Field Dressing a squirrelBy
Field Dressing a Squirrel
*WARNING: This article contains graphic images of an actual squirrel being processed. If you are easily offended by images such as these please skip this section.
In today’s world of excess and over indulgence, finding our next meal takes very little thought, effort, or time. The hunter-gatherer skills associated with hunting and preparing our own food fades away a little with each new generation. These important skills helped our ancestors to survive for centuries but today, they are almost nonexistent.
What if something were to happen that required the needed to utilize these fading skills? Maybe you just want to learn something new or find an alternate way to field dress a squirrel? In this article I will teach you how to field dress a squirrel quickly and with little mess.
There are numerous ways you can use for field dressing a squirrel. The method you use could be due to preference or what you were taught in the past, but before you stop reading, review the concepts below and see if this is more efficient and cleaner than the way you currently clean your squirrels. If you are new to the sport, this is a simple way to learn to clean them as well.
This is the method that I personally have found to be the cleanest and most efficient technique. This process will also not destroy the hide, just in case you choose to have it preserved or tanned for future use.
Step 1: Turn the squirrel on its belly and cut through the underside of the tail about ½” to 1” from the base.
Step 2: After you have cut completely through the tail, slice through the skin a an inch or so on each side. A very sharp knife makes this much easier.
Step 3: Lay the squirrel down on a solid surface (such as the ground). Grab the back legs and place your foot (applying enough pressure so it does not slip) on the tail and the skin that you had opened up in the previous step and pull straight up with the back legs, firmly and smoothly.
This will begin to pull the hide from the body. As you are pulling up you will need to “work out” the back legs. Firmly work your fingers between the muscle and the hide around each leg to free them.
Once you have worked the back legs free, continue to pull the back legs straight up “peeling” the skin down towards the head.
Step 4: As you get to the front legs you will need to “work them free” in the same fashion as you did with the back legs. Once both front legs are out, continue to pull the back legs until the hide is up to the head and around the neck.
Remove the head by slicing through the meat around the neck and then snapping the bone with your hands. *Note: It is not recommended to cut through bone with your knife. It dulls your knife quickly and can also create little shards of bone in your meat. Use the same process around the “ankles” and remove all feet.
Step 5: To remove the entrails, pinch the stomach and make a small slit with your knife to open up the body cavity.
Step 6: Insert two fingers into the slit and run your knife between them (cutting edge up) toward the neck of the squirrel. Doing it this way gives a little clearance so that your knife doesn’t accidentally penetrate any of the entrails such as the bowels or bladder. Cutting open the bowels or bladder can taint your meat so be very careful with this step. Continue this motion through the center of the rib cage all the way through the neck.
Step 7: Split the pelvic bone in the center to open up the entire middle of the squirrel. You can easily do this with your knife as the bone is thin here. Just place the knife in the center of the pelvis and slice into it. It isn’t very hard and should split rather easily.
Pull out the entrails. There is a membrane that encases the chest cavity separately. By sweeping two fingers from the neck down and catching this membrane you can pull everything out in one fluid motion.
You keep the heart and liver to prepare with the rest of the squirrel if you wish and discard the remaining entrails. You now have a perfectly dressed squirrel that can be prepared to eat in a variety of ways.
**One last note before you toss everything out. It is a good idea to inspect the liver and other organs to make sure it looks nice and healthy. The liver should always be a rich, deep, solid red color. An off-color or spotted liver might be an indication that the animal has some health problems–in which case you should not eat it.
Here is a photo of an absolutely perfect liver–a sign of a very healthy squirrel:
Here is another viewpoint for cleaning a squirrel in this manner. I’m not sure where this diagram comes from but it looks very old (and looks like Ronald McDonald was doing it.. what’s with those shoes??) and I figured I’d share it with you.
Some people prefer to soak the field dressed squirrel overnight in either a solution of salt and water or in Buttermilk. Some people say it takes some of the “gamey” taste out of the meat. Personally, I like when my squirrel tastes like squirrel but feel free to experiment and see what works best for you.
That’s it! Take your time until you get comfortable with the process describe here and enjoy cooking or grilling your squirrel.