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Into the Outdoors - Small Game

Well, a mystery got sort of solved for me. I finally saw the bear that had been using my backyard as a toilet. He wasn’t all that big, but he was far from a cub. It was at dusk. He was down by the creek bank, over which he disappeared almost instantly.

With squirrel hunting already in, and other small game seasons just around the corner, I thought it might be fun to look at some small game. I actually think that small game hunting is my favorite form of the sport. Part of this has to do with weather, but it’s just plain fun, too.

Let’s start with squirrels. They are both abundant and tasty. However, even after a lifetime of squirrel hunting, and countless squirrels, I still have never gotten what you could call good at cleaning them. Even George Leonard Herter’s “instant” squirrel cleaning method has not worked for me. I’ve watched videos and read about a lot of methods. The only thing that works for me is to cut a hole in the skin on the back, insert a finger or two of each hand, and pull hard in opposite directions. This is usually messy, but it gets the job done. After I skin them, I remove the guts, which results in an unpleasant olfactory barrage. It’s worth it, though, as they are so delicious. You have to cook them right, though. I have found that it is best to soak them overnight in a mild solution of salt and vinegar water. Of course, you need to keep them in the fridge. If you cook them in the slow cooker, that is all you have to do. To grill them, and hey they are delicious that way, parboil them first, then coat them with your favorite sauce. If you skip the parboiling, they will be like leather. Low and slow is the best.

Then, we have grouse. They come into season very soon. They are delicious, if prepared properly. I must admit that I have gotten very few of them in my hunting career. When they fly up, it usually startles me so much that I freeze until it is too late for the shot. I have, however, gotten a few, one of them with a muzzleloading shotgun. My friends have given me a few, and one once crashed into our storm door. The issue with them is dryness of the meat. This is where the slow cooker comes into the picture. Six to eight hours on low is what it takes. Put your grouse in the pot. Add chicken broth about a third of the way up on the bird. Rub the bird with your favorite seasoning. Toss in a few veggies if you like. You will find the grouse nothing less than delectable. The same holds true for pheasants.

Then, of course, there are rabbits. I haven’t hunted them much since Old Bub’s beagle, Queenie, died. She was the best rabbit dog I have ever known. I have found that you can treat rabbits about the same as you do squirrels. Deep fried, they are great.

This year, I am going to try something totally different. Last Christmas, my son gave me a 28 gauge shotgun. I had often heard of them, but never had one. This year, I am going to give it a try on small game. I have never used one of these before. I am anxious to see how it performs.

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