Now for what Shakespeare calls " small deer." The easiest way for a novice to skin a squirrel is the one described by " Nessmuk." —
" Chop off head, tail, and feet with the hatchet; cut the skin on the back crosswise, and, inserting the two middle fingers, pull the skin off in two parts (head and tail). Clean and cut the squirrel in halves, leaving two ribs on the hind quarters." The objection is that, in this case, you throw away the best part of the squirrel, the cheek meat and brain being its special tid-bits.
A better way is this: Sever the tail from below, holding your left forefinger close in behind it, and cutting through the vertebne close up to the body, leaving only the hide on the top side. Then turn the squirrel over and cut a slit down along each ham. Put your foot on the tail, hold the rear end of the squirrel in your hand, and pull, stripping the skin off to the fore legs. Peel the skin from the hind legs, and cut off the feet. Then cut off the fore feet. Skin to the neck; assist here a little with the knife; then skin to the ears; cut off the butts of the ears; then skin till the blue o' the eyeballs shows, and cut; then to the nose till the teeth show, and cut it off. Thus you get no hair on the meat, and the whole thing is done in less than a minute, when you have gained deftness.
In dressing mammals larger than squirrels be particular to remove the scent glands. Even rabbits have them. Cut directly between the fore leg and body and you will find a small waxy " kernel " which is a gland. The degree to which this taints the flesh depends a good deal on the season; but in most of the fur-bearers it is always ob-jectionable.
Dan Beard gives the following directions for dressing small animals:
" To prepare a musquash or any other small fur-bearing animal for the table, first make a skinning stick of a forked stick about as thick as your finger. Let the forks be about one inch to each branch, and the stick below long enough to reach up between your knees when the sharpened lower end is forced into the ground. If you squat on the ground the stick should be about a foot and one-half long, but longer if you sit on a camp stool, stump or stone. Hang the muskrat on the forks of the stick by thrusting the sharpened ends of the fork through the thin spot at the gambrel joints of the hind legs, that is, the parts which coriespond with your own heels. Hung in this manner (with the one and one-half foot stick), the nose of the animal will just clear the ground. First skin the game, then remove all the internal organs, and, if it be a muskrat, not only remove all the musk glands, but cut into the inside of the forearms and the fleshy part of the thighs, and take out a little white substance you will find there which resembles a nerve. This done and the meat well washed, it may be cooked with little fear of the food retaining a musky flavor." — (Field and Forest Handy Book).
To skin a 'coon: begin with the point of the knife in the center of one hind foot and slit up the inside of the leg to the vent and down the other leg in a like manner. Cut carefully around the vent, then rip from it up to the chin. Strip the skin from the bone of the tail with a split stick gripped firmly in the hand. Then flay the animal, scrape the pelt clean, and put it on a stretcher to dry.