The local dinner club decided to have a squirrel based theme as a challenge to make the most of this underappreciated small game animal. My role was to procure some squirrel meats for the occasion.
Well I don’t need much arm twisting to go to the woods. Off I went after some bushy tails and supplied the party with some of the forest groceries, grey squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis. New Jersey is also home to the red and southern flying squirrel but neither are legal game.
The New Jersey small game season allows a licensed hunter to harvest 5 grey squirrels per day.
As a licensed hunter, one must pass a hunter education class and purchase a yearly license. I choose to pay $72.50 for the all-around sportsman which includes Resident Firearm Hunting, Bow & Arrow Hunting & Fishing Licenses. Approximately $27.50 accounts for the resident firearm tag. These license fees pay salaries of NJ Fish & Wildlife employees and help to preserve wildlife management areas and other open space for public access. In addition Pittman-Robertson Act aka Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act takes an 11% excise tax on firearms and ammunition that the Secretary of the Interior is able to distribute to the States for research, surveys, management of wildlife and/or habitat, and acquisition of land. As a conservation biologist, hunter, hiker and nature lover I’m proud to pay these fees for the benefit of all.
So back to squirrelfest. It was prepared in many ways, one of the best was with venison and a rub of wild edible seasoning of mostly staghorn sumac and spicebush. A reduced hard apple cider made on the property was brushed over during the cooking process and some bacon strips slowly melting fat helped to keep the meat moist.
The squirrel meat was also made with pasta, biscuits, breads, stews, chili and pizza.
The squirres skins were made into drink coozies that kept the delicious Iron Bound Hard Cider cold. Tails were collected for use in tying fishing lures by local anglers amd to send to Mepps.
If you haven’t tried squirrel, it’s an abundant and tasty food.
David Alexander is a professional outdoor guide and conservation biologist. He enjoys making nature more accessible to people and wildlife. You can follow him at www.natureintoaction.com
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