Why is skinning squirrels so hard?
PUBLISHED: 10:44 20 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:44 20 November 2018
"People have told me time and again that they find the job quick and simple, all claiming to know a secret trick or technique, but I've never made any of them work for me."
Over the winter, I shoot a lot of squirrels for the gamekeeper who hates them with a passion. When I say ‘a lot’, I average 150 to 200, which is a lot of meat when the carcasses are properly prepared. I consider myself skilled at preparing meat for the table and have taken a lot of time to study, and attend training events, to build my knowledge and skills. I regularly prepare trout, pigeons, pheasants, ducks, rabbits and even deer, but I simply cannot skin squirrels! I’ve tried and tried, yet one little grey can take me as long to skin as five rabbits. I have a collection of sharp knives in every shape and size, and game shears, to face the task, but they’re no help at all. I’ve even resorted to asking my wife to hold the squirrel’s back legs as I tried to skin the front – she wasn’t keen.
People have told me time and again that they find the job quick and simple, all claiming to know a secret trick or technique, but I’ve never made any of them work for me. The best advice I was given was to skin the animal as soon as you’ve killed it, right there and then in the field. As much as I can see the logic in this approach, it has too many drawbacks for me. For example, when I get into the woods, the squirrels are often found one after another, and I need to focus on shooting as many as I can. Stopping for 10 minutes to skin one would waste too much time. Also, I’ve shot 15 in a session. That would be a lot of butchery time when I only have a morning free to hunt.
Next we come to the very important subject of food hygiene. Mostly, I shoot squirrels in the cold weather and take head shots, so I leave them out of reach of the foxes to cool, and after collecting them up, gut them at home. This minimises the chance of dirt or infection entering the animal’s body – I keep my larder scrubbed and sterilised, and have soap and water to keep my hands properly clean, too. If you skin an animal in the field, you need zip-lock bags to transport the meat, and some means of cleaning your knife fully before putting it away. Disposable gloves can keep your hands clean, but you’d need to carry a lot of them to process 15 animals.
If you’ve found a practical way to skin then when they’re cold, please write to me and explain the technique. I really need your help because my winter season isn’t that far away!