hunting noob: processing edition.

So I gutted and skinned my very first Small Animal.  Observations:

  • Squirrels are not easy to skin.  That pelt wants to stay on the squirrel, and getting it off requires a sharp blade and lots of pulling with force.  The fact that you don’t have a lot of animal to grab while you’re peeling off the suit makes the process more difficult.
  • Squirrel skin is tough.  A small set of sharp scissors is more useful and precise than a blade for this particular job.
  • There’s not a lot of meat on a squirrel, not even a chunky one with a visible layer of fat under the skin.  Dressed, this one’s about the size of a Cornish hen.
  • Dachshunds can smell squirrel guts from a considerable distance, and will come to investigate.  Trash bags containing squirrel parts need to be tied up and put in a dog-safe location.
  • Removing the internal plumbing and bits isn’t too tricky if you have even a passing familiarity with general mammal anatomy.
  • Once the head and tail are gone, the squirrel loses 99% of its cuteness factor, and becomes just a slab of meat.
  • Squirrel fur is very fine, and will get everywhere.

The squirrel was a fresh kill—zapped him at the feeder this morning, and took him inside for processing right away.  For the curious: Quinn and Lyra were not bothered in the least by the process, and actually came into the kitchen to watch.  Quinn is quite aware of the food connection, and asked if we’re going to have squirrel for dinner.  So no, the kids were not traumatized by the sight of a dead squirrel, or by witnessing the processing of same.

It just occurred to me that if I cook the little bugger today, it will most likely be the freshest meat I’ve ever had, when you consider the time between harvesting and serving it up on a plate.  (Can you tell I’m a city boy?)  It’s not something I’d care to do for a living, but knowing how to shoot and gut one’s lunch is probably not a bad set of skills to acquire.  For that, I appreciate the local squirrel population’s assistance in the training process.

33 thoughts on “hunting noob: processing edition.

  1. Chris says:

    If you haven’t seen it yet, this is a good video on squirrel skinning: http://members.localnet.com/~nickdd/Mr.SQUACKS_0001.wmv

  2. David says:

    So … are you going to mount it’s head in your living room? Heh.

  3. Of all places, I found a good guide for skinning/cleaning squirrels in “The Joy of Cooking”.
    Really.
    It is an older version, so YMMV.

    • I’ve been looking for one of those older “joy” cookbooks for a couple of decades. Really. If I wasn’t so particular about all the olde timey shit that is not in the current copies, I’d have bought one sight unseen over at Amazon.

      What version/year do you have?

  4. Tennessee Budd says:

    My former stepdaughter was a really squeamish child, but the first time she saw us skinning a deer, she was eating venison jerky, & her only comment was to ask if we were going to make jerky out of that one, too.
    Kid turned out all right.

  5. Shootin' Buddy says:

    Did you try standing on his tail and tearing the skin off?

    My greatgrandmother used this technique for cleaning the squirrels my brother and I brought her. However, she did have eight decades or so of experience doing this and probably made it look easy.

    I found it works best on younger animals.

  6. Phillip C says:

    You may not want to go the route of butchering your own cow, however. Growing up on a farm, I had the opportunity to have a slice of meat trimmed off while my Dad was butchering a bull, took about twenty feet away and started a small fire and cooked it. The taste of really fresh beef can be a little off-putting to some folks, although I ate every bite of mine.

  7. Paul says:

    Standing on the tail and pulling is the method my grandmother used as well. She had shot hundreds her self and couldn’t see so well at the time, she could get out of the skin pretty quick. Also if you are near acorns, be sure to get the little gland under the arm pits. Otherwise it won’t taste so good. Happy hunting.

  8. Gerry N. says:

    When you graduate to rabbits, they don’t require the use of a knife. God put zippers in all the critical places, so all you need are hands.

    Gerry N.

  9. Borepatch says:

    Mmmm … Brunswick Stew!

  10. LabRat says:

    Larger animals are more muscle-power intensive to get out of their jackets, but also simpler and easier too. Being the student that jumped on dissection labs rather than backing out of them on principle is useful, too, since it’s good training for removing bits you don’t want without hacking everything to pieces. The fur will always be a problem, much moreso when you get to animals like elk that can actually dull your knife with their fur, so get into the habit of cleanly skinning away from open areas so that little of it gets on your meat.

    I realize the rodents in question have probably already been eaten, but for future reference, here: Baked Squirrel

  11. chris says:

    Guess you missed the tiny little zipper on his suit.
    CIII

  12. vinnie says:

    I have never skinned a squirrel, but on larger animals I use a sharpened football needle poked under the skin. 65 pounds of pressure starting from each armpit makes skinning a breaze

  13. Al T. says:

    Vinnie has that right – much easier that way. Marko, I’ve found that gutting them, then skinning tends to work better.

