Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
Iowa waterfowl hunting is done for the year. The late archery season for deer and turkeys ended January 10. Ditto for pheasants. Time has arrived for hunters to clean the shotgun and stow the rifle. Or has it?
For those willing to pursue a somewhat less glamourous species, Iowa’s squirrel hunt is still on — runs until the end of the month, in fact. Populations are never an issue; daily limit is six squirrels statewide. Whether you pursue them on public forest lands, farm grove windbreaks, or abandoned woodlots; squirrels are arguably one of our most abundant and woefully underutilized natural resources. Generally speaking, gray squirrels are the primary inhabitant of big timbers while the larger, orange bellied fox squirrel dominates the scene at smaller woodlots and building site windbreaks.
Abundant beyond belief, squirrels are everywhere. Find a good clump of trees, and you’ll find squirrels. Bushy tails are so abundant around some of the woods where I normally hunt deer and turkeys, that I’ve even managed to bag several with my bow. Although any regular broadhead will work fine for squirrels, specially designed small game [blunt] heads cause less damage and make arrows easier to find when you miss a shot — and when hunting squirrels with a bow, you’ll want to anticipate plenty of misses.
Dead or alive, squirrels really hate to part with their hides. Only a woodchuck is harder to skin. But the little bit of extra work that may go along with cleaning a mess of squirrels is well worth the effort – and then some. I can’t think of any game species that has a milder, sweeter flavor than an Iowa squirrel. Hands down, they’re one of my favorite “wild edibles”.
My favorite cooking method is to simply to place seasoned [unfloured] squirrel pieces into a lightly oiled, uncovered skillet and fry over medium-low heat. As soon as pieces are well browned, remove from skillet. Pull meat off bones and serve. We’re all familiar with the American classic: Turkey and dressing. Turn that same recipe into “squirrel and dressing” and you won’t believe your taste buds. After a second helping of this taste treat, you’re sure to be spending a lot more time in the squirrel woods.