It’s cold. A heavy frost rests solidly on the ground, covering every leaf with a crunchy film that even a mouse couldn’t tread across quietly. Deer season is in the heat of the rut and you’ve left your favorite spot alone for seven straight days waiting for the right wind. Anticipation is running high; you know that at any minute the ol’ heavy-horned super chief could walk by your hunting treestand.
And then you hear it—a rustling so unmistakable that you slip the mitt off your hand and pull your gun to the ready. Holding your breath, you turn slowly. You catch movement with the corner of your eye and the hair on your neck stands straight up.
Taking one last slow breath before the inevitable, you shift your body, fully facing the commotion. You spot him instantly…digging nuts from the forest floor.
How many times a season does this happen? And when you do take the time to go out and shoot a few squirrels, where do they go?
Hunting squirrels, like deer, has a lot to do with patience. With .22 long rifle in hand, find a heavily populated spot, sit against a tree and wait. Eventually they’ll show when everything becomes quiet and still.
If deer season has you tired of parking your rear against a tree there are other options. Grab a buddy and walk slowly through prime habitat. Keep your eyes peeled for movement on the ground and in the trees.
When a squirrel can’t find a hole in the trunk or retreat to its nest, it will often hug the tree toward the top. Find a good rest while your companion goes to the other side and “walks ‘em back ‘round the tree.” When the squirrel shuffles back your way, take your time and squeeze the trigger. Rarely will a “treed” squirrel jump ship and scramble through the limbs with this approach.
Fried Squirrel and Sawmill Gravy
- 2 or more squirrels
- Salt and Pepper
- Cayenne Pepper
- Vegetable Oil
1. After cleaning your squirrels and washing them thoroughly, quarter them (there’s not much meat on the ribs).
2. Dust the meat with a little salt and pepper, and then a healthy amount of cayenne pepper and honey, giving it a sweet and spicy taste.
3. In a zip-lock bag, mix in flour (enough to coat all the meat), salt and pepper and add the quartered squirrel, shaking vigorously until all the meat is sufficiently covered.
4. Meanwhile, heat enough oil in a ten-inch cast-iron skillet so that it comes about an inch up the side of the pan. When it’s popping hot, add as much of the meat as you can so that they’re not touching.
5. Fry for about three minutes on each side on medium heat, then remove to a paper towel.
6. Turn down the heat and remove some of the oil from the pan, leaving just enough to coat the bottom and dredge in some flour, about half a cup.
7. Once the flour and oil become happily married, slowly add the milk – the amount you add depends on your preferred consistency.
8. Drop in a pinch of salt, a healthy dose of black pepper, the cooked squirrel and let simmer for a few minutes.
I prefer to serve biscuits with this dish, but cornbread goes nicely as well. You could also pair it with some wild rice and if you’re so inclined, a bed of turnip greens. Bon appétit!