Cleaning squirrels — the easy way

‘Balloon method’ great for quick, hairless skinning

What hunter doesn’t enjoy bagging a limit of bushy-tailed tree rodents?

But as for the task of cleaning those tough little buggers – well, not so much.

Jean Poirrier III, however, has no issues after the hunt with a unique air pumping system for cleaning older, tougher squirrels.

After learning how compressors are useful in cleaning tough alligators, a light bulb went off in his head. He already had the fastest, hairless method of cleaning squirrels I’d ever witnessed, but with the quick extra step of pumping air, the squirrel’s hide just glides right off.

You can watch a video demonstration of both methods by clicking here or on the attached video.

It’s so quick, eight squirrels can be sizzling in grease in less than 8 eight minutes. Shears, a compressor and a small sharp knife are all that’s needed — here’s how you do it.

Poirrier starts in a rhythmic pattern cutting off all four feet. Then, with a cut below the tail and through the backbone he steps on the tail and pulls the hide right off. Finally, he quickly slices the head off and the job is almost done.

If the squirrels are older and tougher, he’ll take his air compressor and insert a nozzle into the bullet  hole, or a hole he makes in the neck, to pump the squirrel up before starting the cleaning process.

During the process, Poirrier stresses to keep one hand clean at all times — if hair gets on a hand, he quickly rubs it off on his pants.

The secret trick to having a hairless squirrel is putting them in icy water immediately after skinning. Any stray hairs will rub right off after a cold soak before the skin’s fascia gets dry and sticky.  He guts them last after the initial soak and also gives them a final rinse.

Now you can’t clean a squirrel unless you shoot a squirrel, and that’s where Poirrier really excels.  He hasn’t missed an opening day of squirrel hunting in over 30 years — it’s a three-generation family tradition that was passed down from his father, Jean II, who taught Poirrier how to hunt.

Now Jean’s 8-year-old son, Jake, has been accompanying him since the age of 2, usually just to watch and learn from his papa.

Think he uses a shotgun? Guess again.

Poirrier only uses rimfire to hunt. His hunting club made a new rule when he was 14 to allow only rimfire rifles for small game. That year on opening morning he was the only hunter to bag a limit, and the challenge of perfect shot placement has hooked him ever since.

He believes that rule change has significantly helped with deer hunting for his club, and a couple dozen beautifully mounted swamp bucks line his shed walls to prove it (Poirrier, a part-time taxidermist, mounted them himself.)

There have been bucks walking in his direction just minutes after firing several .22 rounds.  The deer don’t seem to mind the quick rifle pop, but a loud shotgun blast sends them running towards the neighbors’ deer stands.

His hunts begin at daybreak, when the squirrels move and feed the most. Poirrier doesn’t sit and wait by any particular trees — he continues creeping along productive ridge lines. Sitting still isn’t as fun for him, and he does that enough waiting on whitetails.

For him, squirrel hunting is about constant action. Sometimes he even picks up the pace and busts through palmettos, which gets hiding squirrels up and moving.

Poirrier will hunt any weather conditions, but his favorite is a windless, foggy morning with a heavy dew, because the noise of falling water droplets gives away squirrels jumping amongst tree branches.

On windy days, he focuses his efforts near his deer feeders where the squirrels stack up.

Winchester hollow tip LR .22 bullets are fired from his long barrel Ruger 10/22 semi auto (longer barrel, better accuracy). He goes for head shots, but isn’t scared to take a body shot either. With expanding hollow tips, body shots are typically lethal, whereas round, solid-tipped bullets will result in cripples and potentially lost squirrels.

He rarely calls, but when he does, it sounds more like a turkey chirping than a squirrel barking, which is fitting because his nickname is Turkey Neck.

He’ll use this mouth-made chirping to stop a squirrel that’s on the move — one brief pause is all he needs, and it’s game over.

When cleaning, the stomach contents give away what the squirrels have been feeding on. If the contents have a creamy color, acorns are the main food sources. Green-colored stomach contents indicate vegetation like blood weed, tree buds and green cypress balls. (The cypress has a smell that’s easily noticed.)

On a hunting season after a hurricane has passed, finding the buds and edible vegetation that’s left in the trees is crucial for squirrels since most acorns will have been knocked to the ground. In February, they congregate in willow and maple trees that have new buds.

In the swamps of St. John the Baptist parish, there will be mostly fox squirrels on the high ridges and plenty of grey squirrels in the deep swamps, but getting rare squirrels is even more fun. Poirrier has seen a white-tailed black squirrel, and he usually bags a really cool fox squirrel with a white-tipped tail every season.

Try using some of his tactics this season and you’ll have no problem getting a pot full of squirrels — as   long as Turkey Neck hasn’t been hunting in your neck of the woods.

About Josh Chauvin 117 Articles
Joshua Chauvin is a health-focused ultra-marathon runner who goes on solo manual-powered public land adventures focusing on hunting big game and large fish by using challenging methods and weapons. He enjoys self-filming and sharing the tactics and details from his expeditions to help others learn from his unique techniques.