-morning and mid- to late-afternoon hours are
often the most productive. (Be sure to get permission to
hunt if the woods are on private land.)

Most squirrel hunters use either a .22 rifle or a shotgun.
If you choose the latter, which will make it possible to
shoot running animals, I’d recommend nothing smaller than
No. 5 shot. Despite their size, squirrels are hard to kill;
for that reason, hunters using a .22 should never shoot at
a moving animal, and should always use hard-hitting
hollow-point bullets. To do otherwise is to risk watching a
wounded animal escape. In any hunting you owe it to your
quarry not to shoot unless you’re confident of a quick,
clean kill.

A variation of the sit-and-wait technique is still-hunting,
which involves moving slowly and quietly through the woods,
stopping in likely spots for up to half an hour at a time,
and keeping your eyes and ears peeled.

Or if you want to get complicated, you can use a call to
locate your game, or even invest in a trained squirrel dog
(called a fice dog in the South), which will tree squirrels
and circle the tree to force a hidden animal to give its
position away.

Whatever method you use, keep in mind that a hunted
squirrel can remain motionless, and all but invisible, for
hours at a time. If you find yourself searching fruitlessly for a squirrel that suddenly disappears, you can follow
several courses of action. First, if there’s any breeze,
look for the movement of blowing fur rather than trying to
spot the whole animal. Or if you’re with a friend, one of
you can sit still while the other circles the tree noisily,
perhaps causing the squirrel to move around the trunk to
keep the tree between it and the more obvious hunter. If
alone, you can try hanging your coat from a limb in view of
the tree, then circling the trunk yourself. In fleeing you,
the animal may think it’s exposed itself to another hunter
(the coat), and scoot into your view. Or, finally, you can
just plunk yourself down and try to wait the squirrel out.
It might take a long time, and you might even run out of
day before that squirrel shows itself, but if you’ve never
spent an afternoon sitting motionless in the woods, I can
guarantee that you’ll see and hear things that are every
bit as rewarding as bringing a squirrel home for the pot!


SIXTY-SECOND SQUIRREL SKINNING

By Winnie H. Hodgson

A lot of people dread skinning and cleaning animals.
However, there’s probably no factor that has more influence
on the flavor of wild meat than the speed with which the
carcass is cleaned and cooled after the animal is taken. It
stands to reason, then, that a quick method of skinning and
cleaning will result in better eating and less wasted meat
. . . and wasted meat is among the worst possible outcomes
of a hunt.

Virginian Dick Charlton recently passed on some
squirrel-skinning secrets that should help a lot of you eat
well this fall. With his technique and a little practice,
you’ll be able to remove a squirrel’s pelt in less than a
minute.

Here’s how it’s done. First–and, Dick notes, this is
the most critical step–make a horizontal cut across
the underside of the squirrel’s tail at the base. Slice
through the skin and tailbone, but don’t cut the skin on
the upper side of the tail. Next, extend that cut, from
each of its ends, about an inch down the inside thigh of
each hind leg, put the squirrel on the ground, place your
foot on the base of the tail, grab the hind legs, and pull
slowly. This will peel the hide from the animal’s back and
around to the middle of its belly, leaving a V-tipped patch
of fur on the belly, with its point facing the head.

Continue until you’ve pulled the skin down over the
forelegs and neck. Then use your other hand to slip the
front legs out of the skin. With that done, grab the point
of the V, pull it toward the squirrel’s anus, and skin out
the hind legs.

Finally, remove the anus and intestines, cut off the head
and feet, and soak the meat in cool, salted water (a
tablespoon per quart) for several hours before cooking.


Don’t go out on a limb when preparing your first
squirrel dinner. This authority on game cooking can help
you prepare a memorable meal the first time you try.

Woodlot Squirrel Recipe

By Sylvia G. Bashline


3 squirrels, cut into pieces
1 egg
Fine bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup orange juice
Pepper to taste

Dry squirrel pieces on paper towels. Beat egg thoroughly.
Dip squirrel in the beaten egg and then roll in bread
crumbs. (I use flavored bread crumbs. If you don’t, add a
little garlic and onion salt and minced parsley and mix
well.) Brown squirrel on all sides in hot butter and oil in
large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add wine and orange
juice to the pan, cover, and turn the heat to simmer. Cook
until all the pieces are fork-tender–45 minutes to 1
hour for young squirrels. Turn pieces once during the
cooking. Serves 4.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sylvia is the food editor of Field and
Stream magazine. This recipe was excerpted from Sylvia
Bashline’s
Savory Game Cookbook–copyright © 1983
by Sylvia Bashline–with the permission of Stackpole
Books. This book is available from Iron Blue Dun Associates
(autographed copies), Spruce Creek, PA, for $15.50
postpaid, and from Stackpole Books, Cameron and Kelker
Sts., Harrisburg, PA, for $13.95 plus
$2.50 postage and handling.

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