It’s Time to Rethink Squirrel Hunting

Winter Hunting

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Hansel and Gretel would've been wise to enter the woods in the winter. Footprints in the snow make it easy to navigate back to base camp. That's one thing you can't get during a fall hunt.

Name the wild game that can meet these requirements:

* Is found abundantly throughout North America
* Has generous hunting seasons
* Is able to sustain high levels of hunting without a population collapse
* Can be hunted using inexpensive rimfire ammunition
* Is high in protein
* Lives in urban, suburban and rural areas
* Has a mild taste that isn’t “gamey”
* Eats only plant matter
* Is easy to hunt compared to most other game
* Requires minimal processing to eat

No, this isn’t the legendary snipe hunt to nowhere. I’m talking about squirrels. It’s time to rethink squirrel hunting.

I know, I know, you’re already cuing the theme song to “Deliverance” in your head. There are plenty of stereotypes about eating squirrel. Throw them away. Look at this small game animal from a self-sufficiency standpoint.

Squirrel Hunting: The Ideal Survival Food

Squirrels are the ideal survival food. They’re everywhere, and it doesn’t take a ton of effort to hunt them. You can use that emergency .22 rifle or handgun. They only need a couple months to reproduce. And unlike rabbits, they’ll sit on a branch and ask you to shoot them.

Cast aside any delusions about relying only on big game during an extended crisis. Any deer hunter knows how perceptive these animals are to human pressure. Now imagine everyone and their brother heading to the woods for dinner. Your odds are better to take the “low-hanging fruit” in your backyard and go squirrel hunting.

I recently went squirrel hunting in Minnesota to experience this for myself. The photos and video chronicle some of the highlights. (Heads up on the video: Yes, there’s some gore, but that’s part of hunting.)

The hunt was also a reminder of my roots, as I’m sure it is for many hunters. Only a few generations ago, my immigrant relatives were dirt poor and eating whatever they could find. It’s no coincidence that my family has a catalog of squirrel recipes. The self-sufficiency they practiced to survive in a new country offers plenty of lessons for today.

Squirrel Hunting in the ‘Burbs

To rural folks, squirrel hunting is nothing new. But if you’re living in urban or suburban areas, take note. This is 100 percent organic, free-range, sustainable protein that will get you to the clear side of a disaster. And you’re living in squirrel central.

Trust me, squeamish urbanites, it’s what you’ll be eating anyway if the SHTF. Better to prepare now. Get your hands on a .17 or .22 rifle and get to squirrel hunting.

How Does it Taste?

Squirrel tastes mild and mellow, without a hint of gaminess. I won’t say it tastes like chicken, but it is pretty close to grouse. The meat is clean on the tongue and finishes smooth. No need to chug a beverage to keep it down.

Preparing the meat is simple. Make a vertical cut down the sides. Pull half the skin off and over the head. Then pull the other half down toward the tail. Chop off the four legs.

It is possible with larger squirrels to cook the whole body. But in most cases, the legs (especially the rear pair) are where the meat is concentrated.

Dredge the legs in seasoned flour, then fry in oil. Eat them just like chicken wings. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

It’s time to rethink squirrel hunting. Give it a try and discover why it’s the ideal survival food.


Recipes for All Kinds of Wild Game

Wild Game Recipes

If squirrel hunting isn’t your cup of tea, check out these wild game recipes.

If squirrel hunting just isn’t your thing, give a try to the recipes in Cooking Game: Best Wild Game Recipes from the Readers of Deer & Deer Hunting. The recipes mostly focus on big game, but there are a few surprises in the mix, too. Best of all, these come with the thumbs up from Deer & Deer Hunting, sister magazine to Living Ready.

Click here to order this wild game recipe book.

8 thoughts on “It’s Time to Rethink Squirrel Hunting

  1. DarkSpace

    Squirrel is by far my favorite animal to hunt. Not only is the season long, but in my state I believe you can eliminate “pests” within 200 yards of your house year round. I store the little “pests” in my freezer until its time for Brunswick Stew in the slow cooker, or Tree Rat Pot Pie with a super flaky crust and lots of green peas and carrots.

