#29 Squirrel Hunting

If it’s got four legs, a Coonass will shoot it, clean it, throw it in a pot and make a gravy out of it. This saying even holds true for the tastiest member of the rodent family, the squirrel. And while these critters are scrumptious, they’re even more fun to hunt.

Squirrel hunting is a favorite pastime of Acadiana natives, and nowhere is it more popular than in the small town of Ville Platte. In fact, it is so popular in Ville Platte that the opening day of squirrel hunting season is a town holiday and schools shut down early. The holiday was a no-brainer, considering it was a choice between giving students the day off or having the whole town play hooky for the day. It come as no surprise that Ville Platte was crowned Squirrel Town U.S.A. by Field and Stream magazine.

Throughout the hunting season, boys (and some girls) as young as 5 head out into the woods with their fathers, shotguns in hand and clothed in a bright orange safety vests. Hunters walk silently through the woods scanning their surroundings for telltale signs of gray or fox squirrels like chewed up acorns or pine comb stems falling to the ground in a helicopter pattern. Sometimes they’ll use a bark call to fool the squirrels into responding with barks of their own. Together, father and son will stay in the woods until they shoot their daily limit, or the sunset forces them to call it a day.

On opening day, and throughout squirrel season, you can hear shotgun blasts ringing out in the distance, so much so that after a while you stop noticing them. A big part of squirrel hunting’s appeal is the amount of action a squirrel hunter gets (not dat kind of action couyon!). Compared to the sit-and-wait style of deer hunting, squirrel hunters get to shoot their guns a lot more and are more likely to bring home a kill than their deer hunting counterparts (though the payoff for a deer hunter is a lot better). It’s a lot more fun for a young boy to hunt squirrels than it is to get them to sit still for 5 hours in a deer stand.

For the uninitiated, eating a rodent might sound unappetizing, but trust me, squirrel is delicious. Cooked properly, squirrel meat is more tender than chicken. My favorite squirrel meal is in a brown sauce over rice, but some people prefer it in a gumbo. Squirrel brain is considered a delicacy by some (not by dis Cajun boy). My uncle used to make the little cooked squirrel heads talk before cracking them open and getting at their juicy brains. With the recent linking of squirrel brain eating to a form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob, or mad cow disease, I have one more reason to stay away.

The 2008 squirrel season was something special. For only the second year in history, Louisiana state officials have declared a second squirrel season from May 3 through May 25 on private land and from May 3 through May 11 on public land. This is like having a second Christmas. I don’t know if Ville Platte declared a second squirrel holiday for this one, but I suspect there were a lot of absences that day.

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21 thoughts on “#29 Squirrel Hunting

  1. Growing up in Mamou, I didn’t find anything weird about having off for opening day of squirrel season. I thought that everyone had off. And the holiday was called “Opening of Squirrel Season.” But when Paul Harvey reported on this, I guess it shamed the School Board a bit and they changed the holiday name to “Budget Day.” I dare you to find someone in Evangeline Parish working on a budget that day.

    Also, that opening weekend is very special to me and my family. It is a tradition that all the men (10 & up) of the family
    gather all weekend to hunt on my Uncle’s wooded land. Everyone in the family is invited to hang out and cook and eat but only the men can sleep there. Although the women can too- they just can sleep there. It is a place and time for the men of the family to bond. But as my cousins get married, have kids, move away (or are working offshore and happen to be out that weekend) the amount of people shrinks every year. C’est la vie.

  2. I always liked the camping part more than the hunting part. Hanging out with my uncles and cousins, drinking beer and cooking gumbo. One of the first places I ever got drunk was at camp.

  3. “(not dat kind of action couyon!)”

    Wow, I heard that jump off the page. LOL.
    The voice in your writing is striking.

    I thought squirrels were always in season. My brother used to shoot them out the tree in the yard, skin them and cook them. Ninety minutes from tree to table.

  4. Hey chuval,

    Remember when Momma ran over a squirrel in the driveway and gave it to a neighbor to cook? Can’t waste fresh squirrel (even if it is technically road kill)

  5. I must have blocked that memory out. Who knows what else I’m repressing. One thing I know for sure is that WE never ate roadkill…we’re classy Coonasses.

  6. A man approached Boudreaux when he was visiting in Mamou.
    ‘Excuse me, sir, Can you tell me the quickest way to get to Ville Platte?’

    Boudreaux scratched his head, ‘Are you walkin’ or drivin’?’ he asked the stranger.

    ‘I’m driving.’

    ‘Mais, Dat’s the quickest way!

  7. ok, all you squirrel hunters. I need a remedy to keep the squirrels out of my bird feeder. Now, I know that there’s some Cajun ingenuity out there to solve this problem so I can spare my husband getting arrested from shooting them with a BB gun. (We live in the city with neighbors who are card-carrying PETA)

  8. I didn’t even know that squirrels were really rodents until a few months ago. As weird as that sounds, my dad grew up a backwoods boy, and he did everything from squirrel and pheasant hunting (had to travel for that one) to frog giggin. Now, I never took part in nor ate any of his game, not my style really, but I thought it was totally normal. That is until I talked to my boss who was raised in CA and now lives in the NYC metro area, and she was blown away. She had no clue people did this. I felt sheepish at that moment.

  9. Nothing to be ashamed of. I was watching the travel channel the other day, and learned that guinea pigs are considered a delicacy in parts of Asia. Europeans eat horse and Koreans eat dog. It’s all relative to what’s normal where you grew up. Trust me, if a four star restaurants started serving squirrel in NYC, those lemmings would line up for it.

  10. I remember, like it was yesterday, the time I opened a pot of gumbo at my grandma’s house, and saw little bodies floating around in there.

    My VERY anglo mother (from New Orleans) hadn’t prepared me for grandma’s answer.

    I guess grandma would stand on her back steps and just blast them out of the oak tree out back. I live in Salt Lake City now, and terrorize my friends with stories about my culture.

  11. Have you heard of black bird jambalaya? Guinea (fowl) gumbo? How about nutria? Two UL Lafayette boys were recently telling me how delicious nutria is, especially in brown gravy. I’m afraid I’ll pass on dat one, cher.

  12. Have you heard of black bird jambalaya? Guinea (fowl) gumbo? How about nutria? Two UL Lafayette boys were recently telling me how delicious nutria is, especially in brown gravy. I’m afraid I’ll pass on dat one, cher.

  13. First time I went squirrel hunting was last season. originally born and raised in nyc. use to see and feed them in the parks and neighborhood. never thought about eating them. my belief is to eat whatever I hunted. It took me a few minutes to get up the nerve to bring’em home. but once I committed myself and took the first bite. it isn’t such a big deal. In fact I converted a couple of my co-workers. now I look at the critters in a different light.

  14. East Ascension Sportsman’s League in Ascension Parish holds a squirrel rodeo each year the first weekend the start of the season. Saturday is squirrel hunting and sunday is a dinner of squirrel gravy for members. This year its Oct 3-4 and a popular member event.

  15. as a minnesotan gal reading a bit of your blog, i think i can safely say we’re really not as different as people would think. my dad is farm-raised country boy and wouldnt think twice about eating a squirrel or a frog, basically any critter that wandered into the yard. one minute its a pest, the next minute its dinner! anythings good with a little gravy, or fried up, or both, right?
    i feel it always pays to be an omnivore. the other night we ate antelope and pork hot sausages. i really gotta get my dad down south sometime.

  16. I always used the tap the shell on the stock trick to draw them out they peep out to see what made the sound then blam, add it to my bag hanging from my belt.

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