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.