Over the years, our family’s hunting traditions have morphed into a grand gathering of our extended family for a three day event we refer to as the “Shoot Out”. We typically schedule this event towards the end of September and meet at our favorite spot – a large meadow in a very remote area of the Manti-La Sal National Forest. This meadow sits at an altitude of about 9,500 feet and is the perfect location to camp, ride motorcycles and four wheelers and target practice.
We typically bring every firearm we own as well as model rockets, potato and flare guns and have a blast shooting targets, going on rides, eating great food and telling stories around the campfire.
There are times when I gotten up in the middle of the night (when nature calls) and sat by the coals of our fire and spent extended periods of time just gazing up at the unbelievable wonders of the heavens. Seeing a sky so full of bright stars and the Milky Way so clearly – a sight most of us don’t have the opportunity to see if we live near a big city.
Typically, we have about 25 to 30 of us who show up for the annual Shoot Out and have on occasion invited some of our wives to attend. We haven’t had too many takers. Two of my sisters wanted to come but after their first time, never wanted to return. I guess there’s just too much testosterone at this event.
Our younger boys like to go rabbit and squirrel hunting. These are boys ranging from eight to twelve years old. They take their BB guns and pretend they are mighty hunters. We have a rule in our family – no sport killing. If you shoot an animal, you eat it.
This rule is always readily agreed to when they ask permission to go hunting as a group but when it comes down to actually consuming their game, it’s often a different story.
I have a son-in-law who is our official trainer when it comes to teaching the boys how to properly gut and skin a squirrel or rabbit. Some of the boys are a little squeamish when it comes to this part of the experience, nevertheless, it’s an important step in assuring the meat is not wasted.
Then comes the exercise of cooking the critter over an open fire. Learning how to properly cook the meat without turning it into a crispy charcoal mess takes some practice. Then properly seasoning the meat and actually eating it is always a funny experience to watch for the first-timers.
This is knowledge that will prove very valuable in the event circumstances require us to live off the land or raise our own meat. It would be wonderful if it was possible for us all to have access to enough land and resources to raise a few cows and pigs and some chickens, but in most cases, that’s just not an option for most of us.
Raising guinea pigs or rabbits in a portable hutch is far more practical and could provide the protein we need to feed our families in a crisis. Since most of us are more familiar with rabbits, lets talk about how to skin and gut a rabbit.
Rabbits are a great source of protein. Unlike beef and chicken, they aren’t pumped full of antibiotics. Rabbits eat fresh greens generally. They reproduce extremely quickly ensuring your food source in well stocked. Skinning and preparing rabbits can be a challenge, follow these simple steps to help it go smoother. The fresher the rabbit, the easier skinning will be. Allowing the rabbit to decompose could taint the meat so it is important to skin and gut the rabbit right away.
Large sharp knife
Flat work surface
Place the rabbit on a flat surface on its belly
Pinch the hide near the neck and cut all the way around the neck
Cut from the stomach to the neck, careful not to puncher the stomach as the juices could contaminate the meat
Create an opening by pulling the skin away from the meat with your index and middle finger
Hold the carcass by the hide legs and pull the skin off like you would remove a pair of pants
Pull the upper part of the skin towards the base of the skull
Cut the head and tail off
Cut off the feet at the ankle
Make a cut near the pelvis
Place a finger on either side of the knife
Lift the skin and cut towards the head, careful not to cut deep enough to pierce the stomach
Cut the rib cage open
Pull out the organs in one motion starting under the rib cage and pulling towards the pelvis
Set aside the kidneys, liver, and heart. They can be eaten, it’s a matter of personal taste. Avoid eating the liver if it looks discolored. This is could be a sign of a sick rabbit.
Cut through the pelvis and rinse out any droppings that remain
Wash the rabbit with clean water to ensure fur, blood, and droppings are cleaned off
Remove the silver skin or thin layer of fat from the entire rabbit
Cut just under the shoulder blades to remove the front legs
Cut against the rabbit’s loin and down the rib cage to remove the meat from the belly
Use a sharp knife to cut through the hip joint to remove the back legs
Fillet the back and ribs, do not cut meat off the rib cage, cut away from the spine and ribs
Save the neck, rib cage, and pelvis to make rabbit stock
Cut the rabbit into more manageable sections for cooking or storage
There are several good videos on YouTube that will show you step by step how to skin and gut a rabbit as well. If it’s your first time, I highly recommend you take the time to watch several videos before you try your first rabbit.
Taking the time to actually practice this method BEFORE you’re desperate will go a long ways in building confidence and preventing unnecessary mistakes.