Squirrels are seemingly everywhere, and people have been hunting and indeed eating them for centuries. To the point that there are stringent federal laws that prohibit selling squirrel meat without a rigorous inspection. It was originally put into place in the 19th Century for fear that the open sale of squirrel meat would lead to such voracious hunting that they would go extinct!
Is It Safe To Eat Backyard Squirrels?
The safety of squirrel meat can depend on where you live. Now that’s not to say that black squirrels in Northern Minnesota and red squirrels from Kentucky have toxic meat compared to a Wisconsin Gray Squirrel. The underlying concern is what the squirrels are foraging on.
You see squirrels in urban and suburban areas are more prone to scavenging food and human rubbish. This leaves them at increased risk of harboring parasites in their meat. Not to mention there are a fair number of people who consider squirrels such a nuisance at the bird feeder that they will poison them. Even if the squirrel survives, they could still carry poison in their meat.
Ideally, if you want to eat squirrel meat, you want to source them from the deep woods, far from the toxins and rubbish forage of the modern world. You want squirrels that are surviving and thriving off a forage base of acorns, seeds, and forest berries, to give you clean meat.
Can You Buy Squirrel Meat?
You can buy squirrel meat, but it is very rare. There are strict regulations about the sale of wild game meat of any kind. It needs to be properly inspected and USDA certified. There are even more rules about selling squirrel meat. So, if you are truly curious to try some squirrel meat, or you are looking to get back into it by rekindling a childhood memory of Grandma’s squirrel pot pie, you will likely need to hunt it yourself.
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Do Squirrels Have A Lot Of Meat?
The unfortunate reality is that squirrels do not have a lot of meat. Even the fattest acorn-fed squirrel will yield about the same amount of meat as two full-size chicken wings. They also tend to take a lot of work to butcher.
Is Squirrel Meat Healthy?
When living free in the wild, squirrels are highly active herbivores. This means their meat is very lean, and low in fat content. With a natural forage base, their meat can also carry some essential nutrients. Though squirrels that live in urban areas tend to have other toxins in their meat that can make them truly unsafe to eat.
Are Squirrels Hard To Hunt?
An accomplished hunter with a small shotgun like a .410 can usually bag a pair of squirrels during a casual afternoon walk in the woods. Though squirrel hunting does require fast reaction times and a fair amount of accuracy. Especially if you are trying to pick them off out of a tall tree.
How Do You Butcher A Squirrel?
Butchering a squirrel can be a little tedious. So, it helps to be systematic. When you first get the squirrel, you need to make a small knick in the skin of the belly. You don’t want to hit the guts. Then gently lift the skin to slice down the belly, and carefully remove the digestive tract and internal organs. You can then put the squirrel in your small game bag.
When you get back to camp or your home you can start the process of butchering the harvested squirrels in batches.
Remove a one-inch section of skin all around the middle of the squirrel.
Firmly grasp the skin and peel the skin back to the tail and head.
Use a hatchet or a strong pair of kitchen shears to remove the head and tail.
Snip off the feet and thoroughly rinse the body clean.
Step Five (Optional):
if you are going to save tails to sell to fishing lure companies, you should trim away any meat from the base of the tail and then secure it deep in a bucket of salt.
Can You Grill A Squirrel?
When it comes to cooking, squirrel and rabbit are very similar. Both are very lean and need some indirect heat to cook the meat through to the bone. Some people actually prefer the taste of squirrel over the meatier rabbit, touting that squirrel has very little “Gamey” flavor.
How To Grill A Squirrel?
Most people who grill squirrels will use some type of poultry marinade. This is one of those times where it truly does “Taste Like Chicken.” If you do want to use a marinade, try to let the squirrels soak in it for at least 2 to 4 hours. This will give time for the flavors to properly saturate into the meat.
When it comes time to grill, you will want to use a hybrid grilling method of grilling them over medium-low heat until the meat and bones cook thoroughly. Then you can sear it over high heat to accentuate the flame-kissed flavors.
Preheat your grill to 275 to 300 degrees.
When the grill grates are fully preheated, gently lay the squirrel over the low flame.
Let the squirrel cook over low heat, with one or two flips for roughly half an hour.
Use an instant-read probe thermometer to check the temperature of the thickest meat in the upper leg. You are looking for an internal temperature of 160-degrees.
Turn up the temperature to 350-degrees and finish the squirrel off with a nice sear.
Can You Smoke A Squirrel?
You can indeed put a squirrel in a smoker. The lean meat and small skeletal structure mean they can some just like a Cornish Game Hen. After 20 to 30 minutes in the smoker, you can start glazing it with your choice of barbecue sauce. Adding a new layer every 10 minutes until it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees will give the squirrel a nice caramelized layer.