Squirrel. Squirrel?!! Those little b*st*rds that chewed through the fascia board on our 140 year old house, got in the walls and partied for a week straight before we caught and "relocated" them? Yes, squirrel. And why not?
|American Red Squirrel - |
Photo Courtesy of Animal Galleries
To hunt them I used a Ruger 10/22 semi auto rifle, using 22 LR ammo. 22 rimfire is probably the most popular round used on small game, and nearly everyone learns how to shoot with it. When it comes to hitting the squirrels, it depended on where I found them and what they were doing. I found one in an area thick with pine, and it was only 5 yards away. Sometimes when alarmed they hold up against a tree and don’t move in an effort to remain invisible. If you see them then they are easy to hit. When you see them up high in the trees though, they tend to race from branch to branch and they are nearly impossible to hit.
|Alex, on the move|
In order to dress them, I first slit the bellies open up to the breast taking care not to puncture the intestines. The idea is to cool the meat as quickly as possible in order to avoid spoilage of the meat. Then I pulled out the internal organs. This procedure is standard for all game, with variations given to different animal types. (For instance, remove the feathers first when dealing with birds.) I then removed the heads and tails. Using the area near the open neck, I pinched the skin layer and peeled it back. From there I peeled back the skin and pulled it off entirely. Note that I am still somewhat of a self taught amateur, so my technique is not perfect. This is the first time I have dressed squirrels and I have yet to eat them.
I have been hunting of a sort all my life and I suppose I was no more “taught” how to hunt then I was “taught” to speak and walk. I used to accompany my uncle on small game and deer hunts starting at the age of three. At about eight years old my father and uncle taught me to shoot and I started hunting small game, mostly small rodents (including squirrels) in order to keep them out of my uncle’s garden. They filled me in on the basics. Shoot a deer here, you can find them in areas like this, don’t move a muscle when stand hunting, walk slow and the like. I taught myself the rest. I shot my first large animal, a turkey at age 17 and my first deer this fall.
|Turkey is Alex's favorite thing to hunt|
I am one of those guys that see all animals as equal, equal to me and to other animals. I see no difference between a trout and a turkey, or a dung beetle and a deer. Therefore the things I will not hunt comprise a very basic list. I will not hunt anything protected by law, and that includes the two things that I would not hunt if otherwise. Those two things are bats and owls. Owls are my steadfast hunting buddies, as there is always one around when I’m out in the woods, and I find bats fascinating. Not that I’m not fascinated by the animals I do hunt, but bats are special to me for some reason. I can’t fully explain it.
If there was one final thing to say it would be this. There are a lot of folks out there who don’t exactly take kindly to what it is I do. They seem to think I “hate” wildlife. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love wildlife. I’d do anything to preserve it. I just express that love in a different way. The way I see it, I’m just doing what I see as a natural human activity, something we have done for millions of years. By doing it this way, I yearn for a stronger connection to wild. I don’t just observe nature. I’m a working part of nature.
The brine: cracked pepper, salt, thyme, bay leaves and water
Combine in a sauce pan, cover, bring to a boil and cool to room temperature
Cutting a squirrel to serving size pieces is similar to cutting up a rabbit or chicken - only tiny
Toasted almonds and lots of garlic are chopped and added to the sauce later on
Dredge squirrel in flour and brown in olive oil
Bring to a boil, then pop in the oven
To view the recipe and technique in its entirety, please Hank Shaw's most excellent website, Hunter Angler Gardner Cook, Honest Food
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