Squirrels are Pennsylvania's most abundant small game species that make great table fare
As most big game hunting seasons are over, small game species are still available for upland hunters and continues until Feb. 27.
Among the group that includes pheasant, rabbit, quail (good luck finding those) and squirrel, the latter is the most abundant because they live longer and are the least hunted small game animal. Yet they make delightful table fare as their meat is mild and a tad sweet. Perhaps this is because of their diet of nuts, sunflower seeds and peanut hearts from bird feeders, flower bulbs (I lost all my Holland tulips to them) and bark from bushes in the winter when there’s deep snow on the ground that prevents them from finding their buried nuts.
If you haven’t tried squirrel be it grilled, creamed or in pot pie, they’re all good ways to prepare them. My favorite is creamed and the recipe I use is from long-time fellow outdoor writer Sylvia Bashline and her Savory Game Cookbook. Her Creamed Squirrel recipe is as follows:
Three skinned squirrels cut into pieces
Prepare flour and season with salt & pepper
One-quarter cup cooking oil (I use peanut oil)
One chopped onion
Half cup chopped mushrooms
One cup dry white wine
Half teaspoon thyme
One tablespoon chopped parsley
One cup light cream
Quick Mixing flour
Roll the squirrel pieces in the flour mixture. Heat cooking oil in a large heavy skillet and fry squirrel pieces on all sides until brown. Remove the pieces from the pan. In the same pan, fry onions and mushrooms over medium-high heat for five minutes, then return squirrel pieces to the skillet. Add wine, thyme and parsley to the pan while mixing well, then cover and simmer until squirrel is tender for one to one-and-a-half hours. Add water to the pan if necessary. Remove squirrel pieces from the pan and cool. (Sylvia said the above can be completed an hour before dinner.)
Remove the meat from the bones if you haven’t already. Add enough water to a pan to make one cup. Add cream to the pan and bring to a boil. If the liquid is too thin, add a little flour and stir to thicken. Add pieces of meat, heat and serve over toast or hot biscuits. Garnish with parsley and enjoy. This can serve four or five.
Most squirrel hunters use a .22 rifle opposed to a shotgun for squirrels. The latter would require the chore of picking out spent shot from the meat. If missing one tiny BB, it could mean a trip to the dentist for a cracked filling or chipped tooth.
CCI, the popular ammo company, recently came out with a Quiet-22LR rimfire cartridge that is ideal for squirrel hunting in that it offers less noise to spook or scare other squirrels. This 40-grain round nose has a low velocity of 710fps and generates 75 percent less perceived noise than a standard .22LR round, says CCI. They’re also ideal for target shooting and retail for $4.99 for a box of 50 through CCI’s online store.
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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.