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Q:
My question is what should be done with a squirrel after it is killed? How quickly should I gut it. How quickly should it be skinned? I usually just toss them into my jacket back pouch as I get them (in a plastic bag), but I'm not sure if that's the best way to handle them. Generally when I'm hunting it is 50 degrees or below, but I might be out in the woods for 5 hours. Any help?

Question by sterndixon. Uploaded on January 26, 2011

Answers (19)

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from 007 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Forget the bag, that keeps air from them and hastens spoilage. That warm for that long, I'd gut them at the very least. Better yet, clean them up, get them on ice, and then go back to the woods.

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from WVOtter wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I guess the answer is always to gut things as soon as possible, skinning is less important. But most anyone I know does like you say with small game, put it in your vest or tether and wait til the end of the hunt to gut and skin when you get home...never heard any complaints.

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from Brian W. Thair wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

The key is to cool the meat as soon as possible. This applies to all game that you hunt, even to the bison sides that I buy locally up here. Gut the squirrel and find a way to prop the body cavity open. NO plastic bags (can you score an old, cloth, pillow case?)

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from buckhunter wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

The most recent issue of F&S offers some good cleaning tips.

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from sterndixon wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I was hunting two weeks ago in the snow and everytime I'd stop, I'd drop my bag into the snow (I'd gutted the squirrels immediately after shooting). Temps were about 42 degrees. However, by the time I got them home and took to skinning, the critters were stiff and nearly frozen and the meat ripped as I was taking the skin off. Didn't know if it was better to skin and gut in the field and keep in a game bag or not? Does the skin come off easier when it squirrel is fresh? Anyway, I take kitchen shears with me (helps to keep from getting my fingers cut off) and a few pairs of those nitrile surgeons gloves to keep my hands clean while gutting in the field.

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from Beekeeper wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

They do skin easier when hot and fresh... so to speak. When hunting in warm weather I'll skin and gut as quickly as possible. Our season opens doen here in mid August. In colder weather I use a game lanyard and carry them in the open so that they can cool. Small animals loose body heat quickly. If my hunt is more than 2 hours I dress them in the woods. I love my Gerber Game Shears for that purpose. Squirrels go into rigor rapidly and when in rigor they can be hard to skin.

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from PigHunter wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Don't worry about it as long as you don't intend to eat them raw. I've left them in plastic bags and gutted them at home on much warmer days and have had no problems. I wouldn't bother to dump them on the snow either, no one wants to skin a cold stiff squirrel...

Beekeeper had a great answer a few months back about aging meat:
http://www.fieldandstream.com/answers/hunting/small-game/butchering-cook...

I also found this:
"If an animal carcass is cooled too rapidly (below 50° F, 10° C) before the onset of the rigor (within 10 hours), the muscles may contract which results in tough meat when cooked. This is known as “cold shortening.” To prevent this the carcass is kept at room temperature for some hours to accelerate rigor and then aged at between 30-41° F, (-1 - 5° C)."
http://www.wedlinydomowe.com/sausage-making/meat-selection/aging

http://www.chefdepot.net/agingwildgame.htm

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from deerhunterrick wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Yuck!!! Get yourself a camo insulated pop cooler. The soft type with carry strap on them. It only takes a few minutes to skin and pop the guts out. Wipe out cavity with a towel and throw them in the carry case with some ice on them. Why do you hear so many people say their game tastes gamey? Because what they shot was not taken care of the correct way immediately. Wild game with the guts left in them,especially if anything hits the stomach or intestines ,will absorb all that nasty mess into the meat. You surely wouldn't eat road kill that had been laying along side the road all day. Nor would you buy beef from the butcher that was laying around in 50 degree weather all bloated up with gas ungutted for who knows how long. Thats why commercial meat is inspected by the USDA and stamped approval. Clean it as soon as possible and put it on ice and it will taste a whole lot better.