    Although I have seen others use various shot shells for hunting, I exclusively use either a 22 LR (in the forest) or a 22 caliber pellet gun (in the backyard – I live in the city). Likely to the chagrin of the earlier commenter who is unimpressed with the use of scopes, I have both weapons fitted with a modest scope – I never miss, and I have more range. I don’t see the problem with that. I’m happy to compete with iron sights at the range, but when I’m hunting I try to use the best equipment that I can afford.

    It can taste gamey though – especially if you’re throwing it right on the fire a couple of hours after vanquishing its soul to squirrel heaven. I’ve prepared it a bunch of different ways, but usually let it rest a couple of days in the fridge before freezing and sometimes also soak it (either in just water, or brine. I’m sure there are other good ways). I’ve forced all sorts of people to eat it, and although they generally cringe at the thought of it, they eventually get hungry enough to try it out and I’ve only heard positive feedback.

  2. 1-Eddie-1

    You don’t need anything more than a .177 cal. air rifle to hunt these tasty little morsels (squirrels) at close range (about 25 yards). When using a pellet rifle you just don’t blast the meat to smithereens. The pellet goes in, does its lethal damage to organs and breaks bones, just not on the scale of rimfire ammo. And, an air rifle is generally more quiet than a rimfire rifle.

  3. quiet_forest

    One caveat: in my area of Southern California, gray squirrels are strictly off limits, no hunting allowed, for a very good reason. They carry bubonic plague. Rather, just as with rats, the fleas carry the plague. North of here, squirrel hunting is safe and seasons are open. I haven’t researched it, but I think it must be climate. If the local winter isn’t cold enough to keep the flea population in check, then plague and other flea and tick borne diseases can be a problem. This will be a serious issue in any SHTF situation.

  4. tracker7

    Most squirrels are good eating, but not all. It does depend to an extent upon what they eat. I guarantee anyone biting into a rock squirrel in central Arizona in the desert, is far more likely to eat rocks in the future, and skip that particular type of squirrel. Much of the low desert game eats desert broomweed, brittlebrush and creosote, and the taste is far from palatable. It’s a desperation food here.

  5. DuaneT

    Having hunted squirrels for years in Illinois and Michigan, I can attest to their great taste. I also prefer wild rabbit, great nutrition and they are larger than squirrel so there is more meat. I have had the pleasure of eating ground hog and raccoon on several occasions, both excellent if prepared right. Rattlesnake is good as well, but a bit tricky to catch (LOL).

  6. Blacklion66

    The article is correct about the good eating. having to use shorts instead of long rifles made me laugh. you shoot them in the head period. 22 shorts or BB caps is all that should be needed. The author might consider throwing away the scope, and then when he writes about killing small game animals with headshots he will get a little respect from me. It is a very poor meat hunter that needs more than one shot.

    but the article the use of small game meat is right on. If someone knows a muskrat trapper try and beg some of that meat, young coon is also pretty good table fare as long as four small glands are removed from the meat.

    After Obama’s civil war, most of his followeres will starve to death. The rest of you folks will find yourself transported back to the time of my childhood 1930-1940. Hard times with hard lessons ‘anything to make a turd’ is a lesson our parents learned and passed on to us, that time is coming again

  7. rev. dave

    Heck with ‘survival food’, I’ve been eating squirrel for 40 years and its excellent. Just remember that if there’s been too few acorns and they’re eating pine cones, they’ll taste like turpentine. But in normal years they are darned good eating. There are tiny little lentil-looking glands behind the knee joint and under the armpits that you’ll want to remove, as well as under the skin just where the thigh muscle joins the body near the ribs.

    Now, you can eat groundhogs too, and they are also good eating, but like all critters they will taste like what they eat. So leave the big ones to breed as they get tough anyway, and only hunt the younger ones near open fields or places where they’re at least not eating soybeans. Same thing about the glands when you clean them too, only on a ‘hog they’ll look more like grey or tan baby lima beans.

    For pure survival situations, you can eat beaver, raccoon, possum, muskrat and pigeons too. And even a barn or field rat – but remember that ‘what they eat’ thing – avoid sewer rats and city pigeons. (Yes, I’ve eaten them all.)

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