After the squirrel is killed, it must be cleaned and prepared prior to cooking. Cleaning involves two steps: skinning and field dressing. Skinning is the separating of the muscle from the skin, and field dressing is the removal of its organs.
If you are worried about fleas, ticks, or lice getting on your hands then it is advisable to wear a pair of disposable surgical gloves.
Note that you can drown the fleas on a squirrel by submerging the squirrel in water for 2 minutes.
Do a search on the Internet and you’ll find two main ways of skinning a squirrel. The most popular involves slicing below the tailbone and ripping the squirrel in one motion. However I have found the most reliable way to skin a squirrel is with the traditional method.
- Cut off all four paws and feet
- Cut off the tail as close to the base of the tail as possible. You can save the tail for later for different arts and crafts.
- Lift a flap of skin around the middle back of the squirrel
- Using your knife, make a latitudinal incision across this flap until you can see the muscle underneath.
- Reach in the incision with two fingers.
- Using your fingers, pull apart longitudinally. Insert additional fingers as space becomes available, for better grip
- Pull until either the bottom or upper half of the skin comes off. If you notice a flap of skin on the squirrel’s belly that will not split in half, then you will need to slice or cut that yourself.
- Using both hands, remove the other half of the squirrel’s skin, ensuring that your hands make contact with the fur as little as possible.
- Discard the skin
- Rinse under cold water to remove any fur and blood that may have accumulated
Now you should field dress the carcass. See Field dressing.
Tail method (not recommended)
This is the method that many YouTubers tout as the “best way”. However, I have found that it is prone to error and is very hard to master.
Field dressing is the process of removing the squirrel’s internal organs and other inedible or unwanted soft tissue.
- Lay the squirrel on its back, belly-up
- Make an incision down the center of the squirrel from neck to rectum
- Use your game shears to split the pelvic bone and open up the ribcage
- Now is a good time to check the health of the squirrel. The liver should be a deep maroon color. If the liver is discolored, has white spots on it, you should discard the meat.
- The squirrel’s internal organs are divided by a flap of tissue, the diaphragm, which separates its circulo-respiratory system from its digestive system. Using two fingers, grab behind the back of the heart and lungs, and pull outwards towards you to remove the heart and lungs. Discard appropriately.
- Using two fingers, grab behind the liver, stomach, and intestines, and pull outward until the squirrel’s digestive organs are detached from its muscle. Discard appropriately.
- Examine the meat for any other organs that should be removed, e.g. the testicles of an adult male.
- Rinse the meat thoroughly, especially the cavities which the organs occupied.
If you don’t plan on cooking the squirrel right away, there are a number of ways to store the meat. Check out our next guide: