How To Skin A Squirrel In One Minute
How to Skin a Squirrel
Skinning a squirrel is far less messy than you might expect. Whether you’re in the field or at home, you can strip off the hide with a knife in only a few minutes. If you plan on eating the meat, it needs to be trimmed with a pair of shears and washed with water. You can then store both hides and squirrel meat in ice until you are able to cook them, tan them, or bring them home.
Cutting Open the Squirrel
Begin skinning the squirrel within about 3 hours.You can skin a squirrel immediately after shooting it. Most hunters who do this have a cooler full of ice available or can get to a freezer right away. If you need to travel, you may wish to bring the animal back with you and skin it at home.
- Temperature affects how much time you have. On days under 70 °F (21 °C), you may have between 3 and 6 hours. During hotter days, squirrels can go bad very quickly, especially if your bullet goes through the body.
- Judge by the smell. If a squirrel starts smelling rancid, throw it away and don’t wait as long in the future.
Get the squirrel wet if you have water available.To keep unwanted hair from getting all over the meat while you skin the squirrel, moisten it first. Place the squirrel in the water at the edge of a stream, set it in a bucket, or rinse it off under a hose. You can’t get the squirrel too wet, so don’t hold back on the water.
- If you are unable to rinse off the squirrel, you will be okay. You can still skin the squirrel without issue.
Lay the squirrel belly-down on a flat surface.Set the squirrel on a table you don’t mind getting dirty, facing the tail towards you. If you’re out in the field, a stump or rock will work. While you may be able to cut the squirrel without a surface, having the stability of a solid surface is recommended for safety reasons.
- You could also have someone else hold the squirrel. As long as you’re careful, you shouldn’t have any problems cutting the squirrel open.
Make a cut about 1 in (2.5 cm) underneath the base of the tail.Using a sharp knife, slice cleanly through the fur. Your blade should be under the tail but on top of the tailbone. Cut through a joint on the tailbone until you reach the skin on the other side.
- If your knife pierces the hide on the other side of the tail, you've cut too far. You may need to make a few extra cuts to remove the skin around the tail.
Cut about 1 in (2.5 cm) along the top of each back leg.Slice from the edges of the initial cut you made behind the tail. Carefully cut through the first layer of skin down towards the paws. These cuts do not need to be large or long, but they will loosen a sizeable flap of skin you can use to leverage the hide off of the squirrel’s body..
- If you intend on preserving the hide, you may want to cut along the back legs all the way down to the ankles to ensure it doesn’t tear.
Separate the skin from the hind legs with your fingers.Hold the squirrel by the tail. With your other hand, grasp the loose skin from the cuts you made. Work your fingers around the muscle to peel the skin back from the tail and legs. Peel the skin back until you have a flap you are able to hold onto.
- If you wish to preserve the hide, stop here. You should be able to pull the body out of the skin. You may need to slice down along the tail to help pull the hide off the tailbone.
Removing the Hide
Turn the squirrel upside-down.The squirrel’s belly should be upwards. Keep the squirrel on a flat surface, such as a stump, scrap lumber, or rock. Position it so the tail and cut flap of skin are facing you.
Grab the hind legs and place your heel on the tail.Use your dominant hand to hold the legs up, away from the squirrel. Rest your heel on the flap of skin created by your initial cut underneath the tail. Make sure you are able to leverage the squirrel without difficulty!
- Press down hard on the squirrel’s tail so it doesn’t move. Keep a firm grip on the legs at all times.
Pull the squirrel’s legs towards you to remove the hide.You may feel like you’re trying to remove the legs, but you are actually pulling the squirrel straight out of its skin. As long as you keep the tail pinned down with your heel, the hide should peel off. Most of it will come off in 1 swift motion. Stop when you get to the front legs.
- You can use your free hand to support the squirrel’s body or hold onto 1 of the legs. Do whatever feels comfortable and helps you generate strength.
- If the hide sticks to the squirrel’s belly, hold the squirrel by the front arms. Pinch the skin tightly with your other hand and pull it away. This should take out any remaining belly skin.
Separate any connective tissue in the front legs with your fingers.For the front legs, you won’t need to make any incisions. Most of the hide should slip off like a sleeve as you pull on the back legs. Slip your fingers underneath the skin and slide it around the edges to break any connective tissue holding the skin in place.
- If you ever find the skin difficult to remove, go back and use your fingers to break the connective tissue. As long as you cut the skin cleanly in the beginning, you should then be able to pull the skin loose.
Pull the hide up to the squirrel’s neck.Let the hide hang over the squirrel’s head, kind of like when you try pulling a shirt off of yourself from the bottom-up. Check the back legs to make sure they aren’t still attached to the skin. Avoid pulling the hide further if the skin sticks to the legs.
- If the back legs are free, you can pull the skin all the way off and move on to cleaning the carcass.
Pull the hide off the back legs if it is still stuck to them.You can take the skin off the same way you did with the front legs. Keeping your heel on the squirrel’s tail, this time grab onto the upper legs and head. Pull hard on them. Work your finger underneath the hide as needed to sever any connective tissue.
- You can also hold the squirrel’s body with your weaker hand and tug the skin off with your dominant hand.
- You should be able to remove the remaining skin easily. Despite skinning an entire animal, you probably won’t have much of a mess on your hands.