  14. og says:

    A vise works if you don’t have an easy place to step on the tail.

  15. Heath J says:

    Responding to the post title… I usually hunt Noob with the noob cannon itself, the M203 grenade launcher…

  16. Cato the Elder says:

    The ‘step on tail’ thing seemingly works well once you learn the tricks (cut under the tail on both sides really helps) but I was raised doing it a couple of other ways, so I’ll mention them in passing.
    My maternal grandfather always hung them from a barbed wire fence by the hind feet and slowly skinned ’em down after gutting. He kept the tails to sell to Mepps to make spinners, he put the skins in a bucket of ash-water (lye) and later scraped the skin off and made them into strips of leather for shoestrings, tying bundles, etc… Drive a sharp axe into a stump, stick a sharp knife 1/4 inch away. Cut the skin into a round shape and spin the skin round and round to create one long 1/4″ lace. He’d run that over a piece of firewood to limber it up, then hang it from a rafter in the shop to be cut and used as needed.
    My Dad always skinned them before gutting them, he’d cut around the ‘middle’ of the animal, just like you’re wearing a belt. Then he’d work two fingers of each hand under the skin along the backbone, til the back of his hands were touching each other. Then he’d pull his hands apart. It’s kind of like taking pyjamas off. You cut off the feet and just dispose of the skins, feet and guts. We were rich hillbillies, we had ‘store boughten’ shoe strings instead of your home-made artisanal leather laces.

    If you got a lot of squirrel hair on the meat, you’re kind of fooked. Try using dry paper towels to lift the hair, or use a knife blade to lift it. As I recall it’s really tough to pick off w/fingers. Brining the meat will make the hair easier to spot, get rid of it however you can.

  17. Roberta X says:

    Never liked the taste of squirrel. The leather, however, make excellent shoelaces, way better than store-bought.

  18. Windy Wilson says:

    Interesting.
    There is a series of books on Appalachia culture, concentrating on Georgia, called the Foxfire series. IIRC there are 10 of them and one on cooking.
    One of the books, don’t recall which, and I’m too lazy to look it up, called squirrel leather Whang leather, and said it was particularly tough.

  19. Weer'd Beard says:

    As for the kid factor, context is everything. My Mom was an RN, and when I expressed my curiosity for blood and guts, she simply took me into the ward and introduced me to some nice people who had had some interesting operations and various degrees of exposed blood and guts.

    I’m now a successful Biologist, and I still think blood and guts are kickass.

  20. Cato the Elder says:

    Thought you might be able to use the idea behind these squirrel gambrels:

    The images are from a buddy of mine, if they don’t work…look for Backwoodsman magazine, an article called ‘Small Game Skinner’.

  21. James Nelson says:

    Here’s another vote for the air pressure method. It works well on most animals with tightly attached skin. My uncle used to use a bicycle pump.

  22. Fred2 says:

    Having visions of what happens when the pressurized critter jumps off the needle and goes flying around the room like a ballon.

    Now imagine it with a pressurized deer.

  23. […] my squeamish arse does not relish the idea of dressing anything (especially after Marko’s account of the experience), but I remember the damage those furry-tailed frakkers wrought on my garden and bird feeders when […]

  24. R.A.W. says:

    “So no, the kids were not traumatized by the sight of a dead squirrel, or by witnessing the processing of same.”

    In my experience, children tend to be far less squeamish about the processing of meat than adults do. I remember that at younger than seven my father had me help out butchering deer. I sincerely doubt I was much use on the butchering end of things, but properly supervised it was a good way to learn about using knives, mammal anatomy and cuts of meat. Certainly not an experience I would want to trade away!

  25. Isaiah Kellogg says:

    It really helps to have someone with experience to show you what to do. I would have been totally lost without an older guy giving me instructions.

  26. 6512 and growing says:

    We’ve eaten a few roadkill squirrel here in this family.
    Even though my kids have had the pleasure of eating elk, deer and grouse regularly, squirrel is their favorite.
    Here’s a link to a story about our first squirrel:
    http://6512andgrowing.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/squirrel-for-dinner/

  27. DJ says:

    Happiness is a big gut pile.

  28. Don Johnson says:

    Re. the guts, We have to put trash out in
    plastic bags at the curb. I’ve found a couple
    of squirts in the bag before tying it do wonders
    at keeping the neighborhood dogs/cats away.
    (The squirt bottle of ammonia is part of our
    cleaning supply arsenal.)

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