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Squirrel Fest 2019

Yes, you read the title correct, we had a Squirrel Fest. What is a Squirrel Fest? Quite simply, it is a group hunt for squirrel where each group or person comes up with a recipe and a feast is had at the conclusion of the day! Sound fun? Well, then I’m sure you will enjoy this article!

A couple housekeeping things first, here in Alberta the most common squirrel we have is the red squirrel. It’s cousin in the lower 48, the grey squirrel, is much larger. The rules around hunting the red squirrel are simple- if you are a resident, you can hunt or trap red squirrel without license all year. That is, if you have access to or own private land.

A typical red squirrel weighs approximately 8 ounces and will yield roughly 3.5 ounces of meat. So in order to get yourself about 1lb of squirrel meat, you will need to harvest 4-5 squirrels.

If you are wondering how we decided to have a Squirrel Fest, here is the background story. My wife and I were hiking with a friend of ours and while hiking she asked if either of us had ever eaten squirrel. She had seen a TV show where there was a squirrel cooking contest and was curious if that was a real thing. 

I have eaten squirrel on a few occasions, more so to see what they taste like and how easy they are to cook. I figured that in a worst case situation out hiking, learning how to cook and eat these guys could be a good survival skill. 

After hearing that I had eaten squirrel in the past, our friend was even more intrigued. Asking if they tasted good? The truth is, aside from the obvious size and shape, squirrels taste very similar to a spruce grouse or a rabbit. As they are all wild meats that are common to coniferous forests. 

The suggestion to have our own squirrel cook off was mentioned by my wife. Our friends own 80 acres of forested land and they have no shortage of squirrels. As I listened to the 2 girls chat about the logistics of the Squirrel Fest I was super excited. 

As an adult onset hunter, I missed out on many of the experiences that a youth in the outdoors goes through (like traipsing through the woods with a .22 or .410 hunting squirrels). This seemed like a way for my inner “outdoor youth” to come out and have a fun experience. 

We heard back the next day that our friend’s husband was elated, and that the squirrels happen to have been causing some earlier than wanted mornings. So the plan was set, Squirrel Fest 2019 was a go!

Two couples, and no dinner plans other than the squirrels we could harvest!

Going into the hunt, my wife and her friend had never shot a squirrel before. I was the only one with experience prepping and eating them. So it was going to be an adventure and a day of learning for all. 

My Wife’s First Squirrel

Within minutes of pulling into the yard the hunt was on! I managed the first squirrel with an old Cooey Model 59 gifted to me by my Grandfather. Iron sights and all! In our first loop my wife harvested her first squirrel with a .22 and the group came back with 6 squirrels! Squirrel Fest was already a success. Our only obstacle was getting the falling squirrels back from our one dog, Pippin! He is a hunter through and through. Not so good on the retrieving part. 

We took a break from hunting while I showed our friends how to process the squirrels and prep them for cooking! After a short break we headed back out for another loop. This time, it was to get our friend her first squirrel harvest after a few missed shots with the .410. Finally, success was had and she connected on a squirrel and we got it on film!

Our Friend’s First Squirrel

The second loop we managed another 4 squirrels. We would have enough for a small meal!

Some quick target practice in the yard, and we were off for round 3. 

The girls were rolling now and they each brought another couple squirrels to the bag and as a group we got another 5 squirrels!

While cleaning and processing the squirrels from rounds 2 and 3, one chirped off in the yard. A break was in order and the 16th squirrel hit the tailgate. Pippin and the other dogs got to enjoy the livers and hearts from the squirrels. (Pippin actually also had two whole squirrels himself… so we should have had 18.)

Now that the hunt was over, it was time to celebrate with a few beers and begin the feast portion of Squirrel Fest 2019. 

Our friends set up their deep fryer and served some delicious fried squirrel. They breaded and fried the squirrel whole. Better than most local pub wings!

I braised 7 squirrels and shredded the meat to form the second meal, squirrel enchiladas. Rolled into tortillas and baked. The meals were both very tasty and the three first time squirrel eaters loved it! Squirrel Fest is to become an annual affair.

Small game hunting allows for a slower pace and plenty of opportunity and we are fortunate that our friends could provide the location for the event!

Hopefully this wasn’t to “out there” for you guys!


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3 Responses

  1. Carrie says:

    Great blog post and looking forward to the 2nd annual Squirrel Fest!!

  2. Carrie says:

    And I have to thank you again for all the cleaning & prep work! The squirrel population was getting so out of hand and destructive – but simply killing them felt wrong and wasteful. This was a tasty way to solve the problem!

  3. R says:

    Thanks Carrie,

    Always great to share the passion of wild game! We are looking forward to next years feast as well, will have to try some new dishes!

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