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A Squirrely Obsession

Dec
8

IMG_3651
The two-week buck season in West Virginia is over now and my current obsession is squirrel hunting. Around here, the people I’ve talked to who go squirrel hunting use either a shotgun or a .22. Ammo for a .22 long rifle is getting hard to find. I’ve tried using both my .22 and a 20 gauge and have had no luck so far, but I’ve only tried a couple times. Squirrel season runs until the end of January, though, so I have lots of time left! There is another doe season at the end of December, so I’ll be attempting to shoot a deer again then, but so far, based on my hunting endeavors overall, the creatures of the woodlands have no need to fear.


I’ve tried for two years now to shoot a deer with no success. I’m inexperienced, of course, and also tend to get caught up cooking over Thanksgiving week with my kids here and don’t get out as much as I want to. It’s a challenge, and I’ll keep trying. I have now gotten to skin, gut, and butcher several deer–between family and neighbors letting me practice and learn on what they’ve shot. (If someone tells me they’ve shot a deer, the first words out of my mouth are CAN I GUT IT?) I’ve learned to hang deer. I’ve learned to skin and gut them. I even gutted, skinned, and quartered a deer in the woods, and I did one, entirely–from skinning and gutting to butchering, with nothing but my pocket knife. Then I went to Cabela’s and bought a proper set of hunting knives. Because doing the whole thing with a pocket knife was kind of ridiculous!

One of these days, I’m going to finally shoot my own deer, so all this skinning and gutting and quartering practice is so that when that day comes, if I’m alone, I’ll know how to handle the deer. It’s what to do with the deer after that seemed the most difficult to me. I can always try until I eventually manage to shoot one, but I need to know what to do with it afterward in case I’m alone. I feel pretty confident about that now, and I really love that sense of confidence. Occasionally, I do butcher a goat–but I’ve always taken them to a processor. (Same with deer–we’ve always taken them up to the high school for processing in past years.) I love having the knowledge to process my own meat. I’ve always liked the idea of raising my own meat, but to know I can process it myself, too, is an amazing thing. Despite my lack of actual success in bagging game so far, the past year or two of educating myself about firearms and hunting and processing has been a huge confidence boost, and it presents an ongoing challenge that I really enjoy. To me, it represents that next step in learning how to be self-sufficient.

I wish I’d learned more about hunting when I was a kid. My dad took my brothers hunting, but never his daughters. Those were the days when life was a little more sexist. But it’s never too late to learn! And so, in the midst of all my deer hunting efforts, I got to thinking…. How do most people start hunting? Often, as kids, and that often means squirrel hunting or other small game (such as rabbit). They’re plentiful and the season goes on for months. This offers more opportunity to learn to hunt and to practice processing an animal. People don’t talk about squirrel hunting as much as about deer hunting, it seems. Deer hunting is like the big excitement! But since I’ve gotten interested in squirrel hunting and started bringing it up around men–hired men, neighbors–I’ve learned that quite a few men do squirrel hunt, not just as kids but as grown men. (I’ve yet to meet a woman around here who squirrel hunts, but I’m sure they’re out there! But I tend to talk to more men than women anyway.)

So, these days, I’m like a kid, learning to hunt, and working on my squirrel skills. I’ve watched all kinds of squirrel hunting videos. I talk to every man I meet about squirrel hunting–what kind of gun do they use, and if they use a shotgun, what kind of ammo. Some people will only use a .22, but a lot of people also use a 12 or 20 gauge and find that easier even if you have to pick out the lead shot. (And as I mentioned earlier, .22 ammo is actually a problem to find anymore.) And did you know they make squirrel calls? I’m going to get one and try it out. And, of course, I’ve been inhaling squirrel recipes. I’ve eaten squirrel before, and like it. I just watched a video with a squirrel fricassee recipe this morning and it looked delicious!

I’m going to get a squirrel. Soon. I’m determined. Do you squirrel hunt? If you do, tell me about it! I’m obsessed.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on December 8, 2014  

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  1. 12-8
    9:50
    am

    I enjoy squirrel hunting, but haven’t been in several years. I use a 410 shotgun.

    The last time I did go, I shot a monster-sized squirrel! Since I was hunting at my dad’s farm, I felt obligated to give it to him and his wife – after they watched me and my hunting partner gut and skin it. Didn’t even get invited for dinner!

    Always wanted to go deer hunting when I had more time to be outdoors. These days, unfortunately, time and priorities keep me out of the woods.

    Wishing you great success in your next deer hunt!

  2. 12-8
    10:22
    am

    Way to go! Love your approach to life in general. When we were kids, if we would kill it and clean it, Mom would cook it. She was a great cook, and squirrel and rabbit was often on the table. My personal fav was a ‘smothering’ cream sauce in which the game was slowly cooked. Tender and delicious.

    Here’s a gun tip: My favorite for rabbits and squirrels is a .22-.410 ‘over and under’ gun. It has one shot for each barrel. If the ani
    mal is sitting still and you have a good chance for a clean shot, use the rifle. If not, then shoot the shotgun shell. Light, easy, great small game gun.

  3. 12-8
    3:27
    pm

    My husband tells me stories about his grandmother who loved to squirrel hunt. She grew up in Tennessee during the depression. Glad you are enjoying getting out into the wilderness and I hope you get a deer soon.

