Squirrel Skinning 101

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While researching some early Porter family recipes along with internet searches for a Chicken and Squirrel stew recipe that was made by my Grandmother "Lizzie" Porter, I found out her basic recipe was originally called a Brunswick Stew dating back to the early 1800's.   My brides side of the family (Adcock) has an excellent Chicken stew and/or Brunswick Stew recipe but no one around these parts use the traditional main ingredient SQUIRRELS!   It is understandable since many do not hunt small game such as the squirrel anymore due to the popularity and availability of the Whitetail Deer and many are sensitive to the thoughts of eating wild game.   

Being somewhat of a traditionalist myself, I wanted to add the original ingredient, Mr. Squirrel back to the Brunswick Stew recipe and had all the ingredients on hand except the squirrels and today was my lucky day.  Our local squirrel population has rapidly diminished due the increased numbers of the squirrels natural predators mainly the Coyote, Red and Grey Fox and  Birds of Prey and cutting of the hardwoods being replaced with the more profitable and faster growing Pine trees.   However this afternoon, the squirrels were having some type of convention because I saw four of them while out and about with the help of my turkey gun harvested three of the four. 

This brought back quite a few memories since as a small boy I hunted grey squirrels on a regular basis long before the Whitetail deer were plentiful enough in Anson County, North Carolina to have a hunting season for them.   My weapon of choice back then was a Sears and Roebuck .22 caliber bolt action repeating rifle that was made by Springfield Arms and had a very cheap Revelation 4 power scope mounted on the rifle.  I remember paying less than 25 dollars for the rifle and about 4 dollars for the little scope but don't let cheap fool you.  That .22 rifle would shoot a hole in a hole at 30 yards nearly every time and it didn't make any difference what brand of ammunition you used.  It was not uncommon to shoot only the eyes out of the squirrels and a head shot was made most of the time.  The ole rifle was traded for an upgrade a few decades back but have not had a small caliber rifle since that would shoot as well and I am talking about High Dollar ones at that!

Getting back to the squirrel skinning;  my friend and turkey box call tester David Stewart from Ellerbe, NC had never heard or seen of the method I use to skin squirrels and he wanted a demonstration of how I skinned a squirrel.  Most people cut a slot in the skin across the middle of the squirrels back and pull the skin in opposite directions,  however it does leave a good bit of hair on the squirrel if not very careful.  Another draw back to this skinning technique, is a very old squirrel is tough as a lightered knot and it takes an extremely strong person to "peel" the skin off a squirrel this way.

My method which I learned in the early 1960's from one of the hunting magazines, probably Field & Stream or Outdoor Life entailed cutting the squirrels skin right at the base of the tail and going deep enough to sever the squirrels tail bone but leaving the squirrel tail hooked to the hide/skin on the other side of the tail.  You would then place the squirrel tail on a hard surface, edge of a step or flat stone placing your boot/shoe onto the base of the tail and while holding the squirrel's back legs with both hands,  pull upward which will remove the skin from the hind legs, back and from the center of the squirrels chest toward the neck, head and front legs.  You then simply pull the remaining portion of skin (hide) off the belly side of the squirrel back toward the back legs.....this takes very little effort since you are using your legs and upper body strength instead of just your arms.  All that remains is to severe the head and feet off and make a cut between the pelvic arch of the squirrel and open the squirrel up from the neck to the rear and remove the viscera.  A good soaking in cold salted water to help remove the blood from the squirrel, especially if using a shotgun like I was today.   The advantage of using a .22 caliber rifle and making head shots only is obvious since it doesn't leave blood shot editable meat.

Since "a picture is worth a thousand words", inserted is a pictorial sequence of skinning the squirrel using this method.  I had a rubber glove on the left hand to protect my left thumb that had a cut that wasn't completely healed caused by an accident in the kitchen with a chef's knife....Note:  running my mouth with a friend while in a hurry to get some onions chopped...man that hurt for sure!  Click on the thumbnails for a larger view:  I did not have an assistant to take the pixs and had to make do but the pixs should be petty much self explanatory.  


If you are not careful to make the right cut, you will break the squirrels tail off and have to go back to the conventional method of skinning your squirrel.  I have found you can use a pair of vise-grip pliers if you break the squirrels tail off and get hold of the skin at the base of the tail and place your foot on the pliers and use the same technique as described above.   I broke the tail off one of the three squirrels but it has been many decades since skinning a squirrel.  Well, that's a plausible excuse...grin if you must!

I will start the Brunswick Stew tomorrow morning.

Bill aka Mickey Porter 12-31-08.

Below is a pix of Robert Webster of Hamlet, NC who did not want his picture taken while using the above technique to clean a squirrel and I sneaked the digital camera on him.......he said "Oh No" but it was too late; grin if you must!


Uploaded pix above on 11-20-14 by Bill aka Mickey.


Above pix of the current "tools" used to clean squirrels.  I use the red handled catfish skinning pliers to grab hold of the skin left at the belly of the squirrel.  This was on the recommendation of Robert Webster of Hamlet, NC.  I have him using my "Work Smarter Not Harder" theme and he has the ability to "think outside the box" too.  The catfish skinner works much better than holding the skin between the thumb and fingers and you have more leverage to pull that portion of the skin from the squirrel to finish the above squirrel skinning technique.  I use the green handle side cutters to cut the bones of the feet and finish them off with the knife.  The blue handle knife is a throw away from one of the poultry producers in Union County, NC as it is worn and reground past their production standards but works fine for me.  It is a little too long for me personally but have not gone to the trouble to shorten the blade length and regrind the tip section.  I also use that blade to process my deer harvested for the freezer; e.g., skin, debone and slice.  I keep a couple sharpened knives close by when processing my deer in case one gets dull.  A dull knife is very dangerous since it requires more pressure exerted to accomplish the cut and a mishap can result in a serious injury if not careful.  I usually keep a few small cuts and nicks on my left index finger during hunting season brought about by the processing of game.

NOTE:  I use the two nails with head removed in the above pix for securing the hind legs of rabbits when skinning them.

Web published update by Bill aka Mickey Porter on 11-22-15.


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