Thursday, May 15, 2008

Squirrel: It's what's for lunch

Oh, you've got to love this: There's a butcher in England who's doing a brisk business selling squirrel pasties. (Thanks to The Sporting Shooter for bringing this treat to my attention.)

Click on the photo for the full story, but here are my favorite lines:

Butcher David Simpson, who sells the pasties in Fraddon, Cornwall, said: "People like the fact it is wild meat, low in fat and local – so no food miles. ... It is moist and sweet because its diet has been berries and nuts."

Man, this is the best thing since that fantastic "Squirrel melts" video came out on YouTube (see below - I can't resist). Don't think I'm kidding, either. I love squirrel! It tastes like rabbit. It's a meal-sized animal. And it's an abundant resource.

Seeing the squirrel pasties story in the London-based Metro made me a bit wistful too. In most of the U.S., you haven't been able to buy wild game at stores or restaurants for a good eight decades or so. The prohibition in many cases was a reaction to the effects market-hunting was having on wild-game species.

I think one unintended consequence of the prohibition is that Americans are less and less familiar with wild game meat - so unfamiliar that many non-hunters don't even believe we eat what we kill. Duh.

Modern hunting regulations in the U.S. have successfully reversed the ancient human habit of hunting some species to extinction. But there are still tons of reasons why the game-meat prohibitions are unlikely to be lifted anytime soon: Overzealous regulation. Lack of demand. Recent studies (which desperately need to be peer reviewed) on the presence of lead fragments in processed venison.

That puts a heavy burden on hunters: Share with your friends. Invite people to dinner. Show them how good this stuff really is.

And by all means, go squirrel hunting. It's a more versatile meat than you may have realized.

Wait, there's more!

© Holly A. Heyser 2008


Blessed said...

I love squirrel! They are fun to hunt too. I either fry them or use them in gumbo.

SimplyOutdoors said...

One of my friend's makes a mean squirrel gravy. Yum!

Anonymous said...

I've never tried squirrel, but I wouldn't be opposed to it.

If I had to make a guess, purely unscientific of course, I would bet that more people will start hunting and eating wild game. The cost of farm raised and store bought meat will simply become too expensive for some people. Plus, I think more people will learn about the health benefits of eating wild game. At least I hope that's what happens.

Anonymous said...

Hi Holly,
Could you do a post describing a squirrel hunt? I know a lot of hunters grow up shooting squirrels, but for a woman who got into it as an adult and lives in a small city, these things aren't as simple as they seem. I find that there can be 6 squirrels sitting around my urban apartment building, but as soon as I am in the woods they are out of sight! Do you use a shotgun or a .22? Do you use a dog? Do you sit still in one place or keep moving?

Holly Heyser said...

Now you've caught me - while I've eaten plenty of squirrel, I haven't actually hunted squirrel yet. I've focused on ducks pretty much my entire short time as a huntress. But I really, really want to go when squirrel season begins again here in September.

That squirrel melt video makes it look pretty easy, doesn't it? I know my boyfriend used to hunt them with a .22. They were his first prey when he started hunting in Minnesota. He beaned one right between the eyes on his first try. I think the few times he's been squirrel hunting here in California, he's used a shotgun. No dogs, in either state.

I know we have three or four small-game hunting books on our bookshelves, including one called "The Ultimate Guide to Squirrel Hunting." That might be a good place to learn some techniques. It also helps to find someone in your area who has some experience with it. Maybe at your local hunting store?

In the meantime, I found an article about squirrel hunting in a California Fish & Game magazine - click here and go to page 20 to check it out.

Tom Sorenson said...

I'll have to admit, I've never eaten squirrel. Something I'll have to try, it sounds like.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Squirrel hunting is a lot like deer hunting. You need to be quiet and stalk up within range. Squirrels are amazingly wary when predators are around -- totally opposite of the fat, stupid rodents that beg in city parks.

My one piece of advice would be to use a shotgun when there are leaves on the trees, and a .22 when the leaves fall.

Oh yeah, and find tress loaded with acorns or other nuts. Sit underneath a nearby tree with a good shooting lane on the nut tree and wait. It's pretty relaxing.

Anonymous said...

Hey girl,

Kewl post!! Squirrel was the first thing I got to sohot and eat in MO with my dad. Mom would take their "cute butts", as the lady in the video calls them and make squirrel dumplins or a frickasee, complte with a Cajun dark roux

We have our 31st annual ADSH (Annual Drunken Squirrel Hunt) in Plate MO this fall in Oct. Most of the drinkin was when we were young, now we just shoot squirrels and sit around the fire all night howlin at the moon sippin whiskey.

Old outdated page on ADSH. Need to update it.

Holly Heyser said...

Howling at the moon? That's a fine tradition in my family. Whenever we slaughtered hogs, we'd render down some lard over a fire that night, deep-fry everything in sight, put on Dad's album of howling wolves (narrated on one side by Robert Redford, just wolves on the other), upset the neighborhood dogs and chime in a bit ourselves. How I miss those parties (and my dad).

I might be going to Missouri for a conference in October... I could bring my shotgun...

Anonymous said...

Ahh... the poor, disrespected and underappreciated bushytail!

That's how I learned to hunt, and I still enjoy it a bit whenever I get back to NC. There's some good tree squirrel hunting in CA too, but too much travel involved for my taste.

Squirrel and dumplings is one of my favorites, but a tender young one is tasty just quartered and fried like chicken too.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to extend an invite to the ADSH hunt Holly but it's a guy only deal. One rookie I invited brought his wife after I repeatedly told him not to and the founding fathers put me on trial that year. Almost got put back to rookie status but ended up with 1 year probation after taking a plea deal. That and a big jug of corn whiskey helped my case.

We are having our annual bowhunt and turkey hunt at our farm near Hannibal the first week of Oct also. You're more than welcome.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Great post Holly. Finally somebody pays homage to the squirrel hunting fun and the delicious table fare they make.

As kid my father started me off on bushytail hunting. As has been pointed out in the comments, these critters are every bit as challenging to hunt as deer or turkeys.

Tasting a bit like rabbit, some will say chicken; squirrels make great table fare in a variety of options. I love hunting them with a .22, shotgun or bow and yes I do eat them all.