Cleaning the Meat
Snip off the squirrel’s head and paws with shears.A sturdy pair of game shears is your best bet for removing the parts you don’t need. Cut the head off as close to the body as possible first. Then, cut all 4 legs off at the bony ankles. These parts are inedible, so you don’t need them.
- If you have any problems cutting through the bones, you can try snapping them first. If you managed to pull the skin off, breaking the bones shouldn’t be too difficult.
- Avoid slicing through bones with a knife, since your blade will get dull. Slicing may also leave small bits of bone in the meat.
Flip the squirrel onto its belly.Set the squirrel down on a flat surface like a table or tree stump again. Angle the tail end towards you. Make sure all the fur is gone before you begin cutting open the meat.
- If you have multiple squirrels, skin them all first before you start messing with the blood and guts.
Slice from the groin to sternum with a knife.The same knife you used to skin the squirrel is safe to use here. Starting at the groin, cut a straight line all the way up to the bottom of the squirrel’s breastbone. Keep the knife’s tip angled upwards so you don’t puncture the organs.
- The sternum shouldn’t be too difficult to locate. It will be in the center of the chest cavity, ending right below the lowest rib. The outlines of the ribs are visible, so stop cutting when you get to them.
Shear the squirrel up to the neck to open the chest cavity.Snip through the chest cavity with a good pair of shears to avoid dulling your knife. Cut through the sternum and any ribs in the way, pulling apart the muscles as needed to get the blades into the cavity. When you’re done, spread open the cavity with your fingers.
- Another way to do this is to locate where the ribs connect to the muscles. Shear through these points until you are able to remove the entire rib cage. The ribs have very little meat on them, but they can be used to flavor broths.
Remove the organs from the squirrel.Reach in with your fingers and pull out each organ. Wearing gloves is a good idea since this part can get messy. The organs are very small. Make sure you get all of them.
- Inspect the liver before you eat the meat. If the liver looks pale, off-color, or spotted, do not eat the meat. If the liver is deep, dark red and looks healthy, the meat is fine to eat.
- Throw away the organs if you don’t want them. Although they are small, they are edible. Try frying them in a pan or roasting them over a fire.
Rinse the body off with running water.Clean off any remaining blood, bone fragments, hair, and skin particles. If you have a hose available, spray down the inner portion of the carcass thoroughly. You can also try washing the meat in a stream or with water from a bottle.
- If you don’t have water available, you can store the squirrel for now and wash it off later.
Freeze the squirrel until you are ready to use it.Stuff the meat into a plastic bag and put it on ice as soon as possible. Having a cooler on hand helps when you’re out in the field. The hide can also be stored the same way, but make sure it is dry and sealed so it doesn’t get wet. Keep hides in separate bags from the meat.
- Squirrels can be cooked like any other meat. Roast the hole squirrel over fire or divide it up and cook parts individually. The legs and back are good for roasting and frying. The less meaty rib area is for broths and stocks.
Store squirrel meat and hides in the refrigerator or freezer.Like any other meat, keep both raw and cooked squirrel cool in a sealed container to preserve it. Raw meat can last in the refrigerator up to 2 days before cooking. It will last about 5 days after it is cooked. You can store both raw and cooked meat can be kept in the freezer for 6 to 12 months.
- Always keep meat and hides in resealable containers to avoid water damage.
- Squirrel hides can also be frozen until you are ready to preserve them. To preserve the hide, tan with chemicals or a non-iodized salt bath.
QuestionHow soon after shooting a squirrel must I skin it?wikiHow Staff EditorStaff AnswerIt's usually best to skin the squirrel right away, if possible. Keep an ice-filled cooler with you for preservation. If this isn't an option, try to get home and skin the animal within 3 to 6 hours. Squirrels go bad faster in warmer temperatures, so keep this in mind as well.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I work with a frozen squirrel?wikiHow Staff EditorStaff AnswerYou should let it defrost first. If it's cold but not frozen, you will have an easier time cutting into it. It also won't be quite as tough on your fingers.Thanks!
QuestionDo I have to even have to cook the squirrel first?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, this removes bacteria and other parasites from the squirrel meat.Thanks!
To skin a squirrel, wet the hair and lay the squirrel on a flat surface with its stomach facing down. Then, make an incision about 1 inch (2.5 cm) under the tail, and extend the incision to about 1 inch (2.5 cm) above each hind leg. Use your hands to separate the skin from the legs, and then lay the squirrel on its back on the ground. Place your heel on the tail and pull the squirrel's hind legs up and forward to remove the skin from the body up to its neck.
- There is more than 1 way to skin a squirrel, so adjust your strategy to find out what works best.
- Pelts can be frozen until you are ready to preserve them. Keep ice on hand if you’re out in the field and can’t get to a freezer right away.
- To make use of squirrel meat, trying frying it it with some salt and herbs. You can also make a gravy to put over the meat.
- Make sure your knife is sharp enough. A dull knife is harder to use and increases the chances of you cutting yourself.
- An off-color liver may be a sign that the squirrel had health issues. For your safety, avoid eating meat from a squirrel you suspect was diseased.
Things You'll Need
Solid work surface
Field dressing gloves
Resealable plastic bag
Sources and Citations
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Video: How to skin a squirrel
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