The Barra 1866 Puts Lunch on the Table

The other day, I looked out my workroom window and saw a squirrel on a tree. I grabbed my now modified Barra 1866 (topic for another article), pumped it, and loaded it with a RWS Superdome. One of my windows has the screen removed for this very purpose, so I quietly slid that window open so I could take the shot.

I rested my shot on the windowsill as the squirrel waved his tail on the tree trunk, aware that something was amiss, but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. The pellet found its mark behind the eye, coming to a rest just under the fur on the opposite shoulder. The impact noise is quite impressive now that my 1866 is fitted with a LDC, akin to hitting a squirrel with a baseball bat. Needless to say, the shot spun him off the tree, and he was dead on the ground:

Barra 1866 takes a large male squirrel

This was a pretty large male, usually only fit for slow cooking. Since I only had one, I decided to try an experiment. First, let’s look at the exit wound on this guy:

The 1866 might not be a powerhouse, but how much more power do you need than this?

The above picture is just a reminder to treat all airguns like they were firearms. Also, just because you can’t afford the fancy guns you see featured by YouTube personalities doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and put some food on the table with what you have. Practice with what you’ve got, keep your shots within the range you are capable of, and enjoy the sport of airgun hunting.

After letting him soak overnight in a saltwater bath, I discarded the brine, rinsed off the carcass, and deboned it. After removing the meat, I cut it in small pieces, and further beat those pieces with a knife to tenderize. While I was doing that, I had a cast iron skillet warming up a little cooking oil. The meat was browned in this oil as I added some sage, garlic powder, ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes. I then added some beef broth, let it come up to a light boil, and simmered it until most of the liquid was reduced:

There’s quite a bit of meat on one large gray squirrel!

Once the liquid was reduced, I added in some flour, constantly stirring, and coating the meat. With the flour now cooked, I turned up the heat and stirred in milk to form a nice gravy:

It is critical to keep stirring at this stage, scraping the bottom of the pan, to prevent burning.

Once it began to bubble and thicken, I turned down the heat, kept stirring, and carefully added milk until it reached the creamy, thick consistency I was looking for. For an extra boost of flavor, I threw in a splash of liquid smoke. I thought about baking some biscuits, but opted in favor of making some toast. This one squirrel, turned into gravy, and poured over toast made enough to serve my wife, two kids, and myself. Here’s my plate:

Some real good food right here!

The results were excellent. This cooking technique proved successful in turning an old tough squirrel into a tender, tasty dish.

Squirrel Jerky

I love jerky, but it tends to be quite expensive. Squirrel provides an abundant source of lean meat, so I decided to try an experiment. The other morning, I killed five squirrels. After cleaning them, I broke them down into hind legs, front legs / shoulders, loins, rib cages, and belly meat. The belly meat is the perfect size and thickness to make jerky from, so I set it aside for this project.

After trimming any bits of fat and membrane from the belly meat, I prepared a marinade. The marinade is composed of liquid smoke, soy sauce, a small splash of apple cider vinegar, and a couple shakes of Louisiana hot sauce. A bit of black pepper and garlic powder was added for some additional spice and flavor. The meat was then marinated in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Plenty of flavor soaking up

After the meat had soaked for a couple hours, the stove was preheated to 250*F. I patted the meat dry and arranged them on a wire rack. They were then placed in the oven for a hour. The heat was then lowered to 175* for a couple more hours. Here’s the result:

Squirrel Jerky

I’m happy to say the jerky turned out great! As you can tell, I played it very safe with the temperatures, but it certainly didn’t affect the flavor and texture in any negative way. Squirrel doesn’t yield much belly meat, but groundhogs and raccoons do, so I’ll be doing the same thing with them! Read more about jerky safety guidelines.

Slow Cooked Raccoon and Gravy

My Vortek tuned Gamo Shadow 1000 puts out 16 fpe at the muzzle and is quite a tack driver. I took a nice raccoon at 43 yards and like nearly everything I kill, had to try eating it. Slow cooking in a crock pot is a sure fire way to cook almost any kind of meat, and coon was no exception.

I cooked up the front legs and shoulders as well as the back legs. I was careful to remove the scent glands in the armpits as well as in the back legs. The meat was soaked in salt water overnight to draw out excess blood. Now that the meat was chilled, it was easy to remove the excess fat. A couple inches of beef stock was added to the crock pot, then the coon meat followed. A few good shakes of cajun seasoning was added for extra kick. After several hours at a low temperature it looked really good:

Slow cooked raccoon
Slow cooked raccoon

When the meat begins to draw away from the end of the bones, you know the meat is going to be melt in your mouth tender. I then removed much of the broth in preparation for gravy making:

This is going to turn into an amazing gravy
This is going to turn into an amazing gravy

The cooking juices go into a pan where they are brought to a boil. As they are heating up, I prepared a corn starch slurry by mixing corn starch to cold water. This is what makes the gravy thick. Stir it into the boiling broth, then reduce the temperature. It’ll thicken and look like this:

Homemade gravy
Homemade gravy

So how does slow cooked raccoon taste? A lot like the best beef roast you ever tried. The texture of the meat is better than beef or venison. I’d say raccoon is my favorite wild meat that I’ve tried so far.