  4. 12-8
    3:32
    pm

    When I was much younger, at home on the farm, I was a squirrel hunter. I would take my Dad’s 22 and go down behind the barn and sit in the seat of the hay rake and just wait. After all the noise of getting there quieted down it didn’t take very long for the squirrels to come back.I would just sit there and pick them off.
    I had two older brothers and they believed that I needed to learn to shoot rifles, pistols and hunt and fish just like they did. My oldest brother used to tell me that I wouldn’t be any good unless I was a tomboy until I was 10.
    Mom’s rule was if you shot it you had to clean it and then she would cook it. She always soaked squirrel overnight in a salt brine and then would fry it up with gravy. Good eatin’
    I was shopping on ebay the other day and I started laughing at a listing I found. Lots of listings for squirrel tails, some “fresh”.

  5. 12-8
    5:34
    pm

    Although my dad would hunt rabbits I don’t remember him ever hunting squirrels. I, too, grew up in a era when girls didn’t hunt. I seem to remember that he would let my sister and I try to shoot the shot gun or rifle but try as I might I could never get the hang of it. Still can’t shoot a rifle of shot gun but have shot a pistol much to the dismay of my husband who had been target practicing and not getting anywhere. I had never been around pistols and he showed me how to aim and I put a hole right through the center of the can. He promptly took the pistol away and would never let me shoot it again. I think he was afraid that I might mistakenly shoot him.

  6. 12-9
    8:48
    am

    With a .22, when I was a kid. Never shot anything myself though LOL! I have prepared squirrel for people whose wives won’t cook it. Always the soak in salted water (sometimes with a bit of vinegar as well), then stewed or fried etc. Squirrel and dumplings is good eating! Especially made with “slick” dumplings. Rabbit is also good that way.

  7. 12-9
    11:01
    am

    Growing up, hunter safety was a mandatory class in 6th grade. A fair number of girls hunted, including me, small game and deer. A lot of us stopped as we got older and had different interests.

    I used a .22. I still have the over under I used back then but I don’t ever remember using the shotgun part of it.

    My grandmother cooked game of all types. I remember squirrel and rabbit cassoulets (separately, not together).

    As little kids, we waited for the uncles and pappy to come up with squirrels because we wanted the tails. We used to tie them to our bike flag sticks and tear up and down the road with the squirrel tails flying.

  8. 12-9
    11:05
    am

    What do you mean that you have an over/under but never used the shotgun part? An over/under is a shotgun…. I have a 20 gauge over/under and I have no idea what you’re talking about?

  9. 12-9
    11:28
    am

    The only way I’ve ever been able to kill a squirrel is by hitting it with my car. :bugeyed:

  10. 12-9
    12:09
    pm

    Not all over under guns are purely shotguns.

    I used a .22/.410 COMBO where the top barrel shots a .22 bullet and the bottom barrel is a .410 shot charge. I meant to say I didn’t use the shotgun barrel to shoot squirrels, I shot them with a .22.

  11. 12-9
    1:31
    pm

    Oh, I see…. I’ve never seen an over/under combo. I have a .22 and an over/under 20 gauge. I didn’t know they made combinations.

  12. 12-9
    5:15
    pm

    Good luck! ;)

  13. 12-10
    8:59
    am

    Love your site- read regularly. We have a lot in common. We have a small farm in Ohio where we turned one of our out buildings into a store and families come to see our animals as well. Anyway, I am a little over 50 and never hunted until meeting my husband 14 years ago. I hunted for 5 years before getting a deer and then got a great one. We have two deer mounts in our house and they are both mine. Last year my husband was pheasant hunting in South Dakota and I shot a nice buck that was in our garden. It was so fun to call and tell him plus text him photos. I was pretty proud to have done it all by myself. I tease him because I put a lot more meat in the freezer with that deer than he did with a few pheasants. Nice to see that another woman is as interested in this as I am. Venison is delicious. Again, love your posts and good luck with hunting!

  14. 12-10
    9:33
    am

    You’d love a .22/.410 ‘over/under’ type gun for small game! Check it out. They make a lot of different configurations of this really handy gun. They’re a little hard to find, but really handy guns for what you’re wanting to do. Wish I had one again.

    Often when my brother and I hunted as kids, one of us carried the single shot .22 and the other had the .410 shotgun. Our plan was for the rifle shot first, and the shotgun as backup in case of a miss. The plan works the same for the one gun over/under.

  15. 12-12
    12:09
    am

    Eee-uww…they are just “tree rats”…RATS! Unless you are desperate and the local Piggly-Wiggly is bereft of other protein…why would you?

  16. 12-12
    2:12
    pm

    If you can walk ridge tops with lots of oak trees. Squirrels are most common in areas that have heavy mass. If you find the food, you find the squirrels. Take your shotgun and walk very slowly. Stop often and take a break to listen and watch, it is amazing what you will see. This allows you to pay attention and see things you normally miss. Squirrel hunting is as much about a slow walk in the woods as it is about getting supper. Squirrel is really good eating and makes a wonderful gravy.

  17. 12-15
    5:51
    am

    Because squirrel is good! And they are plentiful and good hunting.

  18. 12-15
    11:51
    am

    LOL @ emmachisett! Honey, if squirrels were rats, they wouldn’t be called squirrels! Yes, they’re both rodents, but in different families. Regardless, rodents make up a huge portion of the food source in many parts of the world and are an excellent source of lean protein.

    On a side note, some of my favorite foods, shrimp and lobster, are essentially large bugs that live in the ocean.

  19. 12-17
    12:34
    pm

    Point well made, ncastlen. I guess I need to broaden my culinary horizons. I must admit that I often think of shrimp as “grubs”!

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