I share a lot about small game hunting in this column, mostly because it’s so much fun. But, also because I simply love dining on small game. I especially enjoy hunting and dining on squirrels and I’ve some mighty fine memories of squirrel hunts from the past. A few of my early hunts stand out above all others because after we’d taken our limit of bushytails, dad kindled a fire and cooked them up right there in the woods.
I’ve done it many times since, on my own and with friends or family and it never fails to impress my guests. It turns out that most people, even many die-hard hunters, have never cooked over a campfire. I know right? I was just as surprised as you, after I made this discovery. That’s why, when contemplating this week’s column, it dawned on me that I might offer a few tips while encouraging you all to get out and give it a whirl.
First things first: Never start a fire until you are sure you are building it in a safe place. Pick a spot that’s pretty open and clear- an area about ten feet in diameter to build your fire in. Begin by setting two ankle-thick pieces of dead, dry wood in a rough V shape, with the sticks six to eight inches apart at the top and three to five inches apart at the bottom. Place tinder (dry pine needles, moss, or fat lighter) in the middle of the V. Using small pieces of bark, wood, or twigs, build a teepee around the tinder. Light and slowly feed the fire very dry logs that are about the size of your arm.
There are a variety of ways to cook over a campfire, depending on your food choice. But, with small game, stick to good old-fashioned skewer cooking. I like to slit a green palm limb for my skewers, and I hold one end while cooking the meat, similar to as if you were roasting a marshmallow. It takes about ten minutes for a squirrel to roast properly if you’ll keep it over the top of the flames. You don’t want to dip it into the direct flames lest you scorch and burn it.
This can be really fun with kids along on the hunt. Be sure to let them participate! A child may be young or inexperienced, but that doesn’t mean he or she can’t help out with campfire cooking. Don’t only let them hold their own skewer, but involve them in all aspects of preparation, including cleaning the squirrels. Bring along a small pack with drinks, seasoning, and a few easy sides to go with your entree and the memories you make are sure to be great ones.
If you have any questions or a story to share, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. God Bless, Good Hunting!