Tomorrow, Oct. 13, marks the opening of both small and selected large game seasons. There’s the Oct. 13-20 antlerless deer muzzleloader opener, and the muzzleloader bear season in WMUs 2B. 5B. 5C and 5D that also runs Oct. 13-20.
The small game list includes rabbit, grouse and squirrels with split seasons that run Oct. 13-Nov. 24; Dec. 10-24; and Dec. 26-Feb. 28. The exception is grouse that whose seasons are Oct. 13-Nov. 24 and Dec. 10-24.
Next Saturday, Oct. 20, pheasant season opens and has split seasons running Oct. 20-Nov. 24; Dec. 10-24; and Dec. 26-Feb. 28. This cherished gamebird is similar to trout in that they’re essentially a put-and-take situation. The Pennsylvania Game Commission stocks birds and ones that aren’t eaten by foxes, coyotes and hawks, remain for upland hunters.
Local farmers are just beginning to take down their corn and soybean crops so depending on where the PGC stocks pheasants, it may result in a prosperous day afield, or a nice walk taken. Rest assured, state game lands are guaranteed to hold birds because that’s where the majority of them will be stocked. And rightly so, as huntable farm land is dwindling thanks to development and warehouses.
That leaves one small game species that is the most plentiful of all species. Plentiful in that female squirrels often bear yearly litters of 4-5.
Squirrels make great table fare when properly made. Their diets comprise a variety of woodland fare of acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts, beechnuts, corn (only the germ at the base of the kernel is eaten), dogwood, wild cherry and black gum fruits. That’s why they probably taste so good as their meat is sweet.
Most small game hunters typically use shotguns in hunting squirrels as they’re already in the woods for grouse or rabbit. But to make the pursuit more challenging, you may want to take a scoped .22 rifle instead. This way you can aim for a head shot so as to not spoil the meat. If using a shotgun, picking out shot when field dressing squirrels is time consuming and if missing one, may require a visit to the dentist to fix a broken filling or tooth when biting down on a piece of #6 shot.
If going the .22 route, and if I may, check out Ruger’s dandy new Ruger American Rimfire Target .22LR rifle. If you already have a .22, this one will entice you to trade yours for this most accurate tack driver.
While any .22LR will do, Ruger’s new American Target .22LR rifle with bull barrel is exceptional. If you know anything about bull barrels, they’re thicker in width to provide the ultimate in accuracy. According to Paul Pluff, Ruger Media Relations Manager, a heavier barrel does not heat up as quickly as a thinner conventional width barrel, hence it maintains accuracy better then a smaller profile one.
The American Rimfire Target (No. 8348) is a bolt action weighing a mere 6.7 pounds with a short 18-inch barrel that has a factory-installed knurled thread protector to protect the crown.
Standard is a 10 capacity rotary magazine and adjustable trigger with 3-5 pound pull. It comes with an attractive laminate stock, front/rear sling swivels and one-piece Picatinny aluminum scope rail ready for mounting a scope of your choice. The American has patent-pending Power Bedding integral block system to free-float the barrel for exceptional accuracy. This type bedding is typically only found on quality, high-end rifles.
So once you have a few squirrels for table fare, here’s a delightful recipe that should please the pallet.
With four dressed and cleaned squirrels, cut them up and place in two quarts of water. Add a tablespoon of salt, two teaspoons vinegar; half-cup all purpose flour; teaspoon of salt; eighth teaspoon of pepper; two tablespoons of butter; two tablespoons of vegetable oil. For the Sherry sauce, a cut chicken broth; quarter cup of sherry (or wine), tablespoon Worcestershire sauce; quarter teaspoon seasoned salt; two-three drops hot red pepper sauce.
In a large glass bowl, combine squirrel pieces, water, tablespoon of salt/vinegar then cover bowl and let stand at room temperature for an hour. Drain, discard liquid then pat squirrels dry. Next, heat oven to 350 and and in large plastic zip-lock bag combine flour, teaspoon of salt/pepper and shake to mix. Add squirrel pieces and do the same to coat them. In a large skillet, melt butter or oil over medium-low heat. Add squirrel pieces then brown on all sides over medium heat. Transfer squirrel pieces and drippings to 3-quart casserole, add mushrooms and two cups of sherry sauce. Pour over squirrel and mushrooms, cover it and bake until tender for about 1.5 hours.
This recipe can serve 4-6 people. Enjoy!
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.