"If you are going to hunt . . . you need to know how to skin squirrels,"
my dad said, sliding the blade of his old bone-handled pocketknife over
a hand-held stone.
"There!" he said, a few minutes later, slicing a strip of paper off
like it had been cut with scissors. "We can skin your squirrel with this
I don't know how old I was at the time, but I had returned home at mid-afternoon
from one of my earliest solo squirrel hunts. And I had my first squirrel.
There a problem had cropped up. I didn't know how to skin a squirrel,
nor did any of the neighborhood men.
"We will just have to keep it in a cool place until your dad comes home
from work," my mother said.
Testing the sharpness of his bone-handled pocketknife with a gentle
touch of his thumb, my dad took my squirrel--now dead for several hours
and rather stiff. He grasped the back legs with one hand, the front legs
with the other, and stretched the animal that had curled a bit as it cooled.
He placed the animal belly-down on the hard surface of the back-yard
sidewalk, and placed his right foot firmly on the back feet of the belly-down
Then, holding the squirrel's tail forward along its back, he pulled the
hair away from a spot just above where the tail joined the body.
"This is important," he said of the next thing he would do. "Cut off
the squirrel's tail and you have all kinds of problems."
With that admonition, he placed the razor-sharp surface of the knife
blade against the skin on the underside of the squirrel's tail (Step
2) and started a
gentle sawing motion through skin, flesh and bone until the tail was almost
severed (a strip of skin half an inch wide remained uncut at the top edge
of the tail, keeping the tail firmly attached to the body).
Then, grasping the tail firmly with his left hand, he pulled steadily
forward while running the edge of the knife blade back and forth to remove
the skin from a strip of the squirrel's back. The strip of skin was roughly
an inch wide and 2 ½ (two-and-one-half) inches long. The tail still
was firmly attached to the strip of skin, now loose from the animal.
With his right foot still planted firmly on the belly-down squirrel's
back feet, he inserted the point of the knife blade between the tissue
of the back and the skin at the forward point of the quadrangle of bare
meat. Then, being cautious to avoid cutting the side tissue of the squirrel,
he made a single diagonally-forward cut that extended about two inches.
He made the same cut at the other forward corner of the quadrangle.
Then, with knife on the concrete, he placed his right foot on the tail
and loose quadrangle of skin to hold it against the sidewalk (Step
He pulled up steadily on the back legs until the forward part of the back
and stomach emerged partially from the skin. Keep the foot as far forward
on the skin as possible because the tail will break away from the skin
of the back easily.
Hooking an index finger in the crook (elbow) of both front legs (one
at a time), he pulled them free of the skin and cut off both front legs
at the point where they joined the feet. Another pull left the squirrel's
head inside the skin.
However, there still was a "V" of skin on the squirrel's belly and on
both back legs (Step
To free this part of the squirrel from that skin, he grasped the point
of the "V" of skin on the belly (Step
5) between his thumb
and the knife blade (his foot still holding the tail section of the skin
against the concrete). When the "V" of skin was loose enough to be held
with the fingers and thumbs of both hands, a steady upward pull shucked
out the last of the back legs of the squirrel.
Turning the squirrel belly up (skin dangling from both ends) he handed
me the back legs to hold while he removed the entrails and cut off the
head and back feet.
After removing the genitals, he made a deep cut between the back legs
and broke the pelvic girdle apart by pulling the legs backward. This exposed
the anal intestine, which he pulled out. Then with two fingers inside the
cut, which opened the body cavity between the back legs, he inserted the
knife blade and split the belly tissue to and through the rib cage. His
fingers kept the intestines away from the knife blade.
With the body cavity opened, he pulled out all vital organs, the stomach
and intestines. Then, in three swift cuts, removed both back feet and the
head, which still was attached to the forward part of the skin.
The entire skinning operation must have taken less than two minutes.
ALTERNATIVE--I have known a few squirrel hunters
who skinned squirrels by making a crosswise cut through the skin at the
middle of the back and inserting the fingers on both sides of the cut before
pulling both ways to remove the skin. If two people try this it can become
a "tug of war" with hair flying everywhere.
This is fine if the skinner has strong fingers, hands and arms and can
perform the task without getting squirrel hair on the meat.
Incidentally, squirrel hair is not easily removed (it won't wash off)
once it touches the meat. It almost must be picked off, one hair at a time,
with the point of a knife.