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from DSMbirddog wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I gut and skin my right away in the woods, then into a plastic bag. That they they cool nicely and I don't have the mess at home. Yes, they skin much easier warm. The other thing is that squirrels are curious and once in a while I get done with one and look around and another squirrel is watching me. Bang!

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from goosebuster wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

you should be alright without the bag and it dont matter when its cold like that too.

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from neuman23 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I do the same as DSM, you'd be amazed at how many squirrels you can shoot while cleaning on of their buddies. Works good with two people, one can clean the squirrel while the other person watches for other squirrels.

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from Bassmasterking wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Generally the faster that you clean them the better. I'd say under one 24-hour period.

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from Beekeeper wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Yes, Bassmaster you certainly need to clean them in the first 24 hours after shooting them... LOL...

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from Sourdough Dave wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

They skin much easier when the carcass is still warm. Every animal should be gutted as soon after killing as possible. I gut, clean and skin small game immediately after killing and cool them with snow before I seal them up in ziploc bags.

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from Sarge01 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

From the first time I started hunting them 55 years ago I just put them in my game bag in my hunting coat. I don't put them in a plastic bag. Usually after about 5 hours we were at the house cleaning our squirrels. My mother took over the squirrel process after the gutting and skinning. She soaked the squirrels in salt water over night before she froze them unless we were going to eat them right away.

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from scratchgolf72 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

all depends on the temp outside, i always gut my animals right after i shoot them, wether rabbits or pheasants. as far as skinning and meat i wouldnt worry about it when its below freezing, if its in the 40'to 50's id try to get out of the woods soon as im done and get home to skin/

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from Elmer Fudd wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I've noticed the meat really takes a long time to spoil compared to store bought meat. I think that just shows how old storebought is before you get it. But my point is I would worry less about the meat spoiling, but the guts might stink is all if you are talking 5 hours at 50 degrees especially. Actually, rabbit guts can stink after a while but squirrel goes much longer.

sometimes it gets close to 70 degrees in the afternoon when it was OK in the AM. I like to get those on ice about that time.

PS, I like to put game in a plastic bag or the blood gets in the game bag. That's OK except more blood and more blood and eventually you've got a real mess there.

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from Elmer Fudd wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

PS if you have at least gutted them you can quit worrying most days.

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from Zacpro wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Skin it as soon as possible. The sooner the better.

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from DSMbirddog wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I gut and skin my right away in the woods, then into a plastic bag. That they they cool nicely and I don't have the mess at home. Yes, they skin much easier warm. The other thing is that squirrels are curious and once in a while I get done with one and look around and another squirrel is watching me. Bang!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beekeeper wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

They do skin easier when hot and fresh... so to speak. When hunting in warm weather I'll skin and gut as quickly as possible. Our season opens doen here in mid August. In colder weather I use a game lanyard and carry them in the open so that they can cool. Small animals loose body heat quickly. If my hunt is more than 2 hours I dress them in the woods. I love my Gerber Game Shears for that purpose. Squirrels go into rigor rapidly and when in rigor they can be hard to skin.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from neuman23 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I do the same as DSM, you'd be amazed at how many squirrels you can shoot while cleaning on of their buddies. Works good with two people, one can clean the squirrel while the other person watches for other squirrels.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beekeeper wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Yes, Bassmaster you certainly need to clean them in the first 24 hours after shooting them... LOL...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sarge01 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

From the first time I started hunting them 55 years ago I just put them in my game bag in my hunting coat. I don't put them in a plastic bag. Usually after about 5 hours we were at the house cleaning our squirrels. My mother took over the squirrel process after the gutting and skinning. She soaked the squirrels in salt water over night before she froze them unless we were going to eat them right away.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 007 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Forget the bag, that keeps air from them and hastens spoilage. That warm for that long, I'd gut them at the very least. Better yet, clean them up, get them on ice, and then go back to the woods.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WVOtter wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I guess the answer is always to gut things as soon as possible, skinning is less important. But most anyone I know does like you say with small game, put it in your vest or tether and wait til the end of the hunt to gut and skin when you get home...never heard any complaints.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

The key is to cool the meat as soon as possible. This applies to all game that you hunt, even to the bison sides that I buy locally up here. Gut the squirrel and find a way to prop the body cavity open. NO plastic bags (can you score an old, cloth, pillow case?)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

The most recent issue of F&S offers some good cleaning tips.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from sterndixon wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I was hunting two weeks ago in the snow and everytime I'd stop, I'd drop my bag into the snow (I'd gutted the squirrels immediately after shooting). Temps were about 42 degrees. However, by the time I got them home and took to skinning, the critters were stiff and nearly frozen and the meat ripped as I was taking the skin off. Didn't know if it was better to skin and gut in the field and keep in a game bag or not? Does the skin come off easier when it squirrel is fresh? Anyway, I take kitchen shears with me (helps to keep from getting my fingers cut off) and a few pairs of those nitrile surgeons gloves to keep my hands clean while gutting in the field.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from PigHunter wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Don't worry about it as long as you don't intend to eat them raw. I've left them in plastic bags and gutted them at home on much warmer days and have had no problems. I wouldn't bother to dump them on the snow either, no one wants to skin a cold stiff squirrel...

Beekeeper had a great answer a few months back about aging meat:
http://www.fieldandstream.com/answers/hunting/small-game/butchering-cook...

I also found this:
"If an animal carcass is cooled too rapidly (below 50° F, 10° C) before the onset of the rigor (within 10 hours), the muscles may contract which results in tough meat when cooked. This is known as “cold shortening.” To prevent this the carcass is kept at room temperature for some hours to accelerate rigor and then aged at between 30-41° F, (-1 - 5° C)."
http://www.wedlinydomowe.com/sausage-making/meat-selection/aging

http://www.chefdepot.net/agingwildgame.htm

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deerhunterrick wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Yuck!!! Get yourself a camo insulated pop cooler. The soft type with carry strap on them. It only takes a few minutes to skin and pop the guts out. Wipe out cavity with a towel and throw them in the carry case with some ice on them. Why do you hear so many people say their game tastes gamey? Because what they shot was not taken care of the correct way immediately. Wild game with the guts left in them,especially if anything hits the stomach or intestines ,will absorb all that nasty mess into the meat. You surely wouldn't eat road kill that had been laying along side the road all day. Nor would you buy beef from the butcher that was laying around in 50 degree weather all bloated up with gas ungutted for who knows how long. Thats why commercial meat is inspected by the USDA and stamped approval. Clean it as soon as possible and put it on ice and it will taste a whole lot better.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from goosebuster wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

you should be alright without the bag and it dont matter when its cold like that too.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bassmasterking wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Generally the faster that you clean them the better. I'd say under one 24-hour period.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sourdough Dave wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

They skin much easier when the carcass is still warm. Every animal should be gutted as soon after killing as possible. I gut, clean and skin small game immediately after killing and cool them with snow before I seal them up in ziploc bags.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from scratchgolf72 wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

all depends on the temp outside, i always gut my animals right after i shoot them, wether rabbits or pheasants. as far as skinning and meat i wouldnt worry about it when its below freezing, if its in the 40'to 50's id try to get out of the woods soon as im done and get home to skin/

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Elmer Fudd wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

I've noticed the meat really takes a long time to spoil compared to store bought meat. I think that just shows how old storebought is before you get it. But my point is I would worry less about the meat spoiling, but the guts might stink is all if you are talking 5 hours at 50 degrees especially. Actually, rabbit guts can stink after a while but squirrel goes much longer.

sometimes it gets close to 70 degrees in the afternoon when it was OK in the AM. I like to get those on ice about that time.

PS, I like to put game in a plastic bag or the blood gets in the game bag. That's OK except more blood and more blood and eventually you've got a real mess there.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Elmer Fudd wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

PS if you have at least gutted them you can quit worrying most days.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Zacpro wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Skin it as soon as possible. The sooner the better